Hiram H Wray


HIRAM H. WRAY, editor of the Leechburg Advance, was born in Kiskiminetas township, Armstrong county, Jan. 24, 1848, at the little settlement of Shady Plain. He is a son of John Manners and Anna Margaret (Townsend) Wray, and a grandson of Robert Wray, son of Daniel, the Wray family being of Irish descent. His grandfather on the maternal side, Robert Townsend, was of English descent, and his grandmother, whose maiden name was Elizabeth Hine, was German, but both were natives of this country.

Daniel Wray, great-grandfather of Hiram H., was born about 1754 in County Antrim, Ireland, and coming to America in the latter half of the eighteenth century settled first in Mercersburg, Franklin county. Soon thereafter he went to Mount Pleasant, Westmoreland county, where he purchased 200 acres of land. A portion of that town is now built upon this farm, although at that time it was a wilderness, infested by wolves, who frequently attacked his sheep, driving them up to the cabin door. Daniel Wray was a devout Presbyterian and in politics was a Whig. About the year 1781 he married Elizabeth McKibben, by whom he had seven children, James, Elizabeth, John, Jane, Margaret, William and Robert.

Robert Wray, grandfather of Hiram, was born Dec. 8, 1784, near Mercersburg, Franklin Co., Pa., and in 1800 moved with his father to the site of Saltsburg, Indiana county. After a time his father's health became poor and Robert had to assume entire charge of the farm. So well did he carry out the task that he succeeded in paying for the place and putting it into a fine state of cultivation. Part of the purchase money was raised by salt making, at a well he had bored. A tract of this land is still owned by his daughter Abigail M., so that the title has been in the Wray family for 133 years. In 1812 Robert Wray married Abigail Manners, daughter of John Manners, a native of Washington county. John Manners was born in 1760 and moved to Kiskiminetas township, Armstrong county, in 1810, buying a farm of 200 acres across the river from Avonmore, Westmoreland county. He was a devout Presbyterian and took part in the suppression of the famous "Whiskey Insurrection." In 1785 he married Sallie Couch, and their children were: Joseph, Elizabeth, Nathan, Margaret, Nancy, George, Polly and Abigail (Mrs. Robert Wray). To Robert Wray and his wife were born eleven children: Sarah, born July 9, 1814, married Robert Smith, and died June 13, 1860; Daniel, born April 1, 1816, married Sarah France; John M. is mentioned below; Elizabeth, born Jan. 1, 1820, married John A. Ewing and resided at Olivet; William H., born Dec. 2, 1821 married Susan Townsend; Margaretta, born Feb. 29, 1824, is deceased; one child died in infancy July 15, 1824; Nancy, born Aug. 11, 1825, married James D. Wilson , of Olivet; Robert was born Feb. 11, 1827; Anna J., March 16, 1830; and Abigail M., July 29, 1832.

John M. Wray, father of Hiram H. Wray, was born Nov. 23, 1817, near Saltsburg, Indiana county, and was reared in Kiskiminetas township, where he attended school in the old log structures of the times. Soon after he grew to manhood he began to farm for himself, following this occupation for the greater part of his life. Between 1857 and 1860 he was in partnership with Henry Townsend in the store at Olivet, and again in 1865 with the same partner, finally transferring half the business to Hiram, his son, when the firm became J. M. Wray & Son. He was a member of the Presbyterian Church at Elder's Ridge and in politics an adherent of the Republican party, filling a number of township offices. On July 19, 1839, he married Anna Margaret, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Townsend, of South Bend township, and to this union were born eight children: Harriet, born Nov. 9, 1840, now deceased, who married B. H. Scott; Clara E., born in 1842, who married T. M. Marshall; Abigail, born Aug. 14, 1844, now deceased, who married D. P. Alexander, former postmaster at Apollo; Hiram Hultz, of who this sketch is written; Anna M., born June 18, 1850, now deceased; Robert T., born May 4, 1853, now in Tyrone, Okla.; Mary A., May 15, 1856; and Emma E., born Dec. 24, 1859, who is now deceased.

