Who was Isaac Craig?

September 11th, 2012

There are many letters in the Papers of the War Department written by Major Isaac Craig, Deputy Quarter Master and Military Store Keeper Pittsburgh. He was a conscientious storekeeper, taking the trouble air out goods potentially infected by yellow fever. But who was this efficient Major in Pittsburgh?

Isaac Craig was born in County Down, Ireland, around the year 1742. As a youth he apprenticed as a carpenter, and emigrated to Philadelphia when he was in his early twenties, between 1765–1766. He joined the Marines in 1775 then transferred to the Artillery in 1777; his experiences of the Revolutionary War included the famous crossing of the Delaware and the Battle of Brandywine. In April 1780 he was ordered to Fort Pitt, and, with the exception of brief assignments elsewhere, he stayed in that area for the rest of his life.

After the war, Craig went into business with Stephen Bayard. The partners were among the first to purchase lots in the area which became Pittsburgh, setting up a mercantile business near the Fort at the junction of the Monongahela and Allegheny Rivers. Craig’s involvement ended in 1788, bought out by Philadelphia partners, and he spent three years living on a farm with his wife and in-laws before he was offered a position with the War Office in 1791.

Isaac Craig’s in-laws also show up in the papers of the War Department. His wife Amelia was the daughter of General John Neville, one of the central figures on the US side during the Whiskey Rebellion. One of the officers at Pittsburgh during the Rebellion was Major Abraham Kirkpatrick, who Craig recommend for the position of Head of Commissary in December 1794. Kirkpatrick was a brother-in-law of General Neville, and therefore Craig’s uncle by marriage. Craig’s own brother-in-law, Presley Neville, was Chief Burgess, or Mayor, of Pittsburgh in 1804.

Issac Craig was not only a War Department official in Pittsburgh. He was one of the earliest residents, connected by marriage to some of its most notable citizens.

A major source for this post was a short biography of Craig written by his son. Neville B. Craig, Sketch of the Life and Services of Isaac Craig, Major in the Fourth (Usually called Proctor’s) Regiment of Artillery, During the Revolutionary War (Pittsburgh: J. S. Davison, 1854).