Friday, August 22, 2014

More About My Grandfather, David J. Crabtree, Sr.

Grandfather David in the field with his youngest son, David, Jr. 
c. 1940
From our family's photo collection

My grandfather, David J. Crabtree, Sr., was born David Jewett Crabb in Florenceville, New Brunswick, Canada in 1875; the ninth child of thirteen born to William Henry Crabb and Sarah Ann Kinney. He had five sisters and seven brothers. 

The family name was changed from Crabb to Crabtree in 1910 in Maine. See A Family Changes its Names for the details and the text of the legal document.

I had always heard that the Crabtrees came straight from England to Canada, so it was a great surprise to find that the truth was quite different. David was descended from both Loyalists and Pre-Loyalists. During the American Revolution, the Loyalists were the folks who remained loyal to the King of England, lost their lands, and left America to resettle in Canada. The Pre-Loyalists were those who had come to Canada from America prior to the Loyalist immigration of 1783. The story of the Loyalists is a dramatic one and full of hardship, and I hope to tell it eventually on this blog. 

David's maternal great-great grandparents, Israel Kinney and Susannah Hood, moved in 1767 from Topsfield, Massachusetts to Maugerville, in what would later become New Brunswick, Canada. Another set of great-great grandparents, John Crabb, Sr. and Elizabeth Bassett (who show up on both sides of David's family tree--David's father's grandfather, John Crabb, Jr., and David's mother's grandfather, Richard Arnold Crabb, were brothers), left Dutchess County, New York for New Brunswick in 1783.  

I never met my grandfather; what I know about him is the result of research, reading books, correspondence, and interviews. I haven't learned anything about his younger days, but I know that one of his sisters, Gertrude, died at the age of two; another sister, Elizabeth, died at the age of 24 of tuberculosis; and his brother, Aaron, died in the goldfields of Alaska in 1897. His sister, Sarah Ermina "Sadie" Kinney Thomas, was  the "Auntie" in my Aunt Sadie's memoirs (see Separated from the Family, etc.). Another sister, Anna Thursa Crabb, married Charles Field and I met them when I was a child and they visited our home in San Francisco in the 1950's. 

However, I have read about the grown and married David as both a farmer and neighbor. His neighbors called him Dave, and knew they could call on him for help with cutting ice, cutting brush, sawing wood, threshing, and moving machinery. I read about his hard-working farming days in Sheila Antworth Lafferty's blog, Diary of an Aroostook Farmer; The farm journals of Milton Lloyd Flewelling (1901-1996), a farmer from Easton, Aroostook County, Maine. "Dave" and "Cliff" (my uncle Clifford Crabtree) are mentioned frequently in Milton's journals, and Patricia Pickard's booklet (No. 5 in the Bibliography, below) on Clifford Crabtree tells us that Clifford worked on Milton's farm in Easton, Maine. Milton mentions a great deal of going back and forth between his farm and Dave's place in Beaconsfield, New Brunswick.

These next three quotes are from Pat Pickard's booklet, and are used with her kind permission. 

[Dave] was a farmer, plus he was busy at the local Baptist church where he was Sunday school superintendent. With godly parentage, the children of this family learned to love the things of God. David never failed to take his family of 13 children to church, even trudging on foot through snow at times. (Page 1)

Evelyn (Allen) Crabtree shares a bit of history on the Crabtree family: "Clifford's parents owned a nice home in Easton, [Maine] and they had an opportunity to sell it, which they did. They moved from Easton to Beaconsfield, New Brunswick--just over the border from Easton [some time after 1905]. The move to Beaconsfield seemed to be a mistake. Clifford's father, David, found that the soil was full of rocks and it caused him a lot of grief. He worked and worked to clear them out, only to find more rocks the following year. It was a hard life on that farm." [NOTE: The writer of this book had the opportunity to visit this farm in the 1970s, and wonders how they managed to farm at all. It was a beautiful spot--high on a hill, overlooking the town of Easton--but not for farming]. (Pages 1-2)

Donny Ladner used to butcher hogs in the Easton/Beaconsfield area, and whenever someone had a hog that they wanted to have butchered, they would call him up, fill a barrel full of water, and put it on to boil so that they could dip the hog in it for easy removal of its hair after it was slaughtered. One day David had a hog to be butchered, and Donny came to the Crabtree home in Beaconsfield and did the job. After he got the hog killed, it was time to put it in the hot water. David looked at his wife and said, "Ede (as he called her), we forgot to boil the water!" (Page 7)

Form for replacement of lost naturalization papers

Dave left behind a physical description of himself. This is a copy of an undated form requesting replacement of lost naturalization papers. It was apparently used as a draft or kept at home as a record of the completed form. Dave tells us that he is male, white with a medium complexion, has blue eyes and brown hair, is 5 feet 6 inches tall and weighs 148 pounds. He "kept papers in pocket. Lost while working in the field."

