Friday, April 26, 2013

SHE WAS DEAD TO HER FAMILY - Ida Estella Stinger Craig

The most popular posts from this blog are the ones I write about the history of my own family.  So this week we'll go back to Lacon, Illinois for a tale of prejudice and true love.

My grandmother, Ida Estella Stinger was born August 31, 1876 in Lacon, Illinois.  She was the sixth of eleven children born to Isaiah Stinger (1844-1914) and Harriet Anna Miller (1841-1920).  Her siblings were:  Frank Elsworth Stinger (1865-1936), James Melville Stinger (1868-1961), Clara Belle (Cad) Stinger (1870-1957), Dora Mae Stinger (1872-1907), Leonard Lyon Stinger (1874-????), William S. Stinger (1878-1907), Bertha Ann Stinger (1880-1952), Arthur Glen Stinger (1883-1946), Olive Grace Stinger (1886-1931), and Bruce Norman Stinger (1888-1954).  

Ida's father, Isaiah Stinger had been born in 1844 in Litchfield, Ohio. His father was a minister in the Dunkard Church.

The family story was that Isaiah had run away from home as a teenager because his step-father was so strict.  The Stinger family (also spelled Stenger or Stegner) traced their lineage back to glass-blowers in Germany in the seventeenth century.  Isaiah went west and on June 14, 1864 he married Harriet Anna Miller in Lacon, Illinois.  Harriet was born July 7, 1841 in "the Eastern part of Illinois" to a line of farmers that stretched from Pennsylvania through Ohio and Indiana into Illinois. Harriet was a direct descendant of Revolutionary War patriot Francis Malone.

Isaiah and Harriet had been married by a Presbyterian minister, but over time they became members of the Methodist Church in Lacon.

In the latter part of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth century, Methodists had a very conservative lifestyle.  It has been said that they were mainly a church of "Don'ts". Don't drink, smoke, dance, or play marbles "for keeps."  Don't wear makeup, women couldn't wear pants or shorts.  No movies, no swearing, no card playing, no gambling, etc. etc. etc.  Perhaps that's why they had such large families - there wasn't much else to do...

We'll leave the Stingers for a few minutes and go to the Craigs.  I mentioned in the writeup about Margaret Kelly Craig ( that Margaret Kelly from County Cavan, Ireland married Patrick Craig from County Sligo, Ireland in Lacon in 1868. Patrick and Margaret had five children:  Mary Teresa (1869-1904), John Joachim (1871-1946), Peter Anselm (1873-1945), William Patrick (1875-1937) and the baby James Vincent (1880-????).

What I didn't report was that the four brothers manufactured hand-rolled cigars in Lacon.  Their company was called, aptly enough, Craig Brothers Cigars.  After the brothers learned the cigar-making craft, they went into cigar manufacturing business with their cousin Joe Hanley in 1891.  The firm name of Craig Brothers became well known in Central Illinois and they manufactured several popular brands of cigars that were stocked by many dealers.  Here's a photo of the Craig Brothers looking out the second floor windows of the building where they made the cigars:

The Craig brothers then opened a billiard hall, which continued for a number of years.  Later the place was known as the Craig Brothers cigar store.  William Craig took over the interests of his brothers and for many years operated a tavern and cigar shop in Lacon.  The Craig family were founding members of Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Lacon:

Lacon, Illinois was a small town in those days, and everyone knew everyone else.  However, each group "kept to their own kind". Catholics socialized with other Catholics, Protestants, with Protestants (I don't think there were any Jews in Lacon).  It was just not "proper" to keep company with someone of another faith.  We don't know when Bill Craig first saw Ida Stinger - she was probably there his entire life, but on the periphery.  We do know that one day Bill and Ida started "stepping out together".  News travels fast, and it didn't take long for the Stingers to find out that Ida was dating Bill Craig.

