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John vs Robert ~ Wray vs McCrae

The only public references to Mr. Ray are found in the published Pennsylvania Archives and Colonial Records. There he is recorded only as ‘John’ Wray. The name ‘Robert’ Ray does not appear anywhere in the published Pennsylvania Archives.

The name of the man who established the trading post does not appear in any Bedford County public documents to be found in the Bedford County Court House.

The first use of the name ‘Robert’ Ray came around 1906 in a newspaper article by John H. P. Adams. Prior to that date, the man was 'John Wray' but after, various historians used the name ‘Robert’ despite the fact that no one ever gave the source of the information ~ least of all, Mr. Adams.

On 29 March 1907 the Bedford Gazette published a story on page 3 written by John H. P. Adams in which he stated: “Robert Ray, the founder of Ray’s Trading Post on the Raystown branch of the Juniata river where Bedford now stands in 1750, was a first cousin to the Powell’s. While attending to his trading post in September, 1756, he was taken sick. Powell, Perrin, and Huff and Vogan brought him from his trading post to Joseph Powell’s where in the course of time he got much better. He went to Perrins, some six miles distant, where in a few days he died and was buried on Perrins farm, now owned by the widow of William Dicken. Your correspondent showed his grave to Doctor Enfield while he was sheriff of Bedford county.” That was the first instance in which the name ‘Robert’ Ray appeared in print. Later that year, William P. Schell, in a series of “Sketches of the Most Important Events Which Occurred During the Century From January 1750 to 1850” which he presented as lectures during the ‘Old Home Week’ celebration from August 4-10 1907, and which were later published as a small book titled: “The Annals of Bedford County, Pennsylvania.” In that book, Dr. Schell stated, on page 35, that “The first white person who located on the present site of Bedford was Robert Ray who founded a trading post on the bottom land on the north bank of the Juniata in or about 1750.” Mr. Schell noted that “For this and other valuable information the grateful acknowledgement of our people should be given to John H. P. Adams, Esq.

The next published occurrence of the name ‘Robert” Ray came from Helen Greenberg in 1935. She noted that she obtained her information on the Perrin / Ray connection from Mrs. Henry Nycum. Mrs. Nycum was the daughter of John H. P. Adams. In an interview with Mrs. Nycum, Helen Greenberg and Major S. M. Lutz obtained the story of ‘Robert’ Ray becoming sick and being carried to the Powell house and then dying in the Perrin home. It was this Mrs. Henry Nycum who had in her possession the logbook of her ancestor, Thomas Powell, who led an expedition of Virginians northward into the region of southeastern Bedford County in 1625. Unfortunately, the Powell Expedition logbook along with the other papers in her collection were destroyed in a house fire. There is no reason to doubt Mrs. Nycum’s information, but not having any proof to confirm that information or even a hint as to where Mrs. Nycum and/or her father found it, its validity cannot be proven one way or another. What is important to note is that the change in name from ‘John’ to ‘Robert’ came only from a father and daughter who undoubtedly shared and compared information, not from unrelated individuals.

There was a man by the name of ‘Robert M’Crea’ who was one of the men named to identify the boundaries of Bedford County in 1771. It is possible that Mr. Adams, or his daughter, saw the similarity in the names ‘John Ray’ and ‘Robert M’Crea’ and confused the two, or maybe he thought they were one and the same individual, not taking into account the wide stretch of the years in which they lived.

Perrin family genealogist, Richard Day, cannot locate any authentic evidence that ‘John Perrin’s sister’ who was supposedly married to ‘Robert Ray’ ever existed. In fact, his research has discovered that John H. P. Adams’ information was tainted by some factual errors. Historians and genealogists from the southeastern corner of the county either have no proof, or they are unwilling to share what proof they might have, but they also claim that a man by the name of ‘Robert Ray’ was married to John Perrin’s sister. When questioned about it, the response this author received was simply that someone in the family knew it and passed it on. Apparently John H. P. Adams and his daughter, Mrs. Henry Nycum decided in 1907 that the man’s name was ‘Robert’. Other people, who are not serious enough about genealogical study to require proof of the information from which they build their family trees, copied the information and the name became popular. I attempted to contact every person who maintains a website which uses the name ‘Robert’ instead of ‘John’ Ray, but no one could (or at least would) tell where they got the information.

In the absence of any actual and tangible proof that the man’s given name was ‘Robert’, and the only public record of his given name being ‘John’, those who use the name ‘Robert’ should make a serious effort to justify their use of that name.

The Surname MacRay

The following regards a variation of the surname Ray/Rae/Rea/Wray that seems to be popular with many people.

At some point in time, someone determined that Mr. Ray was of Scottish descent and added the prefix ‘Mac’ to the surname. The change was published by various individuals, and thereafter half of all the references to the man bore, and still bear the name of MacRay. As noted above, one of the men named in the Act by which the county was erected was named Robert M’Crea. It was also pointed out that John H. P. Adams might have thought the man named in the Act was the same man who established the trading post, thereby assuming that his given name was ‘Robert’ rather than the publicly recorded ‘John.’ Mr. Adams did not question the surname though. Someone at some other time might have also noticed the similarities between the names and came to the conclusion that the surname of the man who established the trading post was ‘M’Crea’ or the variation 'MacRay' instead of ‘Ray.’

Assuming that his surname actually was MacRay, it is questionable why the names of the trading post, the hill and the river, that used his surname as their basis, were not: MacRaystown, MacRay’s Hill and the MacRaystown Branch of the Juniata River. The towns of McAlevey’s Fort and McConnellstown in Huntingdon County, and McKee in Blair County also named for individuals with Scottish names, proudly announce that Scottish ancestry with the ‘Mc’ or 'Mac' prefix included in their names. If Robert’s name was correct as MacRay, why would not the names of the places associated with him include the prefix?

John Ray certainly might have been Scottish, but the surname Ray ~ whether spelled ‘Ray’, ‘Rae’, ‘Rea’, ‘Ree’ or ‘Wray’ ~ is a Scottish surname in itself. The name ‘Ray’ is found in Scotland as early as the 13th Century. There is no need to ‘Scotify’ it by the addition of the prefix ‘Mc’ or ‘Mac’.

According to George F. Black, an authority on Scottish surnames, the surname ‘MacRay’ is not a patronymic. That means that it does not imply ‘son of’ Ray in the same way that ‘Mac’Donald means ‘son of’ Donald. The surname ‘MacRay’ is not directly associated with the surname ‘Ray’. They are two distinct families in Scotland. In other words men bearing the surname ‘MacRay’ would not necessarily be related to men bearing the surname ‘Ray’. No record of anyone named ‘MacRay’, during the time period in which he should have lived, can be found in the Pennsylvania Archives or Colonial Records. So the fact that only the name ‘John Ray’ appears in any public record is not the result of researchers failing to look for ‘MacRay’. It simply does not appear in any record.

No evidence exists to prove that the man’s surname was MacRay. A surname for a family from Scotland does not require the ‘Mc’ or ‘Mac’ prefix in order to be Scottish.