This article originally appeared in the Winter 2019 edition of Centrepiece.
Henry Nelson Craik-1890 spent his entire career—more than 40 years—at the Frankfort (Ky.) Cemetery, most of it as superintendent. He never married and lived with his sister Jennie in the cemetery lodge at the entrance to the grounds. When he died in 1936 at the age of 69 he left his property to Centre in memory of the Centre Class of 1890. The College used the proceeds of his legacy to help purchase a house where College presidents would live.
Henry Craik graduated from Centre in 1890, then attended, but did not graduate from, the Danville Theological Seminary.
Instead, he returned to Frankfort, Ky., to join his father, William, at the Frankfort Cemetery. William was a Scottish marble cutter who had fought in the Union Army during the Civil War and eventually became the head of the cemetery. Henry became cemetery superintendent himself in 1894 after the death of his father.
The cemetery is believed to be the second oldest incorporated cemetery in the United States and possibly includes the remains of prominent Kentuckians Daniel and Rebecca Boone. (There is some dispute.) Regardless of the actual location of the Boones, Craik was elected chair of the Boone Monument Commission in 1908 and was authorized to spend $2,500 to restore the cemetery’s Boone Monument, which over the years had lost pieces to souvenir hunters.
A deacon in Frankfort’s First Presbyterian Church, Craik was known for his knowledge and love of the cemetery. His obituary in the Kentucky Advocate said, in part, “He knew every grave lot and every grave and something about not only the people buried there but about those soon to come.” Both Henry Craik and his father are buried in the Frankfort Cemetery.
Craik House was built in 1853 by the noted Danville builder William I. Moore and occupied for nearly 60 years by two generations of the Welsh family long associated with Welsh & Wiseman, Danville’s leading department store. George Winston Welsh Sr. was a Centre trustee for 23 years until his death in 1889. His son George Winston Welsh Jr.-1865 served on the board for 34 years until his own death in 1924. The College bought the house from George Welsh Jr.’s daughter for $23,000 in 1937 to replace Hillcrest House, the previous presidential home.
The first president to live in Craik House was Robert L. McLeod, who, with his wife, Ruth John McLeod, came to Centre in 1938. Since then, six other presidents and their families have called Craik House home: Robert J. McMullen (co-president while McLeod was on leave during World War II), Walter A. Groves, Thomas A. Spragens, Richard L. Morrill, Michael F. Adams, and John A. Roush.
George Welsh Jr. added the Greek Revival front portico in the early 1900s. Extensive further remodeling took place for the arrival the Spragenses (1958) and the Morrills (1982).
The house is individually listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
by Diane Johnson