William Crawford
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William Crawford (1722 - 1782)

Col. William Crawford
Born in Spotsylvania County, Colony of Virginiamap
Ancestors ancestors
Husband of — married 1742 [location unknown]
Husband of — married about 1744 in Frederick, Colony of Virginiamap
Descendants descendants
Died at age 59 in Tymochtee Creek, North of the Upper Sandusky River, Connecticut Western Reserve, (later Wyandot County, Ohio)map
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Profile last modified | Created 14 Sep 2010 | Last significant change: 16 May 2022
01:32: Albertus Robert Casimir (Fuller) Jung posted a comment on the page for William Crawford (1722-1782) [Thank Albertus Robert Casimir for this]
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William Crawford was the son of Valentine Crawford and Honoria Grimes . He was born north of present-day Winchester, Virginia, in what is now Berkeley County, West Virginia and was then Spotsylvania County, Virginia. Some researchers say he was born in 1732, others state 1722: the discovery of the family bible [1]provides proof for the 1722 date.[2]

William Crawford's first wife was identified as being Ann Stewart who sadly passed away shortly after giving birth to their first child, Ann. This is supported by the Bradford Family Bible [3]. With the Will from John Vance, there is confirmation that his daughter, Hannah, was the wife of Col. William Crawford and the mother of John and Sarah. We do have a will but it's not definitive on exactly who his children were. He does mention John - but states his son also had two sons - Moses and Richard. John perished shortly after his father was killed by Indians - it is believed that he was killed by Indians at the same time his Brother-in-Law, Major Harrison, was killed. There is a letter residing in the Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files that states Sarah Springer, husband of Uriah Springer, a Captain in the 9th Virginia Unit and was a Lieutenant serving under Col William Crawford, is entitled to receive jointly with Effie McCormick 500 acres of Bounty Land (Warrant: 921) issued 1 Jun 1820. [4]

Crawford is famous, in part, because he was burned innocently at the stake by American Indians at the end of the Revolution. He was not the only American killed in this way, but his was the most famous case of what people called the “barbaric cruelty” of Britain’s Indian allies in the Revolution. The war ended shortly afterward, but his “horrific execution” was widely publicized and sensationalized in the United States, which worsened the already bad relationship between European Americans and American Indians.

Land Transactions

  • On 4 Aug 1750 William purchased 64 acres of land on Cattle Run from Elijah Teague and was described as being located on a branch of the Shenandoah River. This is recorded on page 135 of the Deed Book covering that timeframe available in Frederic County, Virginia. There is also another tract of 128 acres of land with quit rents to grow and be payable to Lord Thomas Fairfax. This land would be now located in Jefferson County on where we call Cattail Run.
  • Recorded in Frederick County, Virginia on page 134 is the transaction where William purchased 64 acres of land on 4 Oct 1753. This transaction was witnessed by Thomas Wood and Coriter R Rutherford from Elijah Teague. This land is now located in Jefferson County, West Virginia
  • Another 64 acres of land was purchased on 5 Feb 1754 from Elijah Teague which was part of 300 acres which was formerly owned by Richard Pendals located in Frederick County, Virginia. The witnesses were Jn. Sherman, R. Worthington and Thomas Swearingen. This transaction is found on page 148 in the appropriate deed book covering that time period. This land is not in present day Jefferson County, West Virginia.
  • In 1762 William sold 245 acres to Thomas Clyland which was witnessed by Valentine Crawford, David Sharp, John Vance, William Douglas and Edward Dyall as recorded on page 56 of the appropriate deed book. [5]

Friend to George Washington

He was a farmer in the 1750s when he became acquainted with young George Washington, who was ten years his junior. A 19th-century biographer wrote, “When first seen by Washington, William Crawford was a youth of fine, manly presence, above six feet in height, and in point of strength and activity a very athlete.”

William Crawford at age 40

The two quickly became friends. Crawford accompanied Washington on surveying trips and learned the trade. He received his first military appointment from Washington in 1755, as an ensign in a company of scouts that were defeated by the French and their American Indian allies.

For more about Crawford's relationship with Washington, see the Mount Vernon website (although it has the wrong year of his birth): [1]

Crawford served throughout the French and Indian War, becoming familiar with western Pennsylvania and the Ohio country and decided this was where he preferred to live. After the war, he surveyed a tract of land on the Youghiogheny River and erected a log cabin there.

