Memoir by William Howard Crawford

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The following is a memoir written by William Howard Crawford

Great Grandson of William Crawford
Son of Josiah Crawford and Sarah Laird

So I am forced to begin my story no farther back in time than 1775 when my Great Grandfather William Crawford, was doing his daily tasks near Dundee, Scotland, until 1779 when he crossed the Atlantic, landing at Charleston, South Carolina, and settled on a farm near the city.

And here on this farm my grandfather Andrew was born in 1800. Andrew grew up on the farm assisting in the activities of the farm. At age 23 Andrew (“Little Andy” as he was called) married Mary Scott. By this time William had crossed the great divide and Andy was in full possession of the farm.

It was here my father, Josiah, was born in 1824 and began his inquiry as to the meaning of things about the place, and as a normal child he played about the house and premises until five years of age when Andy and Mary moved to Milledgeville, Georgia, where they bought a farm and a few Negro slaves. Soon other slaves were bought, cabins were built and the farm was enlarged to a real plantation.

Here Josiah grew up with but little schooling, for at the age of sixteen he was put in charge of the plantation to supervise the work of the slaves, and here he carried on until he was twenty-four. Mary and Andy were strict Scotch Presbyterians, and Josiah was drilled and taught all the doctrines of that church. But Josiah was too progressive minded to accept the dogma of " Foreordination and Predestinations" so he repudiated such superstition, and became a Methodist early in life, and was a strict church member from his youth to the day of his death in 1910.

Now my story goes back to good old Scotland again, to the town of Ayr, where my great grandfather was born. (Robert Burns, the poet, was also born there.)

This great grandfather Patrick Laird, lived on a farm near the town Ayr, and here my grandfather John Laird was born in 1790 and here he spent his childhood days, as a farm boys did in those days, until ten years of age when his father, Patrick, emigrated to America and settled on a farm near Charleston, South Carolina.

And so it happened that the Crawfords and Scots and Lairds all lived in the same neighborhood. Soon a romance between John Laird and Joicy Scott led to their marriage in 1815. John and Joicy moved to Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

My grandfather, John Laird, was a hatter; made hats by hand with crude tools, supporting a large family of boys and girls.

My mother, Sarah one of them was born in 1831 and spent her childhood and girlhood days with her home folks until the death of her mother in 1840, when she was sent to live with her Aunt Mary Crawford, who lived in Milledgeville, Georgia. Here Sarah lived with and as one of Mary's family to the age of seventeen.

My grandmothers, Mary and Joicy, were sisters, daughters of one Joseph Scott who was born and raised in Abbotsford on the Tweed River in Scotland and who emigrated to America in 1801 and settled in South Carolina, near Charleston. Mary married Andrew Crawford and Joicy married John Laird.

My mother and father, Josiah and Sarah, were married at Milledgeville, Georgia, and took their honeymoon trip by steamboat, 1848, and sailed from Mobile, Alabama to New Orleans, Louisiana, then to Shreveport, Louisiana, thence across the country of Nashville, Arkansas. Here in heavy wooded forest of oaks and pines and hickory, they camped where never a tree had been felled nor a cabin built. Here my father cut down pine trees and split them open in the center and with these slabs built log houses, cleared off timber and opened up a farm, and here Josiah and Sarah raised a large family of eight boys and four girls named as follows: Amanda, Sarah Ann, George, Robert, John, Mary, Jackson, Patrick, Howard, Isabella, Monroe Turner, Samuel, Bascom.

Patrick died at the age of two and is not included in the twelve that were raised to be grown up to the full strength of years.

The writer is number nine and was born November 1862 A.D. It must have been a great grief indeed to my Mother when she discovered that I was born while my Father was in the Confederate army fighting to prevent the Negro from being set free.

My father was opposed to slavery but just the same he was drafted into the service in the Spring of 1862 and made to fight against his convictions. This fact was powerfully demonstrated at the time of his marriage when leaving the home of his Mother, he would not accept a couple of slaves that were offered as a gift to him.

