Family Stories

Edwin S. Craig, Lawyer Extraordinaire – Woodford and Jefferson Counties

Most of the time I do not choose a specific person to write about, I look through my old wills, marriages, county books and gravestone photos and something talks to me, asks me to write about a person or family.  Today’s post is based on a gravestone photo from the Versailles Cemetery in Woodford County – that of Edwin S. Craig.  It is a simple, modest stone, but Mr. Craig was very influential during the mid-1800’s in Jefferson County.  He was from Woodford County originally and studied law at Lexington.  Once he finished school, he moved to Louisville to practice and lived there until 1870.  It wasn’t until I pulled out my History of Woodford County Kentucky, by William E. Railey, and was introduced to Edwin Craig’s interesting family line that I realized it must be included in this post.

The progenitor of this particular Craig line was Toliver Craig who lived in Botetourt County, Virginia.  He married Mary Hawkins and the couple had eleven children who were born there.  After marrying, and some having children, they came to Kentucky.  Some came with Toliver and Mary, some at different intervals, but all arrived before Woodford County was formed in 1789.  They were some of the earliest settlers, living in different areas of Fayette County, but when that original county was divided into smaller counties, the families found themselves in Woodford, Jessamine and Scott counties.

One of the sons of Toliver and Mary Hawkins Craig was the Rev. Joseph Craig.  ‘He married Sally Wisdom, and came to Kentucky about the period that his father and other members of the family came.  He was a noted Baptist minister, and it is a matter of record that a large proportion of his Virginia congregation came with him, and they held religious services all along the route.  This statement is born out by a book written by an Episcopal clergyman some years ago that was called “The Traveling Church.”  Another interesting bit of history was related by Richard Blanton who lived to be almost one hundred years old.  ‘Before the Revolution it was not lawful for preachers or teachers of denominations other than the Church of England to speak in public about Gospel truths.  The Baptists were rebellious, and the Rev. Joseph Craig was a leader of those who protested.  He was apprehended and convicted.  I was sheriff of Frederick County at the time and one of my first duties was to arrest and incarcerate the Rev. Joseph, a very unpleasant duty.  While he was in the county bastille it was no determent, as he continued to preach and teach through the bars at the jail.  As it became evident that he was accomplishing more in jail than was possible before his incarceration, he was released by order of the ecclesiastical authorities.

‘Both Rev. Joseph Craig and Richard Blanton later in life lived in Woodford County, and were friends, and the Rev. Craig was just as active in Kentucky building churches and congregations, and organizing religious societies as he was in Virginia.  He died in 1819 and Richard Blanton about that time, the former 77 years old and the latter over 90.

‘The children of Rev. Joseph Craig and Sallie Wisdom were Reuben, who married Fannie Twyman, daughter of William Twyman; James, who married Sallie Mitchum, sister of Dudley Mitchum; Samuel Hawkins who married Patsy Singleton; Thomas, who married Polly Wisdom; and Sally, who married a Mr. Allen; Polly, who married Dudley Mitchum.

‘Samuel H. Craig and Patsy Singleton had a number of children, two of whom were John W. Craig and Mary Craig.  John Wisdom Craig married Mary Twyman, and they had a daughter, Mary Craig, who married her cousin, Broadus Twyman; a son, John W., Jr., who married his cousin Eliza Craig, and Judge Edwin Craig, who married first Eliza P. Mason, second Hontas Thornton, daughter of David Thornton and Charlotte Railey.  Judge Craig had a daughter, Mason Craig, by the first marriage, who lives in Versailles; (no issue by second marriage).  She occupies the old Thornton home.’

In the 1850 census we find Edwin Craig living in Jefferson County, district 3, probably in a hotel.  I couldn’t see the first page for this residence, but Edwin was on the second page, 30 years of age, an attorney.  Many people, of various ages, occupations and places of birth, were living there.

Edwin’s first marriage was on December 10, 1857.  The bond was procured in Louisville on the 9th. Edwin was 34, Eliza, 21.