A reconstruction of Crawford's log cabin
The following year, Crawford, his wife, and their four children moved into the one-room cabin. It was a “humble dwelling, fourteen by sixteen feet in size, yet many illustrious men were entertained within, including [Virginia's Lord Dunmore and] George Washington, Crawford’s life-long friend.” This is documented by a deposition in the Virginia State Papers, at Richmond. He stated that he had first spotted the land in 1758 while serving in the Military. He then moved his family there about 1766.[6]

Crawford became a leader in civil affairs, serving as a justice in succeeding western Pennsylvania counties.

Lord Dunmore's War

John Murray (1730-1809), 4th Earl of Dunmore

Crawford was returning from a successful campaign under Lord Dunmore, when the backwoods Virginians learned about the passage of what were called by disgruntled colonials the "Intolerable Acts."[7] It was the British Parliament’s passing of this legislation that drove Virginia frontiersmen to draft what has been called the "First Declaration of Independence."

Although the acts were directed at Massachusetts as punishment for the Boston Tea Party of 1773, many colonists saw the acts as a violation of their constitutional rights, their natural rights, and their colonial charters. They therefore viewed the acts as a threat to the liberties of all of British America, not just Massachusetts.

These brave backwoods Virginians having just returned from a successful campaign under Lord Dunmore, learned about the passage of what were called by disgruntled colonials the "Intolerable Acts." This meant they could find themselves under orders to stop an uprising of their own countrymen. If they were to raise any objection, this could be seen as treason.

These men were not easily intimidated. They drew up what has been called the “First Declaration of Independence.” They declared that they had “lived about three months in the woods without any intelligence from Boston, or from the delegates at Philadelphia.” They went on to say, “That we are a respectable body is certain, when it is considered that we can live weeks without bread or salt; that we can sleep in the open air without any covering but that of the canopy of heaven; and that our men can march and shoot with any in the known world. . . . It behooves us then, for the satisfaction of our country, that we should give them our real sentiments, by way of resolves, at this very alarming crisis.” They agreed, without dissent, to resolutions ordered to be published in the Virginia Gazette:
Instead of keeping quiet, they took matters into their own hands. Many of them had settled west of the Alleghenies in open defiance of the Royal Proclamation of 1763. They met at Fort Gower at present-day Hockingport, Ohio, on the Ohio River about 150 miles southwest of present-day Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Among their number were many who were already famous as intrepid frontiersmen and others who were soon to gain fame as officers in the Revolution: Simon Kenton, the notorious Simon Girty, Michael Cresap, William Crawford, George Rogers Clark, Adam Stephen and Daniel Morgan. These men were not easily intimidated. I have provided the First Declaration of Independence below:

  • GENTLEMEN:-Having now concluded the campaign, by the assistance of Providence, with honor and advantage to the colony and ourselves, it only remains that we should give our country the strongest assurance that we are ready, at all times, to the utmost of our power, to maintain and defend her just rights and privileges. We have lived about three months in the woods without any intelligence from Boston, or from the delegates at Philadelphia. It is possible, from the groundless reports of designing men, that our countrymen may be jealous of the use such a body would make of arms in their hands at this critical juncture. That we are a respectable body is certain, when it is considered that we can live weeks without bread or salt; that we can sleep in the open air without any covering but that of the canopy of heaven; and that our men can march and shoot with any in the known world. Blessed with these talents, let us solemnly engage to one another, and our country in particular, that we will use them to no purpose but for the honor and advantage of America in general, and of Virginia in particular. It behooves us then, for the satisfaction of our country, that we should give them our real sentiments, by way of resolves, at this very alarming crisis.
  • "Whereupon the meeting made choice of a committee to draw up and prepare resolves for their consideration, who immediately withdrew, and after some time spent therein, reported that they had agreed to and prepared the following resolves, which were read, maturely considered and, agreed to, nemine contradicente, by the meeting, and ordered to be published in the Virginia Gazette:"
  • "Resolved, That we will bear the most faithful allegiance to His Majesty, King George the Third, whilst His Majesty delights to reign over a brave and free people; that we will, at the expense of life, and everything dear and valuable, exert ourselves in support of his crown, and the dignity of the British Empire. But as the love of liberty, and attachment to the real interests and just rights of America outweigh every other consideration, we resolve that we will exert every power within us for the defense of American liberty, and for the support of her just rights and privileges; not in any precipitate, riotous or tumultuous manner, but when regularly called forth by the unanimous voice of our countrymen."
  • “Resolved, That we entertain the greatest respect for His Excellency, the Right Honorable Lord Dunmore, who commanded the expedition against the Shawnees; and who, we are confident, underwent the great fatigue of this singular campaign from no other motive than the true interest of this country.
  • "Signed by order and in behalf of the whole corps, “BENJAMIN ASHBY, Clerk.

