John Groce was born in Frederick county, Maryland, and emigrated, when a young man, to the west, settling in Jefferson, of this county [Pickaway], before Circleville was laid out or was known as a town. In the year 1811, he returned to his native county, and on April 25, was united in marriage to Miss Elizabeth Jacobs, of Louden county, Virginia, and immediately thereafter again came west with his wife, and settled in Circleville, where he lived until his death.
There were born to them seven children, as follows: Charles (who died in his twenty-second year), Lydia, Bentley, Caroline (who died in infancy), John, Mahlon (who died at the age of twenty-two years), and Elizabeth Ann.
His wife died August 8, 1824, leaving his with a family of young children to care for. In 1827 yhe married Mrs. Margaret Wolfley. He died March 18, 1834, in his fifty-fifth year.
John, the third son, and subject of this sketch, was born January 18, 1818, at Circleville, this county. At the time of his father's death he was in his seventeenth year. Thus left dependent upon his own resources, it became necessary for him to do for himself. He sought, as council, his father's most intimate friend, the late Matthew McCrea, and the advice was given as follows:
"John, go to a trade. It will learn you habits of industry, and if you don't want to follow it when you become a man, you need not."
Taking this sound advice, he immediately went to learn the saddling business with the late John A. Wolfley, commencing the same year, in April. He continued at his trade, as apprentice and journeyman, until the spring of 1839, when on the thirteenth day of June, he commenced the business for himself, at Kingston, Ross county, Ohio on a capital of eighty-five dollars. The same year, December 19th, he was united in marriage to Miss Elizabeth Ellen Graham, who was born September 25, 1820. There have been born to them five children: Infant daughter, born march 31, 1841; Mary Elizabeth, born July 26, 1842; Ellen Gillett, April 24, 1845; Jennie, September 28, 1847; Charles Erastus, born July 26, 1851.
Mary Elizabeth married Bennett Foresman, October 20, 1864. They have two children: John Philip, born October 3, 1866, and William Bennett, born August 3, 1873. Ellen Gillett married Frank M. Shulse, October 22, 1868. They have two children: Charles Groce, born July 22, 1869, and Emanuel Edgar, January 13, 1879. Jennie married Lemuel Boggs, October 20, 1870. They have two children: Nellie Groce, born January 12, 1872, and Margaret Cook, April 5, 1876.
Mr. Groce eontinued in his business at Kingston for nine years, meeting with fair success. But having become strongly impressed with the idea that he could do better at other business, and feeling that Kingston was not the place to make the venture, he, with his little family, moved to Circleville, in August, 1848, immediately going into the grain and pork business in connection with the late R. D. Atwater. In July, 1852, he also took an interest with Mr. Atwater in the dry goods business. In the fall of that year he went to Milton, Indidana, to pack pork, whole Mr. Atwater attended to the business in Circleville, the interests at both pints being the same.
Mr. Atwater dying in December, of the same year, and the business proving largely losing, it left him without capital. But being energetic and hopeful, with nothing to lose and all to gain, he proposed to Mr. Atwater's executor to take the stock of goods on five years' time, which was readily assented to, and taking Mr. Jacob Helman, also without capital, as a partner, went vigorously to work to retrieve losses.
In the fall and winter of 1853-54 he again went into the pork trade alone, and, profiting by his past experience, he was fortunate in the venture, so that he was enabled to protect his dry goods notes as they matured from year to year. He continued in the dry goods and pork business until the year 1860, when he exchanged his dry goods to the late E. B. Olds for a block of buildings, and has since carried on the pork trade with great success. November 12, 1872, he associated with himself his only son, Charles E., and the firm has since been known as John Groce & Son. One who has been his companion from boyhood, and is well qualified to judge of his many virtues and sterling qualities, says of him:
"Mr. Groce is eminently a self-made man. Left at an early age without the example and counsel of a father, and possessed of but an ordinary common-school education, he started out in the battle of life. But whilst he lacked theses advantages, which are generally so necessary to success, he did possess qualities of mind which were gradually developed and made the groundwork of a successful business life, and that was a determination to study out and become master of any business he might undertake to prosecute. That has been fully demonstrated in the almost national reputation he has attained for his manner of curing meats, and particularly hams. Mr. groce is a man of very positive convictions, and when once an opinion is formed, it is held with firmness, and yet not without being willing always to give a reason for his opinion. He has always been identified with every public enterprise, and has contributed as much as any citizen to build up our city, as his large and well-appointed pork house and fine residence demonstrate. He took an active part in securing subscriptions for the purchase of the grounds of our beautiful Forest cemetery, and has been one of its directors from the beginning until the present time. He was a member of the national convention that nominated R. B. Hayes for president of the United States, and is now chairman of the Republican central committee of this county."