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COL. J. C. CRAVENS. Among the most esteemed and respected citizens of Springfield, Missouri, there is not one who has been a more faithful soldier, a more pleasant or agreeable member of society, or a more thorough or sagacious attorney than the gentleman whose name is mentioned above. He is a native of Saline County, Missouri, where he was born February 18, 1838.
The son of Dr. John and Ruhannah (Chaplin) Cravens, the former of whom was born at Harrisburg, Rockingham County, Virginia, a son of Dr. Joseph Cravens. This family is of Scotch-Irish descent and first took root on American soil in the early part of the eighteenth century. For a long period they were known in Virginia alone, but the members finally separated and branched out for themselves until now their descendants are found in all parts of the United States. The grandfather of the subject of this sketch was a soldier of the Revolution and was present at the surrender of Lord Cornwallis. The branch of the family of which Col. Cravens is a member left Virginia and settled in Indiana, and there Dr. John Cravens and his brothers became distinguished citizens. James H. still resides in the Hoosier State; Oscar was a participant in the Florida War, and who is a resident of Madison, Indiana All of the male members of this family were Whigs and have since supported the Democratic party. Dr. John Cravens was educated in the schools of Virginia and was married at Harrisburg, to a daughter of J. Chaplin, of Welsh extraction and a very wealthy man. Mrs. Cravens was born in Virginia, and after her marriage she and Dr. Cravens moved westward, for the benefit of the latter’s health which had become much impaired by too closely following the arduous duties of his profession. In 1840 he moved to Davis County, and there made his home until his death in March, 1882, at the age of eighty-five years. He became a surgeon in the Confederate Army during the Civil War, but served only one year on account of his advanced age, and until the last gun was fired, in 1865, he made his home in Texas. During the latter part of his life he voted the Democratic ticket, although he had formerly been a Whig. He took a prominent part in the affairs of his section, and being naturally a leader, he became extremely well and favorably known throughout his section. His wife also died in 1882, at the age of seventy-eight years. To their union seven sons and three daughters were given: Elizabeth, who married Philip R. Wirt, a prosperous merchant, died in 1867; Coraline, married John A. Leopard, an attorney at law; Robert O., went to California in 1850, and is still residing there engaged in merchandising and practicing law; Joseph was killed by lightning when about eighteen years old; Amanda is the widow of Douglas McDonald of Davis County; William, died in Springfield in 1881, having been a prosperous farmer in the vicinity of that place since 1867 he was a private in Col. Cravens’ regiment during the war, was a Democrat politically and was well known throughout Greene County); John N., died in Davis County in 1876, having been a successful physician (he was a soldier in a regiment of Missouri Infantry during the war); J. C., the subject of this sketch; Edgar H., who lives on a farm in Davis County, Missouri; and Oscar, who died at the age of twelve years. The parents of these children were members of the Methodist Episcopal Church, and the father was an active and prominent Mason. He was well educated and took pride in keeping well posted and up with the times.
The early life of Col. J. C. Cravens was spent on a farm up to the time he was fourteen years old, at which time his father moved to Gallatin, to give his children better school advantages, and there, after finishing his education, J. C. Cravens began clerking in a drug store which was owned by his father. Later he began the study of medicine, for which purpose he entered the Masonic College of Lexington, but finished his studies in the State University, from which he graduated in 1860, after which he accepted a position as principal of an academy in his native town.