A year later the colonies and Britain were at war. In the Revolution, Crawford became colonel of a Virginia regiment[8], fought alongside Washington at Long Island, then crossed the Delaware with him and fought at the battles of Trenton, Princeton and later at Brandywine.

As the fighting drew to a close, he returned to western Pennsylvania, looking forward to the "art of becoming a grandfather." A few months later, in 1782, Crawford came out of retirement reluctantly, resisting the movement to give him command of an enterprise against pro-British Indians in northern Ohio.

Gen. William Irvine

But Gen. William Irvine, the regular Army commander of the Western Deptartment, and others finally prevailed on him to accept nomination to lead an expedition the Indians.

Because this was a volunteer expedition and not a regular army operation, the men elected their officers. Crawford had one rival for the spot, David Williamson. (Williamson, a militia colonel had commanded an expedition in March that had shot — from behind — the women and children of a group of pacifist Christian Indians as they knelt in prayer at a Moravian mission at Gnadenhutten in east central Ohio. Indians throughout Ohio were enraged by the slaughter.) For more about the Gnadenhutten affair and David Williamson, see Wikipedia's "Gnadenhutten massacre", The Moravian massacre and David Williamson Crawford was a veteran of expeditions against the natives, having destroyed two Mingo villages during Dunmore’s War in 1774. He “won” the election by five votes.

Crawford wrote his will on May 16 1782 two days before leaving on the expedition: He gave his wife, during life, the home farm, and three slaves (Dick, Daniel and Betty) and all his personal property except a slave boy named Martin. He gave Martin to his son John as well as five hundred acres of land, and (after his wife's death) the home farm, and the three slaves Dick, Daniel and Betty. He gave to each of his grand children, Moses and Richard, sons of John Crawford, four hundred acres, and to his grand daughter Anne four hundred acres. He made bequests to Anne Connell, and her four children; all the rest of his estate was to be divided equally between his other three children.

In late May of 1782, Crawford led about 500 volunteers into north central Ohio, hoping to surprise the Indians. But on June 6 his supply chain disintegrated and the Indians surrounded him and his men. The Delaware Indians were determined that Col. Crawford pay for the attack and massacre on the pacifist Indians at Gnadenhutten even though he had not been part of that expedition. They took their revenge by torturing the members of Crawford’s party, which included many men who had been involved in the Gnadenhutten expedition. Crawford and his son-in-law William Harrison were scalped and burned at the stake; Crawford finally died (near Tymochtee Creek, a tributary of the Sandusky River) after two hours of torment. At least 250 members of Crawford’s party were killed in the disastrous encounter.

On June 11 1782, the morning after the defeat, Col. Crawford was taken by a scouting party of the Indians, and led in triumph to their encampment, on Tomochte creek, about 3 miles west of Sandusky River, where among a very extensive assemblage of Indians he was prepared for the torture.

There are at least two different accounts of Crawford’s death:

He was fastened to a tree by a grape vine; the vine being first tied around his neck, and then around the tree, so as to give him an opportunity of walking round a small distance from it; a circle of burning coals was then placed at a proper distance from the tree for him to walk upon; this fiery circle the intrepid commander was compelled to traverse barefooted. This however, did not elicit so much as a groan, or a sigh, which much exasperated his enemies; as it is well known that nothing is so pleasing to them as to see their victim shrink from the torture. After trying in vain for sometime to subdue the dauntless spirit of the hero, one of the Indians indignantly seized upon him and tore off his scalp. But still unsubdued he continued to traverse the burning circle with a firm and dignified step looking defiance upon the savage host that surrounded him. At length one of the chiefs in a rage at the unexampled hardiness of the dauntless warrior, seized a large firebrand and placing it upon his skinless head, held it there for a time; when (probably from the heat communicating with the brain) he fell and instantly expired.

A depiction of William Crawford being tortured to death

The other account portrays his response in somewhat less heroic tones: He was tied to a post and "seventy shots of powder were fired at his body. Indians then cut off his ears, prodded him with burning sticks, and tossed hot embers at him. [He] continued in the extremities of pain for an hour and three quarters or two hours longer... when at last, being almost totally exhausted, he laid down on his belly; they then scalped him. An old squaw got a board, took a parcel of coals and ashes and laid them on his back and head, after he had been scalped. Colonel Crawford then raised himself upon his feet and began to walk around the post; they next put a burning stick to him as usual, but he seemed more insensible of pain than before." Crawford finally died from his wounds, but not before begging those around him to end his misery with a bullet.

