John Grant was born on April 11, 1860, to George S. and Mary Jane (LeCoutre) Grant in Richmond County, Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia. His parents, farmers from Cape Breton Island, endured a difficult life that included brutal winters shut off from the outer world by the Strait of Canso, with only their food supplies to keep them alive.
At age 11 Grant began working on boats that traveled around Newfoundland and along the Eastern United States. He stayed in this line of work until he was 21 when a visit to his parents prompted him to leave the seafaring life to learn carpentry. He shipped to Halifax, Nova Scotia, and then to Boston, where he arrived on May 8, 1881 and “took up the hammer and saw.” While there he befriended a Methodist minister whose name was Breck (likely a surname) and Grant would change his middle name from Abraham to Breck.
For several years Grant worked in construction for the Canadian Pacific Railway and as a stair builder. On May 11, 1885, he wed Evelyn MacPherson. They would go onto have at least 11 children from 1886 to 1910.
In 1890 or 1891, he arrived in Hanford, Calif., where he worked in construction for a couple of years. He then moved to Los Angeles, where he was involved in the construction of the city’s first steel structure, 6ƒ stories, then the tallest building in L.A.
On July 18, 1896, he became a naturalized U.S. citizen, but once construction of the steel building was completed, he had a tough time finding work because the country was still feeling the effects of the Panic of 1893. He landed contract work with the Southern Pacific Railroad Co., and in 1897 was sent to Cochise, about 70 miles east of Tucson, to build the staircase for the town’s train station. In 1900, he was named bridge and building foreman on the Tucson division of the railroad from Yuma to El Paso, a job he would keep until retirement in 1930.
In 1902, the Grant family was living just south of downtown, at 101 E. 17th St. The following year Grant homesteaded 80 acres that some came to call “Grant’s Ranch.” While it wasn’t technically a ranch, he did keep horses on the land. It was bounded by what today are East Glenn Street to the north, East Grant Road to the south, North Palo Verde Boulevard to the west and North Dodge Boulevard to the east.
For most of their time in Tucson the Grant family lived at 627 S. Park Ave in an area known as Millville.
On Aug. 4, 1919, Abraham C. Grant petitioned the Pima County Board of Supervisors for the dirt road just south of his father’s “ranch,” from North University Farm Road (now the northern part of Campbell Avenue) east to North Swan Road, to be made a public highway. The first signature on the petition was J.B. Grant (John Breck Grant) followed by his eldest son A.C. Grant (Abraham Charles Grant) and then other interested parties (likely landowners) such as Charles Blenman and James H. Mitman.
The supervisors established Grant Road, or Road No.1, on Jan. 5, 1920.
Evelyn Grant bought property around South Martin Avenue and recorded her small subdivision, the Evelyn Grant Addition, in 1927. The land is now part of Cherry Field and South Kino Parkway .
Evelyn Grant died in 1937 and John B. Grant in 1945.
Grant Road as shown in a 1947 Tucson map had four different names:
DeMoss-Petrie Road (Silverbell Road to Oracle Road), Luna Street (Oracle Road to Park Avenue) North Street (Park Avenue to Campbell Avenue, although a little south of the alignment) and Grant Road (Campbell Avenue to Wilmot Road).
Note: Common misbeliefs in Tucson are that the road was named in honor of General Ulysses S. Grant; Tom Grant, a Kentucky-born slave who went on to serve in the Civil War and later the Indian Wars before making Tucson his home; and Sewell W. Grant, a Pony Express rider and longtime manager of the old Orndorff Hotel.