‘Outward unity’

Regina Shober Gray by [Edward L.] Allen, ca. 1860. Courtesy of the Maryland Historical Society, Item PP231.236
This entry from the Regina Shober Gray[1] diary touches on many of the themes in the larger work: births and deaths, worrying illnesses – including a threatened repeat of an earlier cholera epidemic – the aftermath of the Civil War, homely efforts to entice her ailing sister to eat, and, as ever, tedious sewing work to make “one groan – the white flounce was sent home fluted upside down – and when sent back, came home done inside, out; and inside out it is now on the dress!”

61 Bowdoin Street, Boston, Sunday, 29 October 1865: Caleb Curtis[2] came round to-day to announce the birth of a little girl there, born yesterday afternoon[3] – Emily is wonderfully well, and well content with her “wee woman,” though she did resolve all along it should be a boy!

Our neighbour Mr. Merriam died at 10½ p.m on Friday from the effects of his injuries. The burns were superficial, but his strength sank under the drain to his system, fever & constant delirium followed & on Thursday Dr. G[ray] found symptoms of mortification in the hand. He was a kindly genial man – a great sportsman – but nervous and irascible in temperament. We shall miss him, for he was a friendly neighbour. It is peculiarly sad for his poor wife,[4] who is very deaf – and was so dependent on him…

It is, to me, a great comfort that we in Boston & my sisters in Philad[elphia] are living on the highest land and wholesomest locality in our respective homes.

Much apprehension is felt about the Cholera. It is prevailing in London & Liverpool, and can hardly fail to come over soon to us. We seniors, who can remember the awful visitation in 1832, may well shrink from a repetition of that. It is, to me, a great comfort that we in Boston & my sisters in Philad[elphia] are living on the highest land and wholesomest locality in our respective homes. I am glad we are not upon the new land [of the “Back Bay”], though it does look so clear & airy there.

We have accomplished much dressmaking for M.C.G.[5] A purple silk walking dress and a checked silk evening dress, trimmed with mauve, and a white muslin trimmed with fluted flounces, and a scarlet Balmoral, with fluted flounce bound with black braid – a great deal of work, and oh how the stupidity of work people makes one groan – the white flounce was sent home fluted upside down – and when sent back, came home done inside, out; and inside out it is now on the dress!

[Her sister] Lizzie Shober continues sorrowfully ill, and I feel more anxious about her than I dare confess even to myself.

The great Episcopal Convention is over – and has to my mind painfully and disgracefully failed in its duty. It had a glorious chance to set aside policy, expediency, and ecclesiastical aggrandisement, and to show itself on the side of the oppressed, to visit with its censure the great national crime, which has brought such fearful national woe ere it could be rooted out; to plant itself with all its vast influence in the very van of the highest Christian thought and purpose of our day; and it has miserably failed to do so – it has glazed over the great Southern crime, truckled to Southern men & principles, and not dared to accept or endorse one honest outspoken word for God’s truth or man’s noble effort & glorious success.

The great Episcopal Convention is over – and has to my mind painfully and disgracefully failed in its duty.

To its eternal shame it has not dared to grapple with the great questions & interest involved, except so far as to smooth them over and plane them down – that the weakest Southern brother might find no prejudice offended. And so they have accepted the “foreign” bishop of Alabama[6] to secure the diocese to the church – and the secessionist and rebel Quintard[7] they laid smooth apostolic hands upon, to consecrate him bishop of Tennessee, to the utter indignation of all loyal people there, who know the man.

And so they have saved the outward unity of the Episcopal Church, the temporal and transitory aggrandisement of a Christian sect, and trampled under foot and willfully set aside the grand Christian truths for which Christ died on the cross – and for which hundreds animated & inspired by his spirit, have died on every battle field of this our Holy War! The fact that the Convention of the best Episcopal talent & influence should have dared to reject such a resolution as the one offered by Mr. Horace Binney speaks trumpet-tongued to its utter condemnation.

Monday, 30 October 1865: Attended poor Mr. Merriam’s funeral at noon. Went round among grocers & fruiterers to get barberry syrup for E.K.S. – she can retain acids better than anything else & has taken a craving for this. And not a jar of it or barberry in any form can I get. Have written to George Vose, Milton, a great fruit preserver, and hope to hear he can let me have some for her. I feel so depressed about her – and it is so hard to be so far from her.

Mrs. Merriam sent over here one of the lovely bouquets from the mantel, with her love – a most gratifying thoughtfulness, amidst her own overwhelming sorrow.

Continued here.


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

[2] Caleb Agry Curtis, the husband of Mrs. Gray’s close friend Emeline Matilda Adams (1823–1883).

[3] Amy Curtis (b. 1865).

[4] Caroline Ware (1808–1891), who was married to Charles Merriam 1829–65.

[5] The diarist’s daughter Mary Clay Gray (1848–1923).

[6] The Right Rev. Richard Hooker Wilmer (1816–1900), Bishop of Alabama 1861–1900, first consecrated a bishop by the Episcopal Church in the Confederate States of America and then confirmed by the reunited Episcopal Church in the United States of America.

[7] The Right Rev. Dr. Charles Todd Quintard (1824–1898), Bishop of Tennessee 1865–98.

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.

3 thoughts on “‘Outward unity’

  1. Fascinating insight into the post Civil War era, especially about the Church. I would suspect other denominations also had their challenges, in re-uniting. I’d never thought about that before.

    1. Some denominations never did reunite; the Southern Baptist Convention is a legacy of this period, and many other denominations split at least temporarily during the war. In the Episcopal Church (as I understand it), the General Convention—which meets every three years—continued to set out seats for the bishops and delegates from Southern states, even though they were reasonably certain the seats would not actually be filled. When the war ended, the national church did their best to re-incorporate leadership from those dioceses. Sadly, when Northerners during Reconstruction went down to impose their ideals on the vanquished, repression led to the rise of the Ku Klux Klan and similar organizations. Punitive sanctions didn’t work much better on Germany after the First World War, either…so maybe it was just as well that the Episcopal Church chose to welcome back the “sheep who had strayed,” rather than whipping them as our diarist seems to have advocated. However, I can certainly understand that feelings were very hot after having lost so many men in the war.

      1. Thanks for an interesting post. Bishop Wilmer has a strong connection here in my home state of Virginia, and in particular my home county of Henrico. He’s buried here in the cemetery at Emmanuel Episcopal Church, which is located on a street that bears his name.

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