As she told the story years later, they had a family meeting and Isaiah raised the roof.  He told Ida that it was bad enough that she was dating a Catholic but he was also a cigar maker who operated a tavern!  To the Methodist Stingers, Bill Craig had three strikes against him from the start.  They forbade Ida from seeing Bill any longer.  Her father's threats did no good.  Ida started sneaking out so see Bill.  Things got serious between the two.  Bill told Ida that if they were to marry that she would first have to convert to Catholicism.  Isaiah Stinger, son of a Dunkard minister found out about this and gave Ida an ultimatum:  If she continued to see Bill Craig, or, God forbid, marry him, she would be dead to her family.  She would be cut off, once and for all from all she had known and loved up until then - cut off from her parents and her ten brothers and sisters.

Ida was in love, and her family's threats were useless.  In the spring of 1903, Ida Stinger ran away from home.  Bill Craig had made arrangements for her to move in with a convent of nuns in Peoria and take Instructions in the Catholic faith while she lived with them.  Then when she was ready to be received into the Church she would send for Bill who would come to Peoria and they would be married.  Ida's family could not do anything to stop her - she was of legal age.

On July 23, 1903, Ida Estella Stinger and William Patrick Craig were married in the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception in Peoria.

And then they returned to Lacon...

And as I mentioned in the previous article, the newlyweds moved in with Bill's parents, Patrick and Margaret Craig.  After Bill's sister Mary Teresa Craig Dunn died in childbirth on Halloween 1904, Bill's brother-in-law gave his house to Bill and Ida saying "I'll never set foot in that house again."  Bill and Ida lived in that house on Broad street in Lacon and raised their family there.

What about the Stingers?  How did they react after Bill and the newly-Catholic, newly-married Ida came back to Lacon?  They were true to their word - they would have nothing to do with her.  She said later that if one of her parents or siblings was walking toward her on the street they would cross to the other side so they wouldn't have to deal with her.  How could they do this to their own daughter? their own sister? They felt that she had been the one who had betrayed them, and all they stood for.

Did they keep this up forever?  No, according to Ida things got a little better once the grandchildren started coming along.  My Aunt Marie told me that they would stop at the Stingers to visit every Sunday on the way home from church, and when Harriet Miller died in 1920 one of her pallbearers was her grandson Raphael Craig.  But my Uncle Donald was not so forgiving.  He said he would never forget how they had made his mother suffer, and on my first trip to Lacon he refused to take me to their graves. 

So how did Ida and Bill the Catholic cigar-maker, tavern keeper turn out?  They had eight children, six of whom made it to adulthood: William Raphael (1905-1960), Thomas James (1906-1907), John Cecil (1907-1970), Donald Peter (1909-1977), Delilah Margaret (1911-1993), Marie Ann (1913-2001), Edward Kelly (1916-1973), and Ida Elizabeth (1919-1925).  For the story of the tragic death of five year old Ida Craig check out this article:

Here is a photo of Bill and Ida and their family (circa 1918):

Bill and Ida had a long and happy life together.  On January 8, 1937 Bill came home for lunch complaining of a bad headache.  He lay down and died shortly afterward of a cerebral hemorrhage.  He was sixty-one years old.  Here's a photo of Ida at home circa 1950:

Ida died at home on July 11, 1954 of heart disease.  She was seventy-seven.  Ida is buried next to the man she gave up everything for, in the Immaculate Conception Catholic Cemetery in Lacon:

I never knew either of my father's parents.  They both died before I came along.  When my mother met my father, Bill Craig had already been dead for several years.  I wish I had gotten the chance to know my grandmother Craig.  She must have been a very strong woman.  In a time when women did not have the rights they have today, she gave up everything - her home, her family, even her religion, for the man she loved.  What a wonderful love story.

Bill and Ida Craig - love conquers all - may they rest in peace.

1 comment:

  1. Fascinating. I don't always leave comments on your posts --- but I'm going to make an effort to, because I always find them interesting (and impressive). :)