Saturday, March 4, 2017

Born Today March 4: Jack Crawford


Jack Wallace Crawford was born on this date in County Donegal, Ireland.  He would come to be known as either "Captain Jack" or the "Poet Scout." His parents were both from Scotland and later immigrated with their young son to Northern Ireland.  When Crawford was only 14 the family left for America; joining members of their family that had already immigrated to Pennsylvania.  At 17, he found work in that state as a coal miner, but eventually followed his father off to war in joining the Pennsylvania Regiment volunteers during the Civil War.  Wounded, he spent time convalescing in a Philadelphia hospital where he leaned to read and write.  It is said that he may have gotten his first taste for stage performance while at the hospital In 1875, he got caught up in the shameful Black Hills Gold Rush, where he later joined up into a militia like group calling itself the "Black Hills Rangers."  During this time, he worked as a journalist briefly, and got involved with local politics.  This is how he got started in westward expansion "security"--it was the beginning of his work as an army scout that would later lead him to serve under General George Crook's 5th Calvary Regiment.  Before long he was fighting in the so-called Great Sioux War (alternatively called the "Black Hills War").  This eventually lead to his being present when Great Chief American Horse's village was attacked by the U.S. Calvary (this was after the Battle of the Little Bighorn).  Eventually American Horse surrendered after being gravely wounded.  Despite field surgeon's trying to save his life, he died within 24 hours.  Crawford continued in the service of the army and continue to fight against Natives, even becoming famous as one of the "old scouts." But later in life, he expressed regret for much of the activities he had participated in; though he shared the same condescending attitude about "Indian assimilation" that was a product of it's time.  During his later service with the Army, he came to be acquainted with Col. "Buffalo" Bill Cody.  He would eventually become a performer in Cody's Wild West Show, staging stories of his adventures and composing and reciting poetry.  He reportedly possessed great talent at stage performance, routinely keeping his audience thoroughly entertained for more than 2 hours.  He was also an accomplished writer, publishing 4 books of poetry and numerous short stories, as well as copyrighting 4 plays.  He did continue to work off and on for the government.  In regards to early film, he appeared in the early feature length film in 1915 entitled The Battle Cry Of Peace (which is a lost film).  Also that same year, his writing was used to produce a short western called The Corporal's Daughter.  For some reason, he decided that he didn't want to stay in the western territories and moved back east onto Long Island as an elderly man.  He died in Woodhaven on the 27th of February 1917, just a few days shy of his 70th birthday--his cause of death was the kidney disordered known then as Bright's Disease.  He is buried in Cypress Hill National Cemetery (plot 7575) in Brooklyn, New York.

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