A Reconstructed Financial History for Edward Townsend (E.T.) Gray

Bob Gray

December 2016

This history is based on the contents of an old tin box that came into my possession some months back.† The box, about one foot square, contained a plethora of Gray family documents including letters, diaries, and financial statements.† I am slowly working my way through the contents of the box and this financial history page is the second such Gray family history based on the contents of the box.† The first history was about a road trip that my father and his family took from Johnstown, Pennsylvania to Oswego, New York in 1918. †This financial history for Edward Townsend Gray is based on the various financial documents that were found in the old tin box.† Additional information has been included as identified in the references.


Edward Townsend (E.T.) Gray c. 1915

My paternal grandfather was Edward Townsend (E.T.) Gray.† He was born on July 26, 1881 in Oswego, New York.† His parents, like their parents before them, were farmers.† His father, William, and his uncle, Edward, were railroad surveyors in Missouri in the 1850s before William returned to farming in Oswego [1]. †His fatherís time as a surveyor probably influenced his decision to become a civil engineer which in turn influenced his financial history.† All four of his paternal grandparents were early settlers of Oswego. †E.T. was most likely named after his uncle.† His middle name most certainly came from his great uncle, William Seaman Townsend, who worked on the farm for his grandfather, Jesse, and married his great aunt, Jane.

As the following records show, E.T. graduated from Cornell University in 1901 with a degree in civil engineering.† After obtaining his degree, his obituary [2] states he worked out west on several railroad projects.† His residence is given as Logan, Indiana in a newspaper article about his grandmother, Thyrza Beckwith Gray [3].† No additional information is available on his early career as a civil engineer.

1901 Cornell Yearbook, Page 64

Cornell Class Reunion in 1951.† E.T. is at the left of third row from the top.

His time out west was short, as by 1906, E.T. had moved to Johnstown, Pennsylvania and had married Sarah Jean Lomison [4].† In 1910, E.T. was employed as a civil engineer with a steel mill [5].† His obituary [2] states he was with the Cambria Iron Company which later became the Cambria Steel Company [6] when he first moved to Johnstown.† Much more detail of E.T. working career is found in a letter of recommendation prepared by Mr. John W. Gocher on July 23, 1913.† The letter to the United States Civil Service Commission states that E.T. started working for the Cambria Steel Company in May of 1905 and he was a Civil Engineer for the first four years ďdoing ordinary work.Ē† Mr. Gocher goes to say that E.T. became a Field Engineer in 1909 with duties ďconsisting of the location and construction of a more or less intricate system of tracks worksĒ as well as the supervision of ten to twenty-two inspectors, instrument men, and others.† His promotion to Field Engineer is further documented by the department memo shown below.† Despite the fine recommendation given by Mr. Gocher, it appears that E.T. did not get the position with the government and remained with Cambria Steel Company until 1914.

Notice stating that E.T. Gray assumed the duties of Field Engineer.

In 1914, we begin to get some insight into E.T.ís finances.† A copy of a hand-written acceptance letter from E.T. to the president of the Southern Cambria Railroad Company shows his annual salary will be $2,400.† It is noted that the letter was written on Cambria Steel Company letterhead and he identifies his position with that company as Field Engineer.† E.Tís time with the Southern Cambria Railroad Company was somewhat short lived, as he had returned to the Cambria Steel Company by 1917 if not before.† His departure from the Southern Cambria Railroad Company may have been prompted by a disastrous accident on August 12, 1916 [7]. Twenty seven people died and many more were injured when two trolleys collided on the course between Echo and Johnstown.† The timing of the accident and E.T.ís return to Cambria Steel Company may be a coincidence but if he was the General Manager at the time of the accident, his change in employment could have been related.

ET.ís acceptance letter for a position with the Southern Cambria Railroad Company.

E.T. most likely left the Southern Cambria Railroad Company in 1916 as his regular earnings at the Cambria Steel Company for 1917 were $2,850.00, which is comparable to his income there in future years.† His total earnings for 1917 at Cambria Steel were $3,583.04 which indicates that, regardless of why he left Southern Cambria Railroad, it was a good move financially. †Also, his level of responsibility increased, as the following letter indicates he was the Chief Civil Engineer with Cambria Steel by 1920 and he was a Field Engineer in 1914.† The letter below also shows that the Cambria Steel Company is now under the Midvale Steel and Ordnance Company.

Pay increase letter showing E.T. held the position of Chief Engineer with Cambria Steel Company in 1920.

The annual salary documents below show a steady increase in E.T.ís income during his second stint with the Cambria Steel Company.† In addition to these pay documents, the tin box contained copies of his income tax returns for the same years.†

Annual Salary documents from the Cambria Steel Company.

The Cambria Steel Company went through several changes in ownership during E.T.ís time with the company. In 1923 the Bethlehem Steel Company bought the Midvale Steel and Ordnance Company [6].† This last change in ownership apparently was somewhat upsetting to E.T. as the following letter to him from Mr. O. H. Bishop indicates.† It is also noted that he is referred to simply as a Civil Engineer, not Chief Civil Engineer as in the letter above.

Letter assuring E.T. that he does not have to worry about his position with Bethlehem Steel Company.

Either E.T. didnít believe Mr. Bishop or working for Bethlehem Steel was not what E.T. wanted as he and his co-worker, Fred W. Claflin, went out on their own by July of the same year.† The letter below is most likely their first contract after leaving Cambria Steel.† ďThe Johnstown Water Company had provided water to the inhabitants of the Johnstown area since its creation by a special Act of Assembly in 1866. The water company had since its inception, a strong link with the growing steel industry. In 1929 the Bethlehem Steel Co. acquired most of the shares in the water company turning it into a subsidiary for all practical intents and purposes [8].Ē† Construction of the North Fork dam referenced in the letter below began in 1928 and was completed in 1932 [8] and it is the primary source of water for Johnstown today.† It is interesting that the Bethlehem Steel Company bought the Johnstown Water Company as it probably meant that E.T.ís working career was still affected by his former employer.†

Notice of acceptance of terms for Gray & Claflin, Consulting Civil Engineers.