So I was born under very adverse circumstances and in the midst of poverty and plenty.

But at that my life was a joy and the world about me was an interesting novel as I grew from day to day and explored the world about me into which I had so lately been trust and placed and nourished by my own Dear Mother, Sarah. I blessed her memory as one of the sweetest ones in life. In my memory, I can feel the loving touch of her beautiful hands that cared for my infant and childhood days- sweet memories as fresh as yesterday, that 74 years have not erased nor even clouded nor dimmed.

My memory begins with a log dwelling- house built in a square yard 150x 150 feet, with mulberry trees on the border; with an old fashioned smokehouse in the northeast corner of the yard where the bacon was cured and smoked with hickory wood smoke, and where the lard was stored in big flat gourds, also the sheds, stables, cribs, and barn were in place. The apple trees and peach and plum trees were full grown and the fields were fully cleared and in cultivation and a rowdy lot of brothers and sisters were carrying on all about the place when I first saw the light of this world, and the sun, moon, and stars above.

The country in all directions was sparsely settled but there were two neighbors who lived within a half mile of our home and by the time I was three years old I had formed the habit of slipping away from home and visiting these places to play with the children there until my sister Mary would hunt and find me and take me home.

My Mother tired of this habit of mine so one day she put quite a large cowbell on me, fastening it around my neck, just as a calf would wear it, to keep track of me easily. She could not have pleased me better if she had tried ever so much. I lost no time in going to the nearest neighbor house, rattling my bell as I went. I opened the gate and walked in the yard showing and rattling my bell in the presence of the children, thinking they would compliment my demonstration, when, Lo! to my charging, they laughed me to scorn. I opened the gate, walked out, went home disappointed, and never again did I run away to neighbor's houses against my Mother will.

My Father and Mother were as good as people could be, as I understand goodness; attended church as regular as Sunday would come and go. And the following statement would indicate that they were very unusually good: in their long lives, 65 and 85, never did I ever hear them even use a by word of any kind. They set a perfect example, but never compelled their children to attend church or Sunday school. I was allowed to sport with the denizens of the forest hickory nuts or whatnot on Sunday if I preferred that sort of fun rather than attend Sunday school.

I think Josiah was disgusted with the strict rules of the Old School Presbyterians in his boyhood days, and perhaps this caused him to go the limit the other way. But I took notice of the way he fed the widows and orphans that were poor and needy. Of times I withdrew in silence from activities of the living and think of those happy days of childhood with delight beyond words. I can hear the songs of the birds and the voices of loved ones coming back to me across seven decades as though it were but yesterday.

And I see the big log kitchen with its stick- and dirt chimney, and its seven-foot wide fireplace, with a hickory back-log burned in two in the middle, and the sweet sap running out at each outside end, thickening into candy, and a boy like me scraping it off and eating it like candy; with a wide hearth 3x7 feet of flat racks where all the cooking for the large family was done, using pots and ovens and skillets on live coals of oak and hickory raked out on the wide hearth; an oven was placed over these hot coals, the dough placed in it, a lid put on top of some, hot lives coals covered on the lid, and there the bread was cooked, and no better bread is cooked on modern stoves than was that bread.

In this same big kitchen stands an old-fashioned loom on which was woven the cloth that made my clothes and sheets and coverlets and blankets for the beds, and there is the spinning wheel. or Jennet, where the thread was made, An a pair of cards with which the cotton and wool were carded and made into rolls ready to be spun into thread, to be woven into cloth and to be cut and made into garments for a family of fourteen, including Josiah and Sarah.

For the life of me, I do not see where there would be room in this one log kitchen for all of these things, but that is not all, for there were a large dining table and a large old- fashioned cupboard in this same kitchen. And here I spent my blissful days of childhood and knew not that they were passing so rapidly and would soon carry me to my boyhood days of tomorrow when I would explore the continuous woods for miles around, and acquaint myself with the birds and squirrels and rabbits and whatever forms of life that inhabited the forest.

