THE "IMMORTAL SIX": DANIEL WEBSTER CROFTS
Daniel Webster Crofts (1828- 1852)
|Undated picture of Crofts copied and enlarged in the 1890s from a locket belonging to his family. It is not known if the original still exists. From the Chapter Rolls and Directory, 1898.|
"Dan'l" Crofts, one of ten children, was born on a frontier farm in Columbiana County, Ohio, on December 3, 1828. He was tall and slender, with excellent features and an intelligent face but pale of complexion, appearing to be ill-- as indeed he was much of the time. Realizing that Dan was not equipped for the rigors of farm life, his family decided that he should be given a higher education. He was subsequently sent to "Mr. Holmes' private school" in New Lisbon, Ohio, and then to an academy at West Point, Ohio, where he became sufficiently prepared to enter Jefferson College, in 1844, before his sixteenth birthday. There he was a good student, kindly to those he liked and a bitter hater of those he disliked. For some reason unknown to us, he was involved in a disagreement with certain members of the faculty and vowed he would not accept a diploma from Jefferson, though the college catalogue and commencement program list him as a graduate of 1848.
Like some of the other founders, Crofts' first endeavor upon leaving college was at teaching school. His private academy enterprise did not prosper, however, and he soon turned to the study of law, being admitted to the bar in Steubenville, Ohio, in 1850. He was appointed notary public for Columbiana County even before completing his study of Blackstone.
Poor Crofts seems to have lived in perpetual torment under the shadow of tuberculosis, which caused his early death on January 8, 1852 at Clinton, Louisiana, where he had gone in search of recuperation. He once wrote to Fletcher: "Oh, life, thou art a galling load, a long, a rough, a weary road to wretches such as I." All of his resources were used up in his fight against death and when he died alone and far from home among the Louisiana bayous, his personal effects, including his Phi Gamma Delta badge, were sold to cover his medical and funeral expenses. His grave was for many years lost to us, but we know now that he rests in the cemetery at Clinton, Louisiana, and the spot has been marked by a fitting memorial erected by the Fraternity. The life of Daniel Webster Crofts was a springtime full of promise and preparation, a summer of happiness and hope, an autumn of sorrow and sadness, and a winter of despair and death. The golden cord which bound the Founders was too soon broken by his tragic death at the age of twenty-three years.
Crofts headed south in 1851 to seek relief from his advanced tuberculosis, and probably picked Clinton because of its reputation as a legal center. He died in January, 1852 in a hotel there in Clinton; he was buried in part of the hotel owner's cemetery plot. Burial expenses were defrayed by public sale of his meager belongings, including his gold fraternity badge. The grave was marked only by a few bricks until the Fraternity placed a stone there shortly after 1900.
The small town of Clinton is at the intersection of Route 10 and Route 67, about 100 miles northwest of New Orleans, or about 30 miles north of Baton Rouge. Traveling west on Highway 10 (St. Helena Street), the 1840 courthouse is on your right. Stop by the clerk's office for a postcard and town map; you can also get copies at the sheriff's office just a couple of blocks south of the courthouse. Note the famous "lawyers' row" along the north side of the courthouse. At the square, turn left onto Bank Street. Just past the historic Marston House, turn right onto Marston Street. Clinton Confederate Cemetery is ahead to the left.
The History of Phi Gamma Delta, Tomos Alpha contains an adequate map of the small cemetery and explains the story of how the grave was originally located. Also detailed is the poignant tale of Croft's demise and burial; reading this before (and during) your visit adds immensely to your experience.