BIOGRAPHY OF JOHN CRAYTON
John Crayton was one of the original settlers and a founder of Caldwell County, Texas, which was created and organized in 1848 from Gonzales and Bastrop Counties.
Originally from Franklin County Tennessee, John Crayton emigrated to the Republic of Texas from Marion County Alabama with his son James Lasater Crayton and the Spruill family. Born January 6, 1790 in a region which had been French Territory until England defeated France in 1763 in the French and Indian Wars, John Crayton was well suited for the frontier of Texas. This region was not settled until pioneers from North Carolina settled on the Watauga river and formed the Watauga agreement as a form of government. After the American Revolution, the region became lawless and the settlers suffered great hardship. They formed the “State of Franklin” in order to have some form of government. In 1790, the year John Crayton was born, North Carolina, which claimed the area, ceded the region to the new United States government. On June 1796, six years after John Crayton’s birth, Tennessee was admitted to the Union.
On December 3, 1807, the locality of John Crayton’s birth became Franklin County, Tennessee whence so many founders of Texas emigrated.
John Crayton married Rebecca Lasater in Franklin County Tennessee in 1812. She was the daughter of Elizabeth Copeland and Hezekiah Lasater, Sr.
The Copelands and the Lasaters were descended from the founders of the Isle of Wight County, Virginia Colony. The Copelands were descended from Thomas Taberer who arrived in the Isle of Wight County prior to 1652 from Derby England. His daughter Elizabeth Taberer married a Copeland. Thomas Taberer and his wife were prominent Quakers in the Isle of Wight County and he owned much tobacco and properties.
Hezekiah and Elizabeth Copeland Lasater were the parents of five sons and four daughters. In 1809, Hezekiah and Elizabeth Lasater were members of the Boiling Fork Baptist Church in Lincoln County, Tennessee.
The Tax List of 1812 for Franklin County, Tennessee has John Crayton, his father-in-law and his brothers-in-law Abner and William Lasater listed as taxpayers. John Crayton served in the War of 1812 from January 1814 to May of 1814 in Co. M Infantry under Captain Solomon George from Franklin County, Tennessee. He served as a Corporal in the Second Regt. East Tenn. Vol. Militia Infantry under Colonel William Lillard and Captain Sharpe.
John and Rebecca Crayton moved “footprints” away to Marion County, Alabama shortly after their marriage. There their three children were born: Margaret, born in 1815, James Lasater, born in 1818 and daughter Elizabeth born in 1820. It is from Elizabeth that so many Texans are descended. Today, may of these descendants are living in Caldwell County and the surrounding counties.
Rebecca Lasater Crayton died in Marion County, Alabama in 1824. The three children were reared in Franklin County Tennessee by their maternal grandparents, the Hezekiah Lasaters. There the girls married and made their homes. James Lasater Crayton emigrated to the Republic of Texas with his father where he died in the Mexican War in 1847.
On October 29, 1832 John Crayton was the purchaser of land in Township 12 of Marion County, Alabama. Luke Spruill was the purchaser of land in Township 12 of Marion County, Alabama on February 12 1835 and Mary Dutton April 23, 1842 in the same locale. Mary Dutton’s relationship to the Craytons and Spruills is not known. In the 1860 Caldwell County census she is listed with the Spruills and Craytons. She did not immigrate to Texas with the Spruills and Craytons but arrived at a later date.
After Feb 1835 but prior to 1842 the Craytons, Spruills and their slaves emigrated to the Republic of Texas, settling on the banks of the San Marcos River in the area that is now Martindale, Caldwell County. It is a beautiful area today.
The earliest recorded date in Texas, which I have found regarding John Crayton, is February 1842. It is deed C-599 of the General Land Office of the Republic of Texas. This deed is on file in the Travis County Courthouse in Austin. On January 8, 1852 John Crayton sold one thousand acres of land to George Martindale for four thousand dollars. (Vol. B pge. 341 Caldwell Co. Deed Book)
John Crayton and Mahala Spruill married in Caldwell County on his birthday January 6, 1856. They remained married until his death. Luke Spruill married Mrs. Isabella Jennings, widow of Randolph Jennings, on August 6, 1857 in Caldwell County.
According to Reese Harrison, whom I met at a Delhi Homecoming in early 1990’s, John Crayton owned forty slaves. Reese Harrison is directly descended from John Crayton through his granddaughter Martha “Mattie” Jones Harrison. Martha Jones was the wife of Peter Leonard Harrison. Reese Harrison bought the headstone for Elizabeth Crayton Jones White in 1985. She is buried in the Delhi Cemetery.
The widely held belief that John Crayton went into shock, had a stroke and died when told of the defeat of the Confederacy is without foundation. The Civil War eneded in 1865 and John Crayton died December 2, 1873 having lead a very active life of buying, selling and even donating land during he years 1865 to 1873. He died a wealthy and influential man.
He was a plaintiff in lawsuits in August and September of 1866 (Hays Co. Vol. E pages 38 & 39) The court found in his favor, awarding him $305.51 in one case and #195.01 in the other.
