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May 4, 2013 / Joanne Yeck

The Ladies of the WPA: Dueling Elizabeth McCraws


Sorting out the Elizabeth McCraws has been a challenge, especially untangling concurrent individuals with the same name!

Thanks to several cousins, we have isolated the Elizabeth McCraw who worked for the WPA and contributed to the Virginia Historical Inventory.

Our chronicler of Buckingham County history was born Elizabeth B. Watts. She first married Richard Miller McCraw, son of William “Emmett” McCraw and Elizabeth “Bettie” Gilliam. Later, Elizabeth married Van Gilliam and her third husband was James P. McCraw.  In 1930, just prior to her years as a WPA fieldworker, Elizabeth (age 38) lived in Farmville, Prince Edward County with her husband, Richard Miller McCraw (age 61), and their son, Richard Miller McCraw, Jr. (age 2).

She has been confused with Elizabeth “Bessie” Edmonia McCraw (7 February 1888–20 January 1941), the daughter of Emmett and Bettie McCraw. Bessie was the sister-in-law of Elizabeth B. (Watts) McCraw.  In 1920, Bessie (age 31) remained unmarried, living with her parents and her bachelor brother, Richard Miller McCraw. She was a trained nurse, Richard was a traveling salesman, and their sister, Louise Harrison McCraw, taught in the grammar school.  Later, Louise moved to Richmond, where she helped establish the Braille Circulating Library; she also wrote and published thirteen religious novels.

The McCraw family had deep Buckingham roots, offering many connections for Elizabeth B. (Watts) McCraw to help with her fieldwork. The McCraw homeplace, The Pines, was at Andersonville, the address Mrs. McCraw gave on her surveys. Richard Miller McCraw died in 1931, leaving Elizabeth a widow in a deepening Depression. Perhaps, by 1936–37 when she was hired by the WPA, she had left Farmville and was living at The Pines with her in-laws. Her job with the WPA surely gave her family some much appreciated income.  Her contribution to Buckingham County history continues to be appreciated today.

Coming Next: Elizabeth McCraw’s poignant tribute to her husband’s family


Leave a Comment
  1. Bill Davidson / May 5 2013 12:00 pm

    There was a James L. McCraw who married Mary Elizabeth Guthrey (apparently married in Campbell Co., VA in 1830). One of their sons was named Woodson McCraw. Do you have any information on the ancestry of this James L. McCraw? Woodson McCraw had a sister who married Thomas Booker Davidson, Senior (but Thomas was not a member of my Davidson family, as proven by DNA testing). Thanks.

    • Joanne Yeck / May 5 2013 1:26 pm

      Bill, I don’t have any information about James L. McCraw. Perhaps, another follower of Slate River Ramblings will.

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