This week’s writing prompt for 52 Ancestors is ‘Strong Woman’. I have a lot of strong women in my family, including those young mothers modeling for their children what it means to be a gentle, kind mother while being a strong woman. Thus, it was hard to decide who to write about.
I’ve selected my great-great grandmother, Mary Foster Crawford (1842-1929) as an example of the strong women in my tree.
Mary Foster was born in 1842 in Warren County, Indiana. Like most women of that time period, most of Mary’s story comes from the story of her father and her husband. Since Mary’s father, Zebulon, was listed as a farmer on the 1850 census in Pike Township, Warren County, Indiana, Mary likely was raised on a farm.
At the age of 17, Mary married Washington Marion Crawford on 4 Mary 1860 in West Lebanon, Indiana. According to the 1860 census, Washington and Mary Crawford were living in Jordan Township of Warren County, Indiana. The young couple was establishing their home on a farm worth $2000 at the time. An affidavit included in Washington Marion Crawford’s military file provides more information about their farm life:
State of Indiana Warren County
Before me the undersigned authority personally appeared Washington M Crawford who being by me first duly sworn says my age is 46 years.
In the matter of my claim for Pension No 170744 my occupation has always been that of a farmer for five years preceeding my enlistment in Co H 2nd NY Cav. I worked on a farm for my father in Washington township Warren County Ind except the last year prior to the breaking out of the war. I moved to Jordan township and began farming for myself.
Mary’s life as a young wife changed when her husband enlisted in Company H of the 2nd New York Calvary. Washington Crawford’s affidavit continues to tell the tale of the young couple.
I continued there until August 3rd 1861 when I enlisted in the army in the above named Co and regiment. I was in all the engagements the regiment was in from the time of its organization until the 22nd day of Sept 1863 when I was taken prisoner in an engagement betwen Gen Kilpatrick and Gen Stewart near Liberty Mills, Va.
Whether Mary knew of her husband’s capture is unknown. Washington Crawford’s military record suggests that she may not have known since he is reported as “Missing in Action since Sept. 22, 1863” on several Company Muster Rolls including the March and April 1864 report.
Washington Crawford was imprisoned at Belle Isle in Virginia from his capture in Sept 1863 until March 1864. Then he was transferred to Andersonville Prison in Georgia. His affidavit continues with the story of his imprisonment.
The circumstances under which my disability was incurred was hardships of prison life such as being confined with thirty five thousand men on about sixteen acres of ground with insufficient food and no shelter except a government blanket which makes a poor shade and no shelter from the rain whatever I passed the winter of 1863 and 1864 in Belle Isle and in March 1864 I was taken to Andersonville Ga where I incurred the disability during the summer of 1864. I went from there to Charleston SC was there eighteen days and was then taken to Florence SC where on the 7th of Dec 64 I was paroled in the agreement between the two commitioners to exchange ten thousand sick
When her husband returned from the war, the young family moved in with his mother so his mother could help care for him. For the next few years, the family moved around a lot as Mary’s husband was under constant medical care, leaving Mary to care for their growing family.
I arrived home in June 1865 and remained on the old homestead with my mother and was treated by Dr Tebbs and Dr Greely who are both deceased. In 1866 I lived in Jordan township tried farming. and received treatments from Dr Frankeberger who is also deceased. in 1867 I lived in Washington township followed farming and was again treated by Dr Greely. I remained in Washington township until 1871 when I moved to Pike Township and followed farming there until 1873 when I again moved to Washington Township where I have remained to the present and have been following farming. …
I am not above to do more thane one fourth as much of any kind of farm work as I could before the war … all the work I do must be done under great difficulties and with great pain. I am frequently confined to the house and sometimes to my bed
Mary was fortunate to be surrounded by both her husband’s family and her family during this time. The need for family support is likely why the family moved to Dodge City Kansas in 1885. Washington’s brother, James H. Crawford, had moved his entire family to Dodge City in 1878. With family and land drawing them westward, the family moved to Dodge City where Washington Crawford paid $2 at the Garden City land office toward 160 acres of land in the SE 1/4 of Section 31 township 28 South of range 26 West. At about the same time, the family began the construction of a boarding house on 2nd Avenue in Dodge City.
In 1886, Washington and Mary faced another struggle as their daughter, Carrie died of consumption. A little over three years later, Mary would bury her husband, Washington Marion Crawford, next to her daughter.
It was the boarding house built in 1885 that provided a livelihood for Mary as she continued to raise her children.
I wish I knew more of the story from Mary’s eyes. I believe she was the glue that held the family together as they faced the after affects of her husbands imprisonment during the civil war. Thus, Mary Foster Crawford, is my example of a ‘Strong Woman.’