"This story is courtesy of Thomas Wills, writer for the North Fork Merchant Herald, in the October 2010 Issue"
This month the Town of Crawford celebrates its 100th anniversary as an incorporated town and its 128th year as being a place with a post office named "Crawford." Incorporation involved a legal petition submitted to be recognized as a town by the State of Colorado. That petition for Crawford was approved on October 19, 1910.
According to the much told story, in 1882, a year after the North Fork and Crawford Country areas were opened to immigrant settlement, Captain George A. Crawford passed through the future Crawford area and suggested that a site along the Smith Fork Valley might be a good place to establish a town. The locals supposedly appreciated the suggestion so much that when the post office was established the following year, 1883, it was given the name Crawford. George Crawford went on to be credited with the founding of Delta and Grand Junction, Colorado, albeit in a much more active fashion.
According to former State Senator, Wilson Rockwell, who told the story in his 1938 book Sunset Slope, Crawford actually spoke only to one local resident, Baptist minister, Harry Grant, who established the first Crawford post office in a tent, becoming the first postmaster for the area that was yet to have a "town" as such. Another account lists the "Sanderson place below Crawford" as the first post office. In 1895, the second Crawford postmaster, Joseph Preston established the PO in a log cabin on the Smith Fork below the present town. This might have been the first "official" post office.
In the early days there were two Crawford schools, the Sanderson School and the Smith Fork School. The two schools were consolidated in 1906 first in a frame building and then in a new brick and stone structure, which burned in 1912.
Originally, prior to the mid-1890's, many of businesses were located on the south side of the Smith Fork including a general store and a blacksmith shop. But eventually the town as platted ended up on the north side. Mrs. Elizabeth S. Ong's establishment of her store in 1892 served as an anchor for the new, more formal, town site. She was the first to subdivide and sell town lots, founding the modern Crawford. Then came the church, schools, other businesses and homes. In a more just world the town might have been named Ong.
The Crawford Methodist Church (officially the John Finney Memorial Methodist Episcopal Church of Crawford) was built in 1900 at the behest of Rev. Henry "Poppy" Harpst for the sum of $164 on land donated by Mrs. Ong, sort of the Town Mother of Crawford who ran a store nearby. She gave the land for both the church and the adjacent Garden of Memories cemetery.
Between 1897 and 1907 the town grew rapidly and by the latter year the populace stood at 160 residents. It is just over double that now, averaging a one percent growth rate over a century."
Crawford Area Chamber of Commerce
PO Box 22 Crawford, CO 81415