Also school days, with a Webster blue back spelling book, is waiting for me just ahead, with its a-b-c-'s that must be learned and repeated by memory.

The schoolhouse is yonder two miles away through a thick woodland with an old-time school teacher by the name Mike Rees, in charge of everything there, large or small, high or low, commanding rather than instructing, with a hickory stick. and if he sees a couple of students whispering together he will pitch this stick so as to make it fall at their feet and they take this stick to the teacher and are lucky if they get by without a beating or thumping on the head, or hair-pulling, or something. They may have to wear a dunce- cap for a half day as likely as not. And this is where the foundation of my education was laid.

But even at this, I did learn reading and writing and arithmetic for which I am a thousand times thankful.

Two other school teachers were two miles and five miles, one south and one east, where far more progressive teachers taught and acted more like teachers act and teach today, and it was my good fortune to attend these schools.

And by this time I have reached the age of thirteen, and I must take a last look at the scenery and the things about the old house.

"Home, dear home, childhood's happy home where I played with sister and with brother Twas the sweetest joy when we did roam Over forest and thru dale with Mother”

Josiah is selling the old house, and closing out his business in Arkansas, with a mind to try his fortune in Texas. So with mixed joy and sadness, I farewell my pals, boys, and girls sweethearts, and take a last look at the things about the place that I love and know so well, where my childish footsteps trod and when as a laddie it was a part of my very life.

So with two covered wagons drawn by two teams of draft horses, Josiah and Sarah, with their family of eleven, on November 5th, 1875, hit the trail for West Texas, landing in Stephenville, Erath County,Texas, December 1st of that year.

We finally settled on Barton Creek, fifteen miles north of Stephenville, near a schoolhouse, Hannibal.

We followed closely behind the wild Indians and the buffalo. Two hundred miles west of here there were herds of thousands of buffalo on the plains where my brother Jack, with a party of men, killed many hundreds if not thousands of these fine animals just for their hides and tongues, leaving the fine meat to rot on the prairie - what the wolves could not eat.

But I remained at home helping plant and cultivate the crops on the farm, going to school to Miss Sarah Harrison, A.J. Crane, my brother John, Prof. Dalrymple and finally G.L.Clark. As usual, I had a lot of boy friends and girl sweethearts here in the far west.

I studied music under one Prof. Parrish and at the age of twenty became a music teacher, taught people to sing. But I soon decided this was a poor occupation and so abandoned it.

At the age of twenty-one, love for a sweetheart held the balance of power in my life, for it was then that I renewed my acquaintance with Miss Georgia Freeman. We had known each other since we both were fifteen and had attended school together, but we were very formal friends at that until love played havoc with that formality. It was a Sunday in May 1883, we met at the home of Uncle Marshall Finnell's and it was there and then we were smitten with each other, and our romance began and continued to July 31, 1884, when we married. For a year we had been planning our lives together and now had pledged our loyalty to each other, to be faithful to each other as long as life endures; to share the joys and divide the sorrows along the way that led through thru the years that followed.

So we built us a little house in the wild-woods and began the joyful march in the way that led through the years that followed. We are young now, just coming close to twenty-two, with hope that is as sweet as life itself.

We added improvements about our place, opened up a little farm, had cows, hogs, and chickens about us and there we lived happy lives in the quiet country home. With undaunted faith in ourselves and in each other we bravely faced the future whatever it held for us, both good and evil.

The first year (1885) was such a bumper crop as to make us feel that all was easy sailing for us, but '86 taught us a lesson we have not forgotten after fifty-five years. Not one nickel did we make on the farm this year. and '87 was poor, but not a failure.

