Jonathan “John” Crabtree (1839 - 1863)

Author: Cal Bivens

It was always a curiosity to me that we never knew any more about this man. There was no mention of him in any of the family notes that I ever saw. He was a grandson of John and Elizabeth Crabb and son of Elijah and Priscilla Crabtree.

John Crabtree was born about 1839 in Canada, perhaps at St. John, New Brunswick. John lived with his parents, Elijah and Priscilla, in Portland, Maine in 1850. He was 11 years old that year. James Knight, a cooper, with his wife and son was boarding with them.

John attended school. He may have started going by “John” in school. Whether his parents ever called him that is debatable.
The family moved to Kane County, Illinois about 1859, settling in an area where a lot of relatives had already settled.

In 1860 Jonathan worked as a farmhand for A. Perry in Lodi, Illinois. He boarded with his employer. Perry and his wife, Ida, had 5 kids: Delia, Ambrose, Lonzo, (male), and Viola. Perry was a farmer whose real estate was valued at $1600.

Enlistment in the Army
John enlisted July 16, 1861 at Chicago, Illinois as a recruit in Company B, 2nd Battalion, 16th US Infantry (Regular Army). He was enrolled by Captain Robert Erskine Anderson Crofton (1834 - 1898), an Irishman by birth who was appointed from Delaware.

John was 22 years old, he gave as his place of birth Portland, Maine (he was “from” Portland but born in New Brunswick). John was described as 5’ 7-1/8″ tall, hazel eyes, light brown hair, and ruddy complexion. He entered the army as a Private at Camp Slemmer, Chicago.

The 16th Regiment of Infantry, U.S. Army was organized at Chicago, Illinois in the spring and summer of 1861. The under-strength regiment was moved to Camp Thomas, Ohio in September of 1861. There the men were drilled continually and special attention was given to marksmanship and fire discipline.

From Ohio john and the regiment were sent to Kentucky via Cincinnati to join the 4th Brigade, Army of the Ohio. The men of the 16th infantry, including John Crabtree, were transported on a barge towed by the steamer “Jacob Strader.”

John and his regiment went into their first combat on April 7, 1862 at Shiloh, near Pittsburg Landing in Tennessee. From there John’s regiment took part in the advance on Corinth, Mississippi and subsequent siege. After that the regiment was involved in operations in North Alabama and Middle Tennessee and then garrison duty at Nashville, Tennessee until December 26, 1862.

In late December John and his regiment were assigned to Maj. Gen. George Henry Thomas’s command, the Center. The 16th was assigned to 1st Division, under Maj. Gen. Lovell H. Rousseau; 4th Brigade under Lieut. Col. Oliver Lathrop Shepherd.

The 1/16th United States, and Company B, 2/16 were under the command of Maj. Adam J. Slemmer and Capt. R. E. A. Crofton. The army that they were part of, under the command of Maj. Gen. William S. Rosecrans, set out for Murfreesboro, Tennessee.

On December 31, 1862 the brigade that John was part of was sent into combat to halt a rebel advance. Probably during this short, bloody fight was when John was wounded in the leg. The brigade suffered heavy casualties during this fight but their effort allowed the Army of the Cumberland to establish a defensive line.

John was brought off the field but he died of his wounds on January 3, 1863 en route to the hospital.

It took some time to settle John Crabtree’s account. The Final Statement of the paymaster, Maj. Whitney, in 1864, noted that Pvt. John Crabtree was last paid to June 30, 1862 and pay was due to him from that date to the time of his death – six months ($78). He was also due $100 of an enlistment bounty and $50 due on his clothing allowance. That was sent home to his parents, Elijah and Priscilla in Illinois. (Even for the 1860s the length of time here seems unusual.)

A pension was applied for in May of 1866 for Priscilla Crabtree, John’s mother. The claim was rejected due to the death of Priscilla in January of 1868. Elijah then had to file for his own, which was done December 10, 1866, the application number
was: 138,708.