On Thursday, the 10th inst., at Circle Bend, at the residence of ? Batsel, Esq., by Rev. J. Vernon Cosby, Edwin S. Craig, Esq., of Louisville, to Miss Eliza P. Mason, of Nelson County.

Eliza Mason’s parents were Notley Mason and Julia Ann Davis.  As I thought, when I saw her last name, Eliza is a part of my Mason family who moved from Loudoun County, Virginia, to Nelson County, Kentucky.  Notley Mason was a son of John Mason, brother to my Ann Mason that married Captain John Hancock Linton.  John Mason left a nuncupative will, dated December 23, 1813, in Nelson County.  Two daughters are mentioned, Nancy Mason Duncan, wife of William Duncan, and Lucinda Mason Davis, wife of Robert S. Davis.  Estate was to be divided between all children after the death of wife Ruth Williams.  Note about Notley Mason – after his father’s death he was apprenticed by Benjamin Grayson to Samuel McKay until 21 years of age, then to give him three pounds ten pence and a new suit of clothes, recorded February 20, 1815.  Notley Mason died a young man in 1834.  I believe Eliza was the only child of Notley and Julia.

I could not find Edwin and Eliza Craig in the 1860 census.  September 25, 1862, Edwin and Eliza were blessed with a daughter, Mary Mason Craig.  Nine years later Eliza died March 19, 1871, and was buried in Cave Hill Cemetery in Louisville.  In the 1871 death records for Jefferson County she is listed, aged 40.  No cause of death was given.  The residence was given as Portland.  Today Portland Avenue is in northeastern Louisville, running parallel to I64, between 15th Street and 33rd Street.  There was no obituary to be found.

Edwin Craig married Pocahontas “Hontas” Thornton November 18, 1873, in Woodford County.  Hontas was the daughter of David Thornton and Charlotte Railey.  Edwin and Hontas had no children, but she helped him raise his daughter. Mason.

Let’s talk a little about Edwin’s years as a lawyer.  At the age of 25 Edwin Craig was ready to take on any lawyer, newspaper or other to set matters straight about how he felt or voted.  In the July 10, 1846, Louisville Daily Courier, he stated, “In reply to an announcement made in your Courier of the 9th inst., I would beg to state that I will respond to the call at early candle-light to-night.  My fellow citizens are invited to be present; at the upper middle market house.  Yours, respectfully, Edwin S. Craig.”  I could find no copy of the Morning Courier he referenced, but in the August 3, 1846, Louisville Daily Courier he addressed a similar situation in which it seemed he was a member of the Native American party.  He clearly states he is a Whig, not a “Native American,” and if elected will vote for the Whig candidate for the U. S. Senate.  Native American Party was another name for the Know Nothing Party in the mid-1850’s.

The Louisville Daily Courier, Jefferson County, Kentucky

Saturday, September 17, 1853

Commonwealth’s Attorney – The official majority for Edwin S. Craig who was elected Commonwealth’s Attorney, in this the Sixth Judicial District, on September 3rd, is 256.  This is a flattering compliment to Mr. Craig, one of the youngest members at our bar; and we have reason to believe that he will show himself worthy of his fellow citizen’s confidence, by energy and strict attention to duty.

Edwin Craig did indeed give the ‘energy and attention to duty’ that his job needed.

In 1858 Edwin Craig was the prosecutor in a case in which the jury could not agree, and the men accused were acquitted.  The Louisville Daily Courier says of him, ‘In the case of Coleman, we neglected to mention that Edwin S. Craig, Esq., alone prosecuted, while the defense was represented by a number of the ablest counsel who have appeared at the Louisville bar.  Mr. Craig’s argument in the cause, we hear, was one of his finest efforts, and bears favorable comparison with any speech on the occasion.  With no attempt at oratory, it was effective, and as it should have been, characterized by sound law.’

In August of 1868, at the rally for Hugh Seymour and Blair Pole, it was found that the invited speaker had not arrived due to illness.  It was noted that Edwin S. Craig was in the crowd and he was ‘lustily cried upon the stand.  He held the vast multitude spell-bound for about an hour.’  He must have been quite a speaker.

