The Depressing End to the Life of W. Lebanon New Hampshire’s Express Clerk, Edward Payson Craft (1848-1882)

Edward Payson Craft

Edward Payson Craft

Edward Payson Craft’s story is a convoluted one. I purchased his photograph on one of the popular online auction websites. The seller’s ad stated:

Here’s a great gem tintype (about the size of a postage stamp) of a young man named Edward P. Craft who resembled actor Johnny Depp. Online databases indicate he was born about 1848 and was a son of Samuel and Joanna E. Craft. He died in St. Albans, Vermont on April 27, 1882 and is buried in the West Lebanon Cemetery in West Lebanon, Grafton County, New Hampshire. The photo probably dates to the early 1870’s and the image is very clear. See scan.

This brief notice seems uneventful really, except that he died while in his thirties. His face is interestingly handsome, his necktie, and hat (what you can see of it) seemingly jaunty. There is nothing that might imply anything gloomy. Yet it appears that Edward Payson Craft suffered from the terrible disease of depression, and possibly also was addicted to morphine and other drugs.Craft headline

The local newspaper of his day reported the following:”Edward P. Craft, aged 34, of Lebanon, N.H., employed as a clerk in the United States and Canada express office at St. Albans, killed himself there recently with chloral and morphine, on account of ill-health.” [The St. Johnsbury Caledonian (St. Johnsbury VT) 5 May 1882, page 2]

At first blush it would seem that Mr. Craft was ailing and he purposefully took a drug to end his life. But sadly, his story is longer and darker. If the testimony of those around him was true, he had fallen into a depression upon the death of his father. That event had happened only a several months earlier, in July of 1881. The news story implies that Edward had gone on a “spree” but much of the sleepy and odd behavior could also be attributed to severe depression.

Depression in those days, if diagnosed as extreme, was treated with water immersion, spinning stools, and electro-shock therapy.  In Edward’s case, no doubt the physicians felt that depression due to his father’s death was normal, until it was too late.

At any rate, it seemed Edward P. Craft was determined to end his life, and took the steps necessary to do so. The details of the inquest following his death are detailed below. His mother lived only a few months after his death, dying in July of 1882. Father, son and mother are together forever in the family plot in West Lebanon Cemetery. The Craft/Crafts Genealogy is also detailed here.auntie melissa

Before you continue reading, there is a bit of a mystery involved, and I am hoping one of my readers can solve this.  I have no way of knowing whose album contained Edward P. Craft’s photograph.  On the back is another photograph, but of a woman.  On it is written: “Auntie Malissie.”  Since I do not find a Melissa among Edward Craft’s family, I cannot identify her.  Please comment if you can.

Obituary: “St. Albans, Vt., April 27–Edward P. Craft, a clerk in the United States express office, having been on a debauch several days, was heard this morning to threaten suicide. Thomas Miller, express agent, asked Deputy Sheriff Halbert to confine Craft until he got all right. Halbert did so, but on the way to jail Craft said it was too late, as he had the stuff in him. He died at 11 o’clock this morning, having taken two ounces of a mixture of chloral, morphine and bromide of Potassium. He was unmarried, and about 35 years old.”[Thursday, May 4, 1882 Times, Troy NY, page 3 THE END OF A SPREE–A SUICIDE]

