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Craige, Francis Burton

by Daniel M. Mcfarland, 1979

13 Mar. 1811–30 Dec. 1875

Photograph of Francis Burton Craige, 1859. Image from the Library of Congress.Francis Burton Craige, editor, lawyer, and congressman, the youngest son of David and Mary Foster Craige, was born on the south fork of the Yadkin River five miles from Salisbury. He attended classical school in Salisbury, was graduated from The University of North Carolina in 1829, studied law with David F. Caldwell, and was admitted to the bar in 1832 when he was barely twenty-one.

While reading law, Craige edited the Salisbury Western Carolinian (1830–33), making it the chief advocate of Nullification in the state and suggesting full cooperation with South Carolina in the dispute with Andrew Jackson. Craige was also a leader in the campaign to revise the state constitution. He represented the borough of Salisbury and the County of Rowan in the House of Commons from 1832 to 1835, continually attacking those who upheld Jackson and supporting the call for a state constitutional convention.

Craige was decisively defeated by Abraham Rencher in 1835, when he challenged Rencher for his seat in Congress. The following year, Craige married Elizabeth Phifer Erwin (1815–81), daughter of Colonel James Erwin of Burke and granddaughter of General Matthew Locke of Revolutionary War fame. He settled down to practice law, farm, and raise a family. James Alexander was born in 1841, Kerr in 1843, Francis Burton, Jr., in 1846, Mary Elizabeth in 1848, and finally Annie Erwin in 1852. Craige was active in the Episcopal church. In 1847, The University of North Carolina awarded him a master's degree. But these were the years of the Mexican war, the abolitionist activity to the north, and the Compromise of 1850, and politics were never far from Craige's attention.

In 1853, as a Democrat, Craige opposed Whig James W. Osborne for the Seventh Congressional District seat, winning by 316 votes. He was returned in 1855 over Know-Nothing competitors, in 1857 without opposition, and in 1859 over S. H. Walkup, a Whig. In Congress he was an ardent defender of southern rights and opponent of compromise. After the election of 1860 he favored secession, and in March 1861 he attended the Goldsboro convention of the Southern Rights party, which called for North Carolina to leave the Union.

Craige left Congress in 1861 and was elected a delegate to North Carolina's Secession Convention in Raleigh. At the request of Governor John W. Ellis, Craige introduced the ordinance that repealed the state's ratification of the federal Constitution. He then became a delegate to the provisional Confederate Congress meeting in Richmond from July 1861 to February 1862. His three sons saw service in the Confederate Army.

After the war, Craige continued his farming activities and returned to the practice of law. He died at Concord while attending the Cabarrus County Superior Court. He was buried in Oak Grove Cemetery in Salisbury.

Additional information from NCpedia editors at the State Library of North Carolina: 

Francis Burton Craige was interred in the Old English Cemetery, Salisbury, N.C., not the city's Oak Grove Cemetery.

Photograph of Francis Burton Craige, circa 1855-1865. Image from the Library of Congress.References:

Samuel A. Ashe, ed., Biographical History of North Carolina, vol. 2 (1905).

Biog. Dir. Am. Cong. (1971).

J. C. Sitterson, The Secession Movement in North Carolina (1939).

Additional Resources:

"Craige, Francis Burton, (1811 - 1875)." Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Washington, D.C.: The Congress. (accessed April 4, 2013).

Warner, Ezra J. and Yearns, Wilfred Buck "Francis Burton Craige." Biographical Register of the Confederate Congress. LSU Press. 1975. 63-64. (accessed April 4, 2013).

Image Credits:

Vannerson, Julian. "[Burton Craige, Representative from North Carolina, Thirty-fifth Congress, half-length portrait]." Photograph. McClees' gallery of photographic portraits of the senators, representatives & delegates of the thirty-fifth Congress. Washington, D.C.: McClees & Beck, [1859]. 148. (accessed April 4, 2013).

"Hon. F.B. Craige of N. C." Photograph. Brady-Handy Collection. Library of Congress. (accessed April 4, 2013).


I am the 3 times great-granddaughter of Francis Burton Craige. I sincerely appreciate the biography on him but would like to call your attention to an error. He is buried in the Old English Cemetery and shares a headstone with his wife and two of his children. The Oak Grove/Freedman's Cemetery is adjacent to the Old English Cemetery and is an open field of sacred ground for at least 144 people, most of them African american. Thank you for your assistance in correcting this misinformation. You may view photos of his grave at

Dear Carolyn,

Thank you for visiting NCpedia and taking time to share this error with us.  We greatly appreciate readers taking the time to let us know about errors -- it contributes greatly to helping maintain the quality and accuracy of NCpedia's content.

I am going to add this update to an editorial field that shows up at the bottom of the article text.  You'll see it under "Update by N.C. Government & Heritage Library Staff."  This content was originally published in print in the Dictionary of North Carolina Biography published by the University of North Carolina Press.  The Press continues to hold the copyright on the content and has licensed it to NCpedia.  And so it is our practice to approve edits to the actual content with UNC Press.  In the meantime, the correction -- as well as your comment post -- will stay with the entry for other viewers to see the history of the entry.

Please let me know if you have any questions and thank you again for contacting us.  I have also replied to you at the email address you included with your post.

Best wishes,

Kelly Agan, N.C. Government & Heritage Library

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