Through the greater part of the last century and up to the present writing, the name of Crapo has stood in and about New Bedford as a synonym for useful citizenship. Here have lived during that period Henry Howland Crapo and William W. Crapo, father and son, of whom a recent biographer says: “Among the many citizens of New Bedford and Dartmouth who have achieved high honor, and whose names are held in respect wherever they are known, are Henry H. Crapo and his son William W. Crapo. Born on a Dartmouth farm, from the sterile soil of which his parents could no more than wrest a livelihood, Henry H. Crapo showed his inborn attributes by closing his life in the highest office which the people of the State of Michigan could confer upon him.” And again, “The strong mental as well as physical resemblance of the son to the father is a striking; illustration of Galton’s doctrine of heredity,” this last having especial reference to William W. Crapo.
The Crapo family with its allied connections is of original New England stock. (I) Peter Crapaud (Crapo), the progenitor of the family, was a young French lad cast ashore from a wreck off Cape Cod about 1680. His real name is unknown, but he was nicknamed “Crapaud,” the generic designation of a Frenchman. He was “put out” to Francis Combes, an inn-holder, of North Rochester, Mass. On May 31, 1701, he was married to Penelope White, daughter of Samuel White of Rochester, a son of Resolved White, who came to Plymouth in the “Mayflower” with his father, William White, in 1620, his younger brother, Peregrine White, being born on shipboard off Provincetown harbor. The children of Peter and Penelope (White) Crapo were:
- Francis Crapo, born Oct. 14, 1705, was married to Pashent Spooner;
- Susanna Crapo, born Nov. 5, 1707, married Louis Demoranville;
- Perez (Peter) Crapo, born Nov. 20, 1709, married Ann Luce;
- John Crapo, born Feb. 22, 1711-12, married Sarah Clark;
- Mary Crapo, born Sept. 27, 1713, married Jonathan Spooner;
- Rebecca Crapo, born March 22, 1717-18, married John Mathews;
- Hezekiah Crapo, born March 12, 1719-20, died unmarried;
- Nicholas Crapo, born Dec. 15, 1721, married Alice Blackwell;
- Seth Crapo was born May 4, 1724.
(II) John Crapo, son of Peter, born Feb. 22, 1711-12, married in Rochester Nov. 7, 1734, Sarah Clark, and their children were:
- James Crapo,
- Sarah Crapo,
- Ariste Crapo,
- John Crapo,
- Joshua Crapo,
- Peter Crapo (born 1743, married twice),
- Elkanah Crapo,
- Consider Crapo.
(III) Peter Crapo, son of John and Sarah, and grandson of the progenitor, was born in 1743. He married (intentions published in Dartmouth, May 14, 1766) Sarah West, and their children were:
- Azubah Crapo, born June 8, 1768;
- Richard Crapo, in 1770;
- Peter Crapo, in 1777;
- Charles Crapo, between 1770 and 1780;
- Reuben Crapo, April 18, 1780;
- Jesse Crapo, May 22, 1781;
- Deborah Crapo, April 4, 1786.
He married (second) (intentions published Sept. 7, 1789) Content Hathaway, of Freetown, and their children were:
- Content Crapo,
- Susanna Crapo,
- Orinda Crapo,
- Betsey Crapo,
- Sarah Crapo,
- Joseph Crapo,
- Abiel Crapo.
Peter Crapo, the father of this family, was one of the minutemen of the Revolution, a member of Capt. Levi Rounseville’s company, which marched on the Lexington alarm, April 19, 1775, to Washington’s camp at Cambridge.
(IV) Jesse Crapo, son of Peter and Sarah, was born on the 22d of 5th month, 1781, and he died the 11th of 1st month, 1831. His home was in Dartmouth. He married there July 10, 1803, Phebe Howland, born 29th of 3d month, 1785, and who died 22d of 12th month, 1870. She was the daughter of Henry Howland, and a direct descendant of one of the three Howlands who came early to Plymouth, one of whom was John Howland, a passenger in the “Mayflower” in 1620. Her line of descent from Henry Howland, one of the emigrants, who was of Duxbury and became one of the original purchasers of Freetown, 1659, is through Zoeth, Henry (2), Thomas, David and Henry Howland (3). To Jesse and Phebe (Howland) Crapo were born children as follows:
- Henry Howland Crapo, born May 24, 1804;
- David Crapo, Sept. 16, 1808;
- Joseph Crapo, April 12, 1812;
- Phebe Crapo, March 6, 1817.
