Original Highland Township Landowner
Elliot or Elliott Gray was an early and prominent settler in Detroit. He is mentioned along with Lewis Cass and others as part of an abortive plan to prevent General William Hull's surrender of Fort Detroit to the British at the start of the War of 1812, Talcott E. Wing, Ed., History of Monroe County, Michigan, Munsell & Co. (1890), p. 91. A merchant, he presented a claim to the Michigan Legislative Council in 1823 for stationary and related items he had furnished the Council earlier in its term. The 1829 act establishing the Farmers' and Mechanics' Bank of Michigan names him as one of the bank's first directors. He appears on the 1830 Census living in Detroit, just a few households distant from Phineas Davis, Jr., another early Highland landowner. That same year he and others petitioned Congress for reimbursement for advances of goods and merchandise provided to the Indians at a treaty conference held in 1827.
In the early 1830's the U.S. Government decided to move its arsenal from Detroit to "Dearbornville,"10 miles west along the "Chicago Road" (now Michigan Avenue). Trusting that the facility would attract settlers, Joshua Howard purchased land south of the road in 1833 and promptly platted a new village. That same year "Mr. Elliott Gray, an enterprising merchant in Detroit, had a steamboat named 'Gen. Jackson' built at Mt. Clemens, to ply between Detroit and Dearborn, via the River Rouge, which after a few trips was withdrawn for want of sufficient patronage," Robert E. Roberts, Sketches and Reminiscences of the City of the Straits and Its Vicinity, Detroit Free Press (1884), p. 99.
Detroit historian Friend Palmer writes of Gray as follows:
Next to Mayor Dequindre's was the store of Gray & Noble. They kept a general stock of goods. Mr. Noble was quite a small man, while Mr. Elliott Gray, his partner, was of commanding presence, about six feet two inches tall, but slender. He always wore the conventional outer garments of black, a ruffled shirt, tall hat, etc. I think he always carried a cane. I remember these gentlemen well. The firm finally dissolved and Mr. Gray went into partnership with Mr. Gallagher in the forwarding business at the foot of Bates Street. I think the late Samuel Lewis and his brother Alex clerked for them at that time. Afterwards the firm was Gray & Lewis, and after that it was Lewis & Graves.
Friend Palmer, Early Days In Detroit, Hunt & June (1906), p. 450.
Gray's business ventures included several purchases of land. In 1831 he became one of the first to buy property in Clyde Township, St. Clair County. In 1833 he and his partner John Noble also bought the second lot ever sold in the new village of Dearbornville mentioned above.
As these accounts suggest, Elliot(t) Gray never settled on his purchase in Highland Township, Oakland County. He instead remained in Detroit where he served as Wayne County Treasurer from 1837 to 1840. He is thought to have died soon after leaving office.