Hugh Crawford, Scottish Paper Stainer and Emigrant to America, 1789-1857

Hugh Crawford was born in Glasgow on January 31, 1789; he died in Pawtucket, Rhode Island on July 1, 1857 when he was 68. He was the second-born son of John Crawford and Agnes Wright of Glasgow. He had many siblings, though most died in childhood. His mother died in childbirth in 1809 when Hugh was twenty. His father died at age of 86 in 1853.

Hugh married Janet Rowan at Canongate, Edinburgh, Midlothian Scotland on April 4, 1809. Janet was twenty-one and Hugh was twenty. Their firstborn son was John in 1811, followed by Hugh, Jr., in 1814, George Hugh in 1816, Janet in 1818, and Agnes in 1819. Wife Janet died in 1839, and Hugh remarried Margaret Lenox on August 19, 1840 in Glasgow. She was 35 and he was 51. They had two children, daughter Margaret Rennie, born Oct. 9, 1841, and son William, born in 1845.

The 1851 Scotland Census lists Hugh as a paper stainer who lived at 55 High St. in St. Paul parish in Glasgow. He was erroneously listed as 67 years old (actually 62). His wife Margaret was 43, daughter Margaret Rennie was 9, and son William was 6. A paper stainer was an old and honorable profession in the British Isles, typically involving the staining of wall hangings such as wallpaper, sometimes engravings. Hugh’s son Hugh Jr. had been trained in this craft as well, as seen in a letter written from son to father in September, 1852.

margaret rennie crawford

(Margaret Rennie Crawford, 1841-1921)

Hugh Jr. had sailed for America in 1843, arriving at New York on August 13. He migrated to Providence, Rhode Island, and established himself in business as a paper box manufacturer. His wife Catharine Blair Crawford followed eight years later, arriving at New York on the vessel Statira Morse on Sept 15, 1851, from Glasgow. Accompanying her was their daughter, Janet, age 16.

Hugh Jr. became a citizen Sept. 1852, which perhaps inspired him, joined by Catherine, in writing a letter of invitation to America to his father, on Sept. 27. The letter reads:

“Pawtucket, Sept 27th 1852

“Dear Father

“We take this opportunity of writing you a few lines informing you of our welfare and hoping they will find you and Family enjoying good health and this leaves us with the blessing of God. You must excuse us for not writing sooner. We now write you sitting in our own House; it is now six weeks since we came in to it; it is 32 feet long 23 wide with an L 12 by 10 feet which gives us a house of a Parlor and Kitchen 2 Bed room a clothes room and Pantry and a good cellar the size of the building and the upper flat is a work shop the whole size of the building with a counting room below. It cost us about thirteen hundred Dollars which is about ₤ 268. It is in a location about a gun shot from the Rail Road Depot for Boston and Worcester rail road and we have a small garden. Sister Agness and her Husband is in Philadelphia. We had a letter from them a week ago which left them in good health. Agness is expected to be confined soon the youngest girl died about the end of July. We receive the Newspapers regularly and we are much obliged . . . for them as there is no paper here . . . worth the sending as we get the American news as same from the Glasgow paper as soon as we get it here some times but we in close a small bill of exchange in place of a paper. We carry on the business as yet but don’t know how long as Bliss and Potter has got me back to be there color mixer at ten dollars a week which is ₤ 2 and a little over.

“Dear Father We have just taken it into consideration that if you wished to come out it would be a very good place for you to carry on the business for me till such time that you could get along your self and it would be for the benefit of your Family as it is easier to get along here than at home but the principle of total abstinence must be attended to and it is the first thing that causes a person to be looked down upon and then it is a hard case to get along if you thought of it you might come along this fall as I cannot get along very well with some responsible person to take charge I have a German at present but he can’t take charge of the half and so We will be under the necessity of getting another or selling out you could come along your self and see how you . . . along and send for your Family in the Spring. The fall is a very good time to come if you think of coming write by return of post. We will send a bill for your passage but we would have promised more but we have a good deal to pay just now with the building of the house anyhow write by return of post to let us know what to do give our respects to Mr and Mrs Murry if you see them and tell them that we received a letter from on last Saturday and we will write them soon. Give our respects to Brother John and family and Grand Father and Aunt and that we would like to Hear from them. We join in sending out respects to Brothers John and Andrew Bla[i]r and Families and all inquiring Friends.

“We have no more to say at present

“But remain your Affectioned Son and Daughter

“Hugh and Catherene Crawford

“NB We would have given you more time if we had thought of it sooner but as it is it is a good time to Cross the Sea and you will have a comfortable home to come to. I will send full directions how to come on receipt of your Answer if you come by Boston you will be here the same day and by New York the next day.

“Answered 2 Nov 1852 HC


In the letter Hugh made mention of his sister Agnes, who had immigrated to Philadelphia. She married David Wilson, also from Scotland.

Hugh Sr. was sufficiently impressed by the prospect of America to emigrate with his family, arriving at Pawtucket on April 9, 1853.

margaret lenox crawford

(Margaret Lenox Crawford, 1805-1875)

Hugh died in 1857; his widow Margaret outlived him by 18 years, dying May 3, 1875. They are buried next to Hugh Crawford Jr and Catherine Blair Crawford at Mineral Spring Cemetery in Pawtucket. Their descendants included Hattie Perkins, who married Samuel Brown; they had a daughter Florence, who married Earle Phillips; their son Milton Phillips married Shirley Newcomb: they had three children: Craig, Linda, and Joy.

About theamericanplutarch

Writer, thinker, historian.
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