The Craft Family

From the last blog, we talked about the J.W. Craft & Sons company in Ambler. Let's talk about the family behind the business, and where did they go after the business ended.


It all started with Joseph Watson Craft (1847-1921) who was born in Gwynedd Township, PA, and the son of Jacob and Elizabeth Craft. Growing up, Joseph attended district schools in the area, at Professor John W. Loch's academy in Norristown, and then at Millersville State normal school. After Millersville, he worked as a clerk in the Norristown iron works for 18 years. After 18 years, Joseph moved to Ambler where he bough the lumber and coal yard that was originally laid out by Jonathan Lukens. Ever since then, he expanded his business and built up a good and profitable trade. He served as the first burgess of Ambler and a member of the school board for 6 years. He was a stockholder and a director of the First National Bank.


With all the businesses in Ambler, Joseph looked to help them out with advancements and progress.


In politics, Joseph was a dedicated Republican.


Sad Fact: Joesph, Sr. witness a tragic accident at the train station in 1897: "J. Watson Craft was standing in his office when he saw a woman start across the track. He heard the danger signal." That woman was Frances Mann, who died at the Ambler Station while walking in front of a rapidly-approaching train.


In his personal life Joseph married Mary Griggs in 1872, and had 3 children: Adele, E. Frank, and Joseph, Jr. The person who took over his father's business was the namesake Joseph W. Craft, Jr.


Joseph W. Craft, Jr. (1891-1971) was the son of Joseph, Sr. and Mary Craft. He was described as "educated, versatile, and talented." Joseph, Jr. attended the Friends' Central School in Philadelphia, and graduated in 1910. He later attended Lafayette College, and graduated in 1914. In 1917, during World War I, he was enlisted in the US Army in Company 36 of the Motor Transport Corps. He was then appointed sergeant. He was transferred to numerous places during the war until he was discharged in 1919.

Clipping from the Ambler Gazette; September 7, 1944

After his father died in 1921, Joseph Jr. to take over his father's business, and responsibilities were put onto his shoulders to follow his father's footsteps.


It's unknown how long the business lasted under Joseph, Jr.


In his personal life, he married Ruth Grim in

graduated from Ambler High School (before the name changed to Wissahickon) in 1944, and attended Cedar Crest College. She studied liberal arts.


Fun Fact: Alice was considered a well-rounded person: she was involved in the school's A Cappella Choir and Glee Club, served as a piano accompanist, and joined sports like hockey and archery.


I can understand why the newspaper featured his daughter. Since his company became famous in Ambler, they thought to publicize his family. The Craft family were like celebrities in Ambler, even though the Keasby and Mattison Co. was more well-known. I feel that they embraced Ambler more than Keasby and Mattison Co. They were more public than the company.


Let's talk about their homes in Ambler and Lower Gwynedd!!


  • 1101 Hagues Mill Rd, Ambler, PA 19002

I pass by this house every time I drive along Bethlehem Pike. I kept noticing the stone entry to the house, and I thought to myself, "This property must be old." Or it's just that it's a nice touch.


I was happy to find out something about this place. Unfortunately it's not a lot.


In 1908, Joseph, Sr. purchased a property called Hague's Mill at the NE corner of Bethlehem Pike and Hagues Mill Road. The place was originally owned by the Burk family in early years possibly before Ambler was established. He later sold the property to Robert Griffith.


It's not clear about the other property right across from the "Woodvale" house. Maybe it was extra land.


Atlas of the North Penn Section of Montgomery County, Pa., 1916, Plate 27; A. H. Mueller, Publisher
Google Satellite Plan View: 1101 Hagues Mill Rd, Ambler, PA 19002
Google Satellite Birdseye View: Looking West
  • 100 Mount Pleasant Avenue, Ambler, PA 19002

It's unknown when Joseph, Sr. bought this property. He owned this property at the same time with the property in Lower Gwynedd. The houses across from his "West View" property were possibly his employees'/executive's houses. It's like the Keasby & Mattison Co. where the executives lived right across from Richard Mattison's "Lindenwold" property. Their houses are still standing today, owned by current residents in Ambler.

Clipping from The Lumber Manufacturer and Dealer, Volume 67, Page 96

To confirm which house was really his, here's a clipping about Joseph Sr.'s death. It indicated where he died at. But it didn't say which house... until I saw a column about Joseph Jr.'s daughter. It said that their property was located on 100 Mt. Pleasant Ave. When I looked it up on Google Maps, it looked a bit off. Looking back to the historical maps, the address is DEFINITELY off. The real address is 98 Mt. Pleasant Ave, and it makes sense after looking at the architecture of the house. It has that Victorian-style look. It definitely fits in the 1890s era!


After Joseph, Sr. died, his two children, Adele and Joseph, Jr., took over his property. Adele took over most of the property while Joseph Jr. took that one corner. That was where he was born. I think the reason why Joseph Sr.'s wife had a different section was because she used the house to raise her children, including Joseph Jr., while Joseph Sr. developed his workspace in the same area, just like Richard Mattison and his "Lindenwold" property.


Atlas of the North Penn Section of Montgomery County, Pa., 1916, Plate 26; A. H. Mueller, Publisher
Montgomery County 1949 Vol D, Plate 014 - Ambler Borough; Franklin Survey Company, Publisher
Google Satellite Plan: The big shape is now occupied by apartment buildings and developed houses
Google Satellite Plan View: 98 E Mt Pleasant Ave, Ambler, PA 19002
Google Satellite Birdseye View: Looking West

You can look up the Craft Family in the Ambler Gazette archives linked below, even about Adele Craft, sister of Joseph, Jr. I can tell you that you would see lots of J.W. Craft & Sons advertisements.


I can definitely say that they were "famous" locals.


Bibliography:


"Distance Calculator." DaftLogic. Accessed May 14, 2020. https://www.daftlogic.com/projects-google-maps-distance-calculator.htm.


"Find A Grave." Find A Grave. Accessed May 14, 2020. https://www.findagrave.com.


Franklin Survey Company. Montgomery County 1949 Vol D, Plate 14, 1949.


Hough, Mary P. H. "Early history of Ambler 1682-1888." Accessed May 14, 2020. https://digital.library.upenn.edu/women/hough/ambler/ambler.html.


Hunsicker, Clifton Swenk. Montgomery County, Pennsylvania ; a history. (New York; Chicago, Lewis historical publishing company, inc., 1923): 391-392.


Mueller, A.H. Atlas of the North Penn Section of Montgomery County, Pa., Plate 26 & 27, 1916.


"Obituaries, Death Notices, and Funeral Notices - Ma-Mc." Montgomery County Pennsylvania Genealogy. Accessed May 14, 2020. http://www.montgomery.pa-roots.com/Obituaries/ObitsMa-Mc.html.


Wiley, Samuel T. Biographical and Portrait Cyclopedia of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, Containing Biographical Sketches of Prominent and Representative Citizens of the County, Together with an Introductory Historical Sketch. (Philadelphia, Biographical Publishing Company, 1895): 335-336.


"Wissahickon Valley Public Library's Ambler Gazette Collection." POWER Library: Pennsylvania's Electronic Library. Accessed May 14, 2020. http://digitalcollections.powerlibrary.org/cdm/landingpage/collection/wivp-gazett.


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