Biography of Thomas McGrath of Barnesville Minnesota

Thomas McGrath, a pioneer settler of Barnesville, Minnesota, was instrumental in the community’s early development. Born in Appleton, Wisconsin, he and his brother John were among the first settlers in the Red River Valley, establishing the first claim shack and meat market in Barnesville. McGrath prospered, owning significant property including a 360-acre farm and other tracts of land. Married to Julia Brislain, they had five children. McGrath passed away in 1897. His son, Leo McGrath, continued the family business, running a grocery store, meat market, and grain elevator, becoming a respected community member.

Thomas McGrath was one of the pioneer settlers of Barnesville, Clay County, Minnesota, who played a significant role in developing the community in the early days. He was born in Appleton, Wisconsin, and was a son of Dennis and Ellen (Cashman) McGrath. He was also the brother of Hon. John F. McGrath, whose sketch appears in this work. Alongside his brother John, he took up a homestead claim near Barnesville, arriving with three horses and being among the first settlers in this part of the Red River Valley. They built the first claim shack in the region, back when Barnesville was just a small village. They opened the first meat market in town, and Thomas continued to run that business until his passing in 1897.

Thomas McGrath was a thrifty man who prospered financially and acquired significant property. At the time of his death, he owned a well-improved farm of 360 acres north of Barnesville, another good-sized farm west of town, and a large tract of unimproved prairie land southwest of the village. He also had personal estate. Mr. McGrath was married to Miss Julia Brislain. They had five children. Their eldest daughter, Cornelia, married Mr. H. C. Hendrickson of Grand Forks. Ella, the second child, is married to Mr. Frank Miller and resides in Grace, Idaho. Edward, their fourth child, is a student at St. John’s University. The youngest, Grover, still lives at home. Leo McGrath, their third child and eldest son, was born in Barnesville in May 1887. He received his early education in the public schools of Barnesville, then spent two years in high school before entering St. John’s University. There, he completed the commercial course and pursued one year of scientific studies. After leaving the university, he focused on business. Equipped with the necessary skills, he worked for Messrs. T. H. Clark & Company for one year. Following his father’s death in 1898, Leo became a member of the firm McGrath & McGrath, which his father had been involved in. At the time, he was the youngest man actively engaged in business in the town.

The firm operates a general grocery store and meat market and also runs a grain elevator, dealing in various types of produce and enjoying a prosperous and thriving business. Leo McGrath is actively involved with the M. B. A., a member of the Assumption Catholic Church, and a young man with high popularity and standing in the community, indicating a promising and successful future career.


C.F. Cooper & Company, History of the Red River Valley, Past And Present: Including an Account of the Counties, Cities, Towns And Villages of the Valley From the Time of Their First Settlement And Formation, volumes 1-2; Grand Forks: Herald printing company, 1909.

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