On September 13, 1870 Crayton was paid $132.50 in gold coin for the lease of land to Mrs. Jennings, O’Banion and William Adair until May 5, 1873 (Hays Co. Vol F page 608-609).
On July 29, 1871 John Crayton donated land to the San Marcos Missionary Baptist Church to be used as a cemetery for whites and blacks. His brother-in-law W. W. Spruill was already buried on this land. A stipulation was made that the church would always keep the portion of the land southwards from W. W. Spruill’s grave “to the mouth of the ravine emptying into the San Marcos River as a burial ground for colored persons” (Vol. M page 409 Hays Co. Deed Book).
The 1870 Census of Caldwell Co., Texas lists twenty nine black people plus Nancy Spruill (sister of Mahala living with John and Mahala Crayton. Living with Elizabeth Crayton Jones White were five black people and her step-grandson George Short. Among the former slaves living with the John Craytons were:
Cornelius Muse – mulatto- age 43 born in Tenn.
Jane Muse – wife of Cornelius-age 30, born in Tenn.
Margaret Crayton – mulatto – age 18, born in Tex.
James Crayton – Mulatto – age 16, born in Tex.
Abraham Crayton – age 9, born in Tex.
Esther Crayton – age 8, born in Tex.
The james Crayton listed on the census is the son of John Crayton and Riley Kimble, a Cherokee Indian slave owned by John Crayton. She was from Oklahoma.
James Crayton was born April 16, 1854 in Martindale. His father was 64 years old and widower for thirty years. He was acknowledged by John Crayton and give his inheritance, making him the owner of his own ranch, cattle and horses. He was a cowboy, specializing in the breaking wild horse and went on cattle drives to Kansas. On June 14, 1872 in Caldwell County at the age of 17, he married Jane Bell Spruill. She was born March 8 1857 in Caldwell Co. the daughter of Sarah Allen and Ben Spruill. They had eighteen children – nine boys and nine girls. Only eleven children survived their father. It is interesting that several of the children were given Crayton family names. Jane Bell Spruill was Indian and African American. Her mother was one of the Cherokee Indian slaves bough by John Crayton.
James “Jim” Crayton was like his father in being a successful businessman. On November 22, 1892 he bought a hundred acres in Guadalupe County for fifteen hundred dollars. On January 1, 1895 he sold the same tract of land for $2,800. Both transactions in Guadalupe County Deed Book Volume 5 page 507, 508 and 509. On August 16, 1887 he leased a hundred acres of land from the heirs of Asa J. L. Sowell for six years. For payment he was to enclose the hundred acres with a fence of post and wire. Thirty acres were to be cleared and cultivated. A dwelling house consisting of two rooms and a gallery covered with shingles and made of pine lumber was to be built on a location of his choosing. Recorded in Guadalupe County.
Jim Crayton believed in hard work. He taught his sons to ranch, break wild horses and to farm. His wife did not work outside their home. (His sons Bruce and Baylor were noted cowboys). They lived first in Caldwell County, the Guadalupe County. And at his death were living in Hays County on the land inherited from John Crayton. Jim Crayton died June 1, 1916 leaving a sizeable estate. He is buried in the Crayton Cemetery in Guadalupe County in the Staples-York Creek area n Lehman Rd.
There was a strong bond between John Crayton and his son James. James “Jim” Crayton was with his father when he died. His sons Bruce and Baylor Crayton spoke of their grandfather with pride and respect. In 1976, Bruce and Baylor Crayton still owned and lived on land inherited from their father and grandfather. According to Bruce and Baylor, their “grandfather did not own slaves. All his slaves were free.”
Before Freedom, the Crayton slaves were habitually builders of the first roads in Caldwell, Gonzales and Hays Counties, connecting San Marcos to Lockhart, Lockhart to New Braunfels, and Lockhart to Gonzales, etc. John Crayton toiled alongside his “hands” in building these roads. The minutes of the Caldwell County Commissioners Court of that period records much of the activities of the Road Builders.
John Crayton and his son James Lasater enlisted June 2, 1846 into the United States Army to fight in the Mexican War. They served in Co. K under Captain John Grumbles. At that time the military law of the United States only permitted a man to serve three months. The soldier of that day circumvented this rule by promptly re-enlisting upon his discharge. The Crayton were discharged September 22, 1846. John Crayton did not re-enlist but his did. James Lasater died in Laredo, Texas on January 4, 1847. The cause of his death, whether from wounds or disease is unknown. His burial site is unknown.
John Crayton died in Martindale, Caldwell County Texas on December 2, 1873. He is buried in the cemetery he donated to the San Marcos Missionary Baptist Church. His wife Mahala Spruill Crayton died July 24, 1884 in Martindale and is buried beside him. This cemetery is located on the C. E. Spragins homestead in Martindale on the banks of the Sam Marcos River on County Road 103 across the street from an abandoned school building.
This history researched and written by:
Velma Fogle – Great great great grand daughter of John Crayton
Great great granddaughter of Elizabeth Crayton Jones White
Great granddaughter of Mary Elizabeth Jones White
Granddaughter of William Leonard White
Granddaughter of William Leonard White, Jr.
Daughter of Mattie White Fogle