According to the writings of M.C. Wiley, former resident and businessman of Lowell, three Craft brothers came to America from England in the 1620's. They settled first in the New Jersey area, moved on to Maryland and then to Pennsylvania, and some of their descendents were early settlers in Ohio and Indiana. Mr. Wiley, a member of the Craft clan, found this information at the Newberry Library in Chicago, Ill.
John Craft I (1730-1804) was born on the eastern shores of Maryland, moved to Washington County, Pa., before 1776, where he owned 400 acres of wild land near a creek named after him and where he built a log fort (Craft's Fort), which was the settlers' only refuge from the Indians, who were constantly on the warpath.
Craft was a "Ranger of the Frontier," patrolling the area continually during the Revolutionary War, from 1778 to 1783. The old fort was later called "Fort Patterson," but was destroyed by fire.
John Craft I and his wife had eight children, born between 1761 and 1774, among them John Craft II, who was born about 1763 in Pennsylvania.
John Craft II fathered nine children, including David Craft (1796-1875) also born in their home in Pennsylvania. David moved to Fredericktown, Ohio, married Charlotte Forsha (1797-1865) and had eight children: Henry W.; Elias; Annibel, who married Conrad Ross; Elizabeth Levering; Thomas; Elsie Dickinson Thomas; Clarinda, who married Wilson Wiley; John; and Martha Sanger.
Their son Thomas (1824-1903) came from Ohio to the Orchard Grove area east of Lowell as an early settler, about the time of the founding of the Town of Lowell in the 1850's. He and his wife, Lucinda Forsha (1827-1888), settled on large acreage south of the site of the old Orchard Grove School, on what is now Grant St., near Spring Run Creek. Their large house is now the home of Barry Van Deursen.
In those early days, a large part of the farm was marshland, before the coming of the drainage ditches, and one family member recalled that you could look out the back door of the barn to see water not far away, the muskrat houses so thick that you could walk the mile or so to Fuller Island by skipping from house to house.
He remembered having 800 pelts at one time, each worth a nickel on the market. Many of the animals were speared. Wild game was abundant and wild hay was plentiful, with large amounts put up in the fall.
Thomas and his family raised fine cattle for the Chicago market, and also raised spirited horses. Eighty acres to the southeast of their home was dry enough to farm, and 200 tons of timothy hay was cut each season, to be sold in the spring. Wheat was also grown, with the crude rake reaper, and the sheaves were tied with straw.
Two of Thomas' sons, according to an account in one of Rev. Timothy Ball's history books, thought they would save a lot of walking while breaking ground with a heavy plow and six well-trained horses, so they took up positions at each end of the 90-rod rows to turn the plow and the horses and send them back, while they took the time to lay in the grass.
But the damp grass took its toll, and made the boys sick, so they decided they would again keep up with the team to stay healthy. Some of the grain from the farm was taken to the old grist mill on Main St. in Lowell.
Thomas kept a very neat barnyard, took care of a large orchard, and had a cider mill and a sorghum mill. Their beds and were held with twine and rope topped with comfortable feather mattresses, but sometimes snow blew through cracks in the house.
Thomas sold the farm soon after the death of his wife in 1888 and bought a large house in the east part of Lowell near the Prairie St. area, where he lived until his death in 1903.
Thomas and Lucinda Craft were the parents of twelve children: Morgan; Cassander B.; Isadore; James; Jenny; Douglas; Adelia (1862-63); Annibel; Thomas E. (1863-65); Delbert; Lulie G. (1870-88); and Eliza.
Son Morgan Craft was born in Ohio in 1848, married Barbara Hahn in 1876, and soon after was in the furniture business in downtown Lowell. In 1884 he moved his business to Monon, where he added an undertaking establishment, one of the earliest businesses in Monon. Barbara was the owner of a ladies' clothing store in Lowell and later moved it south to Monon. Their children were Charles (1877-1957), who was a justice of the peace, and Goldie (1879-1960).
Cassander B. Craft was born in Fredericktown, Ohio, in 1851 and moved to Lake County at the age of eight. He married Minerva Maria Porter (died 1913) in 1879 and fathered one daughter, Nora (1883-1960), who married Phillip Markee of Momence, Ill. "Cass" was known as a progressive farmer in Kankakee Twp. and was a lover of fine horses. He passed away in 1934.
Daughter (of Thomas) Isadore "Dora" (1852-1936) was born in Ohio, married Bruce Meeker, and was the grandmother of Harold R. Meeker, who has been a longtime member of the Lake County Fair Board, as was his father, Thomas Meeker.
Daughter Jennie was also born in Ohio (1855) and married George Norton in 1877. They were both teachers in Lake County and later became well-known farmers. They had five children.
Douglas Craft (1861-1902) was born on the Orchard Grove farm, married Anna L. Upp in 1894, and farmed in the Lowell area for many years.
James M. Craft (1854-1935) was born in Ohio and married Florence "Flora" Sisson (1860-1898). They had two children, Walter and Mable. Walter moved to New Mexico with his wife, Elsie Ferguson. Mable was born in Lowell in 1889, married Murray Turner (1886-1947) in 1909, and their two children are Mildred Sickinger and Marjorie Fedler. The Turners were well-known farmers in the Orchard Grove area.
Delbert "Bert" (1867-1946), son of Thomas and Lucinda Craft, was also born at the Orchard Grove farm. In 1894 Delbert married Minnie May Fisher who was born at Crestline, Ohio, in 1871 and passed away only twelve days after the death of her husband. One daughter, Pearl, died as an infant in 1895.
Son Kenneth F.W. Craft (1904-1974), born on the Lowell farm, married Helen Louise Ohde of Chicago, Ill., on Christmas day in 1936. Through her generosity, an old family scrapbook was given to the Three Creek Historical Assn., and a copy was made for the history section of the Lowell Public Library. Helen also loaned a family history assembled by her husband to be copied for a welcome addition to the library's reference section. Helen enjoys being a volunteer at St. Anthony Medical Center.
Kenneth F. Craft and Helen L. Ohde Craft were well-known farmers in the area known as DeWitt's Crossing on Joe Martin Road south of Lowell, where Helen and her son Kenneth M. Craft and family are still living.
Kenneth, who is also a school bus driver, has been the Lake County Fair Maintenance supervisor for the past seven years, a position his father had for about 25 years. Helen's daughter, Karen, is married to Donald G. Adams and has three children.
As a boy in the 1920's, the Old Timer and a friend would hike through the countryside, sometimes as far as the corner of SR 55 and SR 2, where we always enjoyed talking to the Craft brothers, who lived there in their old house, now gone. Joseph and Claude Craft were sons of Amos Craft (1850-1911), a cousin of Thomas Craft.
Lucinda was the daughter of Jerry and Phoebe Kenney, early settlers of Orchard Grove. The brothers' home was filled with artifacts from the pioneers, all of great interest to those two small boys. Joe and Claude had two sisters, Vada, who died at the age of nine, and Edith Craft Hale.
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