Biography of Giles Phelps Grant
FROM: History of Livingston County, New York
By James H. Smith
Assisted by Hume H. Cole
Published By D. Mason & Co. 1881


Giles Phelps Grant, the subject of this memoir, was born in Norfolk, Litchfield county, Conn. May 26, 1801. His father was a farmer and until Giles became of age his history was similar to that of other New England farmer's sons-working on the farm and attending the district schools.

This occupation not suiting the inclinations and temperament of young Grant, he decided to strike out for himself, and in 1822, at the age of twentyone, he left home and went to Hartford, where he leased a store and immediately entered into the mercantile business. Having but little money, his beginning was necessarily small, though in selfreliance, enterprise, and energy he possessed an ample fortune, and his sagacious business tact soon developed a large and rapidly increasing trade.

In 1825 he was married to Laura Crittenden, of Hartford, where he remained till about 1835, and then removed to the "Empire State," locating at Rochester, where he at first opened a retail boot and shoe store on the corner of Main and St. Paul streets. This proved to be the most successful establishment of the kind in Rochester, and gradually developed into a wholesale trade.

His first wife having died, Mr. Grant was again married, Sept. 8, 1863, to Margaret, daughter of Hector McLean, Esq., of Caledonia.

In 1865 he opened an exclusively wholesale business on Exchange street, which he conducted till about 1874, when he retired from active business, having amassed a large fortune. His trade had increased from $1,000 the first year, to $500,000, the last year. He was the founder of the house now known as L. P. Ross' -the largest in Rochester.

The Rochester Democrat and chronicle of Jan. 22, 1877, says of Mr. Grant:- "The death of such a man as G. P. Grant deserves more than a passing notice in our columns, as he was in many respects a remarkable man.

"Through his long course of over fifty years as a merchant in active business, he maintained an unblemished reputation and credit, conducting his business through the two greatest commercial panics ever known in this country-in 1837 and 1857, always paying every debt in full that he contracted, and never even asking an extension. * * * Mr. Grant was the first person in Rochester to introduce the practice of selling goods on the road by samples, which is now so generally adopted by all kinds of trade.

"He was a man of remarkable memory, retaining his recollection of events which transpired during his business life with remarkable accuracy.

"His genial and pleasant manner of relating his reminiscences, made him a very agreeable and entertaining companion. He leaves many friends who will sincerely mourn his loss, and wish the country had more such upright, active business men as was G. P. Grant."

Mr. Grant was eminently a self-made man, the sole architect of his own fortune. He was methodic, prompt and reliable in all his transactions. As an example of his promptness, the following is stated

During the last fourteen years of his life he resided in Caledonia, going by rail to his business in Rochester every morning, and returning to his home in the evening, and during the whole of which time he was never known to miss his train."

He was a liberal, benevolent, and unostentatious man, ever ready to lend a helping hand to those who in his opinion, were deserving of his assistance.

In politics he was a strong Republican, and though seeking no political preferment, he quietly wielded a very strong influence.

During the life of Mr. Grant's first wife, they adopted a daughter, Mary A. Grant, whom they loved as dearly as though she were their own. She was married to Charles, son of Nathan Wild. Esq., of Valatie, Columbia county, N. Y., where they now reside. They have six children, of whom the sons, in connection with their father, are extensively engaged in the manufacture of cotton.

Mr. Grant died at Caledonia, Jan. 18, 1877, at the age of seventy-six years. Mrs. Grant is left with an ample competence and still resides in Caledonia, the pleasant village of her nativity, with her sister, Miss Catherine McLean. Col. A. H. McLean, Mrs. Grant's brother, and their much loved aunt, Mrs. John McLean, comprise at present (1881) the entire family. In 1838 she became a member of the United Presbyterian church of Caledonia, and has ever remained an active and devoted member of that congregation.

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