A veteran of two wars, an entrepreneur, public servant, homesteader, husband and father - all of these roles were those of James F. Crandall. Born on February 28, 1844, in Smithville, Chenango County, New York, James came into the world with purpose.
According to the 1850 census, he was the son of Collins Crandall and his wife Lucy, who also had children Horatio, Marshall, Lafayette and Edwin at that time. By 1860, the whole family had moved to Oquawka, Henderson County, Illinois where Collins, then 41, worked as the police constable. James was then 16.
The very next year, at the age of 17, James enlisted in the Union forces, Company A, 52nd Illinois Infantry, formed in 1861, and made up mostly from Kane County, Illinois men. It was a regiment of 945 men when it moved to serve in St. Louis, Missouri and surrounding areas. In March, 1862, they left and joined the Army of Tennessee where they were heavily involved in the Battle of Shiloh, losing about 170 men, wounded, dead or missing. That was followed a few months later by the Battle of Corinth. The unit would foray out and often return to Corinth, chasing the enemy and guarding the railroad lines.
In January, 1864, three-fourths of the men in the regiment re-enlisted and were then mustered in as a veteran organization. First they left for a furlough of about a month back to Illinois. At this time, the muster rolls of Illinois described James F. as 20 years old with black hair, blue eyes and a dark complexion, standing at 5 foot, 10 inches. In May of 1864, the regiment began the Atlanta campaign, fighting in many of the battles there.
By then James was moving up in rank until appointed 2nd Lieutenant on September 15, 1864, and given command of the 8th United States Colored Heavy Artillery. The first African-American unit in Kentucky, it was a very controversial one. Most of the men who joined were from Paducah or that area, and some whites definitely did not want colored soldiers. Violence often racked the recruitment centers and the soldiers' marches. The group saw combat in March of 1864, but by the time Lt. Crandall was put in charge, they were mainly in the Paducah area at Fort Anderson.
Crandall mustered out with his unit on July 20, 1866. On the 1890 Veterans Census, he mentioned his disabilities as malaria and lung issues. He served in continuous service for the Union from August of 1861 to July of 1866. But he wasn't done yet; he was just a young man of about 22.
He apparently moved to Eaton, Charlotte County, Michigan, and here he was found in the 1870 census, working as a clerk in a store. He had no personal goods or real estate. One source said that he came to Defiance in 1872, where he and his brother, L. E. (Lafayette) were dry goods merchants. On May 7, 1874, James married Sarah Partee, daughter of John Partee.
In 1880, the Crandall family lived at 53 Front Street in Defiance. James's occupation was "traveling agent," while Sarah, then 26, was home with children: Charles T., 4; Edith M., 2; and John N. 1. Kate Clemmens was a servant in the home. James, then, did appear in the 1890 Veterans Census, as mentioned earlier.
A look at the city directories of the time revealed that James Crandall was a man of many occupations. In the directory of 1877-78, he was in a business called McKelvey and Crandall, and a few years later, in the 1881-1882 volume, he was listed as a traveling salesman. In those years, his address was on Ralston Avenue "west of Plain, between Plain and Whitmore,"
In 1892-1893, he was a letter carrier, in 1895-1896, a deputy sheriff and later, after the Spanish-American War service, as an insurance agent in 1899. From 1892 on, his address was 731 High Street.
The Defiance Evening News noted on October 23, 1894, that James F. Crandall and Mr. Haymaker were relieved of their duties as letter carriers. Appointed under Benjamin Harrison, a Republican, the tides had turned as the Democrats were now in office. A letter informed him that his services were no longer needed. Hence the job change to deputy sheriff mentioned above That same year, his son, Charles, purchased the Sherwood Signal newspaper.
Company M of Ohio Infantry was originated by now Captain James F. Crandall and mustered into the U.S. service on May 12, 1898 at Camp Bushnell for service in the Spanish-American War. Crandall was fifty-four years old when he gathered a group of Defiance men to join him in the fight against the Spanish. The conflict lasted only three months and his company did leave for Cuba at the end of December, 1898, returning in April, 1899. On May 18, the Defiance Weekly Express reported on the return home of our soldiers. On Memorial Day that year, Captain James Crandall served as Chief Marshall of the annual parade in Defiance.
Now he needed employment. He and Sarah had had six children, with four still living. Two of those children, Edith M., 22, and Helen L., 12, were at home in 1900. Through his contacts both in the military and the post office, James was transferred to a job at the post office in Chicago "at a snug salary," according to the Defiance Weekly Express of September 2, 1900. He and his family moved to Grossdale, Illinois, "a beautiful suburb of Chicago." In 1910, the census found them in Chicago Ward 14 at 3017 West Lake Street. James, 66, was still working as a letter carrier for the post office. Just he and Sarah lived in their rented house.
At some point before 1920, James's need for adventure and entrepreneurship kicked in and he and Sarah moved to Lamar, Prowers County, Colorado. In 1920, he was 77 and Sarah was 67. Because of the Homestead Act of 1862, James had acquired land through his extensive military service. Soldiers could deduct their time served in the military from the residency requirements, and if they wanted to own the land even faster, they could pay $1.25 an acre and have it in six months. The Bureau of Land Management recorded a claim in Prowers County in 1914 for 320 acres near Cat Creek. In 1922, four grants of land were given to Crandall in Colorado for a total of 320 acres near the Pueblo County and Animas County line.
Apparently, James's health declined and he was admitted at the age of 81 to the Hot Springs, Fall River, South Dakota, Battle Mountain Sanitarium. Here the records described him as 5 foot, 11 inches with blue eyes and gray hair and a dark complexion. He could read and write, was Protestant, and gave his occupation as merchant in Colorado. (Did he begin a dry goods business there?) He was married and his next of kin was John N. Crandall, his son, of Brookfield, Illinois.
He was admitted to Battle Mountain Sanitarium on November 29, 1924 and discharged on June 18, 1926. He spent July through September of 1926 in the Danville (Illinois) Home for Disabled Soldiers, and went back to Battle Mountain in December. In the end of his life, he was at the Old Soldiers Home in Dayton, Ohio where he passed away on October 4, 1931 at the age of 87. He suffered from "hemplegia" (paralysis of one side of the body) and myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle).
|Defiance Crescent News, October, 1931|
|Defiance Crescent-News, October 5, 1931, page 1|
|Captain James F. Crandall was buried in Riverside Cemetery, Defiance|
His wife, Sarah Ann, lived on until 1947 in Illinois; she was 93 when she died.
(This is part of a series on Civil War veterans of Defiance County who were part of the G.A.R., Bishop Post, that headquartered in the city. Formed in 1879, the post was named after a local man, Captain William Bishop, Company D, 100th Regiment, Ohio Volunteer Army who died as a result of wounds received in battle. The veterans' photos are part of a composite photo of members that has survived. If you have other information or corrections to add to the soldiers' stories, please add to the comments!)