Col. Crawford was captured by the Delaware Indians, a different tribe from the one that Simon Girty was affiliated with, Seneca Indians. Girty had to tread lightly here or would have suffered the same fate. We seem to want to forget the different crimes committed by Simon Kenton and Col. Crawford. In the crime of Simon Kenton, the theft of horses was nothing compared to the crime of Col. Crawford's association with Col. Williamson; the one that ordered the Massacre of Gnadenhutten. There was nothing Girty could have done to have prevented the death by torture of Col. Crawford.

There are two different accounts of Girty's actions from fellow captives. One such account states that Girty attempted over and over negotiating for the release of Col. Crawford, till he was threatened with the same death. The other account states he was a tormentor and even took part in the torture. This second account was proved to be false - but it was this account that was sensationalized and repeated over and over.

  • The Delaware Indians were determined the Col. Crawford pay for the attack and massacre on Gnadenhutten. Col. Crawford was not in attendance at this massacre, it was Lt. Col. David Williamson that let the attack. Simon attempted to plead this case - but the Delaware Indians wanted action, and Col. Crawford was the one held captive and paid the price that Col. Williamson should have paid. It is evidenced that Simon served with Col. William Crawford during Lord Dunmore's War and history shows that he always tried to help his comrades from that time-frame.[9]

Those wanting to read the more graphic detail of the torture the brave Officer was subjected to may visit Dark and Bizaare Stories.

"Thus perished,” wrote a sentimental contemporary, “the gallant Crawford, the early friend and companion of Washington. This story is well authenticated by the white persons who were suffered to survive that fatal event, and were present at the scene of their commander’s suffering; and also by many of the old Indians who still inhabit the neighborhood. The place where this tragic scene was acted is distinctly pointed out by them, even the tree to which he was fastened is still standing.”

Crawford’s horrendous death ensured that he would be remembered as a martyr. The site of his execution is included on the National Register of Historic Places and a monument has been erected there in his memory. Counties in central Ohio and western Pennsylvania also bear his name.

For descriptions of the torture, see Revolutionary War, Sandusky Expedition (at genealogytrails.com).

A nineteenth century description of the expedition and biographical information on Crawford can be found in James H. Anderson, "COLONEL WILLIAM CRAWFORD", Ohio History Journal, Vol VI-1 (OHIO Archaeological and Historical PUBLICATIONS.) (link to page). Also see Butterfield, Consul Willshire, An historical account of the expedition against Sandusky under Col. William Crawford in 1782 : with biographical sketches, personal reminiscences, and descriptions of interesting localities; including, also, details of the disastrous retreat, the barbarities of the savages, and the awful death of Crawford by torture, by (Cincinnati, R. Clarke & Co., 1873).

Ironically, David Williamson, the man who led the militia at Gnadenhutten – the travesty that set so much of this in motion – made his way safely back to Pennsylvania. He died in poverty in 1814.


Three states, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, have named counties in Crawford's honor.

From Pennsylvania Vital Records

Crawford, William
Birth Date: 1732 [sic., i.e., 1722]; Birth Place: Orange Co., VA.
Father's name: Father died in 1736 in Winchester, VA; Mother's name: Onora.
Marriage Place: Winchester, VA
Children: Effie and others.
Date of Death: 11 Jun 1782; Place of Death: Little Sandusky, OH.
Other: A lifelong friend of George Washington. Tortured at the stake by Indians while on an expedition as Presiding Justice of Westmoreland Co. PA.[10]

From Findagrave.com

Col William Crawford
Birth: Sep. 2, 1732 [sic., i.e., 1722], Virginia; Death: Jun. 11, 1782, Crawford, Wyandot County, Ohio, USA.
United States Army Officer. Born at what was then Orange County, Virginia, he became an early friend of George Washington. In military service he survived Braddock's Defeat during the French and Indian War, served in Dunmore's War, and was an American commander involved in numerous engagements during the Revolution. In May of 1782, he was appointed to lead an expedition against the Indians of the Sandusky Plains, an area which is now in Wyandot County, Ohio. The American forces were defeated at the Battle of Sandusky on June 4 and 5 by Indians and British rangers from Fort Detroit. Separated from his men and taken captive by the Indians, Crawford was tortured and burned. Counties in Pennsylvania and Ohio were later named for him. (bio by: E. Robert Malone). 
Burial: Ritchy-Crawford Cemetery, Crawford, Wyandot County, Ohio, USA. Specifically: Body burned. Site of death is believed to have been along Tymochtee Creek near this cemetery. Cenotaph[11]


