Origins and Lives of the Craftons of Virginia:

Anglo-Saxon Britain to Antebellum America

All Saints Church, Wing Chapter 1: Where the Wild Saffron Grows

The opening chapter of Volume 1 traces the British roots of the Crafton family. Chapter 1 examines the origins of the Crafton surname and surveys the individuals who bore some form of it from 1200 to 1700 CE. The findings of this chapter are based upon data drawn from diverse sources including The Domesday Book, English parish records, linguistic sources, DNA analyses and British surname studies. Some of the research for this chapter was conducted in London at the British Public Records Office and at the College of Arms. Other information was gathered in Buckinghamshire at the County Records Office and at All Saints Church in Wing (pictured at left.)

Crafton Cluster on the Pamunkey Neck Chapter 2: “This Barren Part of the World”

Virginia was barren of any known Crafton presence until Thomas Crafton arrived there about 1635. Virtually nothing has been discovered about this man’s immediate origins. More is known about Rev. William Wilkinson, the man who paid for Crafton’s passage. Wilkinson had grown up in the southern end of Buckinghamshire, the same area that, coincidentally, was home to many of the Crafton family at the start of the 17th Century. Thomas Crafton eventually worked off any indenture owed as a consequence of his passage; married a woman named Mary and settled in Surry County, Virginia. A close study of microfilmed county records at The Library of Virginia has provided biographical material on Thomas and his wife. These records strongly imply that Thomas died without producing any heirs. (See red ‘x’ on the map at left.)

The next Crafton men to arrive in Virginia did so circa October 1672. One of them, Alexander Crafton, settled on Virginia’s Eastern Shore and promptly disappeared from the historical record. It was likely he succumbed to one or more of the diseases that killed so many immigrants to the Chesapeake (red cross on map at left.) The other immigrant of 1672, also named Thomas Crafton, arrived in New Kent County near present-day West Point (red triangle at left.) The cluster of second- and third-generation Craftons living near West Point implies that this second Thomas Crafton founded the Craftons of Virginia (black dots at left.)

King William Courthouse Chapter 3: A Lone Immigrant and A Lost Generation

Although the King William County courthouse (pictured at left) and two colonial-era churches in the county still stand, the records they once housed have been destroyed. As a result, direct information about the first generation of Craftons to be born in Virginia has been lost. The earliest colonial records of the descendants of New Kent County’s Thomas Crafton date from the 1770s, after the death of the first generation of Craftons born in Virginia. Using surviving records about the second and subsequent generations of Craftons born in the colony, this chapter employs probability and statistics to reconstruct – with reasonable likelihood – the missing first generation and a portion of the second. Scholarly studies of demographics and naming patterns in the Virginia Tidewater during the period 1650-1750 allow inferences to be drawn about the names of some of the missing individuals of these generations.

It is very probable that after his arrival in New Kent County in 1672, Thomas Crafton had only one surviving son who, in turn, had two surviving sons. The younger of the two was named James and it was he who eventually married a woman named Keren-happuch. The most likely venue of this couple’s wedding was St. David’s Parish in upper King William County, one of the counties formed from New Kent. Although King William has suffered a substantial loss of records, data drawn from the surviving records of nearby counties have been used to characterize the lot of small farmers like the Craftons. After Chapter 3, the remainder of Volume 1 is devoted to the family history of the Craftons descended from James and Keren-happuch Crafton.

Lunenburg Courthouse Chapter 4: The Promised Land

Virginians’ perceptions of the threat of attack from Native Americans subsided when the Seven Years’ War ended in 1763. As a result, Tidewater Virginians began to leave that region to seek land in the more sparsely settled areas of the colony. This chapter uses the situation of the James Crafton family in upper King William County to probe James’s motivation for moving his family from that county. James’s choice of Lunenburg County as the family’s destination is developed from the Crafton family’s situation in King William and the images of Lunenburg held by members of the Crafton’s social network. From its founding in 1746, Lunenburg County’s records are entirely intact. (The present county courthouse, shown at left, was completed in 1827.) Lunenburg’s records are used in the remainder of Chapter 4 to describe the details of the Craftons’ settlement and early growth in that county. The settlement of James Crafton’s family in Lunenburg coincided with the rise of the Baptist movement in Southside Virginia. Baptist minister James Shelburne baptized the first recorded Crafton to join that denomination at the Meherrin Baptist Church in 1776. Several of James and Keren-happuch’s grown children, notably their two oldest sons William and Richard, joined the new faith while others among the couple’s children remained members of the Established Church.

