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Josiah M. (or N.) and Mary Jane (Norman) Crane

The Crane family is said to be of Scotch-Irish ancestry.

Josiah M. (or N.) Crane was born in 1808 or 1807 in New York on the Hudson River. Josiah was a physician and a farmer. He married a Prudence Bates before 1826 probably in New York or Pennsylvania. Prudence was born in Ireland and came to America at age 14. Legend has it that the family moved around a lot living in Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri (near Springfield), and Illinois. In Tennessee they lived near Woodbury, Cannon County. However, the census records mostly have them in Cannon Co, Tennessee, so this is up for debate. Josiah and Prudence had the following children:
1. John William born June 2, 1826 in Germantown, Pennsylvania
2. Mary Eliza born in 1830 in Germantown, Pennsylvania
3. Henry D. born in 1833 in Germantown, Pennsylvania
4. Benjamin F. born in 1835 in Germantown, Pennsylvania
5. George Washington born in 1837 in Germantown, Pennsylvania
6. Martin (or Leonard) Van Buren born in 1839 in Cannon County, Pennsylvania
7. Allison Woodville born in 1841 in Cannon County, Pennsylvania

I’m told the first 5 children were born in Germantown, Pennsylvania, but this is also up for debate as you note that Prudence is listed in Bradford County, Tennessee in the 1830 census. This family is found in the 1840 census in Cannon Co, TN. Leonard Crane’s pension records says he was born in Cannon County, TN, therefore they moved from PA to TN between 1837 and 1839.. The family was living in Missouri at one time (I believe – not sure) and the story says that at one point Josiah believed he had murdered a man and that the law was after him, so he ran away to Illinois. It was here he met Mary Jane Norman.

Josiah’s marriage license to Mary Norman has his middle initial as N. Census records and other court records in Tennessee have the middle initial of M.

Josiah N. Crane (spelled Crain on the marriage certificate) and Mary Jane Norman were married in Marion, Williamson Co., Illinois on May 22, 1845 by Justice of the Peace A. D. Burton. The marriage certificate states they were both of "lawful age". To this union was born at least three children:
1. Dr. James Madison Sommerville Crane b. 1-13-1846 in Williamson County, IL
2. Celia Alice "Hettie" Crane b. January 13, 1848 in Williamson County, IL
3. Joseph Bennett Crane b. March 12,1851 in Williamson County, IL


Marriage of Josiah Crane and Mary Jane Norman

State of Illinois
Williamson County
The people of the State of Ill
inois to any person lawfully authorized
to solemnize marriage in said county
Greetings, you are hereby licensed and
permitted to celebrate & certify the rite
of marriage between Mr. Josiah N Crane &
Miss Mary Jane Norman they being of
lawful age for so doing this shall be
your sufficient warrant.

Witness A. P Corder Clerk
of the county ______ Court of
said county & do seal _____
as office in Marion this 22
May 1845
A. P. Corder Clerk

At this time, the family secret continued. Mary Jane eventually found a letter from Prudence saying that the law wasn’t really after him and begging him to return home. Mary Jane insisted that he go back to his first wife, which he did. This all must have happened between 1851 and March 11, 1855(this being the date of the marriage of Mary Crane and William. M. Gordon in Union County(or Williamson Co.) , Illinois.

Mary Jane gained much knowledge from Dr. Josiah and after he left, she used that knowledge to support herself and the children working as a midwife. She delivered all twelve of Celia’s children, and possibly Joseph T. and John W’s children.

Mary Jane and William M. Gordon had several more children including:
1. Joseph T. b. 1854 in Illinois
2. John W. b. 1856 in Illinois
3. Cyrus F. b. 1859 in Illinois
4. Mary Ellen born September 21, 1864 in Baxter County, Arkansas

According to birthplaces from census records the family was still living in Illinois in 1859, in Sherrill, Texas County, Missouri in 1860, and Mary was in Arkansas by 1864. According to family stories some of the Crane boys (from a previous marriage of William M. Gordon) enlisted in the Army. It is said, James Gordon "went to town one Saturday and a recruiting officer 'got hold of him' and signed him up in September 1860." This was in Buffalo, Dallas County, Missouri. Another family story say Mr. Gordan went off to war, was taken prisoner by the Yankees, and never was heard of again. Leonard V Crane was taken prisoner near Cape Giraudeau, Missouri according to his Pension paper, so perhaps they were together. We know that Mary was alone with the children in Whiteville. Marian Co., Ark in 1870. It was said that the family moved to Arkansas to try to escape the stealing and looting of the Civil War.