Edward P. Craft’s Tragic Death–Sad Facts Brought out at the Inquest
At the inquest before Hon. S.S. Bedard yesterday afternoon the following testimony was given relative to the death of E.P. Craft yesterday morning at the jail.
–T.S. Miller testified:–Am U.S. & C express agent at St. Albans. Have known Mr. Craft 6 or 8 years. He was 30 to 33 years of age. Has been i my employ since Oct. 5, 1881. Been very faithful but sick a good deal. Yesterday afternoon appeared to be napping about two o’clock, acted singularly during the afternoon, and finally went home about 4.45. This morning about 5.45 he came to office. He had intended to go home this morning, but said he should not. When Boston train came in went away. Did not appear natural. At 9.30 C.A. McIntyre came in and inquired for Craft. About 10 came back, saying “Ed swears he’ll kill himself before night and he’s got the stuff to do it.” I then considered the best place for him was in jail, thinking a few hours’ confinement would bring him to his senses. I went after Mr. Halbert and at 10.15 saw him taking Craft to jail. At 11 Halbert came down with the vial, said he had consulted with Dr. Waugh, who said he would come out all right. Just before 12 Halbert came in saying he was dead. He has been for some time discouraged and was going home to-day to settle his father’s estate. He never had any differences with any one that I know of.
–C.A. McIntyre testified: Am an express messenger. Have known Mr. Craft about ten years. First met Craft this orning on Lake street shortly after 9. Asked him what I could do for him. Said he was quit wanting anything done, and took a small bottle out of his pocket, full. Would not give it up. Asked him to go to walk, but he refused. Finally we went to St. Albans house. Left him there to go after Mr. Miller. When I returned he had gone out. Went up Lake St. looking for him until Halbert came along. I looked for him and found him in T. Brennan’s and went with him to St. Alban’s house. When Halbert came in there, Craft went up stairs. Halbert followed and brought him down. I came to jail with them. In jail office Craft said, “Too late, gentlemen, I’ve got enough in me now to produced desired effect.” Took bottle away from him. Heard conversation between Halbert and Dr. Waugh. We had got prescription from Mr. Dutcher. When showed it to Dr., he said, “It is a pretty heavy dose, but there is no trouble about his coming all right by not allowing him to sleep too long.”
–D. Dutcher testified: Am a druggist. About 9 Croft came in and wanted a prescription. Said he had lost his number and turned to my perscription (sic) book and found prescription, and he said that was it, and I put it up. It was one of Dr. Dunsmore’s prescriptions. Said he had got it often in Boston. Told him to take but teaspoon at bedtime to induce sleep. Said he had been in habit of taking it. Have no recollection of giving the prescription to him before. It contained 1/2 oz chloral, 1/2 oz bromide of potassium, 3 grains morphine, 4 oz water.
–Deputy Sheriff Wallace Halbert testified: Mr. Miller came to me to have Craft locked up at 10 a.m. I found him at St. Albans house and followed him up stairs. He was not intoxicated, but smelt of liquor. Found him with bottle in his hand and took it away. It was half full. Then took him to jail. He said: “Maybe I shall live to get up there and maybe not. I’ve got it in me and can feel it working.” Put him in jail and told boys to watch him and take care of him. We laid him on table at 10.30. Then started for Dutcher’s to find out what the bottle contained, who wrote it on paper. Showed it to Dr. Waugh o the street. He said: “Pretty heavy does, but if he is used to taking it I think he will come out of it. Better wake him up if he sleeps too much.” The boys called folks and then sent for me when I got back he was dead. Time about 11.30.
–Worcester Flood, one of the prisoners, testified: We put him i a chair for a few minutes and he wanted to go into a cell. When we laid him down he objected to going on to the table, saying “it is not a good place to put a corpse.” It was not 20 minutes before we notified women folks that he was dying. Did not seem to suffer at all.
–Geo. E. Edson testified: Met Craft in Dutcher’s drug store. He said he had bought compound before. When Dutcher went into other room to put in the morphine he asked me “Would that kill any one?” I answered, “Yes, 2 or 3 men, and should not take much.” He asked same question two or three times. Did not arouse my suspicions at all. Did not see him after that. Said he was in the habit of taking it.
–Dr. O.F. Fassett testified: Craft came to me Jan. 23, and has been under my care since. Last saw him last Friday. Generally saw him two or three times a week. He was depressed in spirits, more so than his case warranted. Lately has been decidedly better. Nothing wrong with his mind. Never prescribed for him anything to produce sleep. Nothing about him required such a prescription. Prescription in bottle is powerful, dangerously so, to produce sleep. Teaspoonful is a safe dose. Quantity take by him sure to kill any person, render unconscious in half an hour under most cases. Should always use emetic at once, with hope of removing from stomach, must be done very soon, before unconscious. After unconsciousness comes, not sure to save, but worth trying. He was ded at 12.30, though thought heard heart beat. Still warm, but growing col. Death came by deep unconsciousness.
–Dr. G. Dunsmore testified: Never prescribed prescription in bottle for Craft. Confirmed Dr. Fassett’s statement of effects following such a dose.
–Dr. T. Waugh testified: Have prescribed for Craft last winter. Thought him depressed. This morning was on Lake street and met Halbert. He showed me prescription , asking what I thought of it. I said it was pretty big dose and I should watch hi and make him move around. He did not say who it was or anything of him, whether he had taken amount at all once or during some time. I gathered that the man had been on spree. Some people take enormous quantities of narcotics after practice. They did not summon me and did not ask me to see case. They did not seem to known when or how he took it. Think he could take an emetic and get over it. After he went into stupor case would be hopeless.
–In Accordance with the testimony Judge Bedard decided that death resulted from an overdose of chloral and morphine taken by Craft with suicidal intent. The remains were removed to the undertaker’s and sent in a neat casket this morning to his relatives at West Lebanon, N.H. [Friday, April 28, 1882 St. Alban’s, Vermont, page 3

Map: Birds Eye View, Lebanon, Grafton Co., NH, 1884; Library of Congress Geography and Map Division, Washington, D.C.

Map: Birds Eye View, Lebanon, Grafton Co., NH, 1884; Library of Congress Geography and Map Division, Washington, D.C.