Hiram H. Wray was given as good an education as the old-time schools afforded. He first went to the old subscription school held in a log building on the Hart farm, and then to the school at Shady Plain. After a few terms at Elder's Ridge Academy, in Indiana county, near the line of Armstrong, he took a course at the Iron City Commerical College, Pittsburgh, from which he graduated in 1864. His first business experience was gained in his father's store at Olivet, and from there he went to the mouth of the Mahoning, in Armstrong county, to keep the books in Jeremiah Bonner's large store and steamboat warehouse. From 1865 to 1868 he held this position, the latter part of the time being agent for the Adams Express Company, they operating over the Allegheny Valley railroad, just completed to that point. He also was agent for the old Good Intent line of stagecoaches. In 1868 he returned to Shady Plain to enter into partnership with his father into store under the firm name of J. M. Wray & Son, and continued to be associated with the firm until 1872, when he came to Leechburg to take charge of the books of the store of Beale, Rogers & Burchfield. He held this responsible position until 1875, when he purchased an interest in the then firm of Ashbaugh & Co., the name being afterward changed to Ashbaugh & Wray. The place of business was opposite Leechburg and was for a time one of the principal stores of this section, drawing trade from both Armstrong and Westmoreland counties. In 1887 he sold out his interest in the store, as well as the Leechburg Enterprise, which he had purchased from J. T. Robertson in 1875, and went to Kansas City, Mo., to enter the contracting and roofing business, with his brother Robert T., who had been located there.

Mr. Wray's residence in Kansas City was not intended to be permanent and after five years he returned to Leechburg. After spending a few years in the insurance and other business he entered the employ of the West Penn Steel Company. Mr. Wray was a charter member with seven others of the first natural gas company chartered in Pennsylvania--the "Leechburg Light & Fuel Company." He remained with the steel company until they sold out to the United States Steel Company in 1900. In February, 1901, he purchased the Leechburg Advance from D. K. Hill, who had succeeded Edward Hill as editor . He has been editor and manager of this publication ever since, now almost thirteen years, and the paper has been enlarged and improved, the circulation having nearly trebled and the mechanical conveniences greatly improved. The result under this editorship has been very gratifying both to himself and to the readers of the paper, as his knowledge of the intimate details of the history of the town and county and thorough business experience make him peculiarly fitted to conduct a newspaper that is acceptable to all classes of readers. Though Mr. Wray politically is a Republican, the paper is conducted as independent.

When the first Leechburg Bank was organized Mr. Wray was one of the directors, and with five others completed the organization of the Leechburg Milling Company. the first to introduce the "gradual reduction" system of flour making east of Chicago, this mill is still in operation. He has been connected and identified with numerous other industries.

Mr. Wray was united in marriage Sept. 7, 1889, to Alice M., daughter of the late John and Eliza (Sampson) Harrison, of Harrison township, Allegheny Co., Pa. To this union six children were born, as follows: Edith Marrion, who died in infancy; John Harrison, who died of diphtheria in Kansas City, in November, 1892, when in his eleventh year; Perry Hutchison, now in the employ of the American Sheet & Tin Plate Company, Vandergrift, Pa.; Homer Henry, who died at Gettysburg, Nov. 21, 1913, from an abscess from an unknown cause (he was in his junior year at Pennsylvania College and a young man of great promise);Stanley Manners, at this writing--December, 1913--in his sophomore year in Pennsylvania College; and Alfred Townsend, the youngest of the family, now in the Leechburg high school.

Mr. and Mrs. Wray live in the same house, although with many modern improvements, in which they began housekeeping when first married, thirty-three years ago, located on the corner of Second street and Siberian avenue.

They, together with their sons, are members of the First Presbyterian Church and other organizations. Mr. Wray is one of the first members of the Leechburg Lecture Association, which is the second oldest in the United States. He was its first secretary in 1874. He is also a member of the Pennsylvania State Editorial Association and National Editorial Association, and of the Pittsburgh Press Club.

John Harrison, Mrs. Wray's father, was of English descent and related to the well-known Featherstone family. He came to America at the age of nine and was reared to manhood at Germantown, Philadelphia. He emigrated to Allegheny county, where he was noted as a farmer and as an importer and breeder of English and Scotch draft horses, an occupation which he followed until his death in 1879. Mrs. Wray's grandfather Sampson, on her mother's side, was a soldier in the war of the Revolution.

A friend of Mr. Wray says: "Few men are more intimately known throughout western Pennsylvania, indeed throughout the State, than 'Hi' Wray. His varied business connections have put him in contact with many men of prominence and stability. As a newspaper man he stands in the front rank, and his pointed pen has invited and encouraged an acquaintance and wide friendliness which many with greater opportunities may never hope to attain. As an evidence of his popularity, he was, in the convention of newspaper men held in Harrisburg in the fall of 1912, chosen president of the executive committee for the State of Pennsylvania, and his crown was no less lustrous when yielded to his successor."

Source: Pages 592-594, Armstrong County, Pa., Her People, Past and Present, J.H. Beers & Co., 1914
Transcribed January 1999 by Connie Mateer for the Armstrong County Beers Project
Contributed for use by the Armstrong County Genealogy Project (http://www.pa-roots.com/armstrong/)

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