Thursday, June 11, 2015

The Lost (and Recovered) History of George W. Craddock

When I started doing genealogy 15 years ago (can't believe it's been that long!), one of the lines I had very little concrete information on was my Craddock line. My maternal great-grandmother, Edna (Craddock) (Harris) Moore was my living connection to the Craddocks. I don't remember hearing her talk about her family while she was alive (which is something I regret), but I have since learned a great deal about her, her siblings, and her parents. Beyond her father, though, I didn't really have a lot of info on the Craddock lineage. I had some census records for Edna's grandfather James Irvin Craddock, some family group sheets, a couple letters Edna's sister Elsie (who did try to research the Craddock family history) about some of her discoveries, and a family tree going back to the early 1700s but with very little documentation as to where these names and dates came from. All in all, I had a lot of work to do to flesh out this branch of my family tree.

One part of the tree that always bugged me was the link between my 3rd-great-grandfather James Irvin Craddock and his parents George W. Craddock and Rutha B. Fielder.

George Craddock family - 1860 census

Moses Hardison family - 1870 census

The only document I'd been able to find showing evidence of George being the father of James was the 1860 census, which doesn't list relationships like the 1880 and later censuses do. In the 1870 census, James and his sister Martha are listed with Moses C. Hardison and his wife Sara (who my great-aunt Elsie had said in her research was George's sister, Sara Craddock). I searched for years to find out what happened to George and Rutha, and why James and Martha were living with the Hardisons in 1870 with no trace of their parents, but never found anything. The lack of information almost led me to question whether George and Rutha were really their parents.

This week, MyHeritage sent me another email with Record Matches, this time for records matching my great-great-grandfather Ernest L. Craddock. There weren't too many, just some censuses for Ernest and marriage records for his children. I linked everyone to the records they matched, and then thought I'd do a little more digging to try and cement the links in my tree with some documentation. I went back over the other census records I had showing Ernest in James' family, and then saw the Civil War service records for a George W. Craddock I'd downloaded a long time ago from Fold3.com. I hadn't seen anything in them that definitively pointed to him being the same as my George, so I'd tucked them in a folder as a possibility, and moved on. I thought I'd try finding more info on that George, and see if it really was my ancestor. I didn't know what I was looking for exactly, just that I wanted to find something to help tell me whether my ancestor served in the Civil War, and why he and Rutha disappeared after 1860.

I soon found a veteran's census form 1890, where a lady in Missouri named Nancy Stites said she was the former widow of George Craddock, a Civil War soldier, and gave his company information. The info matched the George Craddock in the Civil War documents I'd saved earlier, and I was almost tempted to dismiss him as obviously being a different George Craddock than my ancestor. But then I thought, if she's his widow, maybe she filed for a pension. Having previously had great success with Civil War pension files, I went and Google searched for George Craddock's pension. After a few minutes' searching I found something very interesting - a Civil War pension was filed for George Craddock, but not by a widow; it was filed by someone named James Craddock!

Now I was really excited. I went to Fold3 and pulled up the pension record as fast I could. After going through a few pages, I found that the pension was filed by Elijah T. Butler on behalf of the minor children of George W. Craddock - James I. Craddock and Martha Jane Craddock! The Civil War George had been MY George all along! The pension file turned out to be 34 pages long, with some pages being blank and others being multiple copies of the same record. But it gave me exactly what I'd been missing all these years - details on what happened to George and Rutha.

I knew George and Rutha were married in 1854 in Dent County, Missouri, and their two children were both born there. However, according to declarations in the pension file, shortly after the 1860 census was taken, Rutha (Fielder) Craddock died on 15 December 1860. That explained why I could never find anything on her after that census - it appears that 1860 census was the last record she appeared in during her lifetime. Further documents in the pension file revealed that 8 months after Rutha passed away, George married again - to Nancy Ann Peck. That explained the Nancy in the 1890 census - she must have remarried after George died (and thus was listed as the former widow of George Craddock). George and Nancy had one child together, which died at the age of 4 weeks. So now, just a few months after losing his first wife, George then lost one of his children. I can't imagine going through one of those, let alone both in quick succession.

The tragedy continued, unfortunately. George enlisted on 16 August 1862, and was mustered in on 18 October 1862. He was now a soldier in Company D, 32nd Regiment of the Missouri Volunteer Infantry. I have to wonder whether George had previous military experience, because he enlisted as a corporal, and was shortly thereafter appointed a 3rd sergeant. I have yet to pull up details on the regiment's history, so I don't know what action he may have seen, but I do know that he became ill in January 1863, and was transferred to a hospital boat. I hope it was nothing like the hospital boats they had during the Revolutionary War that I've read a little of. He wasn't on the boat long, as he was then transferred to the Saint Louis city general Hospital, where he died of typhoid fever on 15 February 1863. He'd been in the army for roughly five months, and now he was dead, not from bullets, but disease. I have to find the reference again, but I read somewhere that his unit only lost a dozen or so men in combat, but over 400 to disease. What an awful thing to have happen, and how frightening it must have been to any soldiers who got sick during the war.

The documents in the pension file don't say why, but Elijah T. Butler was made legal guardian for James and Martha after George died. I believe it was the same Elijah Butler that married Lucinda Craddock, George's younger sister. I have to wonder why Nancy didn't take the children, and left them to be raised by aunts and uncles instead. Maybe they reminded her of George, or maybe she wanted a fresh start after losing a baby and then a husband. Either way, Nancy married Miles Alexander Stites 10 August 1863, six months after George died. They seemed to have a good life, and had at least five kids together. It seems unlikely that she would have stayed in contact with the Craddocks, though she apparently never forgot George. Even 27 years after losing him, and only having been married less than two years, she gave accurate information on George's military service to the census taker.

James and Martha then grew up without their parents, losing their mom at ages 4 and 2, and then their father at 7 and 5. I don't know what happened to Martha after 1870, but James married Hazeltine Orlena Martin in 1875 and raised 7 children. His oldest son he named Moses, possibly after the uncle who raised him. His next son, though, he named George.

In closing, in addition to the apologies offered last time to those I missed in my Memorial Day tribute, I'd also like to apologize to George. He is my only known direct ancestor who gave his life in wartime while serving his country. His service record states that he was 5'6", red complexion, brown hair, hazel eyes, and was always loyal to his country. Thank you for your service George. Your sacrifice helped save this nation, and your service will from now on be honored on Memorial Day as it should be.

3 comments:

Gibson Family said...

Awesome job, BJ. Thank you for researching this and sharing it with us. These stories help me to get a glimpse into their lives and struggles - just like we have. Although, George and his family had a much more difficult life than we have had to content with. How old was George and what is our relationship with him?

ironhide781 said...

He was 28 or 29 when he died. He was grandma Edna's great-grandfather.

Gibson Family said...

contend with ... I hate self correcting spell check! N-e-ways, he was so young and lived through so much tragedy. Very sad - I guess there was a lot of that in those days wasn't there.