(V) Henry Howland Crapo, son of Jesse and Phebe (Howland) Crapo, was born May 24, 1804, in the northern part of the town of Dartmouth, Mass. He passed his early life on his father’s farm in the southerly part of Dartmouth, assisting with the farm work in season and attending the district school in the winters. His early years were full of toil, which rapidly developed in him many of the sterling qualities that marked his mature years. He possessed a natural thirst for knowledge, was ambitious to rise above the circumstances that surrounded him and made every sacrifice that would further that end. It is recorded of him by James B. Congdon that he has seen a dictionary in manuscript compiled (not copied) by him in youth, and it is said that he frequently traveled the distance of eight miles from his home to New Bedford in order to learn the meaning of a word or phrase which had puzzled him. Unaided he made himself master of the theory of surveying, and when there came the long-looked-for opportunity to put his knowledge into practice he was undaunted by the fact that he had no compass, but going to a blacksmith shop he fashioned a crude one for himself. By application he became competent to teach the village school, and when a high school was opened he determined to apply for the principalship, and was examined, it is believed, for the position by J. H. W. Page, then a preceptor in the Friends’ Academy, who gave him a certificate of qualification.
At the age of twenty-eight years Mr. Crapo removed to New Bedford and became a land surveyor, sometimes acting as auctioneer. He was soon elected town clerk, treasurer and collector of taxes, and held these positions some fifteen years. On the change of the municipal government he was elected treasurer and collector of taxes, holding the office two years. He was also police justice many years, served on the board of aldermen, was chairman of the council committee on education, and in this capacity personally prepared the report upon which was based the order for the establishment of the Free Public Library of New Bedford. Upon its organization he was chosen one of the first trustees.
To some extent Mr. Crapo was engaged in the whaling industry, a fine bark, of which he was part owner, being named in his honor. He was president of the Bristol County Fire Insurance Company, and secretary of the Bedford Commercial Insurance Company. For a number of years he was colonel of one of the regiments of State militia. He organized the Horticultural Society of New Bedford and was its first president. He was actively interested in the cultivation of fruits and flowers. Later on he gave much attention to the cultivation of every kind of fruit and ornamental trees, shrubs, flowers, etc. He exhibited from his grounds at horticultural fairs in Boston and elsewhere one hundred and fifty varieties of pears of his own propagation, and one hundred and twenty varieties of roses. While an officer of the municipal government he, compiled and published the directories of New Bedford for 1836 and 1845. He became a regular contributor to the New England Horticultural Journal, and gained a wide reputation as an authority.
In 1856 Mr. Crapo removed to Michigan, locating at Flint. This move was due primarily to investments in pine lands. He came into possession of a farm of 1,100 acres, most of which he redeemed from swamp by a system of drainage perfected by himself. He engaged in breeding and importing fine blooded stock and in 1863 was elected president of the Genesee County Agricultural Society. He engaged largely in the manufacture of lumber, and interested capital and built railroads, becoming one of the largest and most successful business men in the State. He at once took an active interest in the municipal affairs of Flint, and was elected mayor after a residence there of only five years. In 1862 he was elected State senator to represent Genesee county, and ranked with the leading men of Michigan in the war Senate. In 1864 he was nominated on the Republican ticket for governor and was elected by a large majority. He was reelected in 1866, holding the office two terms and retiring in January, 1869. Governor Crapo’s administration was remarkably efficient and especially characterized by his vetoing railway aid legislation and his firm refusal to pardon convicts, except upon overwhelming proofs of their innocence or excessive sentence. During the later years of his life Governor Crapo became a regular contributor to the “Country Gentleman,” and after his death an affecting eulogy of himself was pronounced by the president of the National Horticultural Society at its meeting in Philadelphia in 1869. During his last term as governor he was attacked by the disease which terminated his life within one year.
Governor Crapo often referred to the training he received in New Bedford civic meetings and offices, and averred that but for this he could not have succeeded in the loftier and more honorable offices which his fellow citizens of Michigan bestowed upon him. After his death a New Bedford newspaper printed the following: “No man connected with the municipal government ever had to a greater extent than Mr. Crapo the confidence of the people. He was exact and methodical in all matters of record; conscientious and laboriously persistent in the discharge of every duty; clear in his method and statements in all that appertained to his official transactions with the town and his townsmen, leaving, at the close of his long connection with them, all that belonged to his department as a financial or recording officer so luminous and complete that no error has ever been detected or improvements made upon his methods.”
