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April 10, 2007 > The Gregory Family and Hotel

The Gregory Family and Hotel

Henry Clay Gregory was born and educated in New York State. He sailed to San Francisco about 1851 bringing with him 109 hives of bees which he traded for two sloop-loads of fence posts in Marin County. The spring floods washed away his fence posts, so he came to Alameda County, learned telegraphing and opened the office at Centerville. After engaging in mining and other enterprises, he returned to Centerville and bought the C. J. Stevens store. He served as postmaster from 1870 to 1877 and made enough money to buy the Niehaus Ranch. In an 1879 business directory, he is listed as owning 50 acres.

Henry was single when he came to Centerville. In 1868, he married Mary Emmeline Scott, the daughter of Thomas and Elizabeth Scott. Thomas was a prominent Sunol resident who was elected to the 9th Senatorial District in 1862.

Henry and Mary had a daughter named May Emeline. Mary died in 1876 when May was very young (May died in Centerville in 1901). In 1877, Henry married Mary Ann Smith, the daughter of George and Mary (Green) Smith, in Alvarado. George Smith was a captain in Queen Victoria's bodyguard before emigrating from England to Canada. Mary Ann and Henry had two children, Amy Louise and George Lewis.

The Gregory House was built by Henry on the site where the first Centerville hotel, Ogden House, had burned. Under his management, the two-story hotel became a popular stopping place for drummers, tourists and bicycle clubs. Mary Gregory's chicken dinners were an added attraction to many, and the Pioneer Society held their annual banquets here.

Henry operated a livery stable in conjunction with the hotel. He boarded horses and advertised horses and carriages for rent "on reasonable terms" in 1883. He was also the ticket agent for the stage that connected Centerville with the Central Pacific Trains at Niles and handled the mail between those villages for 30 years.

Donn Blanchard Parker, a 12 year-old living in San Jose in 1941, remembers occasionally visiting Centerville with his grandfather Oliver Blanchard, a San Jose real estate developer. His grandmother Amy Gregory Blanchard had inherited the Gregory Hotel from her mother Mary Ann (Smith) Gregory. Oliver helped her maintain the hotel. He drove his old 1927 Chevrolet work car loaded with muddy tools and pulling a four-wheel, flat-bed trailer with lumber and materials from San Jose to repair the hotel at Centerville.

When he arrived at Centerville, Donn always visited his great grandmother who was always dressed in black with pince-nez spectacles dangling from a necklace resting next to a white broach on her ample bosom. Of course, she also had cookies and lemonade for Donn.

Donn also recalled the old livery and feed barn behind the hotel next to the windmill tower. It was filled with marvelous things including old buggies, books, furniture, slot machines, false teeth and shaving gear that guests left behind long ago. Oliver let Donn have one of the slot machines to restore in his barn in San Jose.

Henry died in August of 1906, but he had given up the hotel management about 1897. A. S. Olney was advertising as proprietor in 1898 and Mrs. M. Graves was proprietor and C. H. Crocker manager in 1901. After that the Gregory House changed hands several times and became known as the Hotel Gregory or the Gregory Hotel. It became a tavern and rooming house in the 1930's and was razed in 1949 to make room for a market parking lot.

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