The modern surname of Crafton owes its existence to this flower, Colchicum autumnale. Known as “meadow” or “wild” saffron, its resemblance to the crocus that yields saffron spice is one of appearance only. Unlike the saffron crocus, all parts of meadow saffron are poisonous.
About 30 miles northwest of London in Buckinghamshire lies the hamlet of Crafton. This hamlet takes its name from the Anglo-Saxon manor of Crohtun, that is, “meadow saffron farm” that once occupied the site.
Photographed in the author’s garden in September 2010.
Drawn from a description in Burke’s General Armory, the arms pictured at right were borne by an unknown individual who, at the time, spelled his surname just as we do today, i.e., “Crafton.” Evidence suggests that these arms were taken up prior to 1417 CE. The right to bear arms on behalf of the crown has always been granted to individuals, not to families. (Although arms, once granted, pass to an armigerous man’s direct male descendants.) Thus, the arms shown represent those of a Crafton individual and not those of the Crafton family in general.
The first Crafton man known to have arrived in Virginia was named Thomas. He entered the Norfolk area about 1635, eventually married and patented acreage in what is now Surry County. Research indicates that he died without heirs (red ‘x’ at left.) Two more Crafton men entered Virginia in October 1672. Alexander Crafton, who came to Northumberland County, apparently died shortly after arriving (red cross at left.) That same month a second Thomas Crafton arrived in Virginia near present-day West Point (red triangle on map.) The location of second- and third-generation Craftons represented by the black dots at left implies that the Thomas Crafton who arrived in 1672 was the most likely founder of the Craftons of Virginia.
When James and Keren-happuch Crafton brought their family to Lunenburg County, Virginia in 1764, James’s first purchase of land stated that he was a planter (which implied land ownership) who was from St. David’s Parish in King William County. The only known Crafton land holding in St. David’s Parish at that time stood less than two miles north of the Mangohick Church, pictured at right. Since the church was completed about 1730, a few years before James and Keren-happuch married, it is very likely that this was the Crafton couple’s parish church. If so, it would have been the site of the baptism of all nine of James and Keren-happuch’s children.
Photographed by the author in 1999.