Biography of Charles Clifton Crain

Charles Clifton Crain, who is the executive head of one of the largest and most successful enterprises doing business in the wholesale and retail hardware trade in Kansas, being president of the Crain Hardware Company, of Fort Scott, is one of the alert and enterprising men who, during the last half century, have so utilized the opportunities offered here for business preferment that the fame of Fort Scott had been extended to every part of the country. Nothing so builds up a country or section as its commerce and the directing forces are those men whose marvelous foresight see the opportunities which their courage enables them to seize. As one of the leading cities of the great State of Kansas, Fort Scott stands preeminent in many lines, a main one being the wholesale and retail hardware business.

Charles Clifton Crain was born May 18, 1856, on a farm near Cooperstown, Venango County, Pennsylvania, and is a son of George F. and Margaret (Hillier) Crain, natives of Venango County, the former born at Crain’s Corners, a village named in honor of the family. The parents of Charles C. Crain were married at Cooperstown, Pennsylvania, in 1860, and nine years later migrated to Bourbon County, Kansas, where they homesteaded land three miles southwest of Fort Scott and engaged in farming. The early settlers of this section were called upon to undergo many hardships and privations, and numbers of them became discouraged and returned to their former homes in the East and South, but George F. Crain was made of sterner stuff, and through his perseverance and industry overcame such obstacles as lay in his path, and eventually became the owner of a valuable and paying property. For thirty years he continued as a tiller of the soil, but in 1899 retired from active labor and moved to Fort Scott, where his death occurred in 1905, when he was seventy-six years of age. He was a man of high character, whose reputation in business circles was of the best, and who took a helpful interest in the affairs of his community. He was a great admirer of Horace Greely and in 1872 supported the great journalist in his race for the presidency against General Grant, but before and after that time was a supporter of the republican party. He was a member of the Methodist Church, as was also Mrs. Crain, who was a refined, cultured and devoutly Christian woman. Mrs. Crain died in 1913, at Fort Scott, aged seventy-seven years. There were four children in the family: Charles Clifford; John Hillier; Elizabeth S., who is the wife of Charles A. Johnson, of Newkirk, Oklahoma; and George A., for many years a conductor on the Frisco Railroad, who died in a Saint Louis hospital in 1915.

John Hillier Crain, one of the most prominent of Fort Scott’s attorneys, was born in Venango County, Pennsylvania, August 17, 1858, and was eleven years of age when he came to Kansas. He secured his education in the public schools of Fort Scott and read law under the preceptorship of Col. A. A. Harris of this city, being admitted to the bar in 1888, before Hon. C. C. French. For a number of years he practiced alone and then formed a partnership with W. C. Perry, under the firm style of Crain & Perry, an association which continued successfully for seven years or until Mr. Perry went to Kansas City, Missouri, to assume the duties of United States district attorney, an office to which he had been appointed by President Cleveland. Since that time Mr. Crain had practiced alone and had attained a commanding position in his profession. He had taken an active part in the civic life of Fort Scott, having served as city attorney and clerk of the board of education, and is a member of the Chamber of Commerce and a director of the Citizens National Bank. Aside from his profession, he is interested in the breeding of Poland-China hogs and Short Horn cattle on his fine farm in Bourbon County. Mr. Crain is a stanch democrat, and his religious affiliation is with the Roman Catholic Church.

John H. Crain was married June 5, 1889, at Fort Scott, to Miss Fannie Tallman, daughter of Thomas W. and Katherine (Austin) Tallman. She died in 1900, leaving three children: Margaret E., born May 3, 1890, who is the wife of Roy S. Johnson, of Newkirk, Oklahoma; Helen E., born April 26, 1891; and John Tallman, born March 4, 1892. Mr. Crain was again married, June 11, 1902, at Fort Scott, to Rosie T. Tracy McKinney, of Fort Scott. Mrs. Crain is a member of the Roman Catholic Church and had been active in its work and charities.

Charles Clifton Crain received his early education in the schools of Greenville, Mercer County, Pennsylvania, and was thirteen years of age when brought by his parents to Kansas, his subsequent education being acquired in the public schools of Fort Scott and at Spalding’s Business College, at Kansas City, Missouri. After leaving the latter institution, he entered upon his business career by accepting a minor clerkship with the leading hardware firm of Fort Scott, Morley Brothers Company, now of Saginaw, Michigan. Here he remained continuously for ten years, rising in the estimation of his employers, receiving steady promotions, and learning every detail of the business upon which he had decided as his life work. In 1873, in company with C. C. Nelson, Joseph Nelson and Thomas Hoffman, all of Fort Scott, Mr. Crain bought the business of Morley Brothers Company and organized the Crain Hardware Company, Mr. Crain being elected president and put in active charge. The new company continued in business in the same location for a number of years, but finally sold out to Moffatt & Grimes, who continued in the same location for several years and then retired. In the meantime, Mr. Crain organized the present concern, of which he is now president, C. W. Crain being secretary, and N. H. Conine, treasurer. The new concern was almost immediately successful, and from modest beginnings had grown and developed until it occupies a leading place in Fort Scott’s commercial affairs, being at this time one of the largest enterprises of its kind in this part of the state, and the largest at Fort Scott. The company employs nine men regularly, and had in use approximately 10,000 square feet of floor space, the building being located at No. 11 Main Street. In times of business stress Mr. Crain is often consulted by his business associates, for he is known to be a man of unusual sagacity and clearness of commercial foresight. To advance the general welfare of his city he had ever felt to be a responsibility incumbent on good citizenship and he had been foremost in encouraging movements promising to be beneficial to all rather than to a favored few. He was president and one of the organizers of the Fort Scott Foundry and Machine Works, that in its day employed from seventy-five to eighty people, and continued in business for six years, but owing to unfavorable railroad freight rates was so handicapped that business had to be discontinued. Mr. Crain was also one of the organizers and a director of a bank of Fort Scott. A republican in politics, he had been active in the ranks of his party, and in the fall of 1912 was elected a member of the board of commissioners of Bourbon County. Fraternally, he is a thirty-second degree Mason and a member of the Knights of Pythias. While Mr. Crain holds membership in the Episcopal Church, he gives liberally to other denominations and every worthy movement enlists his support.

Mr. Crain married Miss Clara Colton, the only child of Ephraim Colton, who was a prominent factor in the upbuilding of Fort Scott, owning the Colton Block and other valuable city properties, as well as large farming interests. Mr. and Mrs. Crain have two sons: Clifton Woodward and Franklin Colton. Clifton W. Crain is a graduate of the Fort Scott High School and a member of the Crain Hardware Company. He married Miss Agnes McElroy, daughter of Edwin J. and Hannah L. (Holstein) McElroy, natives respectively of London, England, and Linn County, Kansas. Franklin C. Crain is also a graduate of the Fort Scott High School, and is connected with the firm of Crain Hardware Company.



Connelley, William E. A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans. Chicago : Lewis, 1918. 5v. Biographies can be accessed from this page: Kansas and Kansans Biographies.

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