  1. Scholl, A. W. The Brothers Crawford: Colonel William, 1722-1782 and Valentine Jr., 1724-1777. Vol. 1. Bowie, Md.: Heritage, 1995. Print.
  2. Hall, Edward Hagaman. "Roll of Members." The Sons of the American Revolution: New York State Society, 1893-94. New York: Republic, 1894. 82. Print.
  3. Page 38, Page Emahiser, Grace
  4. Case Files of Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Applications Based on Revolutionary War Service, compiled ca. 1800 - ca. 1912, documenting the period ca. 1775 - ca. 1900
  5. Page 44, Emahiser
  6. page 58, Emahiser
  7. https://prickettsfort.wordpress.com/2008/07/03/backwoods-virginians-and-the-first-declaration-of-independence/?relatedposts_hit=1&relatedposts_origin=1470&relatedposts_position=0
  8. "United States Rosters of Revolutionary War Soldiers and Sailors, 1775-1783," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:QRJG-V56Z : 1 March 2021), William Crawford, 13 Feb 1776; citing Military Service, Virginia, United States, Citing various published state rosters, United States; FHL microfilm 103140774.
  9. Hoffman, Phillip W. Simon Girty, Turncoat Hero: The Most Hated Man on the Early American Frontier. Franklin, Tenn.: American History Imprints, 2008. Print.
  10. Herrin, Cynthia, ed.. Fayette County, Pennsylvania Vital Records, 1750-1890 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 1999. URL: http://search.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?_phsrc=DTn1181&_phstart=successSource&usePUBJs=true&indiv=1&db=fayettepa1890&gss=angs-d&new=1&rank=1&gsfn=william&gsfn_x=0&gsln=crawford&gsln_x=0&msbdy=1732&msbpn__ftp=Virginia,%20USA&msbpn=49&msbpn_PInfo=5-%7C0%7C1652393%7C0%7C2%7C0%7C49%7C0%7C0%7C0%7C0%7C0%7C&msddy=1782&msdpn__ftp=ohio&MSAV=1&uidh=ss2&pcat=34&fh=0&h=1939&recoff=6%207&ml_rpos=1. Accessed 19 Aug 2017 by Patricia Prickett Hickin
  11. E. Robert Malone, maintained by Find A Grave, "Col William Crawford," Findagrave.com. Record added Aug 24, 2008. URL: https://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=29265883. Accessed 19 Aug 2017 by Patricia Prickett Hickin.

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It may be possible to confirm family relationships with William by comparing test results with other carriers of his Y-chromosome or his mother's mitochondrial DNA. Y-chromosome DNA test-takers in his direct paternal line on WikiTree:
  • Wayne Prather Find Relationship : Family Tree DNA Y-DNA Test 111 markers, haplogroup R1a1a-CTS4179, FTDNA kit #78145 + Y-Chromosome Test 111 markers, haplogroup R1a1a
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Regarding Colonel William Crawford's parentage, this is what the Wikipedia article on William Crawford states: "Crawford was born on 2 September 1722, in Westmoreland County, Virginia.[1] Before a 1995 genealogical study by Allen W. Scholl, his birth year was erroneously estimated to be 1732.[2] He was a son of William Crawford Sr and his wife Honora Grimes,[3] who were Scots-Irish farmers. William Crawford Sr was a Presbyterian of Scottish descent from Coleraine, Ireland in what is today Northern Ireland and Honora Grimes was a Presbyterian of Scottish descent from Ballymoney, Ireland in what is today Northern Ireland. After his father's death in 1736, Crawford's mother married Richard Stephenson. Crawford had a younger brother, Valentine Crawford, plus five half-brothers and one half-sister from his mother's second marriage.[4]" Colonel William Crawford's parents' Wikitree profiles show them born in Scotland; thus it would seem highly unlikely that Colonel William Crawford's grandfather William Crawford and grandmother Nadine Valentine would have been born in Colonial Virginia (as per the current Wikitree profiles for them) rather than in Northern Ireland or Scotland.
I see that the father for this profile was recently changed. Is there a source for the relationship change? The previous father, Crawford-4613 and mother, Grimes-973 were sourced. It appears that the newly added profiles for the father and mother may be duplicates.
posted by Amy (Crawford) Gilpin