At about this time the great Civil War came on, and he cast aside personal considerations to shoulder a musket and don a suit of gray. He enlisted in Company B, and the first engagement in which he participated was at Carthage in 1861. He was afterward at Wilson’s Creek, then Dry Wood, Lexington and Rolla, and while in camp at Osceola he was made lieutenant-colonel by his commander December 1, 1861, but after the reorganization of the army at Springfield, Col. Cravens was on the staff of Gen. Slack. He then participated in many engagements throughout the State and in Arkansas, the most notable of which was the battle of Pea Ridge, and after the death of Gen. Slack he was on staff duty with Gen. Martin Green, with whom he went to Corinth, Miss. He was in the battle of Farmington and at Tupelo, after which he was sent as recruiting officer to Arkansas, and while at Fayetteville was captured, but luckily made his escape the next day and joined Col. Hughes, whom he assisted to organize a company of 100 men in the neighborhood of Fayetteville. While on their way to the Missouri River they had a number of skirmishes on the way. When Col. Hughes was killed Col. Cravens organized a company, known as Company F, and attached it to Col. Hay’s Missouri Cavalry Regiment, and a few days later the battle of Lone Jack was fought. He was elected captain of his company and in the fall of 1862 it was attached to Col. Smith’s regiment of the same brigade, and he commanded it at Cone Hill, Prairie Grove, Springfield and Hartville. He accompanied Marmaduke into Missouri in the spring of 1863, during which time he took part in a number of unimportant engagements and also some sharp fighting, especially at Helena, Arkansas Later he was with Gen. Shelby through Missouri, which expedition was planned by 600 volunteer men and Col. Cravens and his lieutenant were among the number. They captured a number of towns in Missouri and Arkansas, until they were defeated at Marshall, Missouri, shortly after which they retired into winter quarters. When the regiment was reorganized the title of major was conferred upon Mr. Cravens, and the entire Arkansas Infantry was sent to reinforce Gen. Kirby Smith in Louisiana. In the engagement at Marks Mill, Col. Cravens, with about fifty followers, captured 100 men with six pieces of artillery and 300 wagons. After the defeat at Steele he returned with his command at northeast Arkansas and during that summer was on active duty all the time and in numerous skirmishes. They captured a gun-boat on the White River, known as the “Queen City” and were then for some time with Price in Missouri and were in an engagement with the Federals on the Big and Little Blue, and at Independence with Gen. Blunt. Col. Cravens was left at Independence with a force of 100 men and was told not to leave that place until he was ordered or driven out. He remained there until army came up, when he was compelled to retire. He took part in the battle of Westport the next day and later was with Price in the engagement at Ft. Scott and saved that noted General’s army at a still later period by checking the advance of the Federals. At Newtonia, November 11, 1864, having lost his colonel in the battle, he was promoted to lieutenant-colonel and held this rank until the war closed. He was slightly wounded at Lone Jack by the explosion of a gun, but may be said to have been singularly fortunate in this respect during the four years that he was on active duty. He surrendered at Little Rock and returned to his home with the consciousness of having performed all his duties faithfully and of having lent valuable aid to the cause that was very dear to him.
Col. Cravens was married at Belleville, Arkansas, in 1864, to Miss Annie Smith, a daughter of Col. Robert Smith, of Arkansas, who was a wealthy planter of that State and a member of the first convention held in Arkansas. He died in Springfield, Missouri, in 1879, his wife’s death occurring here two years earlier, in her native State. He was born at Georgetown in the District of Columbia. Mrs. Cravens was born in Arkansas, the only daughter of her parents, and after her marriage she and Col. Cravens settled at Belleville. In 1866 he graduated from the Law Department of the State University, having previously studied with Judge Barnes and Judge James Butler, of Belleville, and soon after graduating was admitted to the bar. He then formed a partnership with Judge Butler, which continued until 1868, when they severed connection and Col. Cravens came to Springfield, Missouri, and opened a law office. He practiced alone for sometime then became associated with Col. Crawford, then Judge Bray, and finally with Mr. Goode, the firm name being Cravens & Goode. Col. Cravens has practiced law in all the counties of Southwest Missouri, and his reputation as an able, successful and experienced lawyer is of the best. He has conducted many cases to a successful issue and has always been known to advise against litigation when it could be avoided. He is the attorney for the Gulf R. R., as well as other important corporations, and has taken part in some of the most important criminal cases in the southwestern part of the State. He has always been active in the political affairs of his section and in an early day held the office of city attorney of Springfield, being elected on the Democratic ticket of which he is an enthusiastic member. Socially he belongs to the A. F. & A. M., and the Royal Arcanum. The Colonel and his wife are members of the Presbyterian Church and have a very pleasant and comfortable home on Market Street, Springfield.
To them seven children have been born: Susan, who is the widow of a Mr. Bowden, a prosperous attorney, has one child, Jerry, and makes her home with her father, Col. Cravens; Bell is the wife of Henry C. Cran, an attorney of Springfield and has two children, Robert and Louise; Elizabeth; Irene; Robert 0.; Jerry, Jr., and Zoe L. Although Missouri has its full quota of successful and well-posted lawyers, whose popularity is based upon their thorough understanding of the law in all its details and who are forcible and convincing pleaders at the bar, none among these is more highly regarded than Col. Cravens, and his time is fully occupied with a large and arduous and profitable practice.