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Crawford History

Crawford is a unique place - a town that takes pride in its humble cow town heritage.  Crawford was born in the early 1880’s when a post office was established to serve local residents.  The post office was named “Crawford” in a nod to George A. Crawford, who passed through the area in 1882 on his way to founding Grand Junction.  Crawford suggested to local residents that this would be a good place for a post office and town to serve the needs of the new and growing ranching community.  The locals agreed with his assessment and the next year a post office was erected and was named after Mr. Crawford, who apparently never even stayed a night in the Crawford Country.  

Crawford actually began “downhill” as a cluster of a few buildings in the Smith Fork River Valley, but migrated a quarter mile uphill when Mrs. Ong built her general store in 1892 (the white false front building downtown, currently housing Lazy J Coffee).  With the center of commerce now established, homes and other businesses quickly rallied to the new town site. From its founding, and into the decade of the 1940’s, Crawford served as an essential supply center for the surrounding area.  In the first half of the last century, this little town had its own bank, movie theatre/dance hall, pharmacy, blacksmith shop, two creameries, a cheese maker, billiard hall/saloon, dry goods store, general store, hotel, granary, newspaper, barbershop, light plant, furniture store, three gas stations, a jail, church, telephone exchange, community school, and even an ice cream parlor.  However, by the 1940’s gasoline powered vehicles were more reliable, and more importantly, the road to larger towns (now State Highway 92) was paved, making it feasible to travel farther afield for supplies.  As a result, isolated Crawford suffered a slow and prolonged economic decline, even losing its high school in 1962 to school district consolidation (though it still retains a primary school). 

A sort of “top down” reinvigoration of Crawford was kicked off when local resident and rock/blues legend, Joe Cocker and his wife Pam, opened the Mad Dog Ranch Fountain Café in 1997, bringing a steady stream of fans and visitors to the town.  Though, once the café closed five years later Crawford slipped back into its sleepier ways.

The people of Crawford Country, whether natives or transplants, have a deep respect for the heritage of this special place and an optimism for its future.  Currently, a downtown revival is underway with many of the historic commercial buildings renovated and housing successful businesses. The buzz of activity that has been muted for some time is now growing louder.  

Echos of the past still wash over the visitor.  The clapboard false front, stone buildings, and handful of settler log cabins in town still tell a story, and if you are lucky, you might experience a cattle drive through town.  A reminder that this is still a true cow town…

For a link to an educational story about the Town’s first mover and shaker, Eliza Ong, click here.

To read about the legendary “Moccasin Bill”, who made Crawford home in his later years, click here.