Louis Thompson McCrath

Page 264, 265, 266 - Louis Thompson McCrath now one of the more venerable of the native sons still residing in Grand Rapids, was born on Fulton street and at the age of two years his family moved on a farm. He is a scion of a family that was founded in Kent County about one year before Michigan Territory was admitted to statehood, and his memory compasses the greater part of the magnificent development and progress of the county and of the city of Grand Rapids within the long intervening years. The family name was originally spelled McCraith. Mr. McCrath long held precedence as one of the substantial business men of Grand Rapids, where he was for many years prominently identified with the meat-packing business, so that peace and prosperity attend him and his wife in the gracious evening of their long and worthy lives. He has lived virtually retired for somewhat more than fifteen years, but his active association with business affairs covered a period of half a century. On a farm extending along the present Michigan street in Grand Rapids, in a district now given over to business buildings and fine residence properties, Louis T. McCrath was born on the 10th of June, 1846, and is a son of James and Ellen (Wood) McCrath, both of whom were born in Scotland. In 1836, the year before Michigan became a state, James McCrath came to Grand Rapids as a member of a party of masons who were to construct the foundation for the first grist mill to be erected on the site of the future city. This mill, long known as the Sweet mill, stood on the site of the present Berkey & Gay furniture factory. At that time the site of Grand Rapids was marked by a few buildings in the midst of the surrounding forests, and these pioneer masons made their way hither along the pioneer blazed trails through the dense forests, James McCrath, Sr., grandfather of Louis T. of this sketch, having likewise been a member of this company of pioneer artisans. James McCrath, Jr., finally purchased land in Kent county, and there reclaimed from a veritable wilderness his pioneer farm, this old homestead having continued to be his place of residence until his death in 1897, aged ninety years, and his wife likewise having attained to the advanced age of eighty-two years. Theirs were earnest and noble lives of unassuming worth and of honest industry. Of their six children only two are now living, Louis T., of this review, and Walter C., who recently sold the old homestead farm of the pioneer era and who had there continued his residence until his recent removal to Grand Rapids. Louis T. McCrath gained his early education by attending the pioneer schools at such times as his services were not in requisition in connection with the arduous work on the home farm, and at the age of fouteen years he took a position as clerk in the McConnell hardware store, on the site of the present Hotel Pantlind, his compensation having been five dollars a month for two years. He was thus engaged at the outbreak of the Civil war, and his youth prevented his acceptance when he first attempted to enlist in defense of the Union, when he was but sixteen years old. However, he and his four brothers served valiantly as soldiers in Michigan regiments during the greater part of the war, and two of the brothers became commissioned officers. Louis T. McCrath was in service during the later years of the war, and as a member of the Twenty-first and Fourteenth Michigan Volunteer Infantries he was with General Sherman's forces on the historic march from Atlanta to the sea and thence onward to the national capital, where, at the close of the war, he took part in the grand review of the victorious armies. After receiving his honoraable discharge Mr. McCrath returned to Grand Rapids where he engaged in the livery business near the present Hotel Pantlind. After his marriage, in 1866, when he was twenty, he settled on a farm east of the city. He gave special attention to the raising of cattle and horses, and as an excellent judge of live stock values he was selected, in 1885, as the manager of the Grand Rapids branch packing house established by the great Chicago packing concern of Morris & Company, with which he continued as a valued executive in this capacity for virtually a quarter of a century, he having resigned his position in 1909 and having since lived retired from active business. Mr. McCrath profited largely also from his judicious real estate operation, and his is still the owner of valuable realty in his home city, he having erected the Kent Hotel, near the Union depot, and later having been associated with Henam N. Moore, in 1905, in the erection of the present and modern Crathmore Hotel on the same site, the name of the new hotel being a combination of the surnames of the builders. Since his retirement from business Mr. McCrath and his wife have traveled somewhat extensively and have passed numerous winter seasons in California. In Grand Rapids they now maintain their home with their only child, Fanna, who is the wife of D. Emmett Welsh, M D., and this home is replete in fine works of art and various curios that have been collected by Mr. and Mrs. McCrath and by Dr. and Mrs. Welsh from all parts of the world. The father of Mr. McCrath was made a Mason, in Scotland, one hundred years ago, and in Grand Rapids he was associated with twelve others in the organizing of Grand River Lodge, No. 34, A. F. & A. M., the founding of this pioneer lodge having taken place in the law office of Thomas Church. It is interesting to record that of this historic lodge Louis T. McCrath has been a member many years. He is a Republican in politics. May 29, 1866, was marked by the marriage of Mr. McCrath to Miss M. Jane Richards, and thus their ideal companionship has continued during a period of nearly sixty years. Of their only child mention has already been made. Mrs. McCrath was born in Ohio and came to Paris township when six years old, and is a representative of another of the honored pioneer families of Kent County. It was in Paris township that Mr. McCrath long maintained his high-grade stock farm. Mrs. McCrath's parents, John and Emma (Wright) Richards, came to Kent county about seventy-five years ago and settled in Paris township, now in the city. Her forebears served in the Revolution and the War of 1812, and were active in both.


Transcriber: Gloria Paas
Created: 21 January 2003
URL: http://kent.migenweb.net/white1924/personal/mccrath.html