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The Lawrence County Museum has certification by the Ohio Association of Historical Societies and Museums. It is operated by the Lawrence County Historical Society, a corporation since 1925. The Historical Society has IRS non-profit status. The building in which then Museum is housed is in the Registry of Historic Homes of the Rankin District, listed as the Colonel George N. Gray House.

According to tax records, Elizabeth Ferguson purchased these two and one-half lots in 1870 and that same year the main structure was built and valued at $2,200. The records further show that the property was transferred, on July 5, 1878, to Elizabeth Gray, wife of Col. George N. Gray, an ironmaster. An addition, valued at $2,100, was added to the back of the house before the Gray family took up residence in December, 1878. The tower was a part of the 1878 addition. In March, 1882, an attic fire damaged ceilings and the roof in the amount of $1,000. Repairs were made and the front bay window was added. In November, 1891, another addition was made, and consisted of the back corner room (which at present houses the Iron Furnace Exhibit) and the room directly above it. In January, 1892, the veranda on the East side of the house was enclosed and converted to a conservatory for plants.

The style of the house is Italian Villa. The original windows are set in plain stone lintels, and are double hung, two over two lights. The main entrance is a double-leafed paneled door, with semi-circular lights. The cornice line under the roof is boxed, with a decorative frieze and brackets. Outside walls are of solid brick , three deep. Inside walls are of brick, two deep, and are plastered over. A tower with portholes is the most prominent feature of the house. The roof is truncated hip style with wrought iron cresting.

Col. Gray came to Ohio as a young boy and developed an interest in the iron furnaces. He returned to his native Pennsylvania to complete his education and returned to this county to teach school. Gray answered the call of his country in 1861, joining the 53rd regular Ohio Volunteers to fight as Shiloh and many other battles of the Civil War. When his enlistment was up, he joined the Navy and participated in several naval battles before the war ended.

The 1880 Census lists residents of the house as George and Eliza Ann Gray, John [12], Charles [11], George [7], and Emma [5], J. Wilson and Isabella Rankin Humphreys (Mrs. Gray's parents), and Ricka Long (a servant born in Germany).

Mrs. Gray's grandfather was the Rev. John Rankin, noted abolitionist of Ripley, Ohio, who visited often with the Gray family. After the death of his wife at their home in Kansas, Rev. Rankin came to live with the Grays. He died in this house March 18, 1886, and his body lay in state in the front bay-windowed room. One of the upstairs rooms contains Rev. Rankin's furniture and other artifacts.

Col. Gray's three sons served in the Spanish American War. Charles died while serving in that war, and it was his family's belief that adequate medical facilities could have prevented his death. To relieve such suffering of others and in memory of their son, the Grays bought the former home of W. D. Kelly and donated the property for use as a community hospital. The Charles S. Gray Deaconess Hospital was formally opened April 5, 1900. A memorial marker to their son's memory now rests in the herb garden beside the Museum.

The house remained in the Gray family for almost 100 years. In the early 1900s, electric fixtures replaced the gas lights. A first floor bathroom was added. Emma Gray and husband, attorney Earle Stewart, resided in the house until their deaths. Their daughter Ann, and her husband M. B. Edmundson reared their two children here - selling the house in 1977.

In 1988, Lawrence County citizens and businesses aided the Lawrence County Historical Society in acquiring the property for the purpose of establishing a Museum. The Society has carefully restored both the interior and exterior, completing the work in 2000.





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