For twenty-five years Edwin Craig was a lawyer, Commonwealth Attorney for part of that time, and finally Judge.  But his steam started to wear out.  As is mentioned in the following obituary he retired to his farm in Nelson County, probably land that at one time was owned by the Mason family.  He rested and recuperated and in 1873 married Hontas Thornton.  This marriage brought him home to Woodford County.  The couple were together for nine years before his death May 25, 1882.  He was buried in Versailles Cemetery.

Edwin S. Craig, born August 23, 1821, died May 25, 1882. Versailles Cemetery, Woodford County, Kentucky.


The Courier Journal, Louisville, Jefferson County, Kentucky

Tuesday, May 30, 1882


The Funeral of Judge Edwin S. Craig – A Sketch of His Life

[Special to the Courier-Journal]

Versailles, May 29 – The remains of Judge Edwin S. Craig arrived here Saturday night last at 8 o’clock, and were at once conveyed to his late residence by members of Landmark Lodge No. 40, F.A.M.

On Sunday morning the funeral took place from the M. E. Church, of which he was a member.  The ceremonies were sadly impressive.

The sermon was delivered by Rev. E. H. Pearce, his pastor, friend and brother Mason, from the text: “Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life or by death.”  After the church services the remains were conveyed to the cemetery and tenderly laid away.  The pall-bearers were R. Y. Berry, R. B. George, J. J. Hays, Dr. R. Vaughan, J. S. Minary and A. L. Childers.

The news of the death of Judge Craig was hardly a surprise, as it was well known that his health was fast declining.  Thinking a change of climate and travel would be beneficial to him, he in March last undertook a trip West, remaining some weeks in Kansas City with relatives; but failing to receive the hoped-for improvement, he retired to the home of his brother-in-law, Mr. D. I. Porter, in Pettis County, Missouri.  A few days after reaching there he became much worse, and lingered in great physical suffering until Thursday, the 25th inst., when he breathed his last, passing away quietly, willingly and happily.


Judge Edwin S. Craig was born in this (Woodford) county in 1821.  His legal education completed in Lexington, he at once went to Louisville to practice his profession.  He was very successful, his legal acquirements, his close application and conscientious discharge of all trusts confided to him securing for him the position of Commonwealth’s Attorney, which responsible office he held for nine years.  He was afterwards elected, by a large majority, Judge of the City Court, which position he also held for many years.

In 1870, with health impaired, he retired to his farm in Nelson County, near Bardstown, to recruit, where, leading a quiet life, free from all excitement, his health was restored.

In 1873 he married his second wife, Miss Pocahontas Thornton, of this place, daughter of David Thornton, deceased, so long the faithful and efficient President of the Bank of Woodford.  Since 1878 Judge Craig has resided in his native home among his old friends, of whom he was very fond.

Judge Craig’s acquirements were of a high order.  In argument or debate he was courteous, yet positive and forcible.  An affectionate husband, an indulgent and devoted father, a fast friend, a genial companion, a thorough gentleman.  We all loved and admired him and we shall miss him.  A tear to his memory, and peace to his ashes.

Hontas Thornton, wife of Edwin S. Craig, September 14, 1837 – November 12, 1901.

Hontas Thornton lived another nine years before passing away November 12, 1901, and was laid to rest next to Edwin.  In the 1900 Woodford County Census, she and Mason Craig lived with Jeanette Thorton, 75.  I’m sure they were at least cousins, possibly closer related.  In the household was Sally Bailey, 54; Hontas, 62; Mason, 35; and Mary Oliver, 64.  The older women were all widows and Mason was single.

The Courier Journal, Louisville, Jefferson County, Kentucky

Wednesday, November 18, 1901

Versailles Woman Dead

Versailles, Ky., Nov. 12 – Mrs. Hontas Thornton Craig, aged about sixty years, one of the best-known women of Versailles, died this morning at her home on Morgan Street, after a long and painful illness.  She was a daughter of the late David Thornton, Sr., of Versailles, and the widow of Edwin S. Craig, for many years an eminent lawyer.  Funeral services will be held at her late home Wednesday afternoon at 2:30 o’clock.

