Captain Henry Truby’s Hard Knocks

A medical tragedy, a good deed, & a genealogical mystery

The year 1854 was a rough one for Captain Henry Truby and his family in Gilpin Twp, PA. His diary notes that a severe drought from April to September caused all his crops to fail, and he needed to lead his thirsty cattle down to the Kiski River for water. On November 20, the Captain’s father, John Truby (1772-1854), died and was buried in the old Apollo Cemetery. Then, to top off this disastrous year, the Captain’s diary mentions his 3-year-old son:

The same fall my dear little boy Jacob Hill Truby’s eyes got sore and lost his sight. We tried every remedy to get his eyes restored to sight, but the best fesicians that we could hear of were baffled.

Jacob was the first of 5 children and the only son born to Capt Truby and his wife Alvina. Sometime during the 1850s, the Trubys also became foster parents to a little boy named Andrew Craig Jr, the son of another boat captain who was a close friend of Capt Truby. Little Andrew Craig was a year younger than Jacob Truby, and they were likely raised as brothers and fast friends.

Once Jacob Truby lost his eyesight, little Andrew Craig pitched in as the family’s farmer-in-training, helping his foster father manage day-to-day chores on the Gilpin Twp farm. Census records and other documents show that Andrew Craig continued to live with the Truby family, working as a farmhand until he was 22 years old.

Meanwhile, as the years went on, it became quite clear that Jacob Truby’s eyesight would never recover. By the time the boy was 12, Captain Truby and his wife arranged for Jacob to get the best of care at the Pennsylvania Institute for the Instruction of the Blind in Philadelphia, a boarding school established in 1836 as the nation’s first school for the blind. It’s still in operation today, now known as the Overbrook School for the Blind.

PAinstituteInstructionOfBlind
Pennsylvania Institution for the Instruction of the Blind, Philadelphia PA. Lithograph by J T Bown, 1840.

Twelve-year-old Jacob Truby’s studies began on September 1, 1863. He thrived over the next three year as he studied music, learned to read raised letters with his fingertips, and practiced the trade of broom-making. During summer vacations in July and August, Jacob returned to the Gilpin Twp homestead, where his family had grown to include not only his foster brother Andrew but also sisters Mary Adda, Kate, Ida, and Myrtle.

But medical trouble was brewing. In February 1866, the Trubys got word that Jacob had developed a high fever and was gravely ill. The Captain journeyed to the school in Philadelphia. Jacob apparently recognized his father, “but he was very low,” the Captain writes in his diary. Just 30 hours after the Captain’s arrival, his 14-year-old son Jacob had passed away, and the Captain brought his little boy’s body back home to Leechburg. Though he died in February, the boy wasn’t buried until May, presumably waiting until the spring thaw softened the frozen ground.

Today, little Jacob Truby is buried in the Leechburg cemetery alongside two of his sisters (Kate and Myrtle), his parents Henry and Alvina Truby, and even his foster brother Andrew Craig Jr. (1852-1910). Andrew Craig, in turn, is buried next to his wife Harriet C. Craig (1849- 1929) and two of their children: Henry T Craig (1875-1891), who died at age 14, a­­nd P. Calvin Craig (1882-1919). I’ll hazard a guess that Henry T Craig was named for Andrew’s foster dad, Captain Henry Truby. The shared cemetery plots speak to the closeness of the Truby family and their adopted son, Andrew Craig Jr.

HenryTrubyPlot2
Capt Henry Truby family plot, Leechburg Cemetery. Tombstones for Andrew Craig Jr. and his wife Harriet are in the foreground. Photo by Vicki Contie, April 2016.

AndrewCraig-Sep9-1910-LeechburgAdvance

Upon the death of Andrew Craig Jr, The Leechburg Advance published this obituary on September 9, 1910. I found this obituary by searching the online archives of the Leechburg Area Museum and Historical Society, which recently took on the herculean task of digitizing their archives of Leechburg Advance newspapers. They have more than 5,000 online articles, ranging from the 1880s to the early 2000s. Their searchable archive is still in beta-testing, and it’s available only to members of the historical society. It’s a wonderful benefit of membership in this awesome volunteer organization.

Weigh in on a mystery? The Craig family and little Andrew’s mom

Now here’s a little mystery, for folks who like to ponder genealogical problems. It’s a little in the weeds, so stop reading here if you’re not a fan of loose ends and uncertainty. A timeline for this mystery is summarized at the end of the article.

In researching details for this story, I wanted to figure out why Andrew Craig Jr. moved in with the Truby family at such a young age, since his father Capt Craig Sr. was still alive when his son was living with the Trubys. But the more I dug into the story, the more puzzling it became. I think I’m concluding that Andrew Craig Jr. may have been born when the Captain was between wives, but I can’t figure out who young Andrew’s mother was. See what you think about the evidence below. And there are a few related mysteries as well.

