Biography of Hon. George A. Crawford

The strong, true men of a people are ever its most priceless possession. They are potent for good not only in what they accomplish by their own immediate work, but by the forces they inspire and vitalize in others through their influence, and by the example they give, which acts as a stimulus while they live and after they are gone. To this class belonged the late Hon. George A. Crawford, of Grand Junction, whose record is written in pleasing and enduring phrase in the city he built and the spirit of enterprise and progressiveness he implanted in its citizens. Small in stature and frail in physique, and waging a life-long war with sickness and bodily weakness, his transcendent will and mighty spirit triumphed over all obstructions and made him great in both undertakings and achievements–the most forceful man of his time in this section. The story of his life in many places and amid a great variety of pursuits, would be intensely interesting, every part of it, and would epitomize in brief the struggle of advancing civilization in this western world with, first the savage denizens of the wilderness, men and beasts, and later its more insidious and dangerous foes, outlaws and fugitives from justice in the older sections of the land who deemed the hardy and industrious pioneers of a new and unsettled country the legitimate prey of their unbridled lust, rapacity, and lawlessness. It is however, with Governor Crawford’s career in Colorado that we have now mainly to do. Whatever else of his heroic life it maybe found necessary to narrate is only incidental and illustrative. George Addison Crawford was born in Clinton (then a part of Lycoming) county, Pennsylvania, on July 27, 1827. His parents were Judge George and Elizabeth (Quigley) Crawford, the ancestors on the father’s side being Scotch-Irish Presbyterians and on the mother’s German Lutherans. His scholastic education, begun in the primitive district schools of his day and locality, was continued at Clinton Academy on Pine Creek, of which his father was president, and Lockhaven Academy, and was finished at Jefferson College. Sent home from the college for a time on account of feeble health, he yet kept up with his class and was graduated with it in 1847, standing among the first, although the class numbered sixty-seven members. After his graduation he went South with other students and taught school at Salem, Kentucky, among the relatives of President Taylor. Later he joined his room-mate, Col. Samuel Simmons, in the management of a select school at Canton, Mississippi. After one winter in this enterprise he returned to his native state and began the study of law in the office of Messrs. Allison & Quigley. In 1850, still pursuing his law studies, he became the editor and proprietor of the Clinton Democrat, the organ of his party in Clinton county. He at once became active and effective in politics, both in the editorial columns of his paper and on the hustings showing unusual capacity and force, and there evincing an ascendancy and control over men which was through life one of his salient characteristics. From then on until he left Pennsylvania he was one of the influential men in the councils and conventions of his party in the state, rendering such signal service in harmonizing differences and strengthening the cause that he received personal letters of thanks from Presidents Pierce and Buchanan. In 1856 he was a member of the firm of Dillon, Jackson & Company, which had a contract to build a railroad from Superior City to Hudson, Wisconsin, the company being obliged to cut sixty miles through a dense forest in the deep snows of winter. The road was completed on time and to the satisfaction of its promoters, and then Mr. Crawford determined on a visit to Kansas. That child of turbulence and strife was then in the agonies of its border warfare and needed such men as he to calm its fevered pulse and quiet its contending factions, and he concluded to remain there. While at Lawrence on the way to Lecompton, he fell in with a party going to Fort Scott to secure the townsite, and at once accepted an offer of transportation by mule team and partnership in the town project. On arriving at the fort, then an abandoned military post occupied by pioneers, Mr. Crawford and his companions bought claims to five hundred and twenty acres of land and organized the Fort Scott Town Company, of which he was elected president. He served in that capacity nearly twenty years, and in arranging for the development of the place marked on a plat two prospective lines of railroad, and the two leading railroads of the state have since been built on almost those very lines. His active mind and genius for leadership soon made him prominent in the stirring political activities of Kansas, and led to his nomination for the office of governor in 1861. In the election he secured a clear majority of the votes returned, but the state canvassers refused to canvass the returns, and under mandamus proceedings the court declared the election due to a misconstruction of the constitution and therefore illegal. The next year his friends determined to nominate him again for this office, but owing to complications in the convention he refused to submit his name for governor and was unanimously nominated for secretary of state. This nomination he declined to accept. After some fifteen or sixteen years more of strenuous activity in Kansas politics, during which he filled a number of important positions and rendered numberless important services, he turned his face toward the setting sun and took in a survey of Colorado. This was at that time a frontier country full of dangers and infested with the acolytes of lawlessness and violence: but his experienced eye told him it was a land of promise, and acting on his excellent judgment, he came hither and founded Grand Junction, deeming this the proper place for the large city that would inevitably be the commercial center of the mighty empire latent in the region. He located and named the town, and from that time until his death he was its steadfast, untiring and liberal friend. The first year he organized a company and built a ditch to supply his bantling with water, erected cabins as homes for newcomers and put up a hotel for the accommodation of the traveling public. The next year he planted shade trees in front of all public property and all lots belonging to the town company, and encouraged all citizens to follow his example. He organized a company for the manufacture of pressed brick and supplied the railroad company with all the brick it needed at the Junction and as far west as Provo. He also built many cottages, and advertised the town and valley all over this and in many foreign countries, winning friends for the section wherever he made its virtues known. A man of nerve, tact, education and resources, he pushed the work of improvement forward, kept down all opposition, and infused into the people a spirit of progress wonderful in its immediate results and its continuing power. Nor is it to be inferred that he neglected the more spiritual and elevating concomitants of the civilization he was planting in these western wilds. Schools, churches and the public press received his earnest and unremitting attention. Sustained by a will power remarkable in intensity and an intellect wonderful in scope, force and resourcefulness, he never gave up, but commanded circumstances to his purposes and made even difficulties his ministrants. And through all he was ever the same bland, cultivated, courtly and obliging gentleman. On Monday, January 26, 1891, the life that was the most earnest and useful ever known in western Colorado, ended. And now, when men seek his monument, it is enough to say, here is Grand Junction, here is Mesa county, here is the Western slope–they proclaim the energy, the manliness, the mighty creative spirit of Governor Crawford, what more can be desired!

Source: Bowen, A. W. Progressive Men of Western Colorado. Chicago: A. W. Bowen & Co., Publishers. 1905.

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