Unfortunately, the letter above is the only known document from Gray & Claflin.† E.T.ís obituary states that the firm had offices in the Swank Building in downtown Johnstown and that he did flood control work for the State Flood Control Commission [2].† By 1935, with the country in the middle of the Great Depression, work at his consulting firm must have been slowing down as he applied for work with the federal government, per the U.S. Department of Labor record below.† The 1940 Census record shows him working for the Federal Power Commission in Washington, DC [9].

E.T. applied for a position with the U.S. Government in 1935.

The letter below shows E.T.ís salary for 1941 and 1942.† It is noted that his salary in 1942 is equivalent to his salary in 1918, some 24 years earlier, when he was working for the Cambria Steel Company.† Given the added expense of renting a home in Washington, DC, his financial situation must have been dire to accept a position at such a low pay level.† E.T.ís obituary [2] states that he returned to Johnstown in 1945 due to his wifeís poor health.† Given that he was 64 years old in 1945, it is assumed that his working career was then complete.

Federal Power Commission letter showing E.T.ís annual salary in 1941 and 1942.

The chart below summarizes the annual salary figures for E.T. over his career.† There are obviously some large gaps in the chart.† In the early part of his career, his salary is seen to increase steadily.† By 1923, his salary had increased by more than a factor of two over a period of eight years and most likely was a least three times what he made at his first job out of college.† E.T. was oviously doing well in 1918 as this is when he bought a new Buick touring car for $1,350 which was about one third of his annual salary.† He paid $800 cash and borrowed $550 from the car dealer.† Accounting for inflation, the car would cost $21,348 dollars in 2016 [10].


The final document in the tin box that provides insight into E.T.ís financial history is a note he sent to my father in 1950.† The note, see below, is a summary of his finances at the time and is effectively a will as he gives direction as to how he wants the funds distributed after his death.† Thyrza and Florence were his two sisters who lived in Oswego on the family farm.† The U.S. dollar saw inflation at an average rate of 3.54% per year between 1950 and 2016, making E.T.ís $20,466 in the year 1950 worth about $203,000 in 2016 [10].† E.T. died in 1956 and it is not known if there were significant changes in the financial information listed in the note below.†

E.T.ís financial status on May 13, 1950.

The one unusual item in E.T.ís financial summary is the identification of money withheld from his pay by the Federal Power Commission from January 24, 1942 to September 1945.† On the back of the envelope containing this note, E.T. wrote that my father needed to contact the commission and provide proof of E.T.ís death to recover the withheld funds.† He states that the money should have earned 3% interest from the time it was withheld until payment was made.† Assuming my father never collected the money, it would be worth $5,300 dollar in 2016.† The Federal Power Commission no longer exists and an internet search for pay retention by the government during World War II has not produced any relevant results.†

I remember going to E.T.ís house with my father on at least one occasion.† Iím certain this was after my grandfatherís death.† My mother later told me that my father didnít tell her I was going with him on this trip.† The trip was probably one of many that my father made to clear out the house and get it ready for sale.† Some of E.T.ís estate was probably used by my parents to purchase a 1955 Ford Country Squire station wagon in 1956.† In 1958, the remaining funds were used in the purchase the family home at 807 W Ninth Street, Erie, Pennsylvania, as I remember my mother discussing the fact that $1,000 from E.T.ís estate was going toward the purchase of the house.†

There are many more documents in the old tin box that have not yet been analyzed.† For example, there are two bank deposit books in the collection that cover the period from 1908 through 1922.† The format of the entries in these books in confusing and therefore they have not been utilized in this history.† There are several sheets of paper with semi-infinite lists of figures on them which must have been important to E.T. but it is not known why.† The majority of the documents in the old tin box are family letters which may provide some additional insight into E.T.ís financial history.†

1. The Oswego Daily Times, Monday Evening, Page 12.

2. The Tribune-Democrat, 19 June 1956, Johnstown, Pennsylvania.

3. Oswego Daily News, Thursday Evening, Page 5, 2 Aug 1902.

4. "Pennsylvania, County Marriages, 1885-1950", database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:VF38-PYL : 24 June 2016), Edward T. Gray and Sarah J. Lommson, 1906.

5. †"United States Census, 1910," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MG43-WSD : accessed 29 December 2016), Miriam Lomison, Johnstown Wards 2 and 6, Cambria, Pennsylvania, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) ED 124, sheet 2151B, family 39, NARA microfilm publication T624 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1982), roll 1323; FHL microfilm 1,375,336.

6.† Gable, John E., History of Cambria County, Pennsylvania, Historical Publishing Company, Topeka-Indianapolis, 1926.†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††

7.† Michaels, Blake, The Southern Cambria Trolley System, The Nant-Y-Glo Tri-Area Museum and Historical Society, June 2009

8. Greater Johnstown Water Authority, History, www.gjwa.com.

9. "United States Census, 1940," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:K7SX-Z7D : accessed 31 December 2016), E T Gray, Tract 53, District of Columbia, Police Precinct 3, District of Columbia, District of Columbia, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) 1-99, sheet 3B, line 72, family 58, Sixteenth Census of the United States, 1940, NARA digital publication T627. Records of the Bureau of the Census, 1790 - 2007, RG 29. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 2012, roll 556.

10. http://www.in2013dollars.com/1918-dollars-in-2016?amount=1350

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