Hiram & Nancy Crawford

Nancy Comfort Crawford Betts

Nancy Comfort Crawford Betts

Hiram Crawford and Nancy Comfort were my great-great-great grandparents. Hiram was born September 10, 1795, presumably in New York. He was baptised March 13, 1796 at Hopewell Presbyterian Church, located in Crawford, Orange County, New York. (Crawford was originally settled around 1740 and was originally part of the Town of Montgomery.)

His parents were Robert Crawford and Sarah Caldwell. On July 25, 1820, he married Nancy Comfort in Beamsville, Canada. Nancy was the daughter of John Comfort and Catherine Harris (see “John & Catherine Comfort” page) and she was born on August 6, 1802 in Orange County, New York. While Nancy Comfort is not listed as a daughter of John Comfort and Catherine Harris in any books found so far relating to the Comfort family, there are many old letters that confirm that she was indeed their daughter.

Hiram and Nancy had 11 children. The oldest was Sarah (my great-great grandmother) and the youngest was a daughter who died in childhood. All the rest were boys. Their names are: Sarah, Edwin, Robert, Henry, David (D.C.), Hiram, James, and Lucius Prosper (Pros). My cousin, Carol (Boyer) Stafford, had an old picture hanging in her hallway of a young couple standing in front of a large monument.

Crawford Children

While the photograph of this picture is not clear, it reads as follows:

In Memory of

Walter Crawford – Died Aug 31, 1823

Francis Crawford – Died Aug 10, 1832

Nancy M. Crawford – Died June 6, 1844

I believe these are Hiram and Nancy’s three children that died. Some family trees on Ancestry list birth years as: Walter 1823, Francis 1831 and Nancy 1840. These family trees, however, do not have any sources to back this information up and when contacted the owners of the trees do not remember where they found this information.

The following is taken from a letter believed to have been written by Hannah (Keith) Towne: “Hiram Crawford was born Sept. 10, 1795. I cannot tell where but think in Orange Co. N.Y. If I remember correctly he lived with his grandparents from childhood until he was old enough to go for himself. Cant remember why he had to do that. He was a good scholar, and a great reader. Taught school a good deal. Was not as particular about his dress as some of his son’s. Grandma said he used to come and see her with his shoes laced with tow strings. Should have thought it would have been all up with Nancy and Hiram then.” (See the entire letter at “Hannah’s Letter” page.)

After Hiram and Nancy’s marriage in Beamsville, Ontario, they bought land six miles east of London on the Thames River and built a tannery. There is evidence that in 1833 their holdings were near Norton’s gristmill. Friends during their stay in Westminster Township were William Sherwood and Henry Scramlin. It is also thought that a brother, William Crawford, may have lived in London at the time.

Information supporting the period of time that Hiram and Nancy Crawford lived in London District appears in History of the County of Middlesex, Canada, Toronto: Goodspeed, 1889, as follows: County Council, 1842-88 lists Hiram Crawford of Westminster among the County Concillors for the year 1842 (p. 74); Description of a road surveyed in July 1833 by Richard Brown through the first concessions of Westminster, from the south side of the bridge, east along the river bank to Norton’s grist mill, thence round the pond and across lands of Hiram Crawford [p. 190].

From a 3-10-2000 e-mail from David Martin to Jay Crawford: I had a conversation last night with my Uncle Jim Keith who gave me some very interesting details about Sarah Crawford and her family … the family later moved from Canada back to the U.S. with plans to run a tavern somewhere in the Grand Rapids, MI area. They stopped for some time in Port Huron and then finally settled near Galesburg, MI at the encouragement of an old acquaintance from Ontario named Scramlin, who had moved to the area ahead of them. They lived in a house called “Old Castle,” apparently located near where a lumberyard now is (or was). They were for some time in a town called Yorkville, which is at the south end of Gull Lake. They then moved back to Galesburg proper, and were for many years proprietors of an establishment called the Bennett House.

From a 12-16-1964 (or 67) letter from Mildred (Harris) Cripe to Lela (Brown) Mueller: I do not know the year that Grandpa Crawford bought the Bennett House … Grandma, who was the oldest of the family was born in 1822 and I would suppose she was grown at the time they came to Glsbg. The story I remember their first meal at the tavern, was supper, and the family filled one table. A travelling man from N.Y. remarked that he would be willing to give all of his worldly goods if he could have a big fine looking family like the Crawfords.

