Mr John Bertram Crafton was born in February 1853, the son of Kentucky farmers who had moved to the southern part of Monroe County, Indiana.
As a young man, Crafton moved to Bloomington where he began his multifaceted career as a telegraph operator at the Monon Railroad station. Later, he earned promotion to conductor and "train master". He then speculated in real estate, possibly with his brother David but it was in the region's rich limestone deposits where he would make his fortune. Founding the Crafton Quarry Company he developed the stone fields of the Smithville and South Union district, both situated in Monroe County. The local press would dub "The Stone King" and "Mr Stoneman"?.
Crafton married Sarah ?Sally? Alexander, the daughter of prominent Bloomingtonians Nancy and James J. Alexander. The couple had two sons, Harry R., born in 1885 and Woodard (or Woodward), born in 1887. Woodward was named after W. B. Woodward, a special friend of the Craftons and General Superintendent of the Monon Railroad. The child would die of a brain fever when only seven months old.
Crafton's popularity can be judged from the fact that the BloomingtonCourier-Telegraph ran an account of Crafton's surprise 43rd birthday party,organized by his wife in February 1896. The final line read, "When companyparted for their own abodes, it was with profuse wishes that the genial Mr.Crafton would live to enjoy many, many more like anniversaries.
After his successful involvement in limestone quarrying, he sold his assets in Monroe County. He moved his family to Roachdale, Putnam County, Indiana to pursue his interest in the lumber industry in the Southern United States. For part of 1911, he managed the Mississippi Stone and Lumber Company in Starr, Mississippi, but was beginning to wind down from a lifetime of hard work.
According to the Bloomington Courier-Telegraph, Crafton told friend W. T. Blair that, with his business affairs in order, he was "going to take a little recreation" by visiting European spas. There he hoped the hot springs would cure his arthritis.
Maintaining strong Bloomington ties, Crafton spent time visiting his brother, David, and friends one weeks before leaving for Europe. It is at this time that Crafton purchased the rose granite family monument and the plots surrounding it at Rose Hill - he wished to be buried where so much of his life had been spent.
Early in 1912 he departed New York on the Cincinnati , but sailing with him fellow passenger Irwin Miller reported that Crafton frequently expressed his wish to return home before he had even completed the Atlantic crossing. In Europe he spent some time in Carlsbad to take the cure for rheumatism, and he is known to have been in Italy as it was from Milan that he happily telegramed his wife that she should write to him next in New York.
Crafton had originally planned to leave Europe on the Kaiserin Auguste Victoria on 17th April, but he exchanged his ticket on the German steamer and for a first class passage on the Titanic due to sail a week earlier, so he could return to his family sooner. He stayed at the Victoria Hotel in London before joining the ship in Southampton (ticket number 113791, £26, 11s).
During the days of uncertainty about his fate, several articles appeared in local papers about this local celebrity. These articles estimate Crafton?s fortune at about $50,000. However, only a year later he was referred to as "a millionaire Hoosier". The Bloomington Courier-Telegraph reported, "His friends, however, are convinced almost that he lost his life with the hundreds of other passengers."
On April 19, the Crafton family received word that Mr. Crafton's name did not appear on the survivor list. The White Star Line's telegraph confirming his death arrived at his brother's Bloomington home where the family had congregated to await the final word. Crafton's body was never recovered from the sea. His monument at Rose Hill, Cemetery in Bloomington bears the inscription "Lost on the Titanic". It also marks the final resting place of his infant son Woodard, his wife Sally, who died in 1937 and his son Harry R. Crafton, who died in 1938.
1. Crafton's son's estranged wife claimed in her divorce suit that John Bertram Crafton left his wife and son $500,000 each. Harry Crafton denied inheriting even a fraction of this amount from his father.