If Catherine Cook Crago had to live, essentially, the life of a single mother, Colorado Springs might have been just the place to do it—if she had lived there a quarter of a century later. Then, she would find herself doing what many military wives do when their husbands are away: get involved in the community.
But the time frame of William Crago’s absence, at least as far as can be told at this point, was during and after World War I—a very different time frame, indeed, for finding oneself doing a solo gig at parenting.
Yet Catherine soldiered on. She evidently circulated amongst a social set of community-minded women, judging from some newspaper mentions of her activities. Not long after Will’s departure for Africa, a Colorado Springs Gazette article on June 2, 1918, announced the opening of a new venture for the city: a local branch of the Red Cross.
…The Red Cross shop will be formally opened Wednesday, June 12. It is a new venture for Colorado Springs, but the idea has been tried with success elsewhere. The loyal support and liberal patronage of many prominent persons has been promised. Mrs. Wright has announced the departments to be conducted and the committees who will have charge of them during the summer…
Buried in the midst of a litany of names, sorted by departments, was the entry for Catherine:
Bargain Department.Chairman, Mrs. R. W. Chisholm; …Assistants to the director—Mrs. William H. Crago…
As the women of the city became more adept at their organizational skills, groups of groups combined in cooperative efforts to benefit the less fortunate, including this example from January 16, 1921, naming Catherine as a member of the club listed only as “A.C.A.”:
Club women of the city have been ransacking their garrets, overhauling old trunks, and clearing out their basements, looking for furniture and clothing which can be used at the rummage sale of the City Federation of Women’s Clubs, which is to be held on Tuesday and Wednesday at the Spaulding house. Each club has appointed a committee to tend to the transporting of these articles to the salesrooms, as well as to help dispose of them on the days of the sale.…On Wednesday, the following will help: …A. C. A., Mrs. W. H. Crago, …
Meanwhile, the Cragos’ two children, William and Jean, attended Colorado Springs High School, where Jean featured prominently in the 1930 yearbook, thanks to her active student life. Young William could also be found in Colorado Springs yearbooks, both at the high school level and at a city institution then known as Colorado College. This local college might have been his springboard to entry into the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, for there are entries for this name in that school’s yearbooks, too. He did, ultimately, graduate from the University of Michigan in 1932, and subsequently received his law degree there in 1935.
Whatever became of the Crago family after this point is hard to determine. One cannot say that Catherine lost her husband in 1949, though that is when he died. Whatever became of Catherine after that point led somehow to a move to northern California, where she died on January 7, 1959. I’d be tempted to think she had passed away during a visit there, for the only California connection I can find reaches back a generation to her father’s sister, Dorothea, who had married a Joseph Jackson and lived in San Jose. Catherine passed near San Jose, in San Mateo County, the area around Redwood City.
The theory about being there just for a visit, though, is trashed by the discovery that, in the same county a little over ten years later, Catherine’s daughter Jean also dies, leaving me to believe this had become their residence. Why there, I don’t know. Maybe this puzzle will have to be left for family members to research.
Jean’s brother William, however, headed east after graduating from the University of Michigan, working for a while in New York before returning to his birthplace, Duluth, to serve as an attorney in the very industrial milieu in which his mining engineer father had felt so comfortable.
That city—Duluth, Minnesota—represented home not only for the next generation of this branch of the Crago family, but shows signs of also becoming home to another branch of the Flannigan family, whom we’ll start researching tomorrow.
Photograph and text insert from Jean Crago's 1930 yearbook entry at Colorado Springs High School.