‘Business without change’

Regina Shober Gray by [Edward L.] Allen, ca. 1860. Courtesy of the Maryland Historical Society, Item PP231.236
As it happened, Mrs. Gray[1] was too late to reach her brother’s deathbed:

Philadelphia, Sunday, 4 December 1864: One week to-day since our precious brother[2] died – died to earth with all its torturing pain, its long drawn weariness and waked to peace and rest – “the rest that remaineth to them that love the Lord” in Heaven.

He was seized with convulsions on Friday p.m. about 6 o’c. and they lasted with intervals of two or three breathings – and once of 2 hours, till about 3 p.m. on Sunday, when he sank, with a few sobbing breaths, ever fainter and fainter into the everlasting stillness … – and those who loved him best were thankful to see the poor tossed tortured frame at rest, to watch the distorted features fall into the familiar lines once more and know that mortal agony should never more convulse them…

His physicians assure us he knew no pain, was paralysed to suffering, as to all outward things – he neither saw, nor heard, nor knew aught from the first moment of the attack – congestion of the brain, induced by the rapid progress of late of his long spinal malady. For 15 years or more he has suffered constantly and severely, with the quiet endurance of a martyr, and the cheerful philosophy of a Christian gentleman. For 8 years his lower limbs have been completely helpless but he kept about, being lifted to his carriage and out of it, and did not give up going daily to the counting room until some 3 years since. And he took a daily drive sometimes for hours up to last May, when he slipped from [his footman] Joseph’s supporting arm at the dining room door, and broke his leg. Since then neither he nor his devoted sister and nurse, Mary [Shober],[3] have been outside the house…

On Wednesday, Nov. 30th, we laid all that was earthly of this precious brother away, into the everlasting darkness and stillness – but we know that he had entered upon the rest he so often longed for yet not impatiently. [He] was buried in the family vault in the church of St. James the Less about 6 miles out of Philadelphia, a sweet secluded spot, for the last long sleep within the shadow of the sanctuary, and the sound of its sweet toned bell summoning to daily prayers.

It was a sweet, tender Autumn day – an air as soft as June, but with the garish sunshine tempered into sad sweetness by the misty Indian summer haze.

We all went out to the grave – even Sue [Shober],[4] ill as she was, held up for that last sad office toward the kind brother, who had been father, brother, & friend to us all, so faithfully. It was a sweet, tender Autumn day – an air as soft as June, but with the garish sunshine tempered into sad sweetness by the misty Indian summer haze. I felt it a privilege to have such a lovely day – a storm or dull bleak rain would have made it seem so much more dreary to leave him there alone in the chill darkness, who had been for years the object of such watchful care & solicitude – so warmly sheltered, so tenderly cared for – oh, it was very hard to come away, and leave him there – it seemed impossible to do it.

Poor Mary seems too crushed to weep – now and then she gives way utterly for a while, and we do not try to check her in such relief – but she is wonderfully calm and quiet most of the time – and, true to herself, is thinking and doing for everyone else but herself. It is a fearful loss to all the girls[5]  – but to Mary it is the most utter widow-hood. He has been for years the central object of all her thoughts, interests, and cares – her heart’s idol, to whom her devotion has been utterly untiring & self-sacrificing – such a sister, as life does not often show us.

It is a fearful loss to all the girls – but to Mary it is the most utter widow-hood.

We sit in John’s room, mostly – but oh it seems so empty without him – with his vacant chair, the large wheeled chair which he prided himself on managing so dexterously – standing aside, never more to be filled by his tall erect form.

Our friends are all very kind and attentive. Mrs. Shober[6] was with the girls at the death bed – also our dear & valued friend and physician Dr. Evans – and Wesley, for years John’s faithful coachman.

Sam Shober[7] had gone with a friend down in Virginia “to the front” on a visit to a friend, Gen’l Somebody – and the telegram reached him at Gen. Meade’s[8] headquarters. He got home on Monday night. My son Frank [Gray][9] & I reached P. on Tuesday p.m. – Dr. Gray could not go on because Regie and Sam [Gray][10] were both poorly, and we could not feel easy for both of us to leave them.

The “First City Troop” of which John was long a member offered a cavalry escort, but we knew he would have wished no such display – and the compliment was declined – the members coming as friends and citizens and some of them acting as pallbearers. The services were all at the church and the grave; but Aunt Regina [Shober][11] made a short prayer in his room where only the family sat. Poor feeble little old lady, how she lingers on, outliving all her earthly props – but her faith is stayed on One who will neither leave nor forsake. She has just passed her seventy-ninth birth-day.

[Clipping laid in: NOTICE. – The COPARTNERSHIP heretofore existing under the name of SHOBER & CO. was dissolved on the 27th ult. by the death of John B. Shober.

The undersigned, surviving partners, continue the business without change in the style of the firm



Continued here.


[1] Hedwiga Regina Shober (1818–1885) was married to Dr. Francis Henry Gray 1844–80. Entry from the Hedwiga Regina Shober Gray diary, R. Stanton Avery Special Collections.

[2] John Bedford Shober (b. 1814) died 27 November.

[3] Mary Morris Shober (1816–1873).

[4] Susanna Budd Shober (1823–1898?), who was married to Dr. John Davies of Fayal 1867–81.

[5] Mrs. Gray’s unmarried sisters included Elizabeth Kearney Shober (1821–1865) and Sarah Morris Shober (1825–1917), who married the Rev. William Phillips Lewis in 1868.

[6] The diarist’s stepmother, Lucy Hall Bradlee (1806–1902), was married to Samuel Lieberkuhn Shober 1830–47.

[7] The youngest child in the Shober family, Samuel Lieberkuhn Shober (1828–1902).

[8] Major General George Gordon Meade (1815–1872).

[9] Francis Calley Gray (1846–1904).

[10] The Grays’ middle sons, Samuel Shober Gray (1849–1926) and Reginald Gray (1853–1904).

[11] Mrs. Gray’s aunt Hedwiga Regina Shober (1786–1865), a Quaker minister.

About Scott C. Steward

Scott C. Steward was the founding editor at Vita Brevis; he served as NEHGS Editor-in-Chief 2013-2022. He is the author, co-author, or editor of genealogies of the Ayer, Le Roy, Lowell, Saltonstall, Thorndike, and Winthrop families. His articles have appeared in The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, NEXUS, New England Ancestors, American Ancestors, and The Pennsylvania Genealogical Magazine, and he has written book reviews for the Register, The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, and the National Genealogical Society Quarterly.

5 thoughts on “‘Business without change’

  1. So very sad, these many years later. For anyone who has said “goodbye” to a loved one, this entry brings it all back. Thanks for sharing.

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