Billy Crawford: Pioneering Spirit Personified 

Billy Crawford: Pioneering Spirit Personified. If you take the time to consider the people you have met during your life you too may know or have known, someone with pioneering spirit just like Billy Crawford.


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The Great Lakes Raconteur

The map of the history of Grey and Bruce is dotted with many colourful characters. Many have appeared as the focus of articles in this column. However, sometimes historians forget that interesting personalities are not only in books and articles but can be a part of your life. This situation arose when I was discussing Owen Sound's history this weekend with some relatives, and my father reminded me that I had personally known a truly unique individual who embodied many of the qualities that I so often attribute to the early settlers of this area. 

I first met Bill Crawford when I was a youngster. On occasion, I would go to my uncle's dairy and watch him shoe the horses that pulled the wagons around Owen Sound delivering milk. At other times, I would watch him make the buttermilk that the dairy sold. During these visits, he would tell me stories about his experiences and that of others from the Allenford area. 

William "Billy" Crawford was born in Amabel Township in 1888. He learned the mason and carpentry trades from his father. However, these were only two of the vocations that he would follow during his lifetime. After he married, he took up farming. In 1922, he changed careers. In that year, he learned the blacksmithing trade. 

For the next quarter of a century, Billy Crawford worked as a blacksmith and fixed wagon wheels in Allenford. In 1947, he moved to Owen Sound and continued "smithing' at the Crystal Dairy. 

While he blacksmithed in Allenford, Billy also worked at another job. He delivered the mail. Ironically, it was his experiences delivering mail that Billy spoke about when he told me tales of the early years in the Allenford area. His exploits as a mailman are legendary among old-timers around that community. 

He proudly claimed that, in 20 years, he only missed carrying the mail on nine occasions! (Four times the train did not arrive with the mail, and five times due to stormy weather.) Billy took such pride in delivering the mail on time that the five times he failed to complete his task were due to the fact that the post master would not let him leave the post office with the mail! 

Stories survive of Billy making his rounds when it was storming so badly that he could not see the mail boxes, but his horse was so well trained that it would stop at each appointed destination without Billy needing to give a command. When the snow drifts were too deep for his cutter, Billy would carry out his rounds on horseback. Crawford's efforts were deeply appreciated by those on his route. He often spoke of the many ladies who would meet him on a cold winter day with a thermos of hot soup. 

Billy Crawford was a "jack of all trades" with a warm heart. When a friend had his leg amputated, Crawford used his many skills to make him a wooden leg and foot. In order to ensure the most possible comfort, Billy made a socket lined with sheepskin. 

Billy Crawford led an active life to the end. In 1976, at the age of 87, he made a trip to Israel. There, the horseman from an earlier era tried his hand at riding a camel! Billy Crawford died in 1982, at the age of 93, leaving behind a legacy of stories which still can be heard whenever there's a gathering in the Allenford area. 

I have written many columns and articles about the grit, determination and ingenuity of the early settlers who created the ground work for life in this area. However, there are thousands of men and women who have gone unnoticed in the pages of history books. If you stop and reflect for a moment, you too may know or have known someone with this same pioneering spirit — just like Billy Crawford!

A version of this article originally appeared in my Local History column in the Owen Sound Sun Times on September 11, 1998.

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Bruce County History

Bruce County history is rich with stories about the development of communities along the Lake Huron shoreline and shaped by memorable events and the people.

The "Battleship By-Election" was the result of a debate that embroiled all of Canada but was settled in a rural region of southwestern Ontario prior to the First World War.

Bruce Road 3: A Colonization Road linked prospective settlers to undeveloped Crown Lands and a new life.

British Peerage a Source for Township Names. It is interesting to check the origin of the names bestowed on pioneer places such as towns, townships and counties.

Chesley Ontario Welcomes the Krug Brothers who were looking for a place to make their future and their fortune. They were not only successful, but they made significant contributions to the social fabric of their adopted home town.

Billy Crawford: Pioneering Spirit Personified. If you take the time to consider the people you have met during your life you too may know or have known, someone with pioneering spirit just like Billy Crawford.

Frozen Rivers & Lakes can be Hazardous: Icy waterways offer many benefits such as ice fishing, but beware weak, or thin ice is not easily detected and can spell disaster.

Kincardine Ontario's First Settlers using a bit of savvy and some luck created a future for themselves and their families on the Lake Huron shoreline.

The Krug Impact on Chesley Ontario was immense not only in terms of the community's social fabric but with regards to community's economic growth.

Wilfrid Laurier: Despite the town's best efforts to make Wilfrid Laurier's visit a memorable occasion, it would be clouds of dust that would remind the Prime Minister of  the Lake Huron community.

Mildmay Ontario overcame competition from other communities to claim its spot in Carrick Township on an important settlement route to the Lake Huron shoreline.

Pioneer Diaries provide Interesting Information about many topics, but sometimes information about the weather can be quite surprising!

The pioneer settlement in Arran Township was completed in 1851. The survey crew had been impressed, by the cheap cost and the potential of the land, that two members of the team, George Gould and Richard Berford, took up plots of land. 

Port Elgin Ontario Started with a Storm. A ship forced to seek refuge from Lake Huron's stormy wrath signalled to one man the idea of starting a new community.

Southampton's early history was a time of identity crisis, and with a connection to an early Arctic mystery story. 

Southampton Ontario Suffered a Major Fire in 1886: The havoc was created by a furious high wind storm that spread the flames over much of the town.

Tara Ontario's Mill Started the Village Economy and with the entrepreneurial and inventive genius of one man the community prospered!

Walkerton Ontario: The Beginning of this Bruce County town is the result of the drive and determination of one man, Joseph Walker.