Ed Pulaski’s Extended Family in North Idaho

Marion (Dee) and Mary Crockett_preview

Sisters Mary (left) and Marion Crockett, Edwin and Jessie Crockett’s two daughters (PHOTO CREDIT:  Heather Heber Callahan archive)

As previously noted, Edward C. Pulaski’s westward adventure, begun in the spring of 1884, was partly inspired by letters his Uncle Edwin Crockett had written to Celia (Crockett) Pulaski — Edwin’s younger sister and Ed’s mother — during Edwin’s own western adventure in the 1850s.  Yet Edwin’s old letters did not constitute the full sum of Edward’s and Edwin’s communications and interactions.  Documents in Heather Heber Callahan’s dropbox archive now illuminate that Ed and Edwin had substantial opportunities for personal interaction, perhaps particularly in the periods from 1880-1884 and after 1890.  Their paths would cross and recross until Edwin’s death in 1907.  In due course, moreover, a growing number of Edwin and wife Jessie Crockett’s descendants would expand the dimensions Ed Pulaski’s extended family in North Idaho.

Edwin’s search for gold had taken him from the James Crockett family farm in Ohio across the Great Plains to California, then to British Columbia, and finally to North Idaho.  At Pierce, Idaho in the spring of 1861, with a partner named John Montgomery, Edwin successfully mined $23,000 of the precious metal product (in Vesser, 1987, p. 151).  Later in 1861, Edwin made his way back to Ohio; he married Jessie (Janet) Reid on May 26, 1862; and he enlisted in the Union army in the fall of 1863.

Edwin and Jessie’s first child, Thomas, was born February 26, 1863 in Henry County, Ohio, while the Civil War raged.  Their second child, Josiah, was born August 21, 1865, a mere four months after General Lee surrendered to General Grant at Appomattox Courthouse, Virginia.  Five more children, two girls and three boys, would be born in Ohio.  Then, around 1880, Edwin Crockett and his family visited Marshall Township, Saline County, Missouri to see Celia and Rudolph Pulaski and their family, who  had only recently moved there themselves.  “We went for a visit,” Mary (Crockett) Casey, Edwin and Jessie’s fourth child recalled in 1953, “but stayed for ten years.”  A contemporary source locates the Crockett farm “nine miles east of Marshall, on the Arrow Rock road.”  The farm comprised, this source added, “…226 acres of very fine land” (Arrow Rock Township Biographies, p. 545).  Edwin and Jessie’s eighth, and last, child, a son named William, was born in Saline County, Missouri on May 30th, 1882. 

It’s not easy to assess how much contact Edwin and his family may have had with Rudolph Pulaski’s family when both families lived in Ohio.  Napoleon, Henry County’s county seat, is roughly 65 miles east of Green Springs, Ohio, where the Pulaski’s lived.  We are uncertain at this point whether a rail connection would have made travel between the two farms easy and inexpensive.  In 1880, however, Edwin and family’s 10-year-long “visit” to Saline County, Missouri, where the Pulaski’s lived and farmed, surely would have opened up opportunities for more frequent interactions.  Edward Pulaski would have been 14 in 1880, perhaps an excellent age for listening in rapt fascination to his storyteller Uncle Edwin’s tales of both western adventure and his Civil War experiences.  It is certainly not outside the realm of possibility that Edwin and his family were present to wish 17-18 year-old traveler a safe journey when Ed made his departure for North Idaho in 1884.

In 1890 Edwin and Jessie decided to relocate their family to North Idaho.  By 1890, their two oldest sons, Thomas and Josiah, had died.  Vesser (1987) relates that Thomas, the oldest son, while attending college, caught pneumonia at a school function.  His lungs hemorrhaged and he expired at age 20, on October 31st, 1883.  Vesser conveyed a touching anecdote in relation to the second son’s, Josiah’s, untimely death.  “He went West, to Mont. with Ed Pulaski,” Vesser wrote,

to work in the mines around Anaconda.  He loaned the money he made to some one who was unable to repay him when he wanted to go back to Missouri, so he decided to walk.  On the way he had a severe case of sunstroke from which he never recovered.  He died at the age of 22 [on June 30, 1887].

