OSRO A. CRAIN

Source: Album of Genealogy and Biography, Cook County, Illinois with Portraits 3rd ed. revised and extended (Chicago: Calumet Book & Engraving Co., 1895), pp. 41-43

OSRO AMANDOR CRAIN, a resident of Cook County for fifty-five years, was born at Stockton, Chautauqua County, New York, September 17, 1819.  He is one of a family of nine children born to Charles Crain and Fidelia (Case) Crain, both of whom were born near Middlebury, Vermont.  The Crain family is of Welsh extraction.  Owing to religious persecution, seven brothers of that name came to America in a sailing-vessel during the Colonial period.  They settled in Vermont, and their posterity is now numerous in many states of the Union.  James Crain, the grandfather of Osro, was a Revolutionary soldier and a prominent farmer of Middlebury.  His eldest son, Ezra, became a resident of Illinois, settling at Bloomington, where he died a few years since.

At the age of nineteen years Charles Crain married and moved to New York.  Thence he went to Geauga County, Ohio, and later to De-Kalb County, Indiana, where he died in the seventy-third year of his age.  Mrs. Fidelia Crain was a daughter of Timothy Case, a native of Vermont, who entered the Continental army at the age of sixteen years and served four years in the struggle for American independence.  He was an early settler of Cook County, Illinois, his death occurring at Niles, commonly known as “Dutchman’s Point.”  Following is the record of Charles Crain’s children:  Irving, who was fatally gored by a bull at Hamilton, Indiana; Leander, a retired farmer near Durand, Wisconsin; Osro A.; Anna, Mrs. L. Burroughs, of Evanston; Charles and Fidelia, who died while residing at Evanston, the latter being the wife of Daniel Kelly; Jackson, residing at Farm Hill, Wisconsin; and Martha, Mrs. Little, who died at Hamilton, Indiana.

Osro A. Crain was about sixteen years old when the family removed to Indiana.  On attaining his majority he left home and, with his brothers, Charles and Leander, came on foot to Chicago, a distance of one hundred and eighty miles, bringing all his earthly possessions in a pack on his back.  His first employment was at chopping wood, for which he received $10 a month and his board.  He subsequently learned the cooper’s trade at Gross Point, and, being naturally ingenious and handy with tools, he was able to make a perfect barrel in one week from the time he began, a feat which naturally astonished his employer and fellow-workmen.  At the end of three weeks he had thoroughly mastered the trade, and was made foreman of the shop.   In 1844 he purchased twenty acres of land in the present city of Evanston, including the site of his present residence on Ridge Avenue.  This land, which cost him $5 per acre, was covered with heavy timber.  He built a six-room frame house, at an expense of $300, which surpassed in size and pretension any other residence on the Ridge Road north of Chicago.  Mr. Crain subsequently purchased other tracts of land in this locality, owning at one time over three hundred acres, and has always been a dealer in real estate to a greater or less extent.

In 1849 he became imbued with the California fever, and started overland for the new El Dorado with a team of oxen, making the trip from the Missouri River in seventy days.  The damaged provisions, which were the only food obtainable in the mines, were ruinous to health, causing the death of thousands of men; and by the advice of his physician he started for home in the following November.  He sailed on the steamer “Panama,” on her first trip from San Francisco to the Isthmus, whence he went by way of New Orleans to St. Louis, arriving in the latter city on New Year’s Day, 1850.  From that point the journey was continued by stage and team to Shabbona Grove, Illinois, where his wife was staying at the residence of her father.

Having recuperated his health, on the 10th of April, 1850, Mr. Crain again turned his face toward the West, and with three companions and a number of horses and mules, re-embarked upon the long journey across the plains.  This time they consumed but sixty days in covering the ground beyond the Missouri River, making a brief call at Salt Lake City, where some of their jaded animals were traded for ponies, with which to complete the trip.  He engaged in mining at a place still known as Crain’s Gulch in Georgetown, near Coloma, and later at the Arbuckle Diggings, in the Trinity Mountains, where he was foreman of a mining company.  He refrained from drinking or gambling, and thereby avoided many of the difficulties in which miners are apt to become entangled.  As leader of the Vigilance Committee, he was influential in driving out the gamblers and other vicious characters who visited the camp, and on one occasion saved the life of a comrade who was threatened by one of the banished class.  Having accumulated about $6,000, in 1856 he returned home, by way of Panama, and has since been a permanent resident of Evanston, where a street was named in his honor.  In 1860 he made another trip to the West, spending a few months in Colorado.

In 1843, Mr. Crain was married to Olivia A. Hill, daughter of Aruna Hill, an early settler at Gross Point, in whose cooper-shop he had been employed.  Mrs. Crain died on the 13th of May, 1873, at the age of fifty-two years, leaving one son, William Edgar Crain, who resides in Colorado.  In 1874 Mr. Crain was married to Mrs. Diadama Siter, daughter of Robert A. Morse, an early pioneer of Chicago.  Mrs. Crain was born at Ithaca, New York, and by her first marriage has one daughter, Clara S., wife of Arthur Rose, of Omaha.  Mr. Crain is an honorary member of the Masonic order, with which he has been connected for thirty years.   He cast his first Presidential vote for William H. Harrison, and has been a steadfast adherent of the Republican party since the birth of that organization.  His career has been one of integrity and consistency, and he commands the respect and esteem of an extensive circle of acquaintances.

                                -- Submitted on 9/5/99 by Sherri Hessick ( slhessick@crosswinds.net )