Albert Babcock, a lawyer from Blackberry, in Kane County, was obtained to assist with the paperwork. Milt Thornton and Freeman Woodman made declarations for this filing. Thornton, a family friend, stated that John had worked for him for a year before his enlistment, and that his wages had gone to support his elderly parents. The same was true of his army pay. He further stated that after John’s death, Elijah had received help from the county and the community, he had 3 cows and a shanty that was built on Thornton’s land. Woodman swore to his acquaintance with Elijah and his knowledge of Elijah’s situation.

An affidavit by Sarah M. Gill and George W. Giggey of Kane County, Illinois declared that they had been for 20 years intimately acquainted with Elijah and Pricilla Crabtree of Kane County that on January 30, 1868 Pricilla Crabtree, wife of Elijah, died at the township of Virgil. They were present when she died and was buried. That Elijah Crabtree “is a cripple caused by chronic rheumatism and that he has no property nor money nor any other means of support.” And that he was entirely dependent upon his son John Crabtree who was a corporal in Company B, 16th US Infantry who died in the service on or about January 1, 1863. The affidavit bore the signatures of both parties – Mrs. Sarah M. Gill & George W. Giggey.

Pension certificate # 129,219 was issued to Elijah, his pension of $8 per month was retroactive to January 31, 1868.

Later that year Elijah moved with Arnold and Rachel to Story County, Iowa. They settled in Nevada, in Milford Township. Elijah continued to help around the farm as best he could.

In 1869 the Pension Office sought to update Elijah’s file and requested information. Richard Kimble and George Giggey swore an affidavit dated January 16, 1869 in Story County, Iowa that they knew Elijah and Priscilla and were present at time of her death and burial. This document was a part of an update required periodically by the Pension Office.

[Richard Kimble (1835-1908), a farmer and stock-raiser had a 365 acre farm. In 1870 he lived at Nevada, Milford Township, Story County, Iowa. He was a neighbor of George W. Giggey. Not far away lived Arnold & Rachel Crabtree and George Shattuck. Kimble was born in Tompkins County, N. Y., in 1835, and was the second of eleven children, the result of the union of Henry and Emaline (Van Vlack) Kimble, natives of New Jersey and New York, respectively. His brother, Albert, was married to Amanda Lucinda Wallace, daughter of Edmund Hay Wallace and Frances Crabtree. Amanda was a cousin of
Arnold and Rachel. Richard had lived in Kane County, Illinois and in 1858 was married there to Miss Ellen Mary Robinson (1841-1914) , a daughter of W. H. Robinson, a native of Vermont. They moved to Iowa in 1860 and to Story County in 1868. Kimble raised horses, cattle, hogs and sheep. A son, Clarence A. was living in Keya Paha County, Nebraska by 1890. —1890 Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Story County, Iowa.]

Two other affidavits were made on April 28, 1869. One was by Elijah himself, who signed by mark (X). In it he stated that he was unable to get documents regarding his marriage and the birth of his son. He gave his knowledge: he, Elijah, was “married on or about Oct. 6, 1820 at Greenwich, Kings Co., New Brunswick by Parson Schofeld Rector of the Episcopal Church to Pricilla Sharp.” His son, John was born in 1840. He requested that witness statements be admitted in lieu of documents.

The second affidavit was made by Arnold and Rachel Crabtree, of Story County, Iowa. They swore to their personal knowledge of Elijah and Priscilla being married, John being their son and living with them when he joined the service. Arnold signed, Rachel made her mark - X sworn in the office of the County Clerk in Story County.

Soon after the 1880 census, some of the family returned to Illinois, settling in Chicago. Elijah died of “old age” there on May 4, 1882 at the age of 89 years 11 months. News of his death was reported in the newspaper, The Globe, of Saint John, New Brunswick [#1168 June 10, 1882]. His death certificate indicates the family planned to bury him at Blackberry.

Rachel Crabtree wrote to the Commissioner of Pensions requesting information on the status of expenses for the funeral of her father, Elijah, the letter was dated January 8, 1883 at Chicago (the amount due was $8.27).

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