The Three Burials of Emmet Crawford

Captain Emmet Crawford, the namesake of Crawford, Nebraska, had quite the interesting burial experience. Or shall we say experiences?

Captain Emmet Crawford was killed in Mexico on January 18, 1886, after his command of Third U.S. Cavalry had chased Apache Indian raiders across the border and was attacked mistakenly by Mexican soldiers. For northwest Nebraska residents, Crawford’s death brought back memories of his 1870s service at Fort Robinson. They named their new town, which had sprung up near the fort, in Crawford’s honor.

Elsewhere Nebraskans expressed their sense of loss. Z. T. Crawford lived in Kearney, and his brother’s body, hastily buried in Mexico, was exhumed and brought to Nebraska for burial. The Kearney New Era, April 17, 1886, detailed the elaborate ceremony and its Victorian setting:

[T]he funeral service . . . was one of the largest and most imposing held in the State. . . . Model Opera house was draped in a becoming manner. Crape [crepe], flags and evergreens formed the drapings. . . . At the back of the hall was placed a large catafalque [a wooden framework], draped with black and white nun’s veiling, upon which was perched a large gray eagle, draped stars and stripes. At the front and in the center of the catafalque was placed a large photograph of Captain Crawford. . . .

The casket was of bronze and a facsimile of the one in which President Garfield was entombed. The floral decorations covering the casket were well arranged. . . , while the pillow presented by the same company [of the Colorado National Guard] and composed chiefly of Calla Lilies, Marchiel Niel roses, maiden fern and Artillery plant, was one of the most beautiful floral decorations of its kind ever seen in this portion of the state.

In 1908 Crawford’s body was reburied in Arlington National Cemetery. A five-foot obelisk of white marble marks his resting place.

Note: the word Indian is used instead of Native American as it was the norm at the time.

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