Clay County

Biography - Crawford S. Erwin

No man in Clay county occupies a more enviable position in civic and business affairs than the subject of this sketch, who is the well-known and popular ex-Circuit Clerk of the county, not alone on account of the success he has achieved, but also on account of the honorable, straightforward business policy he has ever followed both in public and private life. He possesses untiring energy, is quick of perception, forms his plans readily and executes them with alacrity so that he stands today one of the leading representatives of a county widely known for its men of force and business acumen.

Crawford S. Erwin was born in Hoosier township, Clay county, October 9, 1866, the son of David, the son of William Erwin, a native of Indiana, who was a cabinet maker by trade, having come from Indiana to Illinois in an early day and engaged in the cabinet making business, also in farming. He was called to his rest August 7, 1866, six weeks before our subject was born. William Erwin, the subject's grandfather, was one of the pioneers of Clay county, having come to America from Scotland, his native country, when a young man. He was the first person buried in the old Hoosier cemetery in Hoosier township. The mother of the subject was known in her maidenhood as Eliza A. Fitzgerald, whose people were originally from Scotland. She passed to her rest in Hoosier township in the spring of 1890. Five children were born to the subject's parents as follows: Mayberry P., living in Henrietta, Texas; David S., living in Clay county, Illinois; Joseph, in Henrietta, Texas; W. G., who is also a resident of Clay county; Crawford S., the subject.

Mr. Erwin spent his early life on the farm, attending the country schools during the winter months, and assisting with the work at home in the summer. He was left to be reared by a widowed mother, who was too poor to aid in her son's education, and thus our subject was compelled to begin his fight with the world early in life practically unaided and the admirable way he has succeeded in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles, deserves the commendation of all. When he was nine years old, the family moved to Texas, where they remained four years. During this time the children were deprived of the advantages of a good school. Desiring to return to the Illinois home, the family made the trip overland in a wagon, a distance of twelve hundred miles, in the fall and winter of 1880, having reached Hoosier township shortly after Christmas, during the coldest weather that the country had known for years. Crawford S. at once entered school at Center; under the Rev. John F. Harmon, now stationed in East St. Louis. Three terms of school were attended here by our subject. He was an excellent student, for he had now reached young manhood and he realized that if he succeeded in life, he would be compelled to prepare himself for some of the professions or commercial life, for he was physically unfit to follow the hard-working life of a farmer. He was enabled to gratify his ambition to become an educated man by working out on the farm during the summer months, and with the money he thus secured he entered the Northern Indiana Normal School at Valparaiso, Indiana, in which institution he made a splendid record for scholarship.

He decided to become a teacher and before he was eighteen years old had secured his first certificate and had taught his first school, which was a pronounced success. His services were then in great demand for the ensuing ten years which he devoted to teaching in Clay county, becoming generally known as an able educator. Most of that time he taught in only two school districts, meanwhile devoting the summer months to farming.

About this time Mr. Erwin secured the appointment of government mail weigher on the Vandalia line, which position he filled so satisfactorily that he was within two years thereafter re-appointed government mail weigher on the main line of the Baltimore & Ohio Southwestern Railroad, operating between Cincinnati and St. Louis. His official reports quickly enabled the company to see his ability in this line and he was placed part of his time in the office of the chief clerk to assist in the examination of the reports sent in by his fellow-officers.

Mr. Erwin was called home in 1894 to fill the position of Deputy County Clerk, the duties of which he discharged in such a creditable manner that he became candidate for the office of Circuit Court Clerk in 1896, and was elected, on the Republican ticket, and discharged his duties to the entire satisfaction of all concerned and was re-elected in 1900, and again in 1904, his term having expired December 7, 1908. It is the concensus of opinion that he has been the best Circuit Clerk the county has ever had.

The official and private life of Mr. Erwin has ever been an open book to all, for it has been led along conservative lines, honest and without blemish, lacking the faintest shadow or suspicion of evil. His donations to charitable purposes and to his needy neighbors and fellow citizens since his residence in Louisville have amounted to several hundred dollars. He has always been ready to assist in aiding any worthy cause. It has been his custom for a number of years at Christmas time to gather together provisions, and quietly boxing them up himself and employing a teamster to deliver the same to the unfortunate and needy in his community. So unostentatious has this charity been bestowed that the donor is known to but few of his beneficiaries to this day.

Mr. Erwin was united in marriage December 12, 1886, to Sarah Belle Conley, daughter of W. A. Conley, of Hoosier township. She was born and reared in Clay county, and is a woman of beautiful personal attributes. The following children have been born of this union: May, whose age in 1908 is twenty years; Jennie is eighteen years old; Wilbur Esta is fifteen years old; Crawford Leslie is eleven; Leland is seven and Kenneth is four.

Upon his retirement from office, Mr. Erwin entered the real estate and abstract business in December, 1908. He is thoroughly familiar with abstracting, having followed this while in office. He also owns a farm in Louisville township, and one in Bible Grove township, and also a half interest in a farm in Hoosier township, and another tract of land in Arkansas. He is also interested in stock raising and stock trading.

Mr. Erwin's land is well improved and ranks well with any in the county, and he always keeps a good grade of stock. He is interested in the concrete business, manufacturing concrete blocks and other forms of concrete work, the firm name being Clark & Erwin.

Our subject is Public Administrator of Clay county. In his fraternal relations he belongs to the Masonic Order, the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, and the Knights of Pythias. He was secretary of the local Masonic lodge, at Louisville, No. 196, for ten consecutive years. He is a member of the Methodist Episcopal church and has always been a loyal Republican, born and bred in the principles of that party, but the most partisan Democrat was ever treated with the same courtesy by him as the most pronounced Republican. During his term in office Mr. Erwin has never been too busy to accommodate anyone seeking information on any subject whether pertaining to the matters of the office of Circuit Clerk or legal advice on any foreign subject, and no one ever went away from him wrongly advised, or feeling that what he had obtained had been grudgingly given. Hundreds of people in Clay county, having no regular attorney to attend to their legal business, and wishing an agreement, a contract, or an affidavit drawn up, have found our subject ever willing to assist as best he could.

Mr. and Mrs. Erwin have a beautiful home, where hospitality and good cheer are ever unstintingly dispersed to their many friends and admirers.

Extracted 27 Apr 2017 by Norma Hass from 1909 Biographical and Reminiscent History of Richland, Clay & Marion Counties, Illinois, pages 66-69.

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