Craig Family


CRAIG. The Craig family, with which Mrs. Ross is connected in the maternal line, is of Scotch extraction, but for a time sojourned in Ireland, from which country her ancestors emigrated to the then British colony of New Jersey in the year 1680. A descendent of this family, Lieut. Samuel Craig, Mrs. Ross�s great-great-great-grandfather, came to what is Westmoreland county, Pa., in 1769, and purchased a farm. He was the founder of a large family in western Pennsylvania, and it has been found some of the name settled in Pennsylvania before he did. He and his three sons, Capt. John, Alexander, and Samuel, all served in the army during the Revolutionary war. He was killed by Indians about Nov. 1, 1777. He held the rank of Lieutenant in the Proctor battalion. It is recorded that in the latter part of 1777 many of the soldiers from western Pennsylvania were sent back to protect the inhabitants of the western frontier and among them was Samuel Craig. He does not appear to have been at home long until he was captured by the Indians, and never returned home again. After his return he was under an order acting commissary, and the duties of his office led him to Fort Ligonier. Before starting it is said he refused a guard, saying, "they would think the old man cowardly," and he never reached Ligonier, as he was taken prisoner at Chestnut Ridge. In a diary kept by Samuel Galbreath at the building of Fort Ligonier is the following in reference to a scouting party: "Nov. 3, 1777. Monday. They likewise found a mare belonging to Samuel Craig who had been going to Ligonier for salt on Saturday, Nov. 1st, 1777. He is supposed to be taken prisoner and his body could not be found." In the writings of his granddaughter, Mrs. Margaret C. Craig, is the following reference to his capture: "He was taken prisoner by the Indians at Chestnut Ridge; his beautiful bay mare was found dead perforated by eight bullets. Fragments of paper were found strewn along the path to indicate the direction taken by the Indians. All efforts of his family to ascertain his fate were unavailing."

Samuel Craig was twice married, his fist wife, Elizabeth (McDonald), and two little children dying of smallpox within the space of three days. Her surviving children were: John, mentioned below; Alexander, born Nov. 20, 1755; Samuel, born (it is claimed) in 1757; Rose; Elizabeth; and Esther. Sometime before leaving New Jersey for Pennsylvania Samuel Craig married Jane Boyd, and their children were: Andrew, Joseph, William, Jane, Nancy, and Rebecca. Their dates of birth are not known, except that it is believed Jane was born about 1767, Joseph in or near 1770, and Nancy Feb. 15, 1773. Most of these raised large families, who became useful and respected citizens. After the Revolution Alexander Craig became one of the leading military men in Westmoreland county, attaining the rank of General. In 1793 he was commissioned colonel in the militia and was made a brigadier general in 1807, and again commissioned in 1811. He married Jane Clark, the second daughter of James Clark, and he lived to be ninety-five years old.

In the history of Westmoreland county Pa., is an account of the family of Samuel Craig, Sr., Derry township. Speaking of the gallant services of the sons, John, Alexander and Samuel, it states that the youngest, a lieutenant in Capt. Orr�s company, was captured with Colonel Lochry and Captain Orr and sold to the British by the Indians for the usual gallon of whiskey. Lieutenant Craig was painted black by the Indians preparatory to execution, but he preserved his courage, and being a good singer saved his life with his voice. He afterward returned home, and married a daughter of John Shields, Esq.; they had five sons and two daughters.

Captain John Craig, eldest son of Lieut. Samuel, was born April 27, 1753, at Belvidere, N.J., and became a distinguished citizen of Armstrong county. "Some time prior to the establishment of permanent peace by Wayne�s victory over the treaty with the Indians, a blockhouse was erected on the Allegheny, about 120 rods above the mouth of the Buffalo, which is now on Water, below Fifth street, Freeport. Its commandant was Capt. John Craig, whose command consisted of forty or fifty men, most of whom were inexperienced soldiers." The account goes on to relate how a false alarm, made purposely to test their valor, so frightened them that they abandoned the fort."

