Coal Strike

These notes about my great-grandfather James and his son Patrick come from my cousin, Anne Marie (Sis) Craven. She presumably received the information from her father, Thomas, who was another son of James.

Although the date of Patrick’s death is incorrect (he was killed on October 1, 1918 when he was 36), these notes have details that are new to me. This underscores the importance of writing things down. Sis died in 2005 and without these papers this information would have been lost.

The pride Sis feels for her family comes through, something I share and that has grown ever since I started doing research into my heritage.

Sis worked for Morton Salt and so that explains the stationery.





Civil War Veterans


My great-great-grandfather Patrick Craven and his wife, Mary Kilraine, were veterans of the Civil War. Their names, along with Mary’s second husband, Patrick Commuskey, are listed in the booklet prepared for the 100th Anniversary of Williamstown, Pennsylvania. The copy of the booklet I have belonged to my uncle, Thomas Craven. Note the variation in the spelling of Commuskey; I am not sure which is correct.




Here is some biographical information on Patrick Craven:

Patrick Craven was born in Kings County, Ireland in 1833. He married Mary Kilraine in Minersville, PA on June 25, 1857. The priest was Rev. Michael Malone.

On December 12, 1861 in Pottsville, PA, Patrick enlisted in the Army for a period of three years. He was a private in the Fifth Regiment of Artillery Company L. The Company was commanded by Captain Ames. The Regiment Commander was Colonel Henry Stanton Burton.

On the day he enlisted, Patrick’s age was 23 years, 11 months. His occupation was a miner, he was five feet, eight inches tall, had blue eyes and brown hair, and a fair complexion. His medical record showed a history of having small pox.

Some of the questions on the medical form:

Have you ever had the fits?
Have you ever received an injury or wound upon the head?
Are you in the habit of drinking? Or have you ever had the ‘horrors’?
Are you subject to the piles?
Have you any difficulty in urinating?

Patrick signed his enlistment papers with an “X.” It was witnessed by Captain A.V. Delhart of the Fifth Artillery Regiment, Recruiting Officer.

Patrick was discharged from the Army on March 14, 1864. He reenlisted at Camp Marshall in Washington, DC. He died at Fort Jefferson, FL on January 23, 1866. The cause of death was an abscess on the liver. At the time of his death, Patrick was a Sergeant in Company L.

Patrick’s widow married Patrick Commuskey on March 7, 1866.

I was curious about the cause of death. Apparently, an abscess of the liver is the result of infection or trauma. Some of the possible causes are an abdominal infection, such as appendicitis, diverticulitis, or a perforated bowel.

Special thanks to Maggie McCoy Wilson for obtaining the military records from the National Archives & Records Administration.

Worthy Evidence


Msgr. Thomas Craven, my cousin, was a priest for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. He died on February 9, 2004.

I was looking through back issues of the Catholic newspaper for Philadelphia and discovered that Msgr. Craven was still being mentioned in the years after his death. This brought to mind a quote from Pope John XXIII that I recently came across:

“Do not walk through time without leaving worthy evidence of your passage.”

The photo above is from the Philadelphia Daily News, April 29, 1971, and shows Msgr. Craven in his younger years. Three excerpts from The Catholic Standard & Times are below. They reveal the continuing impact of his life.




Summer Memories

On a cold and dreary day, it is a pleasure to remember summertime visits to see Grandmom. Here is a photo from 1971 taken in the backyard in Williamstown. I look back at pictures like this and wish I had paid attention more, but I was just a little kid.


Here are two more snapshots from Grandmom’s album, taken during a visit to see her and Aunt Eliza in Ocean City, New Jersey.

The first half…


… and the second half.


Grand Larceny

Another True Crime story.

My Aunt Hattie was the victim of a robbery in her home. The culprit was a 12-year-old kid. This article from the News Journal (Wilmington, DE) dated September 23, 1970 has the details.

I wonder what happened to the little thief and his partner in crime. Hopefully they wised up and didn’t get into any more trouble.




Protests are in the news today. My cousin, Fr. Thomas P. Craven, was the leader of one in Philadelphia in 1975. He made the front page.

The protest was a public show of support and call for justice for a family from Puerto Rico whose home was firebombed. A mother, her three children, and a friend were killed in the fire. As the crowd grew, the demonstration became less peaceful and more agitated. This was not what the organizers had planned.

It is only natural that Fr. Craven would speak out against a horrible act of violence committed against a Puerto Rican family. He spent time in Puerto Rico following his ordination. After returning to Philadelphia, he served as director of Casa del Carmen, the Catholic social service center for Hispanics and also was director of the Hispanic Apostolate for the Archdiocese. Fr. Craven was very involved with the welfare of Spanish-speaking people throughout his priestly ministry. I am proud that he took an active role in seeking justice for them.

Here are clippings about the demonstration from the Philadelphia Inquirer, October 11, 1975:



This is from an article published by the Philadelphia Daily News on the same day:


There are pictures of the demonstration in Grandmom’s collection of photo albums. I am not sure who took them; maybe Fr. Craven’s sister?



The confession of one of the accused firebombers is a disturbing story of someone taking the law into his own hands, a local government official no less. This article is from the Philadelphia Inquirer, October 11, 1975:



In January of 1978, Ronald Hanley was found guilty for his role in the killing of five people by arson. He received the maximum punishment, a life sentence plus 35 years.

Robert Wilkinson served 15 months in prison before he was acquitted after a key witness changed his testimony.

David McGinnis confessed to actually throwing the firebomb. He made a plea bargain with federal authorities and was sentenced to 22 years in prison.

Six Philadelphia homicide detectives were sent to prison for 15 months after being convicted of violating the civil rights of witnesses and suspects brought to the police station after the firebombing.

Service Flag Locket


Grandmom was devoted to the memory of her brother Taddle who was killed during World War I. Here is a photo of her locket with Taddle’s picture in it.

The front:


The back (MVC = Margaret Veronica Craven):


The image on the front is a service flag.


“The Service Flag is an official banner authorized by the Department of Defense for display by families who have members serving in the Armed Forces during any period of war or hostilities the United States may be engaged in for the duration of such hostilities.

“The history of the Service Flag is as patriotic and touching as the symbolism each star represents to the families that display them.

“The service flag (also known as ‘blue star banners’ or ‘son in service flags’) was designed and patented by World War I Army Captain Robert L. Queissner of the 5th Ohio Infantry who had two sons serving on the front line.”

If the soldier dies in battle, the blue star is replaced with a gold one. That means Grandmom must have gotten the locket while Taddle was still alive and serving in the Army.

“The color of the stars is also symbolic in that the blue star represents hope and pride and the gold star represents sacrifice to the cause of liberty and freedom.” (ibid)