Tussekiah Baptist Church Chapter 5: Revolution

Before the Revolutionary War ended, six of James and Keren-happuch’s seven sons – Joseph Crafton being the exception – were old enough for military duty. The Crafton sons’ differing religious affiliations had a strong bearing, however, on which ones served and which ones did not. This chapter begins by describing the impact of religion on the Craftons’ differing attitudes toward the American war effort. At the time of the war, William and Richard Crafton were elders of Tussekiah Baptist Church. (An old photo of the original church is shown at left.) This was a congregation of Separate Baptists and many members of this sect practiced a separate form of patriotism. That is, they tacitly supported the American cause on the home front while eschewing active military service.

In contrast to William and Richard Crafton, their brothers Anthony, John, James Jr. and Thomas – all nominal members of the Established Church – did serve in the Virginia militia. Starting with Anthony Crafton’s call to active duty in May 1778 this chapter recounts the military service of the four Crafton brothers along with that of one of the men’s nephews, John Jr., the son of William Crafton. These five Craftons from Lunenburg entered the service at different times and fought in different battles including Camden, Guilford Courthouse and Yorktown. All were militia privates except John Crafton. As described in this chapter and the addenda to Volume 1, he became an officer in the militia of Lunenburg County. Clickhereto download addenda.

Chapters 6 to 14

Each of these chapters of Volume 1 of Origins and Lives is dedicated to a different branch of the Crafton family arising from one of James and Keren-happuch Crafton’s nine children. Each such chapter describes the life of that particular son or daughter and the lives of that person’s children and grandchildren. The goal is to move beyond genealogical information and to provide as much biographical information as possible on each individual. Biographical information for these chapters has been derived from censuses; birth, death and marriage records; deeds, wills, estate inventories, tax records, court orders, chancery cases and military service records. In 1850 the federal government began to gather detailed information about individual farms like never before. In some cases, these non-population census schedules and those related to slave ownership are also employed. This information is used to describe the farming activities of some of James and Keren-happuch’s descendants and, where possible, the driving forces behind some of these descendants' emigration from Virginia.

As John Donne said “No man is an island entire of itself.” Thus an important basis of the biographies within Origins and Lives is the social network of each Crafton descendant. Volume 1 frequently examines ties of kinship, friendship, marriage and commerce to understand the lives of these people.

The decision to include all members of the Crafton cousinage – females as well as males – in Origins and Lives has been and is a difficult challenge. If there is one factor more than any other that has delayed production of Volume 1 it is this. Owing to the legal and social status of women throughout most of the 19th Century, records involving female Crafton descendants are often scant and in some cases non-existent. Of the more than 400 Crafton descendants covered in the book, 51% are male and 49% female. In that regard this work has done well in recognizing the ranks of women in the Crafton cousinage. However, the level of information available about female Crafton descendants is usually far less than that for their male cousins. For instance there are more females than males whose presence is implied by census and other records yet whose names are not known.

Chapters 13 and 14 face the greatest difficulties from the “invisible woman” effect. Research into the descendants of James and Keren-happuch’s daughters, Ann Tatum and Elizabeth Robertson, has been stymied frequently. In Ann’s case chancery court records from Lunenburg and Charlotte Counties in Virginia have provided a reliable catalog of her children. However, two daughters married Jones men, making it all but impossible to trace these women after their marriages. Elizabeth Robertson’s family is even less visible than Ann Tatum’s. Elizabeth was dead by the time her father died in 1779. The probate papers of the James Crafton estate refer to Elizabeth Robertson’s children, but these are never named or even numbered. Lunenburg and Charlotte County records allow Elizabeth’s widower, Christopher Robertson, to be followed until his death in 1806 or 1807. Using these records two men likely to have been sons of Elizabeth (Crafton) Robertson are identified and discussed in Chapter 14.

Chapter 6: William Crafton, the Prayerful Planter

Chapter 7: Richard Crafton, Planter and Patriarch

Chapter 8: John Crafton, the Prodigious Planter

Chapter 9: Anthony Crafton, the Peripatetic Planter

Chapter 10: James Crafton, the Prudent Planter

Chapter 11: Thomas Crafton, Patriot and Planter

Chapter 12: Joseph Crafton, the Problematic Planter

Chapter 13: Ann Tatum's True List

Chapter 14: Elizabeth Robertson

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Designed by Barbara A. Perry, 11/30/2010 ~~~ Copyright 2010, Raymond G. Crafton (exclusive of Tussekiah photo). All rights reserved. ~~~ Last Updated: 07/01/2015