David is mentioned several times in the book, Prevailing Westerlies; The Pentecostal Heritage of Maine. It seems that David was often on hand to help with building and maintaining the churches of the area. His grandson, Charles T. Crabtree (see photo below) remembers: When the new sanctuary was built, I remember my dad talking to my grandfather, David Jewett [Crabtree], about getting permits to remove a big elm tree. He went on and on about the danger and expense. My grandfather just snorted. It was a thrilling sight for me to watch as the men began to ax away. They tied great ropes to guide the fall. It was a great victory to watch that monster fall in the exact spot my grandfather had planned. The only fly in the ointment was when Billy Washington sawed off a limb he was sitting on. He fell a long way but, miraculously, was not hurt. (pages 169-170).

Another church-building memory from the same book: Let's go back to the summer of 1947. The work on our new church on Court Street had been completed, and a group of us went down to Cape Jellison [Maine] to work on building a new church. Grampie Crabtree; Pastor [Clifford] Crabtree; [Clifford's] son, David, and I [author James Peters] traveled back and forth most of those days. We tore down an old barn for the lumber, which we hauled half way around the Cape to build the church... we tore the old building down and built the church... We had a few nails in our feet and bloodblisters under our nails from time to time, but we worked for the Lord and He blessed our efforts. I recall some of the antics of Charlie [Charles Flewelling, a missionary just back from Africa] and Grampie (David) Crabtree--who says Christians can't have fun? They were always playing practical jokes on each other and on anyone who happened to be in the vicinity. I considered it a great privilege to work alongside these men who, as we look back on our heritage, made such an impact for the Lord, both at home and on the foreign field. (Pages 171-172)

The late Rev. David J. Crabtree assisted greatly in the work of this church. [He] laid the foundation. (Pages 175-176)

Grandfather "Grampie" David and his grandson, Charles Talmage Crabtree (son of Clifford Crabtree)
All three served as ministers in the Pentecostal Church (David started out as a Baptist)
As Charles was born in 1937, I am guessing that this photo was taken c. 1952,
or two years before Grampie's death in 1954
(Photo courtesy of Patricia Pickard)

Undated photo of Grandfather David
Courtesy of Patricia Pickard

Undated photo from Patricia Pickard

This is an indirect (and not very flattering) story about Grandfather. My mother (Elva Crabtree Harris Rodriguez) told me about a time when her mother, Edith, was in labor with her last baby, David, Jr. My mother's older brothers were out with the horse and wagon and stopped to talk with a neighbor who asked after Edith's health. He jokingly asked that since they already had kids named Faith and Hope in the family, were they planning to name this new baby-to-be Charity? One of the brothers, no doubt feeling great sympathy for his mother's labor with her 13th child, said "'Twould be a great charity if he [David, Sr.] would leave her alone so's she'd have no more babies!"

Here are the last two stories that I have about my grandfather. The first was received in an email from Patricia Pickard, 4 May 2014:

I just came across a typescript that has a story about David Jewett Crabtree:
"A former neighbor from Beaconsfield, N.B., Handy Nevers, recalls that many a time David J. Crabtree and Frank Nevers (who became very good friends) walked twelve miles to Perth to attend Pentecostal meetings there. David lived in Beaconsfield, N.B. with his family, and Frank's family lived nearby in Dover Hill.
"David J. Crabtree had a terrible accident while living in Beaconsfield. He fell off a load of hay and broke his neck. He was prayed for and God healed him completely."

And from my cousin, Cheryl Blakely (via Facebook, August 11, 2014): I very rarely heard my mom [Faith Crabtree Blakely] talk of her dad. She did say he was like an old banty hen, tough and stubborn. She said he fell off the roof and broke his neck. She said it didn't kill him the first time. The second time did. Whether that's true or not, I have no idea.

Copy of David's obituary, courtesy of Patricia Pickard

embeddable family tree updated live from WikiTree


1. Bell, Edwin Wallace: Israel Kenny; His Children and Their Families. [Vancouver, B.C.], 1944. May be borrowed from Open Library for reading online:

2. Kinney, Fern Gallup: Kith and Kin of the Kinneys. [nd]. PDF file available for download:

4. Peters, James E. and Patricia Pickard: Prevailing Westerlies; the Pentecostal Heritage of Maine. Shippensburg, PA: Destiny Image, 1988.

5. Pickard, Patricia P.: Rev. Clifford A. Crabtree, Called of God. Prepared for the 90th anniversary celebration of Glad Tidings Church, Bangor, Maine, November 24, 2013. Published by Glad Tidings Church, 1033 Broadway, Bangor, Maine 04401. 2013. (A copy may be purchased from Glad Tidings Church for a suggested donation of $10.00 or more).

6. Pickard, Patricia, from a typescript, "Notes taken during a phone conversation that Pat Pickard of Bangor, Maine had with Handy Nevers of Brockville, Ontario on April 26, 2013."

7. Smith, Louise Elizabeth, compiler and editor: Grandma and Me; Family Stories, Information, and Photos of the Crabtree and Higginson Families of Amanda Myrtie Crabtree Briggs. Cave Creek, Arizona: Austin-Smith Books, 2007. (May be purchased from at

1 comment:

  1. This is an amazing thing you're doing, chronicling our family stories and history. Thank you. Family members for generations to come will be thanking you too!

    I didn't realize Aunt Faith once lived in San Francisco.

    Our grandfather was quite a character. Too bad we never met him but we're getting to know him now at least, thanks to your efforts.


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