Friday, May 18, 2012

Where’s Crago?

While William H. Crago is conspicuously missing from the Colorado Springs household for the 1920 census, he is not the “absent father” that might be conjured up by today’s mindset. The family, sporting a live-in maid, was obviously not hurting too badly at the time—at least as far as material considerations might lead one to believe.

That benefit was most likely owing to the reputation the man had built up over the years owing to his professional accomplishments. A Google Books find from the March 19, 1921, edition of the Engineering and Mining Journal includes a short explanation under the appropriate column title, “Men You Should Know About.”
W. H. Crago, in charge of mining engineering and exploration for the Union Minière du Haut Katanga, is visiting in Duluth, Minn., after an absence of three years in the Belgian Congo, Africa. Mr. Crago was formerly assistant to John Uno Sebenius, general mining engineer for the Oliver Iron Mining Co.
I’m unsure of what drew William Crago back to Duluth in 1921—business obligations, perhaps?—because his family, at that time, resided not there, but in Colorado Springs.

By September of that year, he does find time to squeeze in a visit with his wife and children, as we can surmise from a mention in the Colorado Springs Gazette on the sixteenth:
One of the most distinguished engineers in the United States is here for a brief visit. He is William H. Crago who has just returned from an extensive trip thru the coal fields of northern Manchuria in the interests of the Manchurian railroad system. With Mrs. Crago, he is staying at 509 North Tejon street.
Strangely enough, that 509 North Tejon Street address is not the one given for the family in the 1920 census. Perhaps they have moved. Hopefully, they have already settled in at their new location, for this visit, the newspaper assures us, will be brief. With duties completed both in the iron and copper mines of the then-Belgian Congo and the coal fields of northern Manchuria, who knows what adventure will come calling next. The man is evidently in demand.

But, no, it appears: by December 21 of that same year, the Colorado Springs Gazette announces that Mr. Will Crago—Just Back From Belgian Congo—will be speaking the next day at the Kiwanis luncheon meeting. His topic: his time spent in the Belgian Congo.
Will Crago, engineer, who has recently returned from two years in the Belgian Congo, with the British East Africa company, and now engaged in equally interesting work in Manchuria, will be the principal speaker at the regular meeting of the Kiwanis club at 12:30 o’clock today at the Elks home. Mr. Crago will speak on “My African Experiences.”
So that “brief” stay in the Springs that began in September was either interrupted by other whirlwind professional tours of duty, including that three—no, make that two—years' effort in Africa, or William H. Crago actually got a breather to stay home with his family for a while.

Or, perhaps, it was merely another instance of newspaper error.

Photograph: Ruandese workers at the Kisanga copper mine, Katanga, Belgian Congo, late 1920s; courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.


  1. His worldwide business efforts lead me to think he was overseas in 1910 with his new bride, possibly in Belgium Congo (which was probably not the best place for a young baby and family from the USA). If so, she might have been in for an eye-opener huh? Sort of like Frank's wife Norma, who ended up going to England ASAP to be with her new husband.

    I wonder if Father Flannigan ever wistfully pondered his "career choice" given all the "mining engineers" in his family?

  2. What an adventurous man William Crago Sr! And you didn't just hop on a plane in those was a long ride on a steam ship.
    Must have been quite the story teller about those experiences in Africa!

  3. That was my must have been an adventure just getting there:)


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