Why would Edwin, at age 61, and Jessie, age 50, pick up and move to North Idaho in 1890?  Daughter Mary (Crockett) Casey was quoted as saying, “My father always wanted to return to the Idaho country,” in a 1953 newspaper report. A newspaper clipping dated April 14, 1888 (St. Louis Post-Dispatch) — in Heather Heber Callahan’s dropbox archive — reports that Edwin Crockett’s “dwelling-house” in Missouri was destroyed by fire.  Most of the furniture was saved, said the report, and insurance covered $800 or the $1,600 loss.  Whatever the reasons for their move, Edwin and Jessie set out by train for North Idaho “in October of 1890.” Expecting cold temps, Sebring wrote, they dressed in warm clothes — clothes in which they subsequently nearly “roasted” on the trip.  “They also had their first taste of banana,” wrote Sebring, “which no one liked” (on rail trip, see Marion Sebring letter, in Vesser, 1987, pp. 27-30, no date).

Edwin & Jessie Crockett-better.jpeg

Jessie and Edwin Crockett (PHOTO CREDIT:  Heather Heber Callahan archive)

By October, 1890, the Crockett’s five surviving and unmarried children would have ranged in age from 8 to 23 years old.  Oldest daughter, Marion, had married Samuel P. Vesser on August 15, 1887 in Missouri.  The other five offspring likely made the trip with their parents.  Edwin and Jessie’s move to North Idaho seems to have paved the way for a number of others to follow as well.  Vesser’s (1987) text says the Crockett family was followed in their move by “…some of their relatives and friends (Vessers, Reids, and Pulaskis)” (p. 2).  Sebring’s letter, however, noted:  “Except for Uncle Sam’s [i.e., Samuel P. Vesser], they came considerably later” (in Vesser, 1987, p. 27).

By the winter of 1890-1891, then, Ed Pulaski would have acquired the relatively nearby potential company of the Crockett family in their new North Idaho locations.  When he was living in Burke or Wallace, Ed could avail himself of daily train service to Coeur d’Alene, which service became available in the mid-1880s.  Ed’s Crockett-side extended family in North Idaho, moreover, would grow and grow over the coming years.  Sam and Marion (Crockett) Vesser arrived in Coeur d’Alene in December, 1890.  The Vessers would have 11 children, although one perished soon after birth.  Edwin and Jessie’s daughter Mary Crockett married James P. Casey, at Hayden Lake, on July 11, 1897 – and the Casey’s would raise five children.  Son James Reid Crockett married Hilda Sophie Christenson, at Sandpoint, on March 18, 1908.  They would raise four children.  Son Charles and his wife, Emily Crockett Gould, would raise four children.  Son William and his wife, Bessie Dyer, had two children.  Only son Edward, who died of burns from a fire in 1907, at age 33, never married nor had children.  Most of this growing flock appears to have remained over much of their lives in the North Idaho-Spokane area.

In still more time of course still more descendants of Edwin and Jessie Crockett would populate North Idaho’s panhandle.  Fred S. Vesser’s volume, The Crockett, Casey, and Vesser Families of North Idaho (1987) veritably teems with them.  Many, as it happens, would be buried, as Ed and Emma Pulaski were, at Coeur d’Alene’s Forest Cemetery.  An online index of graves in this memorial garden lists 12 graves for Crocketts, seven for Caseys, and seven for Vessers.  Five of Edwin and Jessie’s eight offspring were buried there, and the two sons who died young in Missouri, Thomas and Josiah, are honorifically listed on the Crockett memorial monument at the Forest Cemetery.

Perhaps Edwin and Ed, the two North Idaho pioneers, shared a Christmas dinner in 1890, when Edwin’s family arrived in North Idaho.  Correspondence suggests that Ed, and Emma, kept up communication with all their Crockett-related cousins, nieces, and nephews over the years.  In a letter to one such cousin in 1930, by which time Ed and Emma had moved to Coeur d’Alene, Ed remarked that it was difficult to keep track of the whole flock (letter, Edward Pulaski to Marian Casey, March 30, 1930).


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