SEE The Crafts Family: A Genealogical and Biographical History of the Descendants of Griffin and Alice Craft, of Roxbury MA 1630-1890

[1] Lieut. Griffin Craft
SEE “The Crafts Family: A Genealogical and Biographical History of the Descendants of Griffin and Alice Craft, of Roxbury, Mass. 1630-1890, by William Francis Crafts

[6] Lieut. Samuel Craft & Elizabeth Seaver

[17] Ensign Ebenezer Craft & Elizabeth Weld

[45] Deacon Ebenezer Craft & Susannah White

[101] Caleb Craft & Sarah Sharp

[208] Samuel Craft & Rebecca Brewer

[429] Samuel Craft, son of Samuel-4 Craft, b 27 July 1812 at Brookline MA “at the old Craft house on Newton Street,” d 21 July 1881, aged 61 years. He m. 21 March 1837 to Joanna Elizabeth Barrett, dau of Robert & Abigail (Smith) Barrett. She b. 20 May 1811 Cavendish VT and d. 23 July 1882, aged 71 years. In the spring of 1835, when a young man he rode on horseback and alone from St. Louis to Boston. After his marriage he bought a farm in West Lebanon NH and settled there. He was selectman of his town and trustee of the Tilden Ladies’ Seminary at West Lebanon. He was a member of New England, New Hampshire and Connecticut River Agricultural Societies. They are buried in West Lebanon Cemetery, Lebanon, Grafton Co. NH.
1870 US Census > NH > Grafton > Lebanon
Samuel Craft M 5 MA Farmer 11,000/3,000
Joanna E. Craft F 56 VT Keeping House
Charles F. Craft M 27 NH Farmer
Mary Craft F 27 VT Keeping House
Edward P. Craft M 21 NH at home
Minerva Cobb F 32 NH domestic servant
Jacob Prescott M 66 NH works on farm
Chas Sangacrone M 23 Canada works on farm
John Erskine M 20 VT works on farm
Children of Samuel & Joanna E. (Barrett) Craft:
1. Emily E. Craft, b. 23 Feb 1838 Lebanon NH, d. 30 Nov 1901 W. Lebanon NH. She m. 18 Dec 1860 in Lebanon, Grafton Co. NH to William Pierce Burton, son of Harvey & Salome (Burton) Burton. He was b. 2 Dec 1828. Resided W. Lebanon NH, he being postmaster. Two children [BURTON]: Samuel Craft and Anna Maude.
2. Albert Brewer Craft, b. 20 Jan 1840, d. 16 Feb 1906, buried W. Lebanon Cemetery. He is on a U.S. Marine Muster Roll of 1870 [joined 17 Oct 1870], Mare Island, California. On Aug 1871 he was aboard the US Flag Ship Savanac. Noted state “Deserted at San Francisco 20 August 1871”. In 1863-5 at age 23 he signed the Civil War Draft Registration. He is a clerk at this time, notes enigmatically state “He is entirely helpless”. In 1900 he was an inmate/patient in the Sailor’s Surgical Harbor in Richmond NY.
3. Frances Rebecca Craft, b. 25 Sep 1841, d. 14 Oct 1842
4. Charles Francis Craft, b. abt 1843 Lebanon NH, d. 12 March 1876; m. 22 Oct 1869 in Lebanon NH to Mary E. Muchmore, dau of Johnson T. & M.R. Muchmore. She was b. Thetford VT
4. **Edward Payson Craft (this story is about him, see photograph at top of page), b 21 October 1848, d. 27 April 1882 St. Albans VT; unmarried [see]. In 1880 he was an express clerk in Boston MA. He is buried in the West Lebanon Cemetery, Grafton Co. NH. [NOTE: he is NOT the Edward P. Crafts who m. 1867 to Marion E. Smith. That EP Crafts was the son of Chester & Olive Crafts].

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7 Responses to The Depressing End to the Life of W. Lebanon New Hampshire’s Express Clerk, Edward Payson Craft (1848-1882)

  1. Amy says:

    What a sad, sad story. And those treatments for depression sound barbaric. And yet have we really come very far in treating mental illness? I suppose we have, but when we still have young men using guns and even trucks to kill innocent people, you have to wonder.

    I don’t have any insights for your mystery, except to say it looks more like Malissie than Melissa. Perhaps if you search under that spelling, something will pop up?

  2. Kathy says:

    I don’t know if autocorrect came into play or if it even matters, but I think the name on the mystery photo is Auntie Malissie.
    Being a Pharmacist, I found the recipe for the medication exciting to see and liked reading the inquest.

    • Janice Brown says:

      Kathy, I think this is the first time I’ve seen a pharmaceutical prescription in such detail in a newspaper, and probably because it was testimony at an inquest. I find it very interesting, also, to see what ‘medicine’ was comprised of back then.

  3. Fran Hanchett says:

    The photo of the Tilton Seminary School, Tilton, NH is the wrong school. The Tilton Seminary School was here in West Lebanon, NH. It was a ladies finishing school. Did you look for Auntie on the Barrett side of the family? Do you want me to check the vault at the Lebanon Historical Society to see if there is anything there?

  4. Janice Brown says:

    Fran, thank you for the correction. My original source stated Tilton Seminary, when in fact they should have stated Tilden Seminary, two entirely different places, the latter in West Lebanon. It is now corrected. And no I didn’t go hunting for auntie. Without a first name its like hunting for a needle in a haystack.

  5. Michael Dyer says:

    How fascinating to take this orphaned photo and salvage his forgotten story…his incredibly sad story. It’s important work, in my opinion.

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