The program at that farm and a handful of others
in the 1950's saved the group of horses that could trace to Homer Davenport's
importation of 1906 from near certain extinction. Three Cravers were
a part of Craver Farms -- Charles C. Craver Jr., his wife Bertha, and
his son Charles III.
In the Craver family the father as always known
as Chuck and the son as Charles. In an effort to simplify this story,
we shall follow that tradition to tell about the senior members of the
Craver trio, Chuck and Bertha.
They met at the Kansas City train depot. Bertha
was bidding a tearful farewell to her family as she boarded the train
to begin her education of the University of Missouri.
Chuck, a junior at the university, was touched
by the family parting. Once he and Bertha were both on board he introduced
himself to help smooth the miles between Kansas City and Columbia.
After he received his bachelor of arts degree
in law, Chuck asked for Bertha's hand in marriage. Bertha by now had
her own degree in education but was especially attracted to the arts,
starring in numerous productions on campus as well as in Kansas City
Dr. Paul A. Johnstone insisted, quite wisely
says Bertha, that his daughter spend at least one year on her own before
marriage. So she taught school for one year in north Kansas City.
So, the daughter of Bertha Nugent Johnstone married
the son of Anna Leota "Otie" Detweiller Craver in 1925. The bride was
23, the groom was 26.
Chuck worked in his father's real estate firm,
Craver and Sons, during the giddy land boom in Florida before the Crush
of '29. He and Bertha spent 1926 in the raw new community of Ft. Pearce.
Because of Bertha's theatrical credentials, she
was asked to establish a theater group in Ft. Pearce. She did and led
the town, which included 400 transplanted Kansas city residents, to
second place in declamation in the State of Florida contest.
Following their time in Florida, the Cravers
went back to Kansas City to the difficult real estate market of the
Depression. In 1927, after Charles was born, they moved to a subdivision
where Chuck sold houses with one-acre tracts.
There they became neighbors of Harry "Pop" Boyer.
Boyer worked for Skelly Oil, but more importantly was the son of a livery
owner. Soon "Pop" had a barn on his one acre with a horse or two, and
young Charles began assuming residence there almost as much as at home.
Perhaps it was because he had gone to Culver
Military Academy in Culver, Ind., and had been a member of the Black
Horse Troop for two years that Chuck was more than receptive to Charles'
love of horses. Bertha explained the special bond between Charles and
his father this way:
"Charles has always
been a good son, but there was something more to his relationship
with his father. Charles was 2 when I was sick with uremic poisoning
and bedfast. Chuck took over all the care of Charles at that time.
He held him, loved him, and cared for him. Both gained a l?ster
When Pop suggested that a nice Arab-Welsh pony
from the pony ring at the park could be boarded at his barn for the
winter for feed, the chestnut-pinto Jerry entered their lives. As Christmas
approached, however, it became evident that just a winter pony was not
sufficient. Bertha arranged for all the relatives to buy a horsy gift
for Charles, because his father had bought Jerry for him.
The whole clan gathered in one basement around
the tree for the big surprise.
Pop when we were ready to open presents." Bertha recalled. "He
brought Jerry over with his $12.50 custom-made Rhodes saddle and
"We all expected
Charles to whoop and holler when he saw Jerry. He didn't. He walked
over to that pony, buried his face on his neck and began to cry.
So we all cried."
Charles remembers it was the best Christmas
Although Chuck had been a commissioned Army officer
in World War I, the loss of hearing in one ear kept him from serving
in the armed forces during World War II.
Friends in the Navy Bond Department in Washington
D.C. arranged for a visiting General on a bond drive in Kansas City
to have dinner with the Cravers in 1942. They were then told to report
to Washington in two days. Chuck sold bonds for the duration of the
war and stayed on until his retirement from the U.S. Treasury in 1963.
Because the state of Virginia ranked 44th in
the nation in terms of the quality of their high schools in 1942, Charles
was sent to Culver Military Academy, his father's alma mater. Unfortunately
for the horse-mad Charles, family finances could not afford the extra
$500 required to participate in the Black Horse Troop.
Once in college at Swarthmore, after a summer
of horses with Pop Boyer, the horseless Charles read an ad for Arabians
and the whole family was off to C. A. West's farm near Pittsburg for
the first time.