After the death of her step-mother Mason Craig lived another 48 years.  Nothing was found in the newspapers concerning her.  The only account of her was listed in the Woodford County history mentioned at the beginning of this post – ‘Mason Craig is the present occupant of the old Thornton home in Versailles.’  The book was copyrighted 1938.

Mary Mason Craig, daughter of Edwin S. Craig, September 25, 1862 – July 23, 1948.

The Lexington Leader, Fayette County, Kentucky

Saturday, July 24, 1948

Versailles Woman Dies in Lexington

Versailles, Ky., July 24 – Miss Mason Craig, 86, a resident of Versailles, died at 10:45 o’clock Friday night at a Lexington hospital.  She had been ill for many years.  She was born in Louisville September 25, 1862, a daughter of Judge Edwin S. and Eliza P. Mason Craig.  She was educated at Science Hill school in Shelbyville.

Miss Craig leaves no near relatives.  The body was taken to the Miller-Rasnick funeral home here where it will remain until 4 o’clock Monday afternoon, when services will be held at the grave in Versailles Cemetery.  The services will be conducted by the Rev. Earl T. Curry, pastor of the Methodist church of which Miss Craig was a member.

I hate to end on such a low note.  I feel sadder typing this obituary than any I’ve found in a long time.  Did she have any visitors at the funeral home?  It seems such a lonely way to die, with no relatives to be with you.  It reminds me of a Mr. Arthur Burton who lived across the street from us when I was young.  He and his wife, Belle, were always elderly to me and lived in a tiny house.  Belle died several years before Mr. Burton.  Mom and her friend, Shirley, would take meals to him and he was always so appreciative.  When he passed away mom and Shirley went to the church where his body was laid out.  They were the only ones there. 

Back to Mason Craig, a year later her estate was still unsettled and this advertisement to find relatives was in the November 13, 1949, Courier Journal:

Information Wanted

To settle the estate of Mary Mason Craig of Versailles, the undersigned desires information regarding her heirs at law.  Said heirs are believed to be descendants of the brothers and sisters of her father, Judge Edwin B. Craig of Versailles and Louisville, Kentucky.  We particularly desire to locate the descendants, if any, of Joe Boswell Craig, David Craig, Julia Craig and Sydney Craig.  Her mother being Elizabeth Priscilla Mason of Nelson County, Kentucky, information as to her maternal kindred is also desired, and particularly as to the descendants of Lucinda Mason who married Robert Davis, Nancy Mason who married Duncan, Benjamin Mason, Ann Maria Mason, Ordell Mason and William Mason who married Amelia Carter.

Woodford Bank & Trust Company, Administrator of Mary Mason Craig, Decd.  P.O. Box 127, Versailles, Kentucky

My question – did they need a genealogist to find the names listed above?

I do apologize for the length of this post, but everything I found was so interesting and I wanted to share.  Are any of you still reading?

9 replies »

  1. I have a James Toliver Craig Lincoln, Kentucky, Mason in Lincoln and Paris Missouri, and of course Carter Virginia, Kentucky, Missouri. And some Linton. I will look around at this.

  2. Very interesting..I am a distant Craig in Scott Co. and reading they married their cousins gave me relief. My VanPelts, Crutchers and Richardson’s did the same. It’s been written/told in the family my GGGrandmother married twice but I’ve searched for years without success for records. Half siblings’ children married supposedly..if I could only find the grandmother..she’s an enigma. Love reading your the end 😁

    • Thank you for verifying you read the entire post! Ha! Some records were destroyed when courthouses suffered a fire or other natural disaster – or were purposely destroyed during the Civil War. We can keep searching, but I believe some things may not be found – for whatever reason.

