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Simon B. McGrew
Born October 22, 1810


One of the early settlers of Linn county was Simon B. McGrew, who was born October 22, 1810, in Sewickley Township, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania and was the fourth in line of twelve children born to his parents, James B and Isabella McGrew. The McGrew family came to America from County Tyrone, Ireland in 1726, and were all followers of the Quaker faith when not orthodox Presbyterians. Simon B McGrew was married May 22, 1833, to Ura Marsh, daughter of Cooper and Martha Marsh, at the old Quaker church still standing in Sewickley Township. He moved to Jefferson County, Ohio, in 1844, where he built and operated a flouring mill for a number of years, and in 1852 moved to a newly-formed Quaker settlement at Salem Iowa where the family (now consisting of seven children) resided till 1857, when the head of the family first visited Linn County and erected a log cabin at the head of Elk Creek, three and a half miles southwest of Mound City, on what was afterwards known as the Curry farm.
Returning to Iowa the family was moved to the new home and a larger two-story log building was erected the following year in which the family continued to reside until the fall of 1864, A younger brother, Rev Samuel B McGrew, located on an adjoining claim to the east. A son, Abner G, located a claim on adjacent land and remained several years when he left for Chicago and graduated from Rush Medical College and was for many years surgeon for the Chicago and Northwestern Railway Company. One daughter, Jane, became the wife of Col Ed. R Smith, and Elizabeth married Dr Hugh McKean of Iowa and their son, Dr James W McKean has been for forty years a resident of Siam as physician to the King and a world known authority on leperology, having built and still superintends a large leper colony at Chiang Mai. Isabella, another daughter, married Herbert Capper who then resided at Mapleton, but they later made their home at Garnett where was born their son Arthur, who became Governor of Kansas in 1914, and is now junior Senator from Kansas in the United States Senate. One other daughter of Simon and Ura was Martha who died in 1863 and was buried in the little cemetery near the old homestead.
Simon McGrew was well known as a radical outspoken free state advocate and by reason of his activities was often marked as a subject for punishment by the Border Ruffians but fortunately escaped personal injury. He was ironically called "the fighting Quaker" from the fact that he used the plain language, as some of his descendants still continue to do. While religiously opposed to war, with a good pair of Colts Navy revolvers he was always ready to protect himself and his family. Being trained for a surveyor, he and John Brown became intimate friends and they did surveying work together, and when Brown left Kansas, McGrew purchased Brown's surveyors' compass, which is now deposited with the State Historical Society in Topeka as an authentic relic and reminder of the early days.
Simon McGrew was a giant in stature, being six feet three and one half inches tall in his stocking feet and was widely known for his great physical strength. He had a strong personal resemblance to Abe Lincoln and his portrait was often mistaken to be a picture of the Emancipator because of the strong resemblance.
The family was possessed of more than the ordinary means of the average settler, but owing to the impossibility of purchasing anything but the barest necessities of life, and that no nearer than Westport Landing (Kansas City), the family suffered all the hardships and privations of other pioneer families. Owing to failing health and advanced age Mr. and Mrs. McGrew with the two sons, James B and Charles F, removed to northern Iowa in the fall of 1864, where he died October 18, 1874 and is buried in the cemetery at Wyoming, Jones County, Iowa.

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Note: Simon lived in Wyoming township for many years and remarried there after the death of his first wife, Ura.

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