Governor Crapo died July 23, 1869, at his home in Flint, Mich. The Detroit Tribune of July 24, 1869, said: “In all the public positions he held Governor Crapo showed himself a capable, discreet, vigilant and industrious officer. He evinced wonderful vigor in mastering details, and always wrote and spoke intelligently on any subject to which he gave his attention. Michigan never before had a governor who devoted so much personal attention and painstaking labor to her public duties as he did. His industry was literally amazing. He was not a man of brilliant or showy qualities, but he possessed sharp and remarkably well developed business talents, a clear and practical understanding, sound judgment and unfailing integrity. In all the walks of life there was not a purer man in the State. So faithful, so laborious, so conscientious a man in office is a blessing beyond computation in the healthful influence which he exerts in the midst of the too prevalent corruptions that so lamentably abound in the public service. We have often thought that, in his broad and sterling good sense, Governor Crapo closely resembled the lamented Lincoln. He was a man of the people and most worthily represented them. His decease is an occasion for public mourning and the state has very few men like him and can ill afford to spare such an eminently useful citizen. His death will be profoundly deplored throughout our Commonwealth and a general sympathy will be sincerely extended to the bereaved family.”
On June 9, 1825, Mr. Crapo married, in Dartmouth, Mass., Mary Ann, daughter of Williams Slocum of Dartmouth and his wife Ann, daughter of Benjamin and Mary (Almy) Chase, of Portsmouth, K. I., and a descendant of Giles Slocum, from whom her lineage is through Peleg, Peleg (2), Peleg (3) and Williams Slocum. There were born to Mr. and Mrs. Crapo children as follows:
- Mary Ann Crapo, born Nov. 6, 1827, married John Orrell;
- William Wallace Crapo, born May 16, 1830, married Sarah Davis Tappan;
- Rebecca Folger Crapo, born March 26, 1833, married William C. Durant;
- Sarah Bush Crapo, born Jan. 14, 1835, married Alphonso Ross;
- Lucy Anna Crapo, born Nov. 8, 1836, married H. H. H. C. Smith;
- Rhoda Macomber Crapo, born July 29, 1838, married James C. Wilson;
- Henrietta Peel Crapo, born. July 19, 1840, married Ferris F. Hyatt;
- Lydia Sherman Crapo, born June 19, 1843, died Sept. 14, 1861;
- Emma Eliza Chace Crapo, born June 1, 1845, married Harlan P. Christy;
- Wilhelmina Helena Crapo, born April 6, 1849, married Charles W. Clifford.
Mrs. Crapo died Feb. 21, 1875, in Flint, Mich., on which occasion a local paper paid her this tribute: “Mrs. Crapo’s was a character of rare, precious qualities. Of New England birth and education she had all the earnestness and exalted veneration for truth and honor, and the high sense of duty, which fell to the best type of New England people. During a long life of duties, and not free from afflictions, she walked always helpfully beside her husband, the two combining in a singular degree the executive force which conquers obstacles, and the grace which wins love and esteem. Since the death of her husband she has devoted herself to the duties of her home, meeting all the demands of society and looking with a watchful eye over the interests of her children. Her death will be severely felt in this community.”
(VI) William Wallace Crapo, son of Gov. Henry Howland Crapo, was born May 16, 1830, in Dartmouth, Mass. He acquired his preliminary education in the New Bedford public schools and prepared for college at Phillips Academy, Andover. Then entering Yale he was graduated with the class of 1852. Having very early in life decided to make the legal profession his life work, after leaving college he began to read in the office of Gov. John H. Clifford, of New Bedford, and later continued at the Harvard Law School, Cambridge. Like his father, he possessed in abundance those qualities of energy and perseverance which aid ^ in making the successful student and his preparation for the legal profession was most painstaking and thorough. He was admitted to the bar in 1855, .and at once began to practice in New Bedford, having therefore now (1911) completed a period of over fifty-five years as a practitioner. In 1911 he received the degree of LL. D. from Williams College.
