Guide to the Collection

Collection Summary


This collection consists primarily of military papers of Capt. James Gray of Epsom, N.H. related to his service in the American Revolution, 1776-1777; correspondence of his son, mariner Moses Parsons Gray, 1797-1805; and correspondence and journals of Rev. Moses Parsons of Byfield, Mass., 1742-1783.

Biographical Sketches

Capt. James Gray (1749-1822) was born in Newburyport, Mass. on 8 Oct. 1749. As a young man, he moved to Epsom, N.H., where he was employed by the town as a teacher. At the outbreak of the Revolutionary War, he received a captain's commission in the First New Hampshire Regiment. Gray's military service in the Revolutionary War included a post as assistant to the quartermaster general in Medford, Mass., 1776; captain of a company in Col. Thomas Marshall's regiment at the fortification of Boston Harbor, Sep. 1776; captain of a company of Col. Alexander Scammell's regiment at the defeat of Fort Ticonderoga; and commander of the post at Skenesboro in 1777. He married, as his second wife, Susanna Parsons (1753-1826), the daughter of Rev. Moses and Susanna (Davis) Parsons, with whom he had a large family. After the war, Capt. Gray operated a gristmill and was active in town offices. He died in Epsom in 1822 at the age of 72.

Moses Parsons Gray (1779-1858), the eldest son of James and Susannah (Parsons) Gray, was born in Epsom, N.H. on 29 June 1779. As a young boy, he went to live with members of the Parsons family in Massachusetts, eventually deciding to become a mariner. He made several voyages to the West Indies and other foreign ports. He returned to Epsom at age 30 and worked as a schoolteacher and surveyor. He died there on 8 Nov. 1858.

Rev. Moses Parsons (1716-1783) was born in Gloucester, Mass. on 10 June 1716. A graduate of Harvard College in 1736, in 1744 he was installed as pastor of the church in Byfield, Mass., where he remained until his death on 14 Dec. 1783. He married Susanna Davis and had five sons and two daughters, including Susanna, who married Capt. James Gray.

Collection Description

The earliest papers in this collection consist of correspondence and journals of Rev. Moses Parsons during his ministry at Byfield, Mass., 1742-1783. A journal kept from 1742 to 1744 documents events pertaining to his calling and installation and lists the births of his children.

The papers of Capt. James Gray of Epsom, N.H. relate primarily to his military service in the Revolutionary War, 1776-1777, and include accounts for supplies received from the quartermaster stores at Medford, Mass., 2 Jan.-12 Mar. 1776, as well as returns, payrolls, receipts, orders for his company in Col. Thomas Marshall's regiment, and communiques related to the fortification of Boston Harbor, including papers on the capture of the Abigail while Gray commanded the Noddles Island defenses, June-Nov. 1776. A journal kept in May 1777 describes his trip to join the troops at the defense of Fort Ticonderoga. Also included are rolls and returns of his company in the 3rd New Hampshire Regiment of Foot under Col. Alexander Scammell, June-July 1777. A journal kept while Gray was commander at Skenesboro, N.Y. describes the action and retreat of the troops to Fort Anne on 6-7 July 1777. Several letters to his wife and father-in-law contain accounts of personal activities and troop movements. Other letters pertinent to the war include one from Michael McClary, a former member of Gray's company, describing the military situation and living conditions at Fort St. John, 4 June 1776, and an account by Jacob Gerrish at Fort Constitution, N.J. to Rev. Moses Parsons, 30 Sep. 1776, describing the evacuation of New York City, its occupation by the British, and the Battle of Fort Washington. Other correspondents of this period include Thomas Marshall and Alexander Scammell on military matters.

Papers of mariner Moses Parsons Gray consist of correspondence with his parents on voyages from Boston to European and domestic ports, 1797-1805, including an ill-fated voyage to Havana as master of the ship Diana. The collection also contains ships' papers issued by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, as well as ships' manifests and consignment invoices for the export of meat, fish, and lumber, and the import of sugar and mahogany. One letter describes the abrupt end of a voyage at Charleston, S.C. due to rough passage and a leaking vessel.

Later family papers include those of Charles J. Brown of Epsom, N.H. about pension claims, 1890-1904, related to his service as sergeant of Co. II, 6th Regiment New Hampshire Volunteers, during the Civil War.

Correspondents include Theophilus Parsons and Benjamin Lincoln.

The collection also contains typed transcripts of the collection made by the Works Progress Administration for the Middlesex County Historical Survey, 1937-1938.

Acquisition Information

Acquired by purchase, Nov. 1973.

Box List to the Collection

Box 1Folder 1
Undated papers
Box 1Folder 2-19
Papers, 1742-1904
Box 1Folder 20
James Gray orderly book, 1776
Box 1Folder 21
Company/regiment roll book
Box 2
Typed transcripts
Folder OS 1
Oversize papers, [1777-]-1776
Folder OS 2
Oversize papers, 1787, 1805
Folder OS 3
Oversize papers, 1805-1850

Preferred Citation

Gray family papers, Massachusetts Historical Society.

Access Terms

This collection is indexed under the following headings in ABIGAIL, the online catalog of the Massachusetts Historical Society. Researchers desiring materials about related persons, organizations, or subjects should search the catalog using these headings.


Gray, James, 1749-1822.
Gray, Moses Parsons, 1779-1858.
Jefferson, Thomas, 1743-1826.
Lincoln, Benjamin, 1733-1810.
Madison, James, 1751-1836.
Parsons, Moses, 1716-1783.
Parsons, Theophilus, 1750-1813.


Abigail (Ship).
Byfield Church (Rowley, Mass.).
Diana (Ship).
United States. Continental Army. Massachusetts Infantry Regiment, 10th (1775-1783).
United States. Continental Army. New Hampshire Regiment, 3rd (1777).


Boston Harbor Islands (Mass.).
Congregational churches--Clergy.
Merchant mariners.
Noddles Island (Boston, Mass.).
Orderly books.
United States--History--Revolution, 1775-1783--Campaigns.
United States--History--Revolution, 1775-1783--Equipment and supplies.
United States--History--Revolution, 1775-1783--Muster rolls.
United States--History--Revolution, 1775-1783--Order-books.
United States--History--Revolution, 1775-1783--Personal narratives.
United States--History--Revolution, 1775-1783--Regimental histories--Massachusetts Infantry, 10th.
United States--History--Revolution, 1775-1783--Regimental histories--New Hampshire Regiment, 3rd.
Voyages and travels.