Crawford was started as a tent city in 1886 as a railroad town on the Fremont, Elkhorn, and Missouri Valley Railroad. It was named after Capt. Emmett Crawford, a soldier formerly stationed at Fort Robinson. Crawford was, from the start, a very rowdy western town. It was visited by such personages as Doc Middleton, Calamity Jane, Baptiste Garnier, and military surgeon Walter Reed. The town was platted on land owned by newspaper correspondent Wm. E. Annin, for whom a street is named. In order to get the required number of signatures to get the town incorporated, newspaper editor William Edgar went to nearby Ft. Robinson and supplemented the townspeople's signatures with those of the soldiers. Located on the Sidney/Black Hills Trail and near Fort Robinson, Crawford could boast of numerous bars and "houses of ill repute." Crawford became home to a large number of businesses and a much larger number of people than it currently has. The town was home to a pickle factory, a mica mill, a bottling works and a brick works. Also, it was chosen as a distribution point by Nash-Finch and Paxton & Gallagher (the Nash-Finch building still stands).
Many buildings were built in the late 1800's and early 1900's, including churches, business building, warehouses, and many homes. Crawford's population reached its peak during World War II, due to its proximity the the Fort. In fact, many residences around town were built in the 1940's to ease the local housing shortage.
Crawford's economy still depends largely on the railroad, as well as mining. After Ft. Robinson was abandoned by the military and used for a brief period by the USDA as a beef cattle research station, the former Fort and the land around it became a state park, making it and Crawford a nice tourist destination. The land around Crawford is used primarily for agriculture, mainly ranching. Crawford can also boast of a gorgeous city park, which itself has a long and colorful history as the town's pride and joy. The town now also has a acclaimed golf course and nursing home.
There are many monuments to Crawford's history around the town. Although we have lost such buildings as the Gate City Hotel and the Elite Theater, many of the old business building downtown are still standing, and most of those are still in use. These include the Opera House (now a grocery store), the Nash-Finch building, the 1888 Congregational Church, and the "pharmacy building," which has been home to a number of drug stores since the 1800's. One of the oldest pipe organs in the state is a beautiful instrument in Crawford's Methodist church. The municipal post office, built in the 1930's, features a mural painted by a New Deal worker during the Great Depression.
As the local historical institution, we try our best to preserve Crawford's past and raise awareness of it through the Crawford Historical Museum. If you would like to learn more about Crawford, please feel free to stop by the museum; the hours are listed on the sidebar.