I first encountered the Truby-Craig family connection by reading the History of Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, Volume 2, published in 1906 and authored by Boucher, Jordon, & Woolf. I’m delighted that biographical books like this exist, but they are notoriously unreliable. Featured subjects could say whatever they wanted in their brief biosketches, without having to answer to pesky fact-checkers. That’s why lineage societies—like the Daughters of the American Revolution and the “First Families” designation of the Western Pennsylvania Genealogical Society—do not accept such biographical accounts as proof of lineage (though such books can serve as secondary corroborating evidence).

To be honest, biographical profiles in such books always make me think: What is this guy trying to hide? (and it’s almost always a guy). I’ve encountered several bios that seem designed to burnish a family’s somewhat tarnished reputation. Shady business dealings, excessive tippling, mental illness, addictions, suicide, and children born outside of wedlock of course are never mentioned in these books—and why should they be? Emphasis is placed on the family’s long-standing reputation in the local community, opportune marriages, impressive forebears, and positions held in local and state governments. Accentuate the positive; eliminate the negative.

Capt Andrew Craig: How many wives & children? According to Boucher, Jordon, & Woolf (1906), Andrew Craig Jr’s father was Captain Andrew Craig, an “industrious and thrifty” man who manned the boats that plied the Allegheny River. Capt Andrew Craig was born in Kittanning PA in 1815, and he spent most of his life there, being “well-known throughout western Pennsylvania as one of the pioneer river men.” Once the canals and boat trades gave way to the fledging railroads, Capt Craig left the rivers and took charge of the first engine to run on the newly completed Allegheny Valley railroad line from Pittsburgh to Kittanning, according to the book. The book does not mention any of Capt Andrew Craig’s wives (we know of two: Harriet Craig and Mary Anne Houston Craig) or his other children (we know of a few: Rhoda & Mary, both buried in the Kittanning Cemetery and born to Harriet Craig; Andrew Craig Jr.; and Kitty, born to Mary Anne Craig).

Capt Andrew Craig died in 1867, according to probate papers and his tombstone in the Kittanning Cemetery. His first wife Harriet died in 1848, 5 years before Andrew Craig Jr. was born. Capt Craig and wife Harriet and are buried next to two of their children—Rhoda and Mary—in the Kittanning Cemetery.

I can’t find the date when Capt Craig married his 2nd wife, Mary Ann Houston (born 1823), but they first appear together in the 1860 census, living in Manor Twp. PA with their 2-year-old daughter Kitty, a 21-year-old servant, and a 7-year-old farmhand. That same year, 9-year-old Andrew Craig Jr. first appears in the census living with Capt Truby and family. Why wasn’t Andrew Jr. living with his dad’s family and his 2nd wife Mary Ann Houston? I can only conclude that Andrew Jr. had a different mother. But who?

Andrew Craig Jr. grew up to marry a young lady named Harriet Grinder—the same first name as his dad’s first wife. The couple wed in 1874, and the 1880 census shows them living in Gilpin Twp with their two children: 2-year-old James L. Craig and a 2-month-old baby girl Oakey Craig, along with an 8-year-old “adopted daughter,” Annie Cane. The couple will later move to Vandergrift and have 3 additional children. See relevant lines from the census record below.

Second mystery: Why are 2 Andrew Craigs living in Gilpin Twp? Strangely enough, the 1880 census shows another Andrew Craig living in Gilpin Twp. This “other” Andrew Craig is married to a woman named Mary, which is the same first name as Capt Craig’s 2nd wife. Based on Census records, I can’t figure out where this Andrew Craig came from, nor where he moved in the future. He and his wife Mary seem to have dropped off the face of the earth.

1880Census-AndrewCraig&Harriet
The 1880 census shows 28-year-old Andrew Craig, a grocery merchant, living in Gilpin Twp with 30-year-old wife Harriet and two children, James L and Oakey, along with “adopted daughter” 8-year-old Annie Cane. This data was recorded on June 5, 1880, on page 17 of the Census. This is the Andrew Craig who grew up on the Truby farm in Gilpin Twp, because the names of his wife and children match the names in the Westmoreland County biosketch.
1880Census-AndrewCraig&Mary
Two days earlier, on June 3, 1880, Page 8 of the Census lists a different Andrew Craig. This Andrew Craig is 30 year-old farmer living in Gilpin Twp with wife Mary, age 25. It’s a strange coincidence that two Andrew Craigs of similar ages are living in Gilpin Twp in the 1880s. I haven’t been able to track the heritage of this Andrew and Mary Craig; they seem to disappear after the 1880s.

