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Corie 'Coe' Isaac Crawford


Posted By: S. Ferrall (email)
Date: 3/27/2006 at 20:44:11

Crawford, Corie Isaac -- The bustling events of a young state cannot fail to test the metal of the men who are active in its construction. There is a sifting process always in force in such a community which eventually winnows the chaff from the grain, the adventurer and charlatan from the men of substantial merit and serious purpose. Those who survive this ordeal, proving their stability of character, worth and ability, are the men who -- as a painter would say -- give tone and color to the institutions of the embryo commonwealth, and a definite trend to its progress. Among the men of South Dakota who are typical of this character, Corie -- usually contracted to "Coe" I. Crawford, the subject of htis sketch, must ever stand prominent by his sturdy qualities and notable achievements.

He was born upon his father's farm in Allamakee county, Iowa, in 1858. He is Scotch-Irish on his father's side, and Irish-English on his mother's, both of Presbyterian faith. Grandfather and Grandmother Crawford were Scotch, whose ancestors emigrated to the north of Ireland and were connected with the Ramseys, Funstons and McConnels, who came from the north of Ireland and settled in western Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio immediately after the war of 1812. General Funston of Kansas, and of Philippine fame, is one of this family.

Coe I. Crawford's father, Robert Crawford was a wagon maker and farmer, born in Ohio in 1828. He moved to Allamakee county, Iowa, in 1853 and opened up a farm. He was in comfortable circumstances and raised a large family. He died in 1896. He was a sturdy man of unflinching integrity, and a member of the Presbyterian church. In politics he was a staunch Republican, and a leading man in his county. He was for a number of years chairman of the Board of County Commissioners. His wife, Coe I. Crawford's mother, was born in Ohio in 1830. Her maiden name was Sarah Shannon. Governor Shannon, so well known in the early history of Kansas, was of the same family.

Mr. Crawford's opportunity for education in early life was very meager, consisting of three months of schooling in the winter and occasionally a summer term of three months; these were ungraded, common country schools. When fifteen years of age he was permitted to attend the village school for one year, and thus made such progress that he was prepared to teach. When he began to teach it was i nthe country district schools. For this he received twenty dollars a month in summer and thirty-three dollars a month in winter, out of which he had to pay his board. He did the janitor work besides, gratis. He taught three years in Iowa and two in Ohio. In the meantime he studied hard in a private way, and read very extensively. He was assisted very materially in his study of Latin, Geometry and Literature by an educated physician in whose family he lived for two years. After he quit teaching he secured a position as a field agent for a subscription-book publishing house of Chicago, and traveled extensively through New York, Ohio and West Virginia, for two years. The work was not congenial; in fact he detested it, although it was not without its value in after life. He left it to enter the law department of the University of Iowa in 1881, from which he graduated in 1882. His proficiency may be judged from the fact that he was made president of the Law Literary society, and was one of the speakers chosen for the commencement exercises. He also was awarded a share of a dividend prize for his written thesis. In 1883 he formed a partnership with Hon. W.H. Holman, for the practice of law at Independence, Iowa, where he remained for one year. He then removed to Pierre, where he met with immediate success.

His first case of any importance was the defence of a poor German, charged with murder. Three men had come to his corral not far from Pierre, and engaged with him in a quarrel over some cattle. A fight followed in which he resorted to a gun, killing one man and wounding the other two. Mr. Fawcett of Pierre, lately deceased, was Mr. Crawford's assiciate. They convinced the committing magistrate that their client acted in self-defense and he was discharged. The next suit was a personal injury case which he prosecuted, asking $5,000 for his client. It arose from the negligence of a telephone company in leaving a wire obstruction in the street. The first trial resulted in a compromise verdict, awarding his client only fifty dollars. A new trial resulted in a verdict of over three thousand dollars. On appeal to the supreme court the judgment was affirmed.

In 1885 Mr. Crawford formed a partnership with Mr. C.E. Deland, under the firm name of Crawford & Deland, which continued for twelve years, during which time the practice was large and lucrative. Mr. Crawford was a leading counsel on one side or the other in nearly one hundred cases in the supreme court. The wide range and profound character of these suits may be seen in the Sixth South Dakota Territorial Report, and in the first ten volumes of the South Dakota Supreme Court Reports. Mr. Crawford was attorney general of the state of South Dakota from 1893 to 1897. He was addmitted to practice in the supreme court of the United States in 1893. During the years 1895 and 1896 it became his duty to prosecute the state treasurer and his bondsmen and others charged with conspiracy to defraud the state. The suits were both civil and criminal; also to prosecute the commissioner of schools and public lands for failure to distribute school funds. These cases were complicated with habeas corpus and extradition proceedings, writs of error and other intricate litigation, involving the most specious pleas that could be devised by the defense, supported by ample means. The cases were historic and among the most exciting events in the history of the young state. The parties so successfully prosecuted were many of them personal friends and assiciates of Mr. Crawford in fraternal orders. He has been strongly commended for his unswerving fidelity to the interests of the people of the state in these arduous and prolonged litigations. The prodigious labors connected with them nearly ruined his health. In 1897 he accepted the position of attorney for the Chicago & Northwestern railway for the entire state, and moved to Huron, where he now resides, still engaging in the general practice of law, although the railway is his principal client.

He was president of the State Bar association of South Dakota during the year 1899. Mr. Crawford has no military record, for he was too young for the Civil war and too old to enlist for the Spanish war. He has, however, a brother, Robert T. Crawford, a first lieutenant of the 42d REgiment U.S. Volunteers, now in the Philippines. He has always been a Republican.

He was state attorney for Hughes county from 1886 to 1888; member of the last legislature of the territory of Dakota, that which convened at Bismark in 1889; member of the first South Dakota state senate, 1889 and 1890 at Pierre, the new capital; in 1892 elected attorney general of the state, and re-elected in 1894 by the largest majority of any candidate on the ticket. He was nominated for congress in 1896, but the wave of free silver and populism rose to high tide that year, and the Republican electors, members of congress and candidate for governor were defeated by small pluralities ranging from fifty to three hundred and fifty. He made in that, the greatest political conflict in the history of the state, one hundred and three speeches. Since then he has withdrawn from active work in politics, although still staunch in the faith. He is a Mason and a Knight Templar, and a member of the Presbyterian church.

He was married in 1884 to Miss May Robinson, daughter of Levi Robinson, a lawyer of Iowa City, Iowa. She died in 1894, leaving two children, Miriam, now fourteen years of age and Irving, eight years old. In 1896 he was married to Lavinia Robinson, of the same family, at Iowa City. They have also a child, Robert, now two years old.

-source: History of the Great Northwest and its Men of Progress, Hyde, C. W. G. and Wm. Stoddard, Minneapolis: Minneapolis Journal, 1901; page 308-309

-transcribed for Allamakee co. IAGenWeb by S. Ferrall


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