John Hipple Croft was born March 30, 1819 in Bedford County, Pennsylvania and was the fourth child of Daniel and Margaret Croft. Bedford County is located in the south central part of Pennsylvania, bordering the state of Maryland. Its lush farmland and woodlands made it a very attractive site for a farming family like the Crofts.
Though much research has been done, little documented information about Daniel and Margaret Croft has been uncovered. There are 1820 and 1830 census records for Woodbury, Bedford, Pennsylvania. One records a Daniel Kroft and the other a Daniel Croft. Census records before 1850 record only the head of household and age ranges for members of the family and this makes it difficult to determine if either of these men was “our” Daniel Croft.
From estate information for Margaret Croft, I found that Daniel and Margaret Croft had seven children – Ann, George, John, Jacob, Catherine, Elizabeth and Daniel. Further research on each of the children verified this information. All the children were born in Pennsylvania.
While living in Pennsylvania, John met his future wife, Elizabeth Teeter. She may have been the daughter of David and Mary Agley Teeter, also spelled Teater. She was born April 18, 1824 in Buffalo Mills, Bedford County, Pennsylvania. I have not located an official marriage record for them, but later census records indicate they were married about 1840 in Pennsylvania, probably Bedford or Huntingdon County.
In my endeavor to uncover information about John and Elizabeth following their marriage, I wandered into lots of blind alleys! They would eventually end up in Nebraska, so I asked myself these questions – “When and why did they leave Pennsylvania? How long did it take for them to get there?” From census records, I found that their first two children, Mary Ann and Margaret were born in Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania (1841 and 1845). Their third child, Barbara, was born in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania (1847). When John, Jr. was born in 1850, they were in Van Buren County, Iowa, so the move west had begun.
We pick up on the life of John Hipple Croft in 1856. He was living in Appanoose County, Iowa and was listed in the Iowa, State Census Collection, 1836 -1925. From this record, we find he was 37 years old, was married and had lived in the state eight years.
Evidently, John, Elizabeth and their children were a part of a large migration from the east to the state of Iowa during the 1850’s. Excerpts from Iowa Journal of History & Politics provide a glimpse into this event and how it may have influenced John and Elizabeth’s decision to move there.
The decade beginning in 1850 was to witness a migrating tide which was to sweep over the waste places of the State and to inundate the valleys and hills with more than sufficient human energy to build up a Commonwealth of the first rank.
There were several things which encouraged migration during this period. Railroad lines had been completed to the Mississippi, and so the eastern border of Iowa was easily reached. It was during this decade also that the railroads began advertising western lands. Land speculators and land companies offered inducements which appeared most alluring to the land hungry men of the more densely populated areas farther east. Guides for emigrants were published in great quantities, and articles containing glowing accounts of the beauty, advantages, and fertility of the Iowa country appeared in hundreds of Eastern newspapers until the name “Iowa’ became a household word…
Immigration to Iowa is astonishing and unprecedented…For miles and miles, day after day, the prairies of Illinois are lined with cattle and wagons, pushing on toward this prosperous State. At a point beyond Peoria, during a single month, seventeen hundred and forty-three wagons had passed, and all for Iowa. Allowing five persons to a wagon, which is a fair average, would give 8715 souls to the population.
These people came into Iowa by the hundreds of thousands during the decade ending in 1860. The majority passed on through the settled area to the frontier; others moved into the intervening spaces between the older settlements; themselves joined the canvas-covered trains that were traveling toward the West.
When the 1860 United States Federal Census was taken, John and Elizabeth had moved to Monroe County, Iowa and had a family of seven children – Mary A. (18), Margaret (15), Barbary (12), John (10), Caroline (7), Eli (5) and William (2). John’s occupation was recorded as Gunsmith. Other things interesting to note: John owned real estate valued at $400; Elizabeth could not read or write; Mary Ann was a School Teacher; and Margaret was a Domestic Worker.
As we know, America was embroiled in the Civil War between 1861 and 1867. Undoubtedly, along with other folks in Monroe County, Iowa, the lives of John, Elizabeth and their children were affected by this conflict. Information from the US GenWeb Archives gives us insight into how this war impacted people living in this area.
The outbreak of the Civil War did not disturb the settlement and prosperous growth of Monroe County, although many volunteers from the district served in the Union forces. Some were vigorous young farmers and mechanics; most of them were sons of the settlers who had been cultivating the region since the early 1840’s.