Another of Craig�s military experiences worth recording: "On a certain occasion Craig ordered a scouting party to make a tour of observation as far up the county as the mouth of Red Bank. They went, and on their return reported that they had not discovered any Indians. One of them, however, while on his deathbed many years afterward, sent for Craig and confessed to him that, while on that tour, he and his comrades had captured an Indian, and after obtaining all the information possible from him, and not wishing to have the trouble of taking him as a prisoner to the blockhouse, they concluded to keep his capture a secret, and to dispatch him by tying him to a tree and each one shooting him, so that, all being equally guilty, there would be no danger of anyone disclosing their dread secret. Others of that scouting party having been questioned about that affair, acknowledged to finding the Indian, but averred that John Harbison, who had just cause for a deadly hate toward all Indians, tomahawked him while he was conversing with another of the party who understood the Indian language, and they had all agreed to keep the deed secret on Harbison�s account." This John Harbison was the husband of Massey Harbison, whose capture by the Indians and escape are narrated elsewhere in this work.

Near the close of the eighteenth century Captain John Craig moved to the west side of the Allegheny river, into what is now Armstrong county. He acquired title of his tract of 394 acres, 30 perches, in South Buffalo township by the purchase of Samuel Paul�s interest in it, October 2, 1794, for $90, and by settlement and improvement which he commenced in the summer of 1795. It probably attracted his attention while he was commandant of the Blockhouse at Freeport. He brought with him that summer a two month�s supply of provisions and built a cabin near a spring on the parcel later owned by L.W. Patterson. Craig, while returning to his home in Westmoreland county, met Charles Sipes, who was moving his family to this region. Not having a cabin of his own, he asked for and obtained leave to occupy Craig�s until he could build one. On the arrival of Craig with his family the next spring, Sipes declined to give up his possession of the cabin and survey. Craig encamped his family and built another cabin on the opposite side of the spring, and prosecuted Charles Sipes Sr., No. 3, June sessions, in the court of Quarter Sessions, of Allegheny county, and Charles Siper, Jr., No. 4, same sessions, for forcible detainer. These cases were tried at the next September sessions, and there was a verdict of guilty against the elder, and of not guilty against the younger, Sipes. Still that litigation cost Craig about $100, which in the then great scarcity of money was a heavy burden to a pioneer in the wilderness. The war between those claimants of the tract was a very civil one, for they were, during the whole of their contest, on friendly terms, using the same springhouse for their milk, and their families shared with each other such rarities and delicacies as either obtained. Sipes removed soon after the trial to another tract of land. Craig was assessed with two distilleries from 1808-1810. Later he had a mill at Freeport.

The name of John Craig figures in various other land transactions, though he resided upon and continued to improve the tract above mentioned until his death, in 1845, when he was "almost a centenarian, with failing mind and memory." He was buried there. Captain Craig was one of the earliest justices of the peace in Armstrong country. The seat of justice of the county was directed by act of Assembly March 12, 1800, to be located at a distance not greater than five miles from "Old Kittanning Town." By this act also John Craig, James Sloan and James Barr were named and constituted trustees to receive and hold the title for the necessary public buildings; and for that purpose they were authorized to receive proposals in writing from any person or body corporate for the conveyance or grant of any lands within the limits of that act. That portion of that act was repealed by the act of April 4, 1803, and James Sloan, James Matthews and Alexander Walker were appointed trustees for the county, for locating the county seat and organizing the county. At the first court held in Armstrong county, in December, 1805, the grand jurors were: William Parker, Esq., James McCormack, Adam Maxwell, Joseph Shields, Gideon Gibson, James Elgin, John Laughlin, Isaac Townsend, John Corbett, William Freeman, Samuel Orr, Esq., Samuel Walker, Capt. Thomas Johnston, James Coulter, Jacob Allimony, John Craig, Esq., James Lindly, Col. Elijah Mounts, Thomas Barr, John Henry, James Clark, Esq., James Thompson, and David Todd.

