Hon. James McGrew was one of the historic characters of Kansas, has a place in the history of the state at large because of his early activities and influence as a free state man, and his service in the office of lieutenant governor, while locally he is to be credited with much of the enterprise which entered into the foundation of the present metropolis Kansas City, Kansas.
He was born in Adams County near the great battlefield of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, January 26, 1822, and died at his beautiful old home, erected in the early days, and known as McGrew’s Grove, on Quindaro Boulevard in Kansas City, Kansas, January 19, 1911, aged eighty-eight years, eleven months, twenty-three days.
He was reared and educated in Pennsylvania, and in 1844, at the age of twenty-two accompanied his parents to the Sac and Fox Indian Reservation in the Territory of Iowa. His parents both died in that state. James McGrew early identified himself with mercantile activities, and was practically a lifelong merchant. He conducted a general store at Lancaster in Keokuk County, Iowa, and in September, 1857, came to Wyandotte County, Kansas. He was associated with the party headed by Thomas H. Swope in organizing the old City of Wyandotte. He was one of the first merchants there, and from 1860 to 1870 had both a wholesale and retail grocery business. A special distinction is due to him in the fact that he was one of those who originated the packing industry in Kansas City, Kansas. He built and operated the first packing house at the mouth of the Kaw Biver. Until recently the building in which his operations as a packer were conducted still stood on Fourth Street near Freeman Avenue.
As a free state man he took an active interest in shaping the affairs of the Territory of Kansas. He served in the territorial legislature in 1859 and 1860, was mayor of the City of Wyandotte two terms, was elected to the State Senate in 1862 and in 1864 was chosen lieutenant governor of Kansas. It may be of interest to recall the fact that in 1864 there were two republican state tickets in Kansas. Mr. McGrew was the nominee on the regular republican ticket, and he defeated Hon. John J. Ingalls, who was candidate on the union republican ticket. It was one of the few political defeats registered against the classic Kansas orator, and in this case Mr. McGrew triumphed by about 4,000 votes. As lieutenant governor he was in office during the administration of Samuel J. Crawford, the war governor of Kansas. From the beginning of the party organization Governor McGrew was a stanch republican.
After retiring from office in 1867 he thereafter devoted himself steadfastly to his various business interests. He had first become interested in politics while living in Keokuk County, Iowa, and served as one of the early sheriffs of that county.
In 1848 at Lancaster, Iowa, Governor McGrew married Miss Mary Doggett, who died in 1863. In April, 1870, at Alliance, Ohio, he married Miss Lida Slaven, who survived him. Governor McGrew was the father of five children: Josephine E., who married H. H. Smalley; Henry McGrew, who married Julia M. Townsend; Louise, who married Thomas S. Moffett; Grace, who married Capt. William F. Clark of the United States Army; and Mary McGrew, who is unmarried and still resides in Kansas City, Kansas.