CRABTREE-L ArchivesArchiver > CRABTREE > 2000-01 > 0949086968
Subject: Re: [CRABTREE] South Carolina - & Lotta???
Date: Fri, 28 Jan 2000 14:16:08 EST
John Crabtree was born in Randolph county, North Carolina in 1763/64. He
was a Revolutionary War veteran, having served as a drummer boy. His adult
occupation was that of a farmer. He and his wife, Margaret Harkness/Harkins,
married about 1780, most likely in North Carolina. They had a son, also
named John (A.) Crabtree, who was born in 1809 in Muhlenberg/Christian
county, Kentucky. This son, John A. Crabtree married Nancy Ann Griffith,
October 18, 1831 in Hillsboro, Montgomery county, Illinois. John A. Crabtree
was also a farmer by occupation. They, in turn, had a son they also named
John Christian Crabtree who was born on 1 Nov. 1847 at home on a farm near
Hillsboro, Montgomery County, Illinois. John Christian Crabtree married
Esther Martin Witmer in 1868 somewhere in Missouri. All three generations
are buried in the Crabtree Cemetery in Hillsboro, Montgomery County, Illinois.
John Christian Crabtree survived the rigorous conditions of pioneer life. He
was a farmer and performed the arduous tasks of developing new land. His
father gave him 40 acres of family farmland near Hillsboro, Montgomery
county, Illinois, upon his marriage in 1868 to Esther Martin Witmer. They
lived there for a year before purchasing a farm of 119 acres also near
Hillsboro, Montgomery County, Illinois, where they continued to live. He
bought a mare which was a yearling colt and her brother at auction for less
than $200. To his great good fortune the colt and filly became the fastest
harness racing horses to that time. The horses were named Hedgewood Boy and
Lady Maude C. and attained times at 2.01 and 2.00 1/2 minutes. Their history
is well documented in The Western Horseman. Winnings enabled him to pay all
his debts and enjoy ownership of world famous horses. The Crabtrees
discouraged other attempts to buy with a firm price of $100,000. While
transporting Hedgewood Boy by train, John was killed either by the sliding
door as his train car was bumped or by leaning out and his head striking a
track side pole. The horses were sold to settle his estate. The horses pulled
the hearse to his burial in the Crabtree Cemetery, Litchfield, Illinois.
>From the News Herald, Litchfield, Illinois, Thursday December 24, 1992 by
Recent publication of the census of Crabtree cemetery, located about two
miles southeast of Litchfield, Montgomery County, Illinois) has raised
interest in the Crabtree family, especially John C. Crabtree owner of the
world famous pacers Lady Maude C. and Hedgewood Boy.
Mr. John C. Crabtree, then of Taylorville, was killed on Aug. 2, 1914, in the
railroad yards there as he returned home with one of the famous horses, Lady
Maude C. Mr. Crabtree was a former resident of Litchfield and had lived on a
farm near Hillsboro that he purchased and, according to his obituary, had
mortgaged for $2,700.
The obituary continues saying, "fortune knocked on his door when he went to
an auction at the Henry farm to buy a team of work horses. He bought the
famous pair for $270 and for a while worked them as a team. He discovered
Lady Maude C. had considerable speed when, according to one story, the team
was frightened by a covey of quail as they pulled a field plow and ran away."
Though stories vary somewhat, it is also said John Crabtree went to the Henry
sale to buy sheep, spent the money instead on the two horses and was the
object of his wife's wrath when he returned home.
John C. Crabtree met his death, indirectly, because of the horses. They were
in great demand as breeding stock and he was returning from Indianapolis with
Lady Maude C. where she had been taken for breeding purposes. As the private
railroad car was shunted onto a siding and Crabtree waited for railroad crews
to spot the car where it could be unloaded, the engine hit the car
exceptionally hard The bump caused the open door to close, catching
Crabtree's door to close, catching Crabtree's head and crushing it. He died
almost instantly. The accident occurred at about 1:30 in the morning. About
two weeks before his death, Crabtree announced in Litchfield that he was
taking the two horses on a world tour a month later. He never realized his
dream nor did he realize his often stated wish that he survive the two horses
and could be buried beside them. At the time of his death, Crabtree was 67
years old. He was buried in Crabtree cemetery on land which his father, John
A. Crabtree, had donated. The cemetery stands beside the old Crabtree school,
last the home of Phillips Chapel of the A.T.A.
Crabtree was born and attended schools in Litchfield. Early in life he failed
to show any of the ability as a horseman that marked his later life. He was
47 when he purchased the horses and his life changed dramatically. In 1909,
in Kalamazoo, Mich., the pair set the record of 2:02 3/4 In
single harness Lady Maude C.'s record was 2:00 1/2 and Hedgewood Boy went the
mile in 2:01. They were an evenly matched team and it is interesting to note
that Lady Maude C. became entangled in a barbed wire fence and her injuries
nearly killed her. She was scarred for life. Crabtree turned down an offer
of $75,000 for the pair from the actress Lottie Crabtree, who was his cousin.
Mrs. Crabtree, the former Esther Witmer, a native of Niagara Falls, New York,
she the daughter of David Witmer and Fannie Martin, likewise met her death in
an accident. She was visiting her sons Chris and Dave, residents of Simms,
Montana, when she got caught under a car in a traffic accident near Great
Falls, Montana on Thanksgiving Day in 1925. She suffered a fractured skull,
the same injury that killed her husband 11 years earlier. She died on Dec. 1.
Her body was returned here to Illinois to be buried beside her husband in the
Crabtree Cemetery, Hillsboro, Montgomery County, Illinois.
What happened to the horses? They were sold in the twilight of their careers
to settle Mr. Crabtree's estate on Nov. 28, 1914, for $7,000. The buyer was
one Thomas Kiser of Tonington. Kiser retired the pair from racing when he
purchased them but the sale to settle Kiser's estate in 1927 attracted more
than 350 bidders from throughout the country. Lady Maude C. had died some
four years previously. On Nov. 12, 1927, his racing days long since past,
Hedgewood Boy was sold for $2,500 to Fred Kinney, a Taylorville insurance
man. The horse lived past 27 years of age. Lady Maude C. and Hedgewood Boy,
brother and sister, brought fame to the local area. The pair at one time were
stable mates of the great harness horse, Dan Patch.
As late as 1960, a race held in New York and reported in the New York Times
was named The Lady Maude Stake. In the race were 13 descendants of Lady
Maude, according to the Times. Hedgewood Boy is said to have been buried in
Christian county, marked with a monument and fenced.
On the day of John C. Crabtree's funeral, the horses were hitched to the
hearse and carried their owner to his final resting place. The photograph,
taken that day, shows the horses in front of Dodds Undertaking Parlor.