The Evening Republican; Columbus, Indiana
Friday, October 1, 1920.
CHARLES CRABB, Veteran Dies.
Well Known Soldier of Civil War Paralysis Victim After Week's Illness.
Full Military Burial Will Be Given -- Youngest Drummer boy of Civil War and
CHARLES C. CRABB, 72 years old, Civil War veteran, and one of the most
prominently known residents of southern Indiana, died at his home, 1420
Chestnut Street, last night, shortly after 7 o'clock, of paralysis, of which
he had been ill just one week. Funeral services will be held Sunday
afternoon at the residence, at 2 o'clock, conducted by Rev. H.E. Wilson,
Pastor of the First Baptist Church, and Rev. Lewis King, of the G.A.R. post.
Burial will be made in Bethel Cemetery near Walesboro. A full military
burial will be given and veterans of the Civil War, the Spanish-American War
and of the late world war, will take part, a firing squad from the world
war veterans to sound taps.
Perhaps no other man in the entire country is more widely known than was MR.
CRABB, as he had the distinction of being the youngest drummer boy of the
Civil War, and at the same time being the first inventor of wireless
telegraphy, and although his efforts along this line were not generally
known, he was, however, known among his closest friends and relatives as an
inventor of unusual ability, and has to his credit the invention of many
devices which today are giving untold public service.
MR. CRABB was born in Brownstown, Indiana, where he lived with his parents
until five years of age, when they moved to Walesboro, Wayne Township, where
he spent the greater portion of his life. When thirteen years old, MR.
CRABB ran away from his home in Walesboro, going to the home of his sister,
MRS. NETTIE HALL, at Pana, Ill., where he enlisted in the service as a
drummer boy, joining out with Company C. 142 Illinois Volunteer Infantry.
He enlisted at the very outbreak of the war and served throughout, being in
the thickest of some of the biggest battles of the war, notable of which was
the battle of island 13. While serving with the army in the south, MR.
CRABB was one of the many soldiers who were poisoned through the treachery
of the enemy army, and of this he was critically ill for many months. At
the end of the war he was brought to his home in Walesboro, where he
remained for some time, hovering between life and death. His war record was
an unusual one and although he faithfully served throughout the war with his
company, he was at no time wounded but on several occasions he was credited
with unusual acts of bravery.
Recovering from the effects of the poison administration during the war, MR.
CRABB went from Walesboro to Leavenworth, Kansas, where he spent several
years working for the Wheeler & Wilson Sewing Machine Company. He severed
his connections with that company and returned to Indiana, locating for a
while at Seymour where he conducted a photograph gallery. While in that
city MR. CRABB was united in marriage to MISS CARRIE CRABB, a very distant
relative, and they later made their home with his mother at Walesboro. In
1891 MRS. CRABB passed away. In 1893 MR. CRABB was united in marriage to
MISS IDA GRIFFIN, of Seymour, and they too resided at Walesboro. Shortly
after this marriage the family moved to Columbus, and since that time
resided here. MR. CRABB at first engaged in photography in a room on Fifth
Street, and while he was engaged in this business he constantly was working
on inventions of different kinds.
Prominent incident in his life is the invention of wireless telegraphy which
he worked on while living in Walesboro, and through the discouragement of
neighbors gave up the project, but later it was perfected by others, along
the same lines originated by MR. CRABB. He also for several years worked
with the Pennsylvania Company, being first newsboy and worked his way up to
brakeman. While in the employ of the Pennsylvania he assisted in placing
the cable across the Ohio from Kentucky into Indiana and it was virtually
his original idea along the methods of suspending the cable that it was
successfully swung across the river. Although MR. CRABB received nothing
for his work in this line, the person finally completing the task received
$50,000 in payment for the work.
In 1883 MR. CRABB invented what he claimed as a wireless telephone and
following three days and nights of continuous work at this task he became
blind from the nervous strain, and although he never completed the work he
often talked about it and remarked to friends that it could be done, and
would be done in the future. When in this city during the early part of his
life he took over the agency of the Edison phonograph and for some time he
had the first phonograph ever made in the United States at his office in
this city on Washington Street. To this piece of machinery he added many
improvements, some of which are still being used on talking machines. He
also invented a key which is now being used by telegraph operators on the
Pennsylvania lines, and while in the employ of that company he built the
first bicycle ever seen in Columbus. It was made of high wagon wheels and
at the time caused considerable speculation. MR. CRABB helped to install
the first telephone system in this city, and one of his most unique
inventions was a small brass engine, an exact duplicate of a railroad engine
now, which he made completely of brass and which he constructed in such a
way that it could be operated.
MR. CRABB was also during his life a secret service man and at one time
while at home on a furlough from the army, he was instrumental in ridding
this vicinity of (*can't read) by the name of Meech, who was working in
cooperation with Morgan while that gentleman was planning his raid, through
his section. MR. CRABB ran across the spy while in his movements but
finally lost track of him.
MR. CRABB throughout his life was one of the most patriotic citizens of the
State and in all movements where a drum corps was needed, he was ever ready
and willing to render assistance. His drumming was known throughout the
country and he had the reputation of being the best drummer in the world, he
could easily be distinguished by his drumming at all times.
More than a year ago MR. CRABB was taken ill, of a nervous breakdown and
although he had not been seriously ill he was declining rapidly and just
previous of the national encampment of the G.A.R. at Indianapolis, he
remarked to a friend that he only wished he would live long enough to attend
the encampment. This he did and went to Indianapolis on Tuesday with the
local post G.A.R. and took part in the parade. While parading he was taken
ill and was carried from the parade to a hotel where first aid was given him
He returned to his home here on Wednesday, and, although worn from the
trip he was apparently in his usual health, and on Thursday morning, while
in the post office he was stricken with paralysis while standing talking to
a postal clerk. He was taken to his home and never gained consciousness.
MR. CRABB was a member of Isham Kelly Post No. 12, G.A.R. of this city, and
was very active in work of the post. Early in life he united with the
Christian Church, being a member of the Leavenworth, Kansas Church and
although he was not affiliated with any local congregation he often was
active in church circles. MR. CRABB was highly respected by all who knew
him and although he has passed out of this life, his many deeds of kindness
will long be remembered.
A widow and three children, MRS. GERTRUDE PRUE, of Toledo; MRS. GRACE
HOERGER, of Cleveland and MISS ELSIE CRABB, survive.
Copied by Nancee(McMurtrey)Seifert
January 18, 2005
*I found this article in the County Clerk's office in Columbus, Bartholomew
County, Indiana. I hope someone may be able to connect to CHARLES C. CRABB.
I have CRABB ancestors, however, he is not one of mine (at least not that I
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