Sunday, May 5, 2013

Black Sheep Sunday: George Dallas Crabill and His Two Families

George Dallas Crabill was not that much of a black sheep, really. He wasn't a criminal or a con man. But I imagine if you asked my grandfather, his firstborn son, Charles Lemuel Crabill, he would emphatically say that he was a black sheep.

George Dallas Crabill was born to Charles Edward Crabill and Melia (or Permelia) Stickley Crabill, on February 20, 1884, in Strasburg, Virginia. He was the firstborn of 6 children. Not much is known of his early life. He was usually called by his middle name, "Dallas."

Update: I now know that he served in the Navy from November 3, 1902 to November 2, 1906, and was honorably discharged. My grandfather felt that his trouble with alcoholism developed while he was in the Navy.

When George was about 23, he married Della "Jean" Munger, whose family came from Rockingham County, Virginia. They lived in the Washington DC area. Dallas and Jean had 3 children who were either stillborn or did not live very long, in 1908, 1909, and 1910. These children are all buried in The Olde Cemetery, in Strasburg, Virginia.

In 1912, Charles Lemuel Crabill was born. I like to imagine how happy they must have been with their first child who lived. 

Two more children followed in 1915 and 1917 (Mildred Helen and George Dallas).

George worked in Washington DC. In 1917 he filled out a Draft Registration Card, on which he indicated that he worked at Old Dutch Market (seen in the photo below), and lived at 38th and Newton in Mt. Rainier, Maryland. Old Dutch Market was a small chain of markets in the Washington DC area. Mt. Rainier was a nice place to live if you had a job in Washington, DC, because there was a streetcar that went through Mt. Rainier into Washington.

All was not well, however. My Aunt Jean (one of Charles Lemuel Crabill's daughters) tells me that Dallas Crabill was a binge drinker who would stay out for days when he was drinking. Unfortunately I would imagine that his binges often coincided with paydays, and that made it difficult for the family to make ends  meet. Della Jean Crabill took in laundry and did some sewing. Aunt Jean remembers her father telling her that Della Jean had holes in the soles of her shoes, and she would put newspaper in the bottom of her shoes so she could go out and hang up laundry, and go pick up dirty laundry and deliver the clean laundry, in all kinds of weather.

This may be how she picked up diphtheria in December of 1918. With her lowered resistance from a lack of warm clothing, this illness proved to be fatal. When Della Jean got sick, little Charlie was 6, Mildred was 3, and George Jr. was 1. And daddy George Dallas Crabill was off on one of his drinking binges. Imagine a six-year-old trying to care for his sick mother, and taking care of his two young siblings, all by himself. And then imagine that your mother passed away, and you didn't know what to do. Aunt Jean says that Charlie was in the house with his mother's body, and his siblings, for over a day, until someone found them. George Dallas returned to the house just as his wife's body was being carried out, and was too drunk to know what was going on.

After that, George Dallas sent the three children to live with relatives. Charlie was sent to live with his grandparents in Strasburg, Virginia. Mildred and George Jr. were raised by spinster aunts. It's probably not surprising that Charlie did not have a lot of love for his father. He also didn't have a lot of respect or love for alcoholics and told his children they should never drink.

A Second Family

George Dallas Crabill remarried sometime before 1920. His new wife was Frances Nora Lee Crabill. I've combined information from a couple of sources to come up with that name. The Frances Nora part came from my grandfather (Charlie), and the Frances Lee appeared on her gravestone. So I'm not sure if Lee was her surname before her marriage, or a middle name.

It is apparent that Frances had a child before she married George Dallas. Samuel G. was born in 1915, in Florida (where Frances was also born). I wonder if she had been married and her husband was killed in WWI, and she moved up to the DC area to live with relatives.

Update: I have learned that Frances's maiden name was Wilson, and she married a Joseph Ganus in 1911. They had one child, Andrew Ganus, in 1915, and they moved to Washington DC in 1916 because Joseph was submitting a patent for a hose coupler for railway cars. The patent was successfully granted, but Joseph was apparently suffering from a mental illness. He was committed to St. Elizabeth's Hospital, where he resided until his death in 1937.

George Dallas and Frances had 5 children, starting in 1920 with Bessie. Helen came along in 1922, followed by Evelyn in 1924, Alvin in 1925, and Norma in 1928.

Very little is known of what happened to most of these children. I would love to hear from any descendants of:

Bessie Crabill McDonough
Helen Crabill Good
Evelyn W. Crabill Milling
Alvin W. Crabill
Norma Crabill Grey

I do know that Evelyn passed away in 1970 at age 46. Charlie apparently kept up with her, because there were a couple of pictures of her, and her obituary, in his collection.

George Dallas Crabill passed away in 1954 and he is buried in Arlington National Cemetery Frances passed away 10 years later and is also buried there.

Update: I have been in contact with a few of the descendants of these children and of Andrew Ganus. The story is told that Andrew/Samuel had the last name of Crabill and did not know that he was not a Crabill until he got a job doing some roadwork near Strasburg, Virginia. People in that town told him that they knew he was not a Crabill. He was not treated very well by George Dallas. He dropped the Crabill name and went by Ganus for the rest of his life. I'm told he was a wonderful, kind man.

Another sad story: One day three teenagers drove up to George Dallas and Nora's home. It was Charlie, Mildred and George Jr. Nora was heard to exclaim, "If I had known about you children, I would have raised you." So it seems that George Dallas never told Nora he had had children before he married her, and she was unaware until Charlie tracked him down and paid a visit.

From obituary notices of George Dallas's father and siblings, it is apparent that he was disowned (he is not listed as a child or sibling in those death notices.)


  1. my late mother was married to Alvin Wright Crabill in 1949 at Holy Trinity Church in Georgetown area of Washington, D.C. Alvin died in 2001.

  2. Francis Lenora Wilson was my Great Grandmother who was married to Joseph Ganus in Owens, Desoto, Florida. They had one son, Andrew Cline Ganus born May 12, 1914. I have a copy of Joseph's WWI draft card dated June 5, 1917 showing a wife & 3 yr. old. I don't know when/why she left but my Grandfather was raised as Sam Crabill until someone he met while working at age 18, told him his real name & who his father was. He never found or got to meet his real father.

    1. Hi Amy! I was able to find Joseph Ganus on a 1930 census today. He was a resident of St. Elizabeth's Hospital, which was a mental institution. That may be why Andrew was never able to find him.

  3. Thank you for the further info, both of you!

    1. While at Arlington National Cemetery, I asked if they had marriage records of spouses buried there. She told me that they did not require proof back then.

  4. Hi Margo: Do you know of any marriage records between George & Frances? Bessie's daughter, Judy told me that Bessie had asked her Mom on different occasions to see their marriage certificate and Frances would change the subject or get mad when pushed by Bessie. Bessie told Judy that she did not believe that her parents were ever married & that Frances was never divorced from Joseph. My Aunt & I made a trip to DC and met with the historian of St. Elizabeth's Hospital who gave us lots of information, showed us the T.B. building where Joseph lived out his life and brought us to Joseph's grave.