The Town of Crawford: Crawford is a unique place on the map – a town that takes pride in its humble cow town heritage. Crawford was born in the early 1880’s as a post office to serve local residents. The post office was named “Crawford” in a nod to Captain George A. Crawford, a retired Civil War Captain and Indian fighter, who passed through the area in 1882. The Captain suggested to local residents that this would be a good place for a post office and town to serve the needs of the new and growing ranching community. The locals agreed with his assessment and the next year a post office was erected and was named after the Captain, who apparently never stayed even a night in the Crawford Country.
Crawford actually began “downhill” as a cluster of a few buildings in the Smith Fork River Valley. It was not until 1892 that Mrs. Ong erected the first store on the present town site (the white false front building next door). After a few years of resisting competition and development, Mrs. Ong finally donated land for the community church and cemetery and began selling building lots for commercial and residential use. With the center of commerce now established, homes and other businesses quickly rallied to the new town site. From its founding, and into the decade of the 1940’s, Crawford served as an essential supply center for the surrounding area. In the first half of the last century, this little town had its own bank, movie theatre/dance hall, pharmacy, blacksmith shop, two creameries, a cheese factory, billiard hall/saloon, dry goods store, general store, hotel, granary, newspaper, barbershop, light plant, furniture store, three gas stations, a jail, church, telephone exchange, community school, and even an ice cream parlor. However, by the 1940’s, gasoline powered vehicles were more reliable and more importantly, the road to larger towns (now highway 92) was paved, making it feasible to travel farther afield for supplies. As a result, isolated Crawford suffered a slow and prolonged economic decline.
Crawford today is a different place than in its heyday. But echoes of the past still wash over the visitor. The people of Crawford Country, whether natives or transplants, have a deep respect for the heritage of this special place. The historic buildings still tell a story, and if you are lucky, you might experience a cattle drive through town. A reminder that this is still a true cow town…
The Stone House Inn: This stone home was built in 1907 by Kenley and Sally Collins, and was styled after the traditional broad-front stone houses familiar in their native Virginia. The Collins family homesteaded a ranch on Virginia Flats, an area about seven miles southeast of Crawford, but decided to build this house as a winter home so that their children might attend school in the colder months. The Collins family, who also owned a blacksmith shop across the street (no longer standing), owned the home until the early 1940’s. After another short-term owner, the home was sold to American Legion Post 190 in 1948. The Legion used the home for their functions over the next thirty years. Farm meetings, square dances, potluck dinners and many other community functions took place over this period, as the house was a central gathering place for the community. (The downstairs front portion of the house was originally divided similarly to how it is now, although when the American Legion purchased it, they removed the dividing wall, so that a large meeting room could be had. During renovation, the original dividing walls were re-constructed adding bathrooms where there was once a stairway). An elderly local lady recalled upon seeing the renovation, “We used to have the best square dances here – with a live caller and fiddle player. Two squares going in the main room and one out on the street. I met my husband at a square dance here.” A touching testimony to the personal historic value this home has to many local residents.
Between the late 1970’s and 1982, the home was used as Crawford’s first official Town Hall. A former Town Clerk related, “We used to store all the Town records and ordinances in a bedroom upstairs”. In 1982 the Town government moved to its present location at the old Crawford school – the large stone building on the main street – leaving the home once again in private hands. The house continued to fall into greater disrepair, as it was largely vacant until 1996 when the Sponseller family purchased the home. The family spent more than a decade slowly bringing the home back to a condition that would have been appreciated by the Collins family nearly a century earlier. Prior to the renovation, ceilings were falling in, plaster crumbling, the roof was leaking and coal soot covered the mint green painted walls. Fortunately for our guests, this once-decrepit condition is hard to imagine!
If you would like to read some fascinating history of Crawford Country, we strongly recommend that you purchase Mamie Ferrier’s wonderful set of local history books titled Long Horns and Short Tails. The books are available at the Crawford Country Store, and they make excellent reading while relaxing on our front porch or back deck.