The End of an Era

A month after turning 100, John Johnson Craighead died in his sleep Sunday morning September 18, 2016. Two weeks later, his 96-year-old bride of 71 years, Margaret “Cony” Craighead passed. Their lives and deaths have been well covered by the media. Here are links to some recent articles:


John Craighead Turns 100

One hundred years ago today on August 14, 1916, Carolyn Johnson Craighead was exceedingly surprised when she gave birth to two identical sons, not one as expected. Not only didn’t she know she was having twins, she didn’t know if she was having a boy or a girl. Such was the state of medicine at the time.

Today John Johnson Craighead celebrates his 100th birthday among family and friends. His brother, Frank Cooper Craighead Jr., died in 2001 of the ravages of Parkinson’s Disease. The Craighead twins are shining examples of what young people, even of limited means, can do if they set their minds to it. At 15, they decided to take up the sport of falconry, which was essentially not practiced in North America at that time. Following the few references they could find, they learned how to train hawks to hunt for them, starting with Cooper’s hawks, a bird never before used in falconry. Soon, their friends in Pennsylvania and Washington, DC followed in their footsteps and trained their own birds.

In a few years, the twins had trained a numbers of hawks, owls and eagles and wrote an article about their experiences. National Geographic Magazine accepted the article—along with 25 photos the boys took—for publication.  They next wrote a book about falconry titled Hawks in the Hand.  American falconers today cite that book and their sister’s book My Side of the Mountain as the reason they became interested in falconry.

Teenagers can make a difference—if they focus their attention and set aside many frivolous things.

We’ll Miss Bill Craighead

It is with much sadness we report that William Moore “Bill” Craighead passed away on January 1st. Ninety years old, Bill had a rich, full life. He is survived by his loving wife Betty, son Clay and his wife, and grandchildren. Bill spent his growing years in the Gettysburg area and Harrisburg—except for his summers, which were spent at Craighead House where he slept on the sleeping porch with his brother Sam, the twins, hawks, owls, and even an Indian raja—until he was drafted out of high school at 18. He spent WWII as a radio/radarman on LSM315, a landing craft capable of ferrying men and equipment to beachheads. During the Okinawa invasion, the largest use of Kamikazes in WWII attacked American landing soldiers, tanks and supplies on the beach and ferrying wounded soldiers and Marines back to hospital ships.

After returning from the war, Bill attended Lebanon Valley College where he graduated with more than a degree. He was also engaged to Miss Lebanon Valley College of 1952, Betty Bakley. He taught biology at George School in Newtown, Pennsylvania where Betty worked in the library, except when their two sons were young. For a time, he ran a beekeeping business out of Craighead House in addition to teaching.

Bill and Betty attended events at Craighead House whenever his health permitted.

Friends since childhood David Masland, Jean Craighead George & Bill Craighead chat in Craighead House kitchen in 2011. Courtesy Charlie Craighead.

Friends since childhood David Masland, Jean Craighead George & Bill Craighead chat in Craighead House kitchen in 2011. Courtesy Charlie Craighead.