It was but a short time after his admission to the bar that Mr. Crapo was appointed city solicitor and he held the office twelve years, giving the most conscientious and thorough attention and devotion to all his official duties. He began his first real work in politics in behalf of John C. Fremont, the first candidate of the Republican party for President, in 1856, and during the campaign he won a brilliant reputation as an orator. In that same year he himself was elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives, and in the following year declined to become a candidate for State senator, desiring to give more attention to his increasing legal business. It was somewhat remarkable that he so soon attained a leading position at the bar, a success which was in large measure due to his exhaustive legal knowledge, his patient industry and unfailing self-reliance. His qualifications rapidly gained recognition and he won to an exceptional degree the confidence of the citizens of New Bedford. All measures tending to advance the interests of the village, even during his earliest endeavors to secure a firm professional foothold, found in him an earnest and unselfish supporter. He was chairman of the commission in charge of the first public water supply, and from 1865 to 1875 was chairman of the water board.
With the breaking out of the Civil war Mr. Crapo entered heartily into all measures for the support of the government, and during the close of the struggle he gave freely of his time, energy and means for the welfare of the cause.
He has never been a man whom the people were disposed to leave out of public service, and he was elected to the Forty-fourth Congress to fill a vacancy, and was reelected to the Forty-fifth and Forty-sixth and Forty-seventh Congresses, declining in 1882 to accept again the nomination.
While not attempting in this brief notice to give an adequate account of Mr. Crapo’s work as a legislator, it may be stated that he early took a prominent position in Congress; was a member of the committee on Foreign Affairs in the Forty-fifth Congress, and of the committee on Banking and Currency in the Forty-sixth and Forty-seventh. During his last term he was chairman of the last named committee and much has been said and written in praise of the skillful and efficient manner in which he managed the bill for extending the charters of national banks, a bill which was successfully carried through under his leadership against formidable obstacles. In the tariff legislation through which the tax on the capital and deposits of banks was removed, his familiarity with the subject was of great service and secured the direct application of the law to the national banks. Mr. Crapo’s value in the legislation of the country during his incumbency of the office of Congressman was recognized not only by his constituents but by the nation.
In a short review of Mr. Crapo’s life and public services some years ago the biographer said: “At the age of fifty Mr. Crapo finds himself well started in political life, in the full maturity of his powers and possessing what some politician has so neatly termed the pecuniary basis. In person he strongly resembles his father, a man of hardy intellectual physiognomy. The family is of French origin, regarding which there is a romantic tradition. Both father and son have the style of face which is French rather than English.”
Mr. Crapo has achieved remarkable success as a lawyer of finance, and as guardian or trustee of individual estates his high character and business talents have brought him more interests and cases than he could attend to. In nearly all of the more prominent business enterprises of New Bedford his name is found in some capacity and in the conduct of each his mature advice, his rarely erring judgment and foresight, and his entire trustworthiness, have been sought and fully appreciated. Mr. Crapo has served as president of the Mechanics’ National Bank for a third of a century. He has been prominent in the board of directors of numerous manufacturing industries, and for many years has been president of the Flint & Pere Marquette Railroad Company, as well as actively interested in and associated with the management of several other railroads. To many other departments of business industry he has at some period of his life devoted attention, gaining the ripe experience that comes to men of broad powers. He has always been a Republican and an earnest and influential supporter of his party. That he has not in recent years received the nomination for governor of Massachusetts is due more to his reluctance to the employment of the political methods of the day than to any other cause. He is a man of brilliant intellectual ability, high scholarship, comprehensive legal and business knowledge, and enjoying to the largest degree the confidence and admiration of the people. The degree of LL.D. was conferred upon him by Yale College in 1882.
On Jan. 22, 1857, Mr. Crapo was married at New Bedford, Mass., to Sarah Davis, daughter of George and Serena (Davis) Tappan, and the marriage was blessed with the following children:
- Henry Howland Crapo, born Jan. 31, 1862;
- George Tappan Crapo, born March 16, 1864, who died Sept. 12, 1865;
- Stanford Tappan Crapo, born June 13, 1865, who married Emma Morley, of Detroit, Mich., and has two children:
- William Wallace Crapo (born Aug. 2, 1895);
- Catherine Morley Crapo (born July 23, 1897).
- Anna Almy Crapo, born Nov. 10, 1866, who died April 27, 1867.