James Secor was born in Goshen, New York in 1834, the son of Benjamin and Sarah (Ketcham) Secor. In 1844 he and his family moved to Michigan. He worked on the family farm until the age of twenty. It was in that year that he moved to Toledo. His brother Joseph was a partner in the wholesale grocery business of Secor, Berdan and Company, and James was made clerk of the company. He was so successful with his new job that in 1858, James became a partner and was made general manager. Previously, the company had supplied country stores with not only groceries, but also dry goods. The sales of the company, until James became manager, had been around $250,000. After James dropped dry goods in 1860, the profits increased 100%. Eventually Secor, Berdan & Ketcham became one of the leading grocers in Ohio and the surrounding area. James remained manager until his retirement in 1888.
When he retired, James turned his attention to the banking world. He helped to organize such institutions as the Union Safe Deposit and Trust Company, the Union Savings Bank, and the Woolson Spice Company. He served as president of all three companies.
James was a member of the Toledo Club, the Toledo Country Club, the Middle Bass Club, and the First Congregational Church. In January, 1867 he married Charlotte A. Steele. The couple had four children, only one of which, Jay K., survived. James was a member of the Republican party and was a keen hunter. In 1901, while James Secor was hunting in a marsh, he collapsed and died aged only 66 years. He is buried in Woodlawn Historic Cemetery in Section 5, lot 42.[Harvey Scribner, ed. Memoirs of Lucas County and the City of Toledo vol. 1 (Chicago: S.J.Clarke Publishing Company,1923), pp.103-104. John M. Killits, ed., Toledo and Lucas County, Ohio 1623-1923 vol. 3 (Chicago & Toledo: S.J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1923), p.673].
James Secor's grave
(Photography of Woodlawn Cemetery by Josef Schneider.)