Who Are Will and Ruth?


This is the story of William Gray and Ruth Barrell. They began writing to each other in 1894, while Ruth was away at school. They were engaged in 1897, and married on January 25, 1899. Will and Ruth had nine children, and lived in several homes throughout New Jersey and New York. They were my husband’s great-grandparents. His grandfather was their oldest child, William Jr.

Almost all of these letters are from Will to Ruth. Most of the return letters did not survive. To read in chronological order, you will want to start from the very first post. The letters jump forward in time rather quickly, since there were long periods of time where no letters were written. Other times, while Will is away, the letters are daily.

Ruth also received several letters from her family while away at school in 1894. I have included a page with family tree information to help keep people straight.The Barrell and Gray families lived close to each other, and obviously shared the same social circle. I have included pages with these additional letters and photos. Several letters, particularly from friends and siblings, mention Will and the Gray family. Some are quite funny, and offer a nice insight into their lives.

We have so many letters because of the traveling Will did for work, so here is a brief history of his employment:

In 1895, Will left his job at his father’s shoe store to work for the Fall River Line, a steamship company in New York City. In 1896 he became a clerk for Iron-Clad Manufacturing company (also in New York City). He eventually got involved in marketing and designing of advertisements, and was still working here for the first year of their marriage. He had an hour long rail commute from Summit, NJ to Manhattan and sometimes spent the night. In December of 1899, Will began working for Berlin and Jones Envelope Company of New York. He was chief clerk by 1901, promoted to Secretary by 1905, and eventually became the General Manager. In 1910 he became the president of General Paper Goods Manufacturing Company of Newark. He served as Mayor for New Providence, NJ; and in 1922 he founded the Gray Envelope Company, of which he remained president until his death in 1927.

A special thanks goes to my father-in-law, Russel Moe, who worked to compile this history for his wife’s family.

I hope you will enjoy their story.



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