James Monroe Crawford

Prominent Merchant and Wholesale Grocer of Coleman, Texas

by Ralph Terry

(This article appeared in my Looking Backward column
of the Coleman County Chronicle and Democrat-Voice Newspaper, February 19, 2002)

     J. M. Crawford was born in Lovejoy, Georgia, December 25, 1852, married in 1881, to Laura Anna Attaway, also of Georgia.  They had one son, Alex.  In January 1891, they came to Texas, and after prospecting for land through what is now central Texas, they located and in Coleman County.  J. M. farmed for several years east of Coleman on Hords Creek.  To avoid Georgia cotton planting, he grew wheat and oats, but droughts during those years depleted his small fortune, and he accepted a position or job with H. N. Beakley for $20 per month.  He then entered the syrup business and began in this way to recoupe his finances.  A man in Georgia owned him a small account and in reply to Mr. Crawford’s letters informed the local man he had no cash but would gladly pay in syrup if Mr. Crawford would or could pay the freight.  Mr. Crawford was as hard up financially as the Georgia man, and wrote back to Georgia telling him that if he would send one barrel of the syrup and pay the freight he would square the account.

     The barrel of syrup arrived and Mr. Crawford gave a portion to Jim Coleman, then connected with the Coleman National Bank.  Mr. Coleman was impressed with the quality of the Georgia article and told Mr. Crawford that if he would get a railroad car load he could make a fortune.  Mr. Coleman extended aid and Mr. Crawford’s career as a wholesaler started.  He sold more than 48 railroad car loads the last year he dealt in the commodity.  He then entered the retail grocery and grain business that later developed into the J. M. Crawford Wholesale Grocery Company.

     I am still trying to determine where J. M. Crawford’s 1st business was located.  I believe it was on Commercial Avenue.  He was at this location from the late 1890’s or early 1900's until about 1910.

First business house of J. M. Crawford – Grain and Feed Dealer
(Location not known, probably on Commercial Avenue)

     In late 1909, he purchased a group of buildings at the southwest corner of Commercial and West College Avenues, and I quote from a special 1910 edition of the Coleman Democrat – Voice newspaper about the merchants of the county, telling about his 2nd location.  “Several thousand dollars will be spent in renovating the double brick store he is now occupying and he is adding 25 feet more front to it that will bring his house out to the full 75 feet front on Commercial Avenue.  In addition to the new addition he is having put up, the entire old store will be renovated inside and out.  Cement floors will be laid and steel ceilings will cover the entire store rooms.  The walls will be worked over and placed in condition consistent with the new part of the building and an arch will be cut through from the new room to the old.  Cement sidewalks twelve feet wide will be put all around the property and a metal steel-hung awning will be put over the 75 feet of frontage.  When these improvements have been placed in, Mr. Crawford will have one of the nicest establishments of its kind to be found anywhere in the South and an establishment that will be an honor and credit to a city ten times the size of Coleman.”

     He remained at the Commercial location until about 1926, when he built a large new building (of which I have an early photograph, but have not located), on the south side of the railroad tracks, where Pecan Street intersects with Llano Street.  This building now identified with a sign as “Riverside Chemical Company.”  However, in February 1927, his wife of 46 years died at the age of 69.  Her death apparently left him heartbroken, for in December 1927, he had sold his wholesale grocery business and building to the J. M. Radford Grocery Company, with headquarters in Abilene, for more than $50,000.

Second location of J. M. Crawford – Wholesale Grocer
(Southwest corner of Commercial and West College Avenues,
occupied by J. C. Penney and Stacey Jameson, CPA, in 2002)

     Soon after the sale of his business, he went with his son, who had been in business with his father, on a land prospecting tour of Alabama.  They purchased property near Demopolis, Alabama.  Very soon after this purchase, in March 1928, J. M. became ill and died at a Demopolis hospital.  His body was returned to Coleman for burial beside his wife.  He was 77 years of age.

     He and his family were members of the First Methodist Church.  He and his wife had a great deal to do with the construction of the second First Methodist building in 1916, as he was trustee and she was on the building committee.  At that time, their son, Alex was a steward in the church.

     Their son, Alex Crawford remained in Alabama, where he became successful rancher.  He has descendants living there today.  In August 1930, a Coleman Democrat - Voice newspaper article states, “J. T. Blair and the J. C. Dibrell estate (of Coleman County), shipped a railroad car of fine Hereford cattle to Alex Crawford, former Coleman citizen, who is ranching at Demopolis, Alabama.  The shipment consisted of 26 head of Hereford heifer yearlings from the Blair ranch and 4 head of registered bulls from the Dibrell ranch.  The shipment was made from Valera.  Mr. Crawford purchased some of the Overall cattle soon after he went to Alabama and the shipment of Saturday is intended to enlarge and improve his herd.”

(Information used in this article was taken from
the February 1910 Special Edition, the Crawfords’ obituaries, and other articles,
all appearing in the Coleman Democrat – Voice newspapers.)

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