Herbert was my great uncle. We never met him, but we heard a wide range of stories about him. He was born to Osburn W. Gray, and Eliza Willis Gray. Osburn was married three times. He fought in the the Civil War, and was a prisoner on a ship of the Yankees. No one in his family wanted to fight in the Civil War, and it was rumored in the town that the Gray boys were caught on purpose. It didn’t matter to the Yankees that caught them. They were in a dark ship with people dying all around them.
After the war Osburn would marry two more women, and couldn’t keep a job. He had ten children, and his youngest was Herbert. Everyone in the family worked from the time they were old enough to walk. Anywhere they found work, they would do it.
Herbert was working since he was old enough to walk, and since he was small sometimes he could get jobs in the coal mines. There were no laws against children working, and they needed to eat. After he would work with the older men he was given beer as a reward. I am guessing that Herbert really liked the attention, and the effects of the alcohol. He became the town drunk, his first wife left him. His second wife owned a boarding house, and had small children from her first husband.
She told Herbert to stay away from her, but Herbert did not listen. One morning when he was drunk he went to the boarding house to confront her. He took 2 or 3 sticks of dynamite. He grabbed her, and lit the dynamite. She did not survive, he lost one arm. At one point the hospital even thought he would die, but he survived.
When it came time to enter a plea, he blamed her. Later he would plea guilty. Here are some of the newspaper clippings of the day…