Encyclopedia Titanica

John Bertram Crafton

The "Stone King" of Indiana

John Bertram Crafton
John Bertram Crafton

Mr John Bertram Crafton was born on 20 April 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 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 Bloomington Courier-Telegraph ran an account of Crafton's surprise 43rd birthday party, organized by his wife in February 1896. The final line read, "When company parted 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 week 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 telegrammed 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 17 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.

References and Sources

Contract Ticket List , White Star Line 1912 (National Archives, New York; NRAN-21-SDNYCIVCAS-55[279])
Marriages, births, deaths and injuries that have occurred on board during the voyage (PRO London, BT 100/259-260)
The J. B. Crafton papers at Monroe County Museum, Bloomington, Indiana
The Courier , Feb 1896, p. 1, One on him
Bloomington Weekly Courier , 19 April, 1912, p. 1, Crafton was lost is belief of relatives
Bloomington Weekly Courier , Crafton was homesick and left Europe early
Unidentified Newspaper, 19 April, 1912, John B Crafton may be a victim
Bloomington Telephone, 19 April, 1912, John B Crafton Among the Lost!
Sesquicentenniel Edition, 24 September, 1968, Titanic Claimed Bloomington Man
Sesquicentenniel Edition, 24 September, 1968, ''Mr Stoneman'' lost on Titanic
Unidentified Newspaper, 21 April, 1984, Local Man on Titanic
Unidentified Newspaper, 20 January, 1998, ''Titanic'' interest draws more to grave at Rose Hill 

Newspaper Articles

The Indianapolis News (3 May 1889) Conflict of authority
Resignation of John B Crafton
Had been traveling in Europe for two months past.
Indianapolis Star (20 April 1912) Hoosier Capitalist Missing
The Columbus Republican (2 May 1912) Homesickness Caused Death
John B. Crafton, victim of Titanic, was hurrying back to America.
Logansport Pharos-Tribune (30 September 1916) Titanic damage suit settled in the state
Sarah Crafton receives first payment of $5000


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George Behe, USA
Gavin Bell, UK
Amy Cressy, USA
Alex Service, USA
Monika Simon, UK

Comment and discuss

  1. Shane Ellett

    Shane Ellett

    On Memorial Day 1998, my family and I visited one of the local grave yards in Bloomington Indiana. We found a tombstone that had the name J.R. Crafton on it and it said that he was lost on the Titanic. We wanted to know where he was from and what class passenger he was. I have been looking at other pages, but yours is the only one that had the information that I wanted. It was very easy to find, and work through your page. Keep up the good work, and Thank you. Shane Ellett Ellettsville, Indiana; Cincinnati, and Columbus Ohio

  2. Danny Lee Crafton

    Danny Lee Crafton

    I am attempting to learn more about a relative that was on the Titanic. His name was John Bertran Crafton and he was in first class. Danny Lee Crafton Twin Falls Idaho 83301

  3. Inger Sheil

    And a few words of admiration for the chronically under-appreciated Phil Hind - kudoes on the updates to the bio (especially the Crafton one - I know first hand of the birthpangs that went into that one!). Good stuff all around, which keeps ET fresh and well ahead of the game.

  4. Ben Holme

    Yes, thanks a lot Phil! I'm I always delighted when one of the more elusive passengers is "discovered". It's also great that we've now got a photo of Crafton. Thanks again Ben

  5. Will

    Re: He died, and his body was never found?, yet they managed to bury him?

  6. Brian J. Ticehurst

    Will - I think the following clears it up: Crafton, Mr. John Bertram. Missing. En route from the Victoria Hotel, London, to C/o H. R. Crafton, Rochdale, Indiana. (Born 1853). Returning from Carlsbad after attempt to cure his rheumatism. Insurance claim number C38 and C68. Life: $60,000. Property: $6,000. Has a memorial stone in the Rose Hill Cemetery, in Bloomington, Indiana. Inscribed on the stone is: Lost on the Titanic. Cheers Brian

  7. Danny L. Craftpm

    Danny L. Craftpm

    Re: Is it known who John's Parents were?

  8. sam crafton

    sam crafton

    Re: does he have any relatives living today.because, as you can see, my last name is crafton and i'd like to know if he was one of my ancestors.

  9. LStieglitz

    J B Crafton was from Roachdale, IN and died in the Titanic tragedy. He was known as the ‘stone king’ in Bloomington, IN where he lived at the time of his death. His body was never recovered but his family erected a very large grave stone in his memory. The stone says ‘Lost on the Titanic.’ He is not buried there but other members of his family are.

  10. Mark Baber

    This is a newly-created topic pulling together messages appearing at various other places.

  11. Eric Paddon

    Unfortunately I can remember a not very good Titanic novel that chose to appropriate John Crafton and another Titanic passenger (I believe it was Hugh Root?) and turn them into evil villains simply because the author of that novel couldn't find any information about them and thus decided it was somehow "safe" to turn them into villains of convenience for his plot (in which Jacques Futrelle is solving some murder/crime aboard the ship before the sinking) rather than just invent two fictional characters with fictional names.

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Titanic Passenger Summary

Name: Mr John Bertram Crafton
Age: 58 years 11 months and 25 days (Male)
Nationality: American
Marital Status: Married to Sally Alexander
Occupation: Businessman
Embarked: Southampton on Wednesday 10th April 1912
Ticket No. 113791, £26 11s
Died in the Titanic disaster (15th April 1912)
Body Not Recovered

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