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Historical marker unveiled at Craighead House in South Middleton Township

Historical marker unveiled at Craighead House in South Middleton Township

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SOUTH MIDDLETON TOWNSHIP – The long history of the Craighead family has been distilled into 11 lines on a large, blue-and-yellow, cast-aluminum historical marker unveiled at the site of the family home along the Yellow Breeches Creek Saturday.

The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission approved the placement of the marker at 318 Old York Road earlier this year. The ceremony brought together members of the Craighead family and those who have been working to save the house that became best-known as the summer retreat for the family of naturalists.

The marker reads: “This 1886 house and surroundings were an inspiration to this family. Brothers Frank and Eugene became prominent entomologists. Frank’s nationally known conservationist sons, John and Frank Jr., saved Yellowstone’s grizzlies, popularized falconry, inspired the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act and contributed to National Geographic. Newbery-winning daughter Jean Craighead George wrote nature books Julie of the Wolves and My Side of the Mountain.”

“It’s an extraordinary family,” said Tom Benjey, a volunteer with the Craighead House Committee.

The marker, he said, is an official acknowledgement from the state on the importance of the house and its surroundings, which the committee hopes will translate into more assistance in their quest to preserve the location. The Boiling Springs VFW and Boiling Springs Civic Association made contributions that helped in the purchase of the marker.

Benjey said that in becoming an entomologist, Frank became the first of his family to break with the tradition of finding careers in business, the ministry, agriculture or the military, when duty called.

His sons, the twins Frank, Jr. and John, followed in his footsteps, becoming naturalists in their own right starting with an article on falconry they wrote and sent to National Geographic magazine.

“That article began a multi-decade association between the Craighead twins and National Geographic,” Benjey said.

The twins’ sister, Jean, died two years ago after writing about 100 books. More books have been discovered since her death, and two of those were published this past April.

“Here she’s been dead two years, and the books are still coming,” Benjey said.

A new edition of her book, The Summer of the Falcon, is now being sold to help raise money for the home’s preservation.

“Jean set that book in this very house,” Benjey said. “It’s fiction, very thinly veiled.”

The edition published for the Craighead House Committee includes a photo that cross-references the real members of the Craighead family with the fictional members of the Pritchard family depicted in the novel, Benjey said.

The committee used a $15,000 grant from the G.B. Stuart Foundation to repair the underpinnings of the house, and will next work on the porches, Benjey said.

“We’re out applying for grants and getting some,” he said.


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