If you appreciate the work done on this blog, please consider making a small donation. Thank you!

If you appreciate the work done on this blog, please consider making a small donation. Thank you!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Sons of Simon Cranston -- Part I

The Cranston-Klair House
In a recent post, we were introduced to Marcus Hook native and long-time Stanton area resident Simon Cranston. Even if Simon himself is not a well-known, household name in the area, his last name is. And although you can easily trace the reason for the family's success back to its patriarch, the more direct reason that the name lives on has more to do with the sons and grandsons of the old shipwright/farmer. During his lifetime, Simon Cranston became well-off enough financially that he was able to purchase several properties in and around the Stanton-Marshallton area, and at least one a bit further afield*.

While some of these properties were certainly money-making tenant farms, at least a few were purchased specifically to set up his sons in their own lives. And as was common in the area at the time, both his sons and daughters started those new lives with spouses from other land-owning families -- in several cases, from the same families.

Simon and Mary Cranston had eight children, five boys and three girls. The youngest girl, Sarah (1811-1894), married Ellis P. Wilkinson of London Grove Township, Chester County. Her brother Benjamin, who we'll get to in due time, wed two of Ellis' sisters (not at the same time). Middle daughter Eliza (1805-1869) married into two of the larger land-holding families of MCH and western Christiana Hundred -- her first husband was Alexander Armstrong, her second was Joseph Mitchell*.

Eldest daughter Mary Ann Cranston's (1803-1882) husband was Samuel Pennock Johnson, son of Pike Creek miller Joshua Johnson. This was one of two Johnson-Cranston unions, and one that ended up poorly for the Johnsons. As was mentioned in the Johnson-Morris House post, in the 1840's Samuel Johnson co-signed for a loan with his father-in-law Simon Cranston. When Simon was unable to repay the debt, the Johnson's property was seized by the sheriff and sold to repay it. Why Cranston's was not taken is not said.

The oldest Cranston son (and first child) was William Cranston, born in Stanton in 1797. As he died in 1842, prior to any of the maps I'm aware of, we probably know the least about him among Simon's sons. His was the other (actually, the first) of the Johnson-Cranston marriages, his to Mary Johnson. They had six children, but only one son, Simon S. Cranston (1833-1879). Inferring residence locations from census data (especially pre-1850) is inherently tricky, but after looking over the 1840 Census I believe that William and Mary had settled on a farm north of Stanton. My guess is that they lived on the farm located where what would later be known as the Cranston-Klair House was, on Limestone Road.

This beautiful five-bay, stuccoed stone house was torn down around 2001 to make room for the now TD Bank. It's possible that William and Mary Cranston occupied this house, although one piece of evidence leads me to believe they lived in an earlier home. In either case, they only resided there for about twenty years, as she died in 1840 and he two years later. Several of the children (including son Simon) were still young, and it appears they went to live with Mary's cousin Levis Pennock in Chester County. At least a few of the kids* remained in Pennsylvania, including Simon, who died at his home in West Chester in 1879 at the age of 46.

Hannah Reed Kelly Cranston
After the death of eldest son William, the farm north of Stanton passed on to the next son, Joseph Cranston (1799-1872) and his wife, Hannah (Kelly) Cranston (1806-1899). It's quite possible that it was Joseph who erected the house along Limestone Road, as Runk states that he did build a new home on his 160 acre farm. Then, as noted in the Aaron Klair Family post, after Joseph's death in 1872 the house went to his daughter Elizabeth and her husband, Egbert Klair. The big, white house remained in the Klair family well into the 20th Century.

Prior to that, though, as his father had done before, Joseph made sure that his son was set up on a farm of his own. Runk says that Edward Cranston (1836-1922) leased 52 acres of the home farm in 1864, but I think it's more likely that Joseph bought a new tract for him. The 1881 map still shows the original farm (now listed as E. Klair) as 160 acres, and Edward's property is not contiguous with his father's. The new farm was on the west side of Limestone Road, just south of where the B&O Railroad tracks would soon be built, where the small development of Mannette Heights is now.

Edward R. and Anna Maria (Lynam) Cranston

Edward and wife Anna Maria (Lynam) would live here until 1890, when they moved into a new home in Marshallton. Cultivation of the home farm then passed full-time to their son, Lewis Harvey Cranston (1864-1922). Again in this generation, we have an example of multiple marriages between siblings. In January 1890, Lewis married Mary Etta Ball (1869-1928), and a month later his sister Clara Cranston married Irvin Ball. Mary and Irvin were the children of Rueben Ball, and would have grown up in the Joseph Ball House in Arundel.

Irvin L. and Clara Emma (Cranston) Ball

But jumping for a moment back to Edward's generation, his sister Elizabeth is not the only one whose husband has been mentioned in a previous post. In 1855, Sarah Cranston married Samuel Sharpless, brother of millers Amos and Jehu Sharpless. Her daughter married George Pusey, the next to operate the Ashland Mill. Finally, Adeline Cranston was married to Richard Gilpin Buckingham, mentioned in the post about (and relator of the story of) the Battle of the Mermaid.

