JAMES MCGRATH - James McGrath is now living a retired life in Springfield, and well does he merit the rest which he is enjoying, because he has justly and honorably earned it. He came to Sangamon county in limited financial circumstances in 1850 and has worked earnestly and indefatigably until with the passing years he accumulated a competence that now supplies him with all the necessities and many of the comforts of life.
Mr. McGrath is a native of County Cork, Ireland, born July 1, 1825, and a son of Timothy and Mary (Driscoll) McGrath, both of whom were born in that county. The father was a farmer there and also followed a sea-faring life to a considerable extent. James McGrath was only two and a half years old at the time of his parents' death and he was then reared by two of his father's brothers, with whom he remained until nineteen years of age, when he went to London, England, and was employed there on the vessels on dock as a general helper. He served thus for a year, when he determined to try his fortune in America, believing that he would find better business opportunities in the new world. Embarking on a westward bound vessel he landed at Quebec, Canada, and worked for two months there on the vessel in which he made the voyage. He next went to Washington county, New York, where he worked as a railroad laborer for four months. He was afterward employed as a laborer in Massachusetts until 1850, when he came to Springfield where he began working in the surface coal business, directing his energies in that line for three years. On the expiration of that period he settled on a farm in Williams township, where he continued to reside for four years, when he entered a farm near Williamsville, comprising one hundred and twenty acres. To that he afterward added by purchase a tract of thirty-four and a half acres and there he resided for forty years, being recognized as one of the enterprising and progressive agriculturists of this community.
In Springfield in 1852 Mr. McGrath was married to Miss Catherine McLean, who was born in County Cork, Ireland, and was a daughter of Eugene and Nancy (Donovan) McLean, both of whom were natives of Ireland, in which country the father died. The mother afterward came to America and spent her last days in Connecticut. Mrs. McGrath passed away in Springfield, August 27, 1902, after a happy married life of a half century.
Mr. McGrath continued to reside on the old family homestead and to actively engage in farming until about 1895, when he removed to Springfield. After living on State street for two years he purchased his present residence and has since lived retired at No. 215 West Monroe street. He owns here a large and beautiful home, which he and his unmarried children occupy. He still owns the farm of one hundred and fifty-four acres on which he settled in 1850 and on which he made all the improvements.
Two days after arriving in Springfield there was a county election held, but Mr. McGrath was not allowed to vote. A short time afterward, however, the presidential election occurred and he cast his first ballot for Franklin Pierce, since which time he has been an ardent advocate of Democratic principles, but has never sought or desired office. He and his family are communicants of the Catholic church and while they were living in Williamsville services were held in their own home. Strong in his integrity and in his industry he has through these means won for himself a place among the successful men of his county and his life may well prove a source of inspiration to others.