James Rea was born in Greenbriar County, Virginia, of Welsh-Irish extraction. He was reared in his native State, and there married Hannah Hutsinpiller, whose parents were Pennsylvanians. He served his country in the war with Mexico, being in the command of Col. E. D. Baker, afterward Senator from Oregon. In his politics, he was identified with the old Whig party, and became a Republican when the political lines were re-drawn and that party formed. He was a man of remarkable memory, which he retained unimpaired until his death, in 1879, after he had reached his eightieth year. Even in the latter years of his life, he could vividly recall the lessons from the history of his country learned in early youth, while the happenings of later days and the movements in battles, campaigns, and marches, during the Mexican War were indelibly imprinted on his mind. His wife preceded him to the grave, her death having occurred in 1871. They rest side by side in the cemetery at San Jose.
-“Pen Pictures From the Garden of The World” H.S. Foote, 1888