Again, note that the first Andrew Craig above is married to a woman named Harriet, and the second Andrew Craig above is married to a woman named Mary. The elder Captain Andrew Craig had a first wife named Harriet and a later wife named Mary. That is an odd coincidence.

All about Junior. As a young family man, Andrew Craig Jr. tried out several different occupations, working first as a grocery merchant, then hauling coal as a teamster in the Rodgers & Birchfield Iron & Steel Company in Leechburg, then shifting to work in the new Vandergrift mills in 1897, where he was promoted to position of sheet heater. The Craig family moved to Vandergrift Heights around the turn of the century and purchased a home on Longfellow Street.

Who’s your momma? When he died in 1910 at age 58, the information on Andrew Craig Jr’s death certificate was reported by his son, P. Calvin Craig of Vandergrift. I can’t decipher the writing that indicates the maiden name of the mother, nor the mother’s birthplace. Ancestry.com interprets the mother’s maiden name as “Warner.” We can’t be certain that P. Calvin Craig knew the identity of his biological grandmother. Any thoughts, dear readers?

AndrewCraigJrDeath-1910

Might Capt Andrew Craig have had an additional wife in the 1850s, between the death of his first wife Harriet in 1848 and the birth of Kitty Craig in 1858? Or is it possible that Andrew Craig Jr. was born out of wedlock, perhaps to a Miss Warner? Are there any descendants of Andrew Craig out there who can weigh in on the matter?

Here’s a summing up of the timeline, which might help shed some light:

  • 1848. Death of Harriet Craig, the first wife of Capt Andrew Craig. The couple is buried together in the Kittanning Cemetery.
  • 1852, January 3. Andrew Craig Junior born in Allegheny Twp (per History of Westmoreland County, Volume 2). Who is his mother? It can’t be Harriet Craig, and it’s unlikely to be Mary Anne Houston Craig.
  • 1858 or earlier. Capt Andrew Craig likely married Mary Anne Houston no later than 1858, since they have a 2-year-old daughter by the 1860 census.
  • 1860 census. Capt Andrew Craig is living in Manor Twp with his “new” wife, Mary Anne Houston Craig and their 2-year-old daughter Kitty, as well as with a 21-year-old servant and 7-year-old farmhand.
    Meanwhile, the Captain’s 9-year-old son Andrew Craig Jr is living in Gilpin Twp with the Capt Henry Truby family.
  • 1867. Death of Capt Andrew Craig. Capt James Murphy is administrator of his estate, as witnessed by Capt Henry Truby & Jacob R Rupp.
  • 1870 census. 18-year-old Andrew Craig Jr is living with Captain Henry Truby and family.
    Meanwhile, Capt Andrew Craig’s 47-year-old widow, Mary Anne Craig, is now living in Kittanning with her 12-year-old daughter Kitty. Co-habitants include Mary Anne’s sister Charlotte Morgan (age 26, born in PA) and 8-year-old Samuel Morgan, born in Illinois.
  • 1880 census. 28-year-old Andrew Craig Jr is living in Gilpin Twp with wife Harriet & their two children, 2-year-old James L. & 2-month-old Oakey, plus an “adopted daughter,” Annie Cane.
    Meanwhile, the census shows another Andrew Craig, age 30, also living in Gilpin Twp with his 25-year-old wife Mary.
    It could be just a coincidence, but you gotta admit, it’s a little spooky. Especially since the wives’ names are the same as two of Captain Andrew Craig’s wives.
  • 1910. Andrew Craig Jr. dies. His death certificate has a scrawled name listed for his mother, but I can’t decipher. Who was Andrew Craig Junior’s mother?

Again, insights into the above Craig-related mysteries would be appreciated!

Apologies for getting into the weeds on the Craig family above. Sometimes you have to know when to stop pursuing tangential questions when doing genealogical research. It can be hard to stop digging, though.

As always, please remember to support our local historical societies, especially the wonderful Leechburg Area Museum and Historical Society, the always delightful Apollo Area Historical Society, and the steadfast and sturdy Victorian Vandergrift Museum & Historical.

Read more about Capt Henry Truby in these articles:

Subscribe to this blog to receive emails when new articles become available.

Wishing you all a happy March!

–Vicki Contie

5 comments

  1. Awesome read and wonderfully researched. Thank you. A mystery indeed. It’s curious that Andrew’s death certificate is legible except for his mother’s maiden name and birthplace. Did the writer know but wanted to obscure the facts? Adding more intrigue; is there some “smudging” to the those boxes – perhaps entered once then erased and re-written? I see a Dan Brown book in the works…

    Liked by 3 people

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s