By Bob Cowan / MHS Board President
Last spring during the process of developing displays and exhibits for the 2015 summer guided tour season, your exhibits committee, while discussing our very popular “Be Our Guest” room in the Eveleth-Crafts-Sheridan Historical House, decided to showcase not one individual or family, but four. Each of the four individuals – Arthur A. Crafts, Charles A. Dean, Louis Oakes, and Charles D. Shaw – cast a large shadow upon the area, in a very positive sense, and left a legacy worthy of recalling and appreciating. The following paragraph will briefly examine the life and contributions of the first gentleman, Arthur Crafts. Charles Dean, Louis Oakes and Charles Shaw have generously agreed, in absentia, to wait until the next blog postings. Before continuing however, I should assure you that these memorable and philanthropic gentlemen are being considered not according to the magnitude of their contributions but merely alphabetically. It is certainly not meant as an affront to any one of these gentlemen; it represents nothing more than a convenient approach.
Having set the stage, let us begin with Arthur A. Crafts, prominent businessman, hotelier, legislator and public benefactor. Although his contributions to the community were legion, he perhaps may be best remembered as the donor of the Masonic Temple in Greenville, a landmark which to this day makes its impressive presence known on Pritham Avenue. Presented and dedicated in 1929, contemporary newspapers described the building as being valued at $50,000 – a substantial sum even today. Years before, Mr. Crafts acquired the distinction of becoming the fourth Master Mason in the Columbia Lodge, after the lodge was established in July 1894, but long before the Temple had been constructed and donated.
Mr. Crafts (1867 – 1940) was born in Auburn, Ohio and came to Greenville as a young man although it is not certain precisely why he did so. Not long after establishing himself in the community, he was married to Rebecca Eveleth, daughter of John H. Eveleth, at Mount Kineo on September 19, 1889. They had two children, Oliver Eveleth Crafts who died at an early age, and Julia Ellen who married Rennie Philip Sheridan.
In 1899 Mr. Crafts established a large sporting goods store in Greenville, actually in the Junction, and successfully operated it for 26 years before selling the business. In 1916 he purchased the local sanatorium and converted it into a quality hotel he named The Squaw Mountain Inn. The enterprise was officially managed by his son-in-law Philip Sheridan, although as time passed it is not beyond the realm of possibility that, in reality, his wife and formidable business woman, Julia had a firm hand on business matters. It rapidly became both a prominent local landmark and very popular destination. Additionally, from 1934 until his death he was a director of the C. A. Dean hospital. However, despite his Greenville holdings and businesses, Mr. Crafts’ principal business enterprise was located in Boston, Massachusetts which served as headquarters for Arthur A. Crafts and Company, importers of diamonds, manufacturer of diamond cutting instruments and of cutting diamonds for industrial purposes. It was from this enterprise that Mr. Crafts derived his wealth and afforded him the ability to generously support a substantial array of philanthropic endeavors.
As a state legislator he was author of the act which resulted in construction of the Greenville Road connecting Greenville, Rockwood, and Jackman with greater Maine and Canada. On his passing in 1940, Governor Lewis O. Barrows memorialized Mr. Crafts as follows, “Mr. Crafts’ death is a tremendous loss to the state of Maine and a personal one to me. I am proud to have been included in his legion of friends and admirers. A pioneer in the development of the state of Maine as a recreational center, a keen businessman and an ardent supporter of efforts to develop the state, his loss will be felt greatly.”