On May 24, 1836, a patent was granted to John Craig, Sr., for an eight-sided tract in West Franklin township, in the southern part of which, about sixty rods from its southwest boundary, is the junction of Big and Little Buffalo creeks. The improvement began March 3, 1793, and the settlement in October, 1795, and in 1801 it was surveyed by George Ross to William Stevenson, who occupied it several years for Craig. James Karr, Sr., also occupied a part of it under Craig. It had been settled by the latter�s son Samuel at or before the beginning of the nineteenth century, and on the southwestern part of it, on or near the left bank of Big Buffalo creek, he erected a fulling mill with which, 400 acres, and one horse, he was assessed in 1805 at $20, and in 1806, at $200. The carding of wool into rolls was begun about 1814. The fulling mill was assessed to him until 1821, when it with 200 acres, with which he had been for several years assessed, was assessed to his brother John Craig, Jr., who continued the fulling and carding until 1835, when according to recollection of John Craig (son of Samuel), his uncle, John Craig, Jr. (later known as Sr.), and Robert Cooper entered into a partnership for manufacturing flannels, blankets and other woolen goods. Cooper sold his interest in the factory to John Craig, Jr., and James Craig, Sept. 1, 1837, and they operated it for several years. John Craig, Sr., conveyed eighty acres of this tract to John Craig, Jr., July 18, 1836, for $400. The factory building was burned Dec. 14, 1843, and a larger one was erected soon after on the same site. John Craig, Sr., by his will, dated Sept. 5, 1836, and registered April 5, 1850, devised to John Craig, Jr., his second son, that part of this tract on which the latter then resided. This point was called Craigstown, and afterward Craigsville, which name it still retains. The Craigsville post office was established there Nov. 29, 1869.

The will of Capt. John Craig (Will Book I, pages 406-407) bequeaths to his son Samuel Craig and Mary his (Samuel�s) wife a parcel of land where they reside beside his (Samuel�s) brother John, giving Samuel�s children John Craig, Elizabeth Craig, Martha Craig, Margaret Craig, Mary Craig. "I give and bequeath to my grandson $100 .... I give and bequeath to my son John Craig near or south of his brother James, it being the same where he now resides....To my daughter Isabella where I now reside I give and bequeath to the children of my daughter Elizabeth viz: Martha Clark, Isabella Clark, Jain Clark, Eliza Clark, equally between them. I give and bequeath to my daughter Martha all that tract land I bequeath to my daughter Isabella. I appoint my son John Craig sole executor," etc. There was a codicil dated 1839. John Craig, Jr., like the members of his family generally was a member of the Presbyterian Church. He was a staunch supporter of every good cause, and his name appears as one of the vice presidents chosen at the convention of the "Free Democracy of Armstrong County" held in the edifice of the Free Presbyterian Church of Worthington. The pastor, church members and congregation generally were antislavery in sentiment and did not hesitate to open the doors of their church to the political assemblages of the anti-slavery movement, though it was then unpopular with the great mass of the American people. The "Free Democracy" disclaimed association with any of the existing political parties and announced its approval of the then new movements, the freeing of slaves and prohibition of the liquor traffic.

In his younger days Capt. John Craig had belonged to what was then called "the flying camp." He was taken prisoner by the Indians, and was confined in a guardhouse on an island sixty miles above Montreal, from which he was released after the surrender of Cornwallis. The Indians who captured Col. Archibald Lochry, Captain Robert Orr and Samuel Craig were there (this refers to Lieut. Samuel Craig, brother of Capt. John Craig). At the time of his capture he was one of the party under Col. Archibald Lochry and Capt. Robert Orr were taken by the Indians in 1781, while they were on their way to join Gen. George Rogers Clark.

Samuel Craig, eldest son of Capt. John, settled at Craigsville, on Buffalo creek. The will of Samuel Craig, late of Franklin township, Armstrong County, dated Oct. 9, 1865, is found in Will Book II, page 383: "I hereby nominate, constitute and appoint my son John Craig, Jr., of Franklin township, executor, my will hereby revoking and making void all former wills by me. I bequeath unto my two daughters Margaret Craig and Mary Craig.

John Craig, eldest son of Samuel (known as John Craig, Jr., his uncle John being the senior of that name in his lifetime), was born in Armstrong County, and settled on a farm adjoining his father�s. He followed agricultural pursuits all his life. Mr. Craig was a leader in the Presbyterian Church. He heard the first Presbyterian sermon preached in Kittanning, long before the organization of any church of the denomination there. He married Eliza Huston, who was born in what was then called Cumberland county, in the Cumberland valley, third daughter of Samuel and Elizabeth (Patterson) Huston, who came to America in 1801. They were Scotch, also but resided for a while in Ireland. Mr. and Mrs. John Craig had children: James M. of Champaign, Ill.; William H. of Rimersburg, Clarion Co., Pa.; Mary, who married Thomas Vincent McKee; Nancy; Adah L.; and others.

Source: Pages 301-324 Armstrong County, Pa., Her People, Past and Present, J.H. Beers, & Co. 1914
Transcribed September 1998 by Donna Sheaffer for the Armstrong County Beers Project
Contributed for use by the Armstrong County Genealogy Project (

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