Rev. Thomas Craighead, a Scots-Irish Presbyterian minister from whom all Craigheads in the U. S. are descended, settled in Cumberland County, Pennsylvania in the 1730s before it was a county of its own. His youngest son, John, purchased a large tract of land along the Yellow Breeches Creek in present-day South Middleton Township in the 1740s. A descendant of his, John Weakly Craighead, sold a right of way through the original tract to the South Mountain Railroad in 1868. His son, Charles, built a Victorian home adjacent to the tracks and the Yellow Breeches Creek and operated several businesses and raised his five children. It was here that his children, and after his death, his grandchildren developed their love of plants and animals. Today, a virtual army of naturalists descended from him work in various fields related to the study of nature.
Best known among those who spent significant parts of their lives at Craighead House are twins Frank Jr. (deceased 2001) and John, who are credited with saving the Grizzly bears in Yellowstone Park. A November 2011 article in National Geographic magazine discussed the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, which the twins wrote. Their sister, Jean Craighead George (deceased 2012) wrote over 100 children’s books related to nature, including Newbery Award winners Julie of the Wolves and My Side of the Mountain.
It was at Craighead House that the twins began training hawks when they took up falconry at age 15. Their writings about the sport continue to popularize falconry. Jean and the twins’ father Frank (deceased) was named Scholar of the Everglades by Gov. Reubin Askew for the work he did in saving The Everglades while “retired.” Frank’s brother Eugene (deceased) is well known by trout fisherman both for his skill and the dry flies he designed.
Craighead House is historic for its architecture but more so for what happened within its walls and on its grounds. A bit of that history can be found in Summer of the Falcon, an autobiographical novel by Jean Craighead George that her heirs have allowed us to reprint with photos and a cross-reference of the book’s characters to actual people.
Craighead House Committee was formed in 2012 by Drs. David Masland and Johnson Coyle to preserve Craighead House and use it for an education center. Committee members donated $90,000 to acquire the house (with a $73,000 mortgage) and keep the lights on until fundraising could begin. Friends of Craighead House gave generously to 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015 annual campaigns, making mortgage payments and allowing talks and educational programs to be held in the house. Thank you to all who have given in the past, and we welcome your continued support.
For additional information and stories about the Craigheads, please visit Tom Benjey’s blog at: http://tombenjey.com/category/craighead-house/