The last of Simon Cranston's sons who we'll cover in this post is the fourth boy, Samuel Cranston (1809-1894). Samuel was born in Stanton, and on February 15, 1838, married Hannah Mitchell at the Hockessin Friends Meeting House. Hannah was the daughter of Joseph Mitchell of Woodside Farm, and the sister of John Mitchell. The couple had only one child who survived into adulthood, Joseph, who moved to Pennsylvania. In January 1844 Hannah Cranston died, presumably from complications from childbirth, as her son William was born 10 days before she passed. (He died 3 1/2 years later.)

Four years later, in January 1848, Samuel remarried, this time to Edith Sharpless. Edith was the sister of Samuel, Amos, and Jehu Sharpless of Ashland, mentioned above. During this period, Samuel was living not in the Stanton/Marshallton area near the rest of his family, but rather on a farm north of Loveville. His property was located on the west side of Loveville Road just south of Old Wilmington Road, about where the Wilmington Christian School is now. By the mid-1850's, though, Samuel and family had moved to a farm a little closer to "home". Coincidentally, this property, too, is now a school -- Delcastle High School.

It appears that sometime between 1868 and 1880, Samuel moved his family to Philadelphia, and away from Mill Creek Hundred. And while all this Cranston family history may seem impressive, we still haven't gotten to the two sons of Simon Cranston who had the greatest impact on the region around their father's Ten Maples estate. In Part II of The Sons of Simon Cranston, we'll focus on the third and fifth sons, James and Benjamin Cranston. Examples of their industriousness and business dealings can still be seen all around the Stanton-Marshallton-Newport area.

Additional Facts and Related Thoughts:
  • In 1819, Simon Cranston purchased what would later be known at the Lewis Weldin Farm, south of Stanton on Churchman's Road. It's the farm that was replaced by a Borders Bookstore and Office Max, next to Toys R Us. The silo (built long after James and Joseph Cranston sold the farm following their father's death) stood until the recent I-95/Rt-1 "fly-over lane" project wiped it out. 
  • One of the delays in the completion of this post was the time I spent trying to place both Alexander Armstrong and Joseph Mitchell within their respective families. I'm sure they fit in somewhere, I just wasn't able to pin down exactly where.
  • Here we have another example of multiple marriages between families. William's daughters Philena and Mary both married Marshall brothers (Ezra and Joshua). The more I see it, the more I've come to realize that this phenomenon is less of an aberration and more of a regular arrangement. of the time.


  1. I wonder if the red brick farmhouse sitting on Limestone Road at the entrance to Manette Heights is Edward Cranston's old home.

    1. I was thinking that, too, but the house that's there now is a little newer. Early 20th Century. Could have been put up a generation or two later, by his son or grandson. County lists it as 1910.

  2. Nice post Scott! I love seeing those old photos!

  3. Nice post! I've got more people to add to my tree. I set up some Cranston FindAGrave memorials from the post about Simon Cranston. Richard Gilpin Buckingham is an Eastburn. http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?GSfn=&GSln=cranston&page=gsr&GSmid=46928373&df=all

  4. Good post Scott. I was a shame about the Cranston-Klair house on Limestone Road. As we know now-a-days some folks let these older homes deliberately deteriorate to a point where demolition is the only choice.
    By the way....Ms. Hannah Cranston didnt win any smiling contests did she?

  5. Nancy Cranston PayneAugust 19, 2015 at 10:30 PM

    My name is Nancy Cranston Payne and the great-granddaughter of William B. Cranston, son of Benjamin. I was just in Stanton last week investigating the Cranston homstead (as my father and grandfather referred to it) which was built in 1810 on the corner of Rt. 4 and Stanton Rd with a liquor store in the front yard. My question is which of the Cranstons built the beautiful Stone house? My Dad used to summer there as a boy and help out on the farm with his Aunt Hannah sister to Robert Walker Cranston "looking out" for him. She was a maiden teacher in Stanton for a number of years until she moved to New Jersey to teach. Since I'm considering moving down there from New York, I'd really like to know more about the area. BTW, it took awhile but I did find the grave sites that were pretty unreadable in the Quaker Meeting House cemetary (Now a dentists office on Rt 2! I would love to hear from anybody who has more information to share....my email add is quickstep99@aol.com...I give this because I'm not sure how "this" works.

    1. That's awesome, Nancy! Yeah, the older Quaker headstones can be hard to read. They didn't exactly go in for big, flashy monuments. Back far enough they usually didn't have headstones at all. Glad you found what you did, though.

    2. Nancy Cranston PayneAugust 20, 2015 at 7:26 PM

      Is there a record somewhere that lists those who were buried in that Quaker cemetary? We located a number of ancesters but there were quite a few partial stones there buried amongst the family who's dates we weren't even positive about. Now that you've so kindly given me so much more information I've really got to find my way back down there!

    3. Find A Grave has 41 of the people listed. http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gsr&GScid=2317752