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Frederic Lawson Craycraft, The Beekeeper

Sounds of gunfire, then screams woke Frederic the late hours of November 8, 1896. He ran outside to see mayhem of armed Spanish soldiers raiding the plantation and killing his friends and workers. Unbelievable! Behind him, a desperate cry for help from his wife sent his emotions into overload. While running back to his house Frederic’s back was sliced to the bone from a cavalryman with a sabre. With fear, hatred and anger, Frederic stood up to face his attacker. Another slice of the sword tore a chunk of flesh from his forearm. He pleaded for his life, for his wife’s life and told his attacker he was an American citizen. This seemed to incite the soldier, then Frederic offered to pay him. An officer told the soldier to stand down and accepted the offer of $100, then stole all his money before ordering his men to leave. 19 Cubans including 4 women were killed that night.

Newspaper accounts this horrific attack on an American citizen spread across the nation the next few days. Stories from various newspapers contained slightly different versions of what happened. The Spanish soldiers were patrolling the area when they saw three rebels trying to sneak into the town and upon seeing the soldiers fled. The Spanish split up and gave chase. One squad went to a Cuban estate where Fred was the manager. They methodically went from dwelling to dwelling killing the men, assaulting the women and destroying the living quarters.

As soon as he was able, Fred reported the attack to Vice Council Springer in Havana who then cabled Secretary of State Richard Olney. Fred filed a personal injury claim for $25,000 to the United States according to historical documents which are papers relating to foreign relations of the U.S. transmitted to Congress on December 7, 1896.[i]

Cuba is a beautiful tropical island in the Caribbean in the midst of clear water lapping against its white sand beaches. Christopher Columbus claimed the island for the kingdom of Spain in 1492. Spain’s occupation created large sugar plantations as well as farms with other agriculture products. Cuba because a prime asset in supporting Spain’s economy. Over the next 400 years many revolts for independence were squashed until 1890’s when the United States got involved.

Revolts for Cuban independence from Spanish rule occurred for several years although, not officially, the U.S. backed the rebels. The United States got involved with Spain/Cuba when the USS Maine exploded in Havana Harbor on February 15, 1898. It is not known who was responsible for the Maine explosion but two New York newspapers reported that Spain was to blame. This was the height of yellow journalism, the name used when American newspapers published sensational and exaggerated news based on little or no factual basis to sell newspapers.

The Spanish American war lasted about 10 months. It was fought in the Caribbean and Pacific, where the Philippine Islands were also a colony of Spain. The Treaty of Paris was signed in December 1898 giving Cuban independence from Spain and the US possession of the Philippines, Guam and Puerto Rico.

Frederic applied for his first U.S. passport in 1891 at the age of 18, listing his residence as being in Florida. He was born in Washington County, Indiana on July 29, 1873 to John and Mary Marks Craycraft. Frederic’s great grandparents, Reuben and Malinda Watson Cracraft were one of the earliest settlers to Washington County, Indiana, coming from Fayette County Kentucky before 1830. [ii] That said, they were also one of the earliest settlers in Bourbon County, Kentucky having moved there by 1790 [iii] from Hampshire County, Virginia.

Frederic grew up on a farm with his older brother Edger Marks. The 1880 Washington County, Indiana Census lists John’s occupation as a farmer, gardener and bee keeper. Interesting for him to list several occupations. Most Americans in 1880 were farmers which meant growing cash crops and animals. Gardeners were not so common as most farmers gardened for their own personal use of such items as fruits, vegetables and flowers. Then he lists beekeeper. Honey bees were brought to America during its early colonization from Europe. Beeswax was used for making candles and honey as a sweetener, again, these were mostly used for one’s own use or shared with neighbors. Once you had a hive it was difficult to move it and get the queen to start another hive. This was also a time where science was making great strides in everything and publications became readily available for people to learn. John must have grown and harvested enough produce from farming, gardening and beekeeping to be noted having several occupations in the census. Frederic must have had a keen interest in bees. He wrote articles for Juvenile Bee Gleanings, Gleanings in Bee Culture, and the Bee Keeper Review all in the late 1800s. One article in the Progressive Bee Keeper talks about Fred having 500-600 bee colonies in 1897 in Cuba and the wonderful properties of white honey from Cuba called campanilla. It is not know if Frederic stayed in Cuba during the war, but we do know he did return.

Fred married Lula Anne Huntley, who was born in Charlotte, North Carolina in 1882. Not sure if she was his wife in 1896, because she would have been 14 years old. Passenger arrivals from 1912 to 1923 listed Fred and Lula arriving in Miami or New York city every couple of years from Havana.

US passports did not become a mandatory item for entering the country until after WWII but they were used to prove citizenship. Frederic application for a U.S. passport in 1920 stated his permanent residence as Esmeralda, NC. He resides in Cuba for the purpose of working for American Steel Company, a Cuban Corporation. He has resided in Havana intermittently from 1891 to date. He desires to remain a U.S. citizen and will return permanently within two years or as business permits.

In 1922 Frederic appeared before the Committee on Finance for the U.S. Senate. He was representing the American Steel Company of Cuba, a Cuban company who had interests in Cuban sugar producers. The United States was considering an excessive tax on sugar from Cuba and Fred was making the case of how valuable Cuban purchases were to American farmers. Fred presented statistics showing U.S. exported $140,000,000 to Cuba in 1920 in hogs, pipe fittings, railway cars, cement, shoes, harnesses, paints, glassware and cotton products. Cuba was the 2nd highest importer of cattle, horses, canned meat, office furniture and automobiles from America.[iv] Fred’s argument was the proposed tariff would be a lost to both countries. It would reduce Cuba’s purchasing power from the U.S. and force them to find products elsewhere. The Fordney-McCumber Tariff Act was passed. In the long run, it did more harm than good for American producers.

Frederic died of bronchial pneumonia at his home in Havana, Cuba on March 15, 1923. Lula stayed in Cuba until his estate was settled.

The 1930 Census list Lula living in Manhattan, NY with her sisters and brother. One niece, Mary Rojer was born in Cuba. It seems several family members lived in Cuba. Lula died in 1966 in Charlotte, NC. She and Fred are buried in Bearwallow Cemetery in Gerton, NC.

Frederic’s brother Edgar married Dora Bess Craycroft, so we have a Craycraft marrying a Craycroft. Both parents of Edgar and Frederic died after 1900 in Edgewater, Florida.

[i] Office of Historian website. [ii] Cracraft, Reuben 1830 Federal U.S. Census Washington County, Indiana. Micro film roll 31, page 341. [iii] PETITION NO. 2277, ARCHIVE DEPT., VIRGINIA STATE LIBRARY page 18 The Petition of Sundry of the Inhabitants of Bourbon County. [iv] Hearings before the Committee on Finance U.S. Senate. Google books page 2241.

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