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Matthew McCrea, one of the old time residents of Circleville, and one of the most active of its early business men, was born in the year 1792, in the county of Down, Ireland. He was of Scotch ancestry, and the son of Adam and Martha McCrea, who were also the parents of nine other children, six sons and three daughters. Matthew came to America with his brother Joseph, stopping first at Hagerstown, Maryland, where he remained two years. In 1817 he removed to th village of Jefferson, Pickaway county, Ohio, where his brother had previously gone, and was at that time clerking for Henry Neville. Thomas Bell, of Circleville, hearing of Matthew's arrival, sent for him and gave him a place in his store, in which he was doing a large and prosperous business in general merchandise. It was in Circleville that he met his future wife, Agnes, daughter of Hugh and Ruth Foreman. She was of Scotch origin, and her mother was of the Slocumfamily, famous in connection with the Wyoming massacre and wholesale abduction. She was born June 6, 1797, and married Matthew McCrea September 16, 1819, four years after his arrival in this country, and two years after his coming to Circleville.
Matthew McCrea established himself in business upon his own account in the fall of 1820, at the village of Jefferson. He traveled all of the way to Philadelphia on horseback to buy good, which were loaded on the heavy, old-fashioned wagons, on Market street, and transported in that manner to their place of destination. Not being satisfied with his location in Jefferson, Mr. McCrea purchased property in, and removed his building to, Circleville, in 1821, locating himself on the east side of the old circle, where he continued to prosecute a very successful business until 1828. Being the owner of considerable quantity of land, he then sold out his goods and devoted himself to farming for the remainder of his life, excepting a period of one year, in 1834 and 1835, when he was in partnership with S. S. Denny, in the dry goods business.
Mr. McCrea was probably the first successful adventurer in transporting pork, lard and flour from Circleville, by the Scioto, Ohio, and Mississippi rivers to New Orleans. His first trip, in 1849, was made for his brother-in-law, Thomas Bell. He continued this profitable, although somewhat risky enterprise, until his retirement from the mercantile business, making annual trips, and carrying pork, lard, flour, and other provisions to the great southern mart. It was his custom after disposing of his stock in New Orleans, to sail for Philadelphia, where he purchased goods, before returning home, to sell during the ensuing year in his Circleville store.
Mr. McCrea was a man of brad and generous nature, and of much dignity and perfect probity of character. His hospitality seemed to have no bound. His house was always open, and his friends, or for that matter, strangers, always welcome. Ministers, and especially those of his own denomination, were guests whom he took an especial pleasure in providing for; and if the number of those who accepted his kindness, and the frequency of their visits afford any means by which to judge, we may be sure that they fully appreciated his entertainment. He was a man in whom the people generally reposed the highest degree of confidence, and when he died, one attestation of this fact was shown in his having a considerable sum of money which he had been given to hold in trust. As one of the founders of the first Circleville academy, he exhibited his interest in education, and gave the cause the practical assistance of his influence and pecuniary support. He was for many years one of the trustees of this institution, and throughout its existence took great interest in its welfare and usefulness as he did of other institutions in their time. Always upon the side of good morals and improvement, he became at an early day a strong and consistent advocate of temperance. He was one of the very first to take the unpopular step of dispensing with liquor in the harvest field. A man of strong and fine religious feeling, a quality, perhaps, in his Scotch blood--he was an active member of the Presbyterian church, and for twenty years or more a ruling elder.
Politically, Mr. McCrea was a strong Whig of the Henry Clay school. He was, in 1845, elected by the legislature as associate judge of Pickaway county--a position which he held until his death.
His life closed September 4, 1874 [The biographical sketch of Adam McCrea, his son, states that he died in the "fall of 1847.]. His widow is still living.
The children of Matthew and Agnes McCrea were eight in number. Three died in infancy. The others were Adam, born August 19, 1821; Joseph, born December 14, 1827; Eveline Amanda, born March 24, 1829; William, born March 22, 1831; and George, born December 9, 1834. Of these, Joseph and Eveline Amanda, are deceased; William is living in Illinois, George in St. Louis, and Adam in Circleville.