Crocker Family

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Dr. Franklin Barnes Crocker was born November 12, 1846 at Lee, Massachusetts. He was a graduate of the University of the City of New York Medical School in 1876. For some time he was in charge of the Hudson County Hospital of New York. He also practiced medicine in Jersey City, New Jersey where he married Miss Martha Russell.

Because of his ill health, they came to Colorado Springs in 1880 where he received his Colorado license to practice medicine in 1881. In 1883 they moved to Walsenburg, Colorado, and in 1890 came to Littleton.

Their only child, a daughter, Elizabeth, "Bessie," was born in 1879 and died in Littleton in October 1894 at the age of fourteen years, ten months.

When The Littleton Gazette learned that Dr. Crocker was coming to town, it announced on February 7, 1890 that he would open an office "in the room now occupied by The Gazette," and followed up the next week by saying he was "cozily settled at the Gazette's old stand." Dr. Crocker responded with a letter to the editor congratulating the town on its just completed election to incorporate, saying, "I am glad to find myself in a town where the people are so united on great questions of public concern."

By April the Crocker family had occupied Miss Mary Chatfield's cottage. Perhaps the doctor wasn't all that cozy in his office at the Gazette's old stand, because by May 12, "Dr. Crocker [was] comfortably settled-office, dwelling and all, under one roof in the Berry building adjoining Mr. Morse's residence on Main Street."

Sometime between then and his death in 1904 he may have built what was described in 1908 as the Crocker Building where Edwin Bemis and his sister, Ella Bemis Kerruish, opened Littleton's first Kodak, stationery and book store. That building was across the street from the City Hall at what would now be 2439 West Main Street. It no longer exists.

Martha Russell Crocker was born in London in 1846 and came to America at age thirteen with her parents. Mrs. Crocker's strong interests lay in education and literary pursuits. By February 1897 she succeeded in getting the local Littleton citizens interested enough in establishing a library that meetings were held to discuss the possibility. Recognized as the leader of the movement, she was elected president of a library board. She continued to work tirelessly for the library's creation and for maintaining it after it was begun in 1897. The Littleton Public Library's first location was in Gilbert and Martin's drug store.

Martha Russell Crocker and the "Every Tuesday Reading Club."
Martha Russell Crocker and the "Every Tuesday Reading Club." Martha is seated on the far right in the front row. Date unknown.

Mrs. Crocker was the town librarian for years and also served as secretary of the Littleton District Six Board of Education for several terms. She was an active member of the "Every Tuesday Reading Club" and was president of the Woman's Club of Littleton. She was a member of the Presbyterian Church of Littleton, joining in March 1891, shortly after the Crocker's arrival here.

In trying to determine where the Crockers lived, two items indicate that their more permanent residence was on Rapp Street. In 1895 the newspaper said that Dr. Crocker lived next door to the Midway Livery barn, a huge structure on Rapp Street that burned to the ground. It was Dr. Crocker who discovered the fire. The livery barn was owned by R. S. Little and had been operated by Harry Lilley.The City Directory in 1905 gave the residence of Mrs. M. R. Crocker as 112 South Rapp.

Dr. Crocker lived for fourteen years after coming to Littleton and died May 24, 1904 of pneumonia. He is buried in the Littleton Cemetery, as is daughter Elizabeth.

When Martha Crocker's health began to fail, she moved to Ohio to be near her sister in 1912. The Littleton newspaper was eloquent in her praise and their regret at her leaving: "...She has proven her good qualities, and her labors here will always stand as a monument in the minds of her many friends here who deep in their hearts feel the loss in the removal of Mrs. Crocker from our community. The best wishes of Littleton go with you."

She died at the home of her sister in Mansfield, Ohio April 4, 1913. She left the Littleton community a lasting legacy-the City's public library. When Littleton streets were renamed in 1961, the former Grant Street became Crocker Street in honor of Martha Crocker who had done so much for the town. It was the first Littleton Street named for a woman.

Bibliography

Friends of the Littleton Library and Museum. The Oracle. Littleton, Colorado: Friends of the Littleton Library and Museum, December, 1999.

Hoppe, Sandra C. "Nineteenth Century Transitions in American Medicine." Research paper. University of Colorado. Anthropology Department. Denver: Sandra C. Hoppe, 1984.

Littleton (Colo.,) Independent. Littleton, Colorado: The Littleton Independent Publishers, 1888-.

Littleton Museum. Card File: Crocker; Photographic Archives.

Mount Rosa Chapter, National Society Daughters of the American Revolution. Littleton Cemetery, Littleton, Colorado. Littleton, Colorado: Mount Rosa Chapter, National Society Daughters of the American Revolution, 1983.

Presbyterian Church of Littleton records. Membership rolls, 1883-1982.

Photographs courtesy of the Littleton Museum unless otherwise noted. To order copies, contact the museum at 303-795-3950.

 

Compiled by Doris Farmer Hulse

Updated May 2017