Three years have passed and October 1, 1887 found us moving to the old home place of Georgia's Father, J.C.Freeman. We bought the old home and furnished Georgia's Father and Mother home and maintenance on this home while they live. J.C.Freeman was a Presbyterian preacher and had been so for forty years. It was through his influence that I became a Presbyterian preacher also. I was raised a Methodist, but Miss Georgia was Presbyterian, so after our marriage I joined with her, for I had learned to agree with the Presbyterians just a little better than the Methodists.

J.C. Freeman was indeed a real progressive in both religion and politics. The last twenty years of his life he was a populist - a socialist. He believed and taught that the world and all the wealth of it belonged to all the people, that wicked unjust laws have robbed the masses of their share of the land and wealth and giving it to a favored few. As a Christian, Freeman fought this unholy system with all his might to the day of his death (1897), and I bless his memory right along with my dad, Josiah. For my Dad lived and died in the same faith as did J.C. Freeman. And my life work for fifty years has been right along this same line.

Here on the old home place we lived happily and carried on ‘till November 20, 1902 when we went to Roswell, New Mexico. Here we bought a small farm and 200 colonies of bees. We soon found there was more profit in bees than in farming, so we depended on the bees in the main and ran alfalfa as of secondary importance. This is far the best country in which we had lived, but we had too much to learn about the country and the new business that we had undertaken to make the best success there. But we did well at that. One year (1907) we made 40,000 lbs of honey from 400 colonies of bees. We bottled some of this honey but put most of it in five-gallon cans and sold it at about one dollar per gallon (8-1/3cents per lb). We could have gotten rich if we had known to put all the money we had in bees and none in land, when we landed in Roswell, New Mexico.

It was here at Roswell I met the Salvation Army. I joined the Army on January 10, 1903.

So in religion I am a Salvationist, in politics a Socialist, in business a Beeman.

It was at Roswell, New Mexico, the last of our eight children were born, George E.Crawford,1903. The other seven in Texas, as follows:

Hardenia 9/15/1885 Frank 9/02/1888 {Died 3 weeks later} Milton 9/22/1889 Beatty 4/06/1892 Byron 8/17/1893 Earl 8/31/1896 Lynn 10/07/1900 George 8/17/1903- 1916

Here we finished raising and educating all of these save Frank, who died at the age of 3 weeks, and George, who was only thirteen when we moved from Roswell to California.

It was still the horse and buggy days when we landed in Roswell, and for ten years thereafter, but there was a rapid change from horse and buggy to the automobile from 1900 to 1920, and we were caught between the two - buggy and automobile. But we carried on and made out with the old until the new was well established before we ventured to make a change. We were like the Irishman who carried a rock in one end of the sack to balance the wheat in the other end. But just the same our minds were in process of change for twelve years. Finally, we broke the ice and our first experiment was with a second-hand-two cylinder Mason, for which we paid $35.00. So we saw the horse and buggy disappear in the dim distance, and we entered the power age. We soon adjusted ourselves to the new age- a new world, with no mishap in the transit.

All this time, as usual, the years are passing and we are passing with them. And we are slowly growing wiser, for all our lives we have on the very frontier of progress, hoping and praying and working for a new and better civilization in this world for all mankind from the least to the greatest. And we will not feel that our lives have been lived in vain if our work and influence have helped a little to make the world a better place in which our posterity may live in peace and happiness.

Make the world a better place in which to live is an idea that had been gradually increasing in our minds for forty years, and now is my hobby. In my early years I thought a Heaven somewhere far away yonder in space was the goal to be gained after a life of faith and hard work on earth, and that this world is, and always will be wicked, stormy place ruled by the devil and not fit for good people to live in only for a short time. And that ones whole life should be used in preparation for the future life to be lived in Heaven forever.

And I still think it is the most important aim in life to so live in this world that our state in the next existence will be far happier than our present one, but the new ideas: To make this world into a heaven, so that we will not have so far to go to reach our happy destination, and our aim and works in this present life should be to that end.

Profiles of Names Mentioned

William Crawford 1750 - 1784
Josiah Crawford 1825 - 1910

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