James Greattracks. Among the venerable and prominent octogenarian pioneers of Genesee County, who have done their share in developing the country, we take pleasure in bringing to the notice of our readers the subject of this sketch. James Greattracks is a representative citizen of Grand Blanc Township, and resides on section 30. He is a native of Albany County, N.Y., and was born November 25, 1804. He is a son of Oliver and Parnel (Leet) Greattracks. His mother was a native of Connecticut and he believes his father to have been a native of Long Island. His grandfather, Sylvanus Greattracks, was a soldier in the Revolutionary War.
When six years of age our subject was bound out to a farmer in Greene County, N.Y., and when eight years of age, with his master removed to Livingston County, the same State, and there remained until he was 18 years old. He purchased the balance of his time from his master for $140 and began for himself. As a lad he received a rudimentary education, attending school a short time during winters, and many a night after the family had retired he worked far into the night over his “cipher sums”, studying by the light of a hickory bark fire. So eager was he to obtain some education that he assimilated everything that came in his reach and became a well-informed and intelligent man.
Our subject was married while a resident of New York, October 14, 1824. His bride was Eliza Norton, a native of Pennsylvania. They became the parents of six children, three of who are living at the present time. They are Sarah., Laura A. And Lemuel N. Sara is the wife of James Kimball; Laura is the wife of Norman Fradenburg. Eliza Greattracks died June 22, 1835 and thirteen years later our subject was a second time married, his nuptials being solemnized on the 22d of October, 1848. The lady of his choice was Susan Ripson, a native of Canada, and born August 15, 1816. She was the daughter of Tice and Elizabeth (Flint) Ripson. By this union there were born four children, three of whom are living. They are Elizabeth, Mary E. And Augusta M. Elizabeth is the wife of George S. Chapel.
In 1846 our subject determined to better his condition if possible and removed to Michigan, settling in Grand Blanc Township, were he preempted a tract of land on section 31, and there resided for a few years. In the fall of 1873 our subject settled on his present farm which, comprises one-hundred and forty-eight acres of fertile land. The work that they have done may be estimated from the fact that on coming here the land which he procured was perfectly wild and their home was made in the woods. He and his wife, however, set about the work of clearing and improving with such zest and enthusiasm that the wilderness was soon reduced to a state of most beautiful order. Mr. and Mrs. Greattracks are now enjoying the fruits of a life well spent in usefulness. They have a large circle of friends in whom they find their social solace. Politically our subject is a Prohibitionist, and has ranged himself on the side of progress. He has always been a strong advocate of schools, and he and his wife lend there encouragement to every beneficial measure which is advanced in this locality. In their religious beliefs they are adherents to the creed as held by the Baptist Church.
When only three years of age Mrs. Greattracks came with her parents from Canada and located in Alleghany county, N.Y. They resided there until she was seven years of age and then went to Livingston County. Her father, who died in Alleghany County, was a Revolutionary soldier, and her paternal grandfather, also his eldest son, and brother-in-law were killed in one of the battles of the Revolutionary War. In 1837 Mrs. Greattracks with the members of her family emigrated to Genesee County, Mich. She was there engaged as a teacher. She is a noble and intelligent woman, who has been an inspiration and aid to her husband. Both our subject and his wife are widely known and are leaders in their social circle. Their many friends trust that happy years may pass over their venerable heads before the sounding of the last tattoo.
Source: Chapman Brothers. Portrait and biographical record of Genesee, Lapeer and Tuscola counties, Michigan. Chicago: Chapman brothers, 1892.