While doing my research for a previous post on George Albert Craft (find it here) I contacted the Paradise Genealogical Society in Butte County with a request to see if they could find the obituaries for George Craft and his wife, Amy Patty (Gaylord) Craft. Imagine how thrilled I was to receive a reply a few days later that they not only had the obituaries for me but another 11 pages of newspaper articles related to the Craft family. This has been a valuable lesson to me of the implementation of part of the Genealogical Proof Standard in my research. In order to conduct a reasonably exhaustive search we should be careful not to overlook resources like local genealogical and historical societies. I’m certainly glad I reached out to them or I would never have known about the ‘unusual romance’ or the ‘ chapter from a book of fairy tales’ connected with George A. Craft’s father.
On August 10, 1910 the Chico Daily Enterprise ran a story detailing the death of George Craft and the ‘unusual romance’ associated with James Craft, George Craft’s father. The newspaper image is difficult to read, a transcription is provided below.
Transcription: Burns Prove Fatal to Craft
“George Craft, one of the five men injured in the Diamond Match company explosion Saturday, died at midnight last night at the Sister’s hospital where he had been since the accident. Only yesterday afternoon nurses in attendance announced that an improvement was to be noted in the condition of Craft, and it was believed he was out of danger. The swellings about the face and neck, due to the burns, had decreased and his general condition seemed to be better. There was a sudden turn for the worse last night.
Manual Freitas, who was at first supposed to be the worst injured of the five, is pronounced out of danger. His skull was fractured. A delicate operation performed on the man Saturday night, by which a portion of the bone pressing against the brain was removed, saved the man’s life. Dr. Stansbury performed the operation. The other three men injured have not been in danger at any time.
Mrs. Craft, the widow, arrived here last evening from Oregon after a journey of three days. The inquest will be held this evening at the Engle undertaking parlors and the funeral will be held tomorrow afternoon under the auspices of the Woodmen of the World. Mr. Craft was also a member of the United Workingmen. He came to Oregon 16 years ago. Besides his widow he leaves eleven children. Mr. Craft was born in Illinois and at an early age came to the Pacific coast with his father. He was 58 years of age.
An unusual romance is connected with the life of the deceased. His father was one of three brothers who, at an early age, were left orphans. They clung together for a time, but later, after becoming young men, they decided to separate. At this time they had migrated to Georgia, and before leaving each other they each chose a small stone from the bank of the river near the place where they lived. These stones were in later years to identify the brothers should they ever meet again. Craft’s father never heard of his brothers after leaving them and when he died he gave to his son, George Craft, the deceased, the stone which he had kept in his possession, telling him that some day he might find some of his long lost relatives. So far, however, none of them have ever been located”
The next day, Thursday, Aug 11, 1910 the Chico Record also ran an article about George’s death and the family story about the stone.
Transcribed, the article reads: Geo. Craft Funeral Will Take Place Today
Victim of Explosion Leaves Large Family – His Career
“The funeral of George Craft, who died Tuesday night as the result of burns sustained in the boiler-house explosion at The Diamond Match Company’s factory last Saturday afternoon, will be held this afternoon at 2 o’clock from the Engle Undertaking Company’s parlor on Broadway. The funeral will be under the auspices of Great Oak Camp, Woodmen of the World, of which Craft was a member. Rev. W. G. White will preach the sermon and interment will be in the Chico cemetery.
The deceased was born near Freeport, Illinois, in 1852. In 1882 he married, at Ida Grove, Iowa, Miss Amy Gayler, and together in 1894 they came to California, where they settled at the Maywood Colony, near Corning. After ten years at Maywood, Mr. and Mrs. Craft came to Chico, where they since resided. Three years ago Mr. Craft entered the employ of The Diamond Match Company and until the time of his death was a faithful employee of that institution.
Several months ago he was struck by a Butte County Railroad train, while going to work at the factory. As the result of that accident he was laid up for several weeks with a broken arm and injured hip.
George Craft is survived by his wife, ten children, three sisters, two half-brothers and a half-sister. The children are all living in Chico. They are: Mrs R.M. Jones, Hattie, Carrie, Harry, Leonard, Ray, Allien, Basil, Junice and George Craft. His sisters are Mrs Arlein Beaver of Iowa, Mrs. Lamison of Kansas and Mrs May Wiley of South Dakota. His half-brothers are Thomas and William Shortreal of South Dakota and his half-sister is Mrs. Belle Reid of Iowa.
Of his father’s relations George Craft knew little. There is a story in the family that reads like a chapter from a book of fairy tales. Among the Craft family possessions is a little, round stone, polished and worn with age, and about this stone is the story of the parentage of George Craft’s father.
According to the story told to the son by his father, over eighty years ago the elder Craft and his brothers were left orphans in one of the Southern States. The eldest of the brothers was thirteen and neither could read nor write. They went to the beach near their home and each picked up a round pebble. It was decided that the brothers should separate, each seeking his fortune in a different direction. One went north, another west and the other south. Since the parting on the beach the brothers never met again.
When George Craft was but eight years old, word came to his father that there was a Craft traveling through Illinois seeking for a Craft family. It was about the time of the gold rush to California, and men and women were hurrying westward in great excitement. Little was then thought of the man who was seeking his relatives, and not until many years later did the father of George Craft give it serious thought.
Prior to his death he gave the stone into the keeping of his son, with the instructions to keep it until such time as he should meet another with the same name carrying a similar stone.
Throughout his life the victim of Saturday’s explosion had the greatest confidence that some day he would meet some of his relatives and identify himself by means of the stone. Mrs. Craft suggested that they advertise throughout the East and South, but the deceased always objected to such means of finding his long-separated relatives.
Now that he is dead, Mrs. Craft stated yesterday that she may advertise for her missing relatives.
The decedent was a member of the United Workmen lodge of Iowa and also a member of the Woodmen of the World. He carried insurance in both lodges.”
What a great family story! I wonder what happened to that little stone? I’ll be following up on all the clues given in these articles as I do further research on George Craft’s father and siblings. Whether or not the story is true it leaves a sense that family was important to George Craft’s father and that he perhaps spent much of his life wondering what had happened to his brothers. I hope to find that out.