Charles really doesn't know whether it was the
beautiful farms, Jerry's purported Arabian background, or the inherent
generosity of his father, but when they left the farm the Cravers owned
a new foal, Indekerage #4652 (Indrage x Kerak).
The Cravers were still living in a cramped Washington
war-time apartment at that time and had no place to keep a horse so
"Inky" was shipped west to Pop Boyer.
By now Pop had moved to his Bear Creek ranch
in La Plata, Mo. "Inky" grew up there until he was shipped back east
to begin training.
Charles started him under saddle while boarding
him at Pegasus Stables in Silver Springs, Md., adjacent to Rock Creek
Park. Although Chuck had not ridden seriously since he had been in high
school at Culver, he also began riding "Inky" quite a bit.
When Charles joined the Navy in 1952, Inky went
to York, Pa., to Lillian Whitmack Roy for further education. Still a
dressage instructor today, Roy showed Inky with some degree of success
during the first year she had him in training. Chuck took several lessons
from her before Inky went back home to Pegasus to be his personal mount.
These were the good old days of the Arabian community.
Breeders were few and far between. Everyone knew everyone.
Soon they organized the Arabian Horse Association
of the East. Their charter extended their boundary to the Mississippi
River. Bertha was elected the first secretary of the club.
"We had members from Florida, Indiana and
states in between," she recalled. "We tried to set our meeting
in connection with the big shows at that time, Devon or Harrisburg.
"Members would show up from all over. I put
out the newsletter and would always try to write a personal note with
every copy sent out."
"Bazy Tankersley was the central hub around
which Arabian activities on the East Coast revolved." Charles remembered.
"She was unfailingly kind toward me and my parents. There were 'pasture
shows,' trail rides and cookouts at the old Al-Marah that added a great
deal of fun to our life with Arabian horses."
Mrs. Tankersley recalls Bertha and Chuck with
are the only people in any Arabian club that I've ever known who
remained totally positive and agreeable on every occasion."
Bazy continued, "we were having a meeting in the basement of
my house and we came upon a knotty problem that required some specific
knowledge (I have no idea about what) and Bertha said, 'If we
just could call up a 13-year-old boy, he'd know.' She did and
one ever gave a better example of the Arabian as a family horse.
'Inky' was the only horse that belonged to the whole family, and
while he was primarily Charles' horse, he certainly had attention
lavished on him by Charles' parents.
was the only stallion in a public stable and was as perfect a gentleman
as all the other gentlemen in the Craver family. No one ever got
more pleasure out of their horse than the Cravers did, and by demonstrating
this along with their unfailing good sportsmanship they did a great
deal to further the acceptance of Arabians," Bazy said in a
recent letter about the Cravers.
Carl and Jane Asmis of Never-Die Farm were good
friends of the family. They introduced the Cravers to Edward Wolf Jr.,
whose father had a circus in the Netherlands. Ringling Brothers had
brought the elder Wolf to center ring in the United States with his
Chuck arranged for the junior Wolf, who was in
rather dire financial straits at the time, to give dressage lessons
at Pegasus. In an effort to help him out, the whole family took riding
Today Bertha, a woman who never so much as saw
a cow until she was 12 years old, tells about her life as part of Craver
learned a lot about horses. I'm timid, but I have learned a lot.
Every family needs a wheel horse, and I was the wheel horse. I tried
to do my part. I can really comb out a mane, but am still timid
about the tail."
This is the woman who decided to surprise Charles,
who was away at school, by taking riding lessons from Wolf. Brought
to the stable for her debut in front of him, Charles' only comment was,
"What keeps her on the horse?"
While Bertha went home on a trip to Kansas City,
Chuck bought a house in Silver Springs. "I think he bought it,"
said Bertha with a smile, "because it was within walking distance
of the stable where we kept Inky."
Charles put the three summers between college
years and entering the Navy to good use for his future with Arabian
horses. Like his father, who had floated down the Missouri River with
Paul Jenkins, a high-school friend, Charles traveled around the country
with his college chum, Andy Segal.
He carried a used Rolex movie camera, visiting
as many Arabian farms as possible and taking movies of the horses. (One
of the glories of a visit to Craver Farms is the old film library. If
you have domestic-bred Arabians, you can see footage of their ancestors
taken in 1949, 1951 and 1953. Many of these animals are captured no
place else in movie form.)
A 1949 trip, again to estate developer C. A.
