John Crafts papers  1806-1828
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Biography

John Crafts (1789-1825) was raised by his mother, Esther Sartwell Crafts Mead, and step-father, Rev. Samuel Mead at the family home in Walpole, N.H., along with his sister, Esther Crafts (later Mrs. Ebenezer Morse) and half-siblings Caroline Mead, Nancy Mead Holland, Samuel Orlando Mead, Harriot Mead, and Hannah Mead Handerson.

Before he was 17, John Crafts left home to live with his uncle, Royal Crafts (1774-1821), in Boston and improve his prospects in life. In Boston from 1806 until 1816, Crafts alternately worked as a teller and studied French, and by 1809 he had established himself in business. He spent the summer of 1808 in Groton, Mass., as a student of the Lawrence Academy.

In the spring of 1817, Crafts accepted a position as agent for the fur-trading firm of Conant & Mack and made his way westward to Detroit. The firm transferred him to the raw future city of Chicago in the late fall of 1818 where he set up a trading post, which he called "Hardscrabble," on land owned by the first white resident of Chicago, John Kinzie (1763-1828). Despite Crafts' success, an agent of John Jacob Astor's American Fur Company, Jean Baptiste Beaubien (1780-1863), cornered the local market on the fur trade, forcing Conant & Mack to sell out to Astor in 1822. Crafts benefited from the misfortunes of his employers, becoming the main agent of the American Fur Company in Chicago with Beaubien as subagent, but unfortunately, his success was short-lived. In the late summer of 1825, Crafts contracted yellow fever and died. His estate was divided equally among his mother and siblings.