The Bennet House (on right)

The Bennet House (on right)

At some time after Sarah married Charles Luke Keith Jr. in November, 1849, Hiram and Nancy moved to Dowagiac, Michigan, where they lived with their son Edwin W. Crawford and his wife, Mary. As the remaining sons reached adulthood, they moved to various locations surrounding Lake Michigan. James, Robert and Prosper lived in Wisconsin, Hiram lived in Chicago and Henry lived in Indiana. The one exception was David, who traveled to Colorado in 1860 where he lived for the rest of his life.

During the time that these letters were written, the United States went through one of its most wrenching periods beginning with the debate over slavery and resulting civil war, the assassination of President Lincoln, the impeachment of Andrew Johnson and post war reconstruction. And yet, to a large extent the letters deal with personal concerns; health, economic welfare and news about friends and family.

There are three things that stand out about the letters. First, there is constant concern about health and worry about illness. Second, there was considerably more mobility than expected. And thirdly, the same level of anxiety over the care and welfare of an aging parent. Nevertheless, the letters provide an interesting glimpse on the lives of old family members as they dealt with the challenges of daily life in the 19th century.

Hiram died September 2, 1852, in Dowagiac, Cass County, Michigan. On November 8, 1857, Nancy married Platt Betts in Omro, Wisconsin. He died December 29, 1861, in Omro.

Platt Betts

Platt Betts

Nancy died June 4, 1884. The following are entries from Charles Luke Keith Jr.’s 1884 diary:

June 4: Sarah and her mother went over to Nancys in morning. I drawed some stone from corner. Went over to burg in Evening after Sarah and her mother. Got home about ten oclock. Mrs. Betts Died about Eleven in Evening.

June 5: Went over to burg in morning to get casket and make arrangements for funeral. Hiram and Kate came in afternoon. D. and Lou came in evening.

June 6: Took Box over to cemetry. Got Mr. Miner to dig the grave. Pros came this morning. Mrs. Betts Buried to day.

June 7: Henry came this morning from South Bend. They all left for home on the 11. Oclock Train.

(From an unknown newspaper) IN MEMORIAM. 1884.

Mrs. Betts died very suddenly at the residence of her daughter, Mrs. C. L. Keith, on June 4th, at 11-p. m. She had been unusually well during the day, had been visiting her granddaughter, Mrs. H. A. Brown, and others, and at nine o’clock returned home and in two hours she passed away.

Her maiden name was Nancy B. Comfort. She was born in Orange Co., New York, August 6, 1802, and removed to Beamsville Canada, in 1812, and was married to Hiram Crawford July 25th, 1820. In 1846 they removed to Galesburg, Mich., and from thence to Dowagiac, Mich., in 1851. Mr. Crawford, her husband, died September 2d, 1852. After his death she went to Onno [Omro], Wisconsin, where she married Rev. Platt Betts, a Baptist minister, on November 8th, 1857. Mr. Betts died December 29th, 1861, since which time she has lived in Galesburg, mostly with her daughter Mrs. C. L. Keith. She has reared a family of eleven children, nine sons and two daughters. Six of those are now living, one daughter and five sons, all of whom are good, substantial citizens. She was the mother of a noble family of children. Could there be a greater evidence or a more fitting testimony of genuine worth than the bringing up of such a family as she has. When we reflect upon the life of this old lady dying at the age of eighty-two, and think of the suffering and care she has endured for these long years, the life of a true mother, we feel that she deserves the blessings of Heaven and our greatest admiration.

From the June 6, 1884 Supplement to the Enterprise (Galesburg, Michigan): Mrs. N. B. Betts passed from earth life last Wednesday evening at 11:15. Funeral at half past two to-day at Baptist Church. Only two of her sons, Prosper and Hiram Crawford, were able to be present.

From the back of a photograph from 1958 taken at the Galesburg (Michigan) Old Cemetery, which shows a broad view of some headstones: “Keith, Harvey Keith, Great Great Grandpa & Grandma (Hannah Woolcott and Luke I) & Nancy Betts.

 Keith, Hannah - Cemetery - Oct 1958 Keith, Hannah - Cemetery 2

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