  3. Paragraph nine, the word “find” is missing in the first sentence. I so look forward to your emails, dear friend. Each is a veritable treasure trove… Thinking of you this Memorial Day, Patricia


  4. Thank you for posting this info. I’m looking for Sally Craig (Bush), and all the Hawkins’ in Kentucky. My grandfather was born in KY May 1875, we believe in central KY or Whitley County area. We think his mother was a “Hawkes/Hawks” from Virginia. Would like to subscribe to your news letters. Forever hopeful of finding these paternal grandparents! Also retired, widow, from Harlan, parents from Jellico TN area. I’m building a medical journal of what “runs” in the family to pass on to future generations!

  5. I’m an absolute novice at genealogy but do so much enjoy trying to piece together my (possible) ancestry and learn the history of their day and time. It is a bit frustrating, however, bc I’m finding such contradictory information abt my Craig line which appears to have begun (on this side of the pond) in the colony of VA (Spotsylvania). I am very interested in the ongoing conversation abt Craigs on your blog. I thought perhaps through this forum I could gain some clarity abt the contradictions. [As an aside, as I’ve researched the children of Toliver (derived from Taliaferro) Craig and Mary Hawkins Craig, and their children, I’ve found many contradictions, even though the Reverends Craig of the Travelng Church are documented in many sources of VA and KY histories, Sons & Daughter’s of the American Revolution, various family genealogies, personal letters, etc. And the sons and daus of the next Craig generation are contradictory as well.]
    The following is what I’ve pieced together thus far of my particular Craig pedigree connection. I’m sure there are many errors and possibly incorrect linkages. I thought your blog on this line of Craigs from what I’ve read might be able to help.
    John Craig, my (presumed) 8th ggrandfather, which some sources say died aboard ship upon passage to the colonies, presumably (m) Jane Taliaferro (Craig). There is controversy as to whether or not Jane was actually a Craig and gave her son her surname, with the father of her child unknown. Or the ship upon which she gained passage, had a Captain named Talioferro so she gave her baby his name, or John Craig is actually the father of Taliaferro Craig, his only son.
    From this union of uncertain parantage was born Taliaferro (Toliver) Craig, my presumed 7th ggrandfather (1704-1795), who (m) Mary Hawkins Craig (1716-1804) and had a son named Rev Joseph Hawkins Craig (sr),(1741-1819) my 6th ggrandfather who (m) Sarah Wisdom Craig(1744-1820).
    In turn, Joseph Hawkins Craig (sr), my 5th ggrandfather had a son Thomas Craig, my 5th g-grandfather( 1770-1841), who (m) Mary Wisdom Craig (1779-1840),
    Thomas and Mary had a son, Francis W Craig (1804-1856), my 4th ggrandfather, who (m) Mary Yeager (1808-1848).
    The aforementioned Francis W and Mary Yeager Craig had a dau, Mary E Craig (1828-1903), my 3rd ggrandmother.
    Marey E Craig (m) Samuel Harvey Kyle (1816-1891). Of this relationship, there are records of support such as birth and death records, that link this union to the following, of which I am certain.
    Mary E (Craig) and Samuel Harvey Kyle had a dau, Mary Louisa Kyle (1844-1899), my 2nd ggrandmother, who (m) George Harry Nodler (1841-??). Of this relationship I am sure.
    Mary Louisa (Kyle) and George Harry Nodler had a son, Peter Abel Nodler (1872-1951), my 1st ggrandfather who (m) Margaret “Maggie” Irons(1874-1917) (1st) and Emma Grimsley (2nd) (Peter and Emma had no children.) Of his relationship to me I am sure. My family has hand written notes of endearment btwn the two that are precious to our family.
    Peter Able Nodler and Margaret Irons had a dau, Lana Nodler (1903-1998), my paternal grandmother. Of this I am obviously certain.
    Lana Nodler (m) Russel Carlisle Baynum (1907-1989), my paternal grandfather, who had a son, Gilbert R Baynum (1929-1998), my father. Of this I am obviously certain.
    That’s the extent of my research on this line of my paternal ancestry. I welcome any feedback, corrections or questions. Thank you!

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