West's farm, led to the purchase of the Craver's first Arabian mare,
Arabesque #5403 (Rouf x Koreish). Koreish's dam *Simawa #358 (Rustem
G.S.B. x Sarama G.S.B.) fit in with the original plan of Craver Farms
to breed good Skowronek or English-bred mares.
was nothing really straightforward about the decision to concentrate
the breeding program at Craver Farms on those horses that could
solely trace to Davenport's 1906 importation," said Charles.
gradually evolved out of the circumstances of the horses we acquired
and the hours of pedigree research that I was able to do in my spare
time while stationed at Treasure Island. I was also fortunate in
being able to spend a lot of time with
Alice Payne, the noted *Raffles
(Skowronek G.S.B. x *Rifala) breeder,"
One day in the library at Asil Arabians, Charles
picked up a notebook containing the names of horses bred by Asil. One
name, Tripoli #4591 (Hanad
x Poka), was underlined.
have you put a line under Tripoli's name?" Charles asked his
always thought I might breed back to him," replied Mrs. Payne.
that was good enough for Alice Payne to breed to was good enough
for me," said Charles. "I set off to northern California
to find Tripoli. His owner, Mary E. Waldo, had leased him to a man
who ran a pack string for the forest service. He wasn't using him,
he was just standing in a barn starving to death. He looked terrible.
told Mrs. Waldo about his condition, so she had the horse brought
down to her farm. I returned later to try and buy him. From there
he went to Jimmy Wrench's place until Alice Payne heard he was there
and sent for him. While he was at Payne's, she used him to produce
the chestnut stallion Jamzed #10874 (Tripoli x Prochi), foaled March
used to have the weight ticket on Tripoli. Probably still do
around here somewhere," continued Charles, "but after having
been on full feedfor six months, he did not weigh 500 pounds as
a 7-year-old. From Alice's he went to Pop Boyers.
I left the Navy in 1955, my mother and father gave me encouragement
and support every step of the way. I had decided to farm the land
that the family had owned near Hillview, in the Illinois River bottom
since the turn of the century."
Chuck retired in 1963 with the Albert Gallatin
award, the highest honor that can be conferred by the U.S. Treasury.
Bertha and Chuck built a home in Winchester in 1965, 15 minutes away
form the main farm of 2,000 acres. After the move from Washington, Chuck
came to the farm virtually every day, helping however he could.
Charles honeymooned at the farm with his
wife Jeanne Hussong in 1974 as his father honeymooned there with Bertha
in 1925. Jeanne remembers Chuck:
was great. He trimmed shrubbery, painted fence. He loved every minute
of his retirement.
especially remember his birthday rides. Once a year (after Inky
had been given to Besssie Blackmore just across the river in Louisiana,
Mo,), he would arrive to a celebratory ride. I was newly married
and had no idea how this 75-year-old man could ride. I sent him
off on my Fatimah #36202 (Julyan x Fadaa), who could be something
of a handful. I was terrified.
got on Fatimah, sat up beautifully, collected her and looked just
grand. They had a good ride together. I miss his daily visits to
Chuck Craver died on March 10, 1979. Craver Farm
is not the same without him. Bertha is a little slowed now with a bothersome
knee so seldom makes it out to the farm. Charles and Jeanne see her
daily or are in communication by phone.
Bertha is still busy writing both to her friends
and for the arts. Since moving to Winchester she has won first place
for the best one-act play in the state of Illinois.
am terribly proud of the people who come to Craver Farms that
I get a chance to know," Bertha said. "They are gentle, in
the highest sense of the word, and have a real love for their horse,
like Chuck did. I miss him."
"My father gave me gentle support all the
way." Charles will remind a visitor.
"His greatest gift was an instinct for the
things of life of real value. It might be a horse or a little dog having
some trouble. I remember him receiving appeals in the mail.
"He sent a little something to all of them,'
because they might really need it.' he told me. I don't believe I
ever met anyone who did not like him."
(Alice Martin owns Star West in New Berlin, Ill., a dressage
training stable and Arabian breeding farm. she has been a visitor to
Craver Farms since 1963 when she met Sir and
the Craver family.)
The training division of New Berlin, Illinois 62670 Dressage training
for the horse and rider.
Star M Stables Watson Illinois 62473 Farm since 1842. Arabians
since 1963 John R. Martin, owner