Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Cabinet Photo of Agnes Isidora Grace, daughter of William Grace, Mayor of New York City, founder of W. R. Grace Company

Cabinet photo taken around 1867 of Agnes Isidora Grace; J. O'Neil Studio, 949 Broadway, New York, New York.

Agnes Isidora Grace was born 14 April 1867 in Brooklyn, New York, New York, the daughter of William Russell Grace and his wife Lillius Gilchrist.    She died young on 8 March 1884.   

William Russell Grace was the first Roman Catholic mayor of New York and was the founder of the W. R. Grace Company.  He was born in Ireland on May 10, 1832, the son of James and Ellen (Russell) Grace.

His wife Lillius Gilchrist, from a Maine shipbuilding family, was born 12 July 1839 in Tenants Harbor, Maine, the daughter of George and Mary Jane (Smalley) Gilchrist.  I believe George and Mary Jane were cousins.  Lillius' family tree reads like a who's who of prominent midcoast Maine families: Gilchrist, Smalley, Wiley, Robinson, Hopkins and Farnsworth.

James Grace and family went to Peru in 1850 but James did not meet with the success he had hoped and returned to Ireland.  His son William Russell Grace remained behind and became a partner in a firm that would eventually become the W. R. Grace Company.  He left Peru in 1864 for Brooklyn, New York.  

His work in the famine relief efforts for Ireland led to his election as Mayor of New York City in 1880, despite opposition based on his religion.   He served two terms as mayor and declined to run again.  While he was mayor, he accepted the Statue of Liberty from the government of France.   He was an advocate of building a canal through Panama and  was honored that a Grace ship was the first to go through the newly completed Panama Canal.   In some quarters, he was known as the "Pirate of Peru".

Because of his prominence, there are many references to William Russell Grace online, sites that describe his business and political life and, more interestingly to me, sites that delve into his historic genealogy, going back to a participant in the Battle of Hastings, a descendant of whom joined in the conquest of Ireland.

From what I have been able to gather, William Russell and Lillius (Gilchrist) Grace had ten children, of whom only 5 lived to adulthood.  They are:

  • Alice Gertrude [or Gilchrist - I saw it both ways] Grace, born 11 June 1860 in Peru; married (1) W. E. Holloway; married (2) Albert D'Oench, who was born in Missouri, the son of William and, possibly, Marie D'Oench, both immigrants from Prussia and Hamburg, Germany, respectively.
  • Florence Ellen Grace, born 20 September 1861; died 27 September 1861
  • Lillius Clementina Grace, born 24 October 1864 in Peru; died 26 June 1866
  • Agnes Isidora Grace, born 14 April 1867 in Brooklyn, New York; died 8 March 1884
  • Mary Augusta Grace, born 2 September 1868 in Brooklyn, New York; died 16 February 1870
  • Lillius Annie Grace, born 1 September 1870 in Brooklyn, New York
  • Joseph Spinney Grace, born 29 June 1872 at "Gracefield" [the W. R. Grace estate at Great Neck Harbor] New York; he married Janet MacDonald
  • Lillius Juanita Grace, born 30 May 1874 in New York; married George Edward Kent
  • Louise Natalie Grace, born 23 December 1875 in New York
  • William Russell Grace, born 11 April 1878 in New York
  • Caroline S. Grace, born 22 April 1879 in New York; died 21 April 1882
Interestingly, there was a schooner  named the The Agnes I. Grace, built at Waldoboro in 1873.  In one reference online, her captain was a Smalley, one of the surnames in the ancestry of Lillius Gilchrist, so I'm thinking that this schooner was named after our Agnes Isidora Grace.  The Schooner Agnes I. Grace sank off the coast of the state of Georgia in 1897.  Most online references indicated that the crew survived; one mentions that Captain Seavey would have drowned had he not been helped by the ship's dog to get to the lifeboat.

So, a cabinet photograph purchased at an antique shop in Searsport, Maine, has launched me onto another journey of discovery!

If you have corrections, additions or insights to add to the information presented above, please scroll down to the comments box or contact me directly.   Thanks for stopping by!

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