In Monroe County, as in general throughout Iowa, popular sentiment upheld the Union and the North, but a few families were known to have sympathized with the southern cause. No conflicts or hostile incidents have been recorded, however, possibly because the men who were of military age are said to have ‘skipped to the far west’ to avoid the draft. The quota of volunteers requested from the State of Iowa was listed at 49,405, of which Monroe County’s share was 617.
In 1870, John and Elizabeth still lived in Monroe County and were recorded on the United States Federal Census as “Croff.” They had two more children, Edward (8) and Isabel (6). The older children, Mary, Margaret, Barbara and John, were no longer living in this household. Because the digital quality of this census reproduction was very poor, I could not read what occupation was recorded for John.
After living in Iowa over twenty years, John and Elizabeth made the decision to move to Nebraska in the mid 1870’s. They settled in Lone Tree, Clay County. The township’s name certainly describes the landscape of this part of the United States. At the time, it was a sparsely populated prairie land in south central Nebraska, and a major industry was corn and wheat farming. John, Elizabeth and their children, Eli (22), William (21), Edward (19) and Isebel (16) are listed in the 1880 United States Federal Census. A biographical sketch of John published a history of Clay County indicates that he was engaged in farming.
John and Elizabeth, along with five of their children, would live out their days in Clay County, Nebraska. I found two different written accounts that shed light on the man, John H. Croft. LaRhee Montgomery Lewis, great-granddaughter of John, wrote a family history which included this bit of information shared by her mother, Grace Croft Montgomery.
The reason my grandfather (William Teeter Croft) did not have an education was because of the alcoholism of his father. My great-grandfather’s name was John Henry (incorrect) Croft, and my great-grandmother’s name was Elisabeth Teeter Croft. My mother (Grace Irene Croft) often told us the stories her father used to tell. My great-grandfather would come home drunk. If the table was set ready to eat, he would upset the table. My great-grandmother used to say to my grandfather and his brothers, ‘Well, boys, see what alcohol does.’
Because of his childhood experiences, my grandfather was very intolerant of alcohol. He passed the feeling down to his children, and my mother was also very intolerant of alcohol. I admit, my mother had an influence upon me, also.
The biographical sketch included in the Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Adams, Clay, Webster and Nuckolls Counties, Nebraska gives this account of John H. Croft:
He has always identified himself with all feasible enterprises, and has contributed liberally of his means in their support. Although formerly a Whig in his political views, he has been a Republican since the organization of the party, and his first presidential vote was cast for William Henry Harrison. He and his wife are members of the United Brethren Church, and their union has been blessed in the birth of nine children.
Though very different accounts, they offer us both the private and the public persona of John Hipple Croft.
After over fifty years of marriage, John’s wife, Elizabeth, died on November 2, 1890. Fortunately, he had many family members living in the area to lend support and comfort. Since 1890 census records are not available, we have no information about him and whether he continued to live on his farm.
I discovered that John remarried on March 6, 1892, to a widow named Rebecca A. Scott Rush in Thomas County, Nebraska. Their time together was cut very short when John died on August 19 of the same year. He was buried next to his wife, Elizabeth, in the Clay Center Cemetery, Clay County, Nebraska.
“American Occupation of Iowa, 1833 to 1860,” Journal of History & Politics, Vol. 17, No. 1, Jan 1919. http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Gazetteer/Places/America/United_States/Iowa/Texts/journals/IaJHP/17/1/American_Occupation_of_Iowa*.html
Ancestry.com. 1860 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2009.
Ancestry.com. 1870 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2009.
Ancestry.com and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.1880 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc., 2010.
Ancestry.com. U.S., Find A Grave Index, 1600s-Current [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2012.
Ancestry.com. Iowa, State Census Collection, 1836-1925 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc., 2007.
Ancestry.com. Nebraska, State Census Collection, 1860-1885 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2009.
Biographical and historical memoirs of Adams, Clay, Webster and Nuckolls counties, Nebraska, Goodspeed Publishing Company, 1890.
Familysearch.org. Nebraska Marriages, 1855-1995, index [database on-line].
“History.Monroe County.” http://files.usgwarchives.net/ia/monroe/history/monroewpa.txt
Lewis, LaRhee Montgomery, “LeRhee’s Legacy.”
Written by Lucy Ann Nance Croft, 2014
John Hipple Croft Pedigree Chart (click link) john-h-croft-pedigree-chart