Anna Lougilla Crane Williams (daughter of Josiah Bennett Crane) writes”

“ My Dad’s mother [Mary Jane] was borned in IL, and a young doctor moved or drifted there from MO I believe. They were married he evidently had some money for they owned a farm near Springfield, that had a beautiful Natural Spring on it, for it’s still known and is on the map as Crane Springs. How long they lived there I don’t know. But I do know Uncle Jim Crane was five years older than Dad and Aunt Hettie Cooper was in between. My Dad was less than a year old when they moved to Arkansas, the Civil War was raging. So now I’m guessing on this deal. Some way some how Grandpa Crane had left a wife and children before he married Grandma and didn’t bother to get a divorce. That’s the reason I think it was the State of Missouri. They had these men that weren’t fighting but going from the two states stealing everything they could find and doing some killings, too. Mother called them Bushwackers. Now how long he and grandma were married I don’t know, must have been close to seven years and some states recognize that as legal. Nobody ever bothered to check on it. But she started finding letter from his first wife beggin him to come back. She just couldn’t take it, so she told him he would have to decide between them. He was a good doctor and much in demand. So one day he left to make a call and never came back. Mary Jane had picked up enough of his medical knowledge that she supported her three children by delivering babies and caring for the sick, guess from all accounts it was slim feeding. The first wife must have location him thru the men moving from place to place. Anyway, it never bothered my Dad one bit. He always said if Grand [Mary Jane] could have ignored the letters he would have never left. When Dad was fifteen he walked back to IL just to see where they had lived. Two of the half brothers visited Dad late in life after he “Cynthia Crane” Dad’s mother, and mother were married. Then Dr. Tom Crane of Springfield, MO was one of the half brothers children. Have always wished I could get my hand on that Generation Book that Dr. Bennett Crane of Kilgore, TX should have in his position since it belonged to Nannie Crane. Of course they are all dead except his family. The two sisters Nannie and Nettie Crane are the ones that had the oil gusher that come out in Life Magazine years ago. I think it just blew in their back yard, was called Nan-Net oil well. Grandma’s maiden name was Norman.”

There is a Crane Missouri which 60 miles SW of Springfield in Stone County, Missouri. Also Crane Creek (with a couple of springs) is a tributary of the James River.




Springs at head of Crane Creek


Crane Creek

This is a story Celia "Hettie" told her daughters of Mary: Granny Gordon was a midwife and delivered all 12 of Hettie's children, possibly Joseph's 12 and John's children also. She was blind so when she visited, Hettie would guide Granny Gordon to a rocking chair on the front porch and then light her corncob pipe for her. Nettie Crane, daughter of James Madison Summerville Crane, also says, “Grandmother was blind for a good many years. It seems that she had a terrigian over her eyes like my father had. One of Uncle Joe’s (Josiah Bennett Crane) sons had the same thing. Operations were unheard of in those days.” Mary Gordon died February 11, 1897, and is buried in the Gassville Cemetery in Baxter County, Arkansas.


Mary Jane Norman Crane Gordon's Tombstone

From Barbara Crane Shearman: “There is a cemetery located on Old Crane Farm, now known as Cling West Farm. The farm is located approx 6 ½ miles East of Woodburn, on highway 70 S. at Short Mountain Rd Intersection there is a house, church and cemetery, located on short Mountain Road. About ¼ mile North of highway 70 South. In 1872 Josiah and Prudence Crane deeded one acre of the land to the Methodist Episcopal church of North America for church purposes. Josiah and Prudence Bates Crane owned 1280 acres of land in one body. In the winter of 1874-75 the Crane home burned. Here on this homestead about 1839, they raised their children 6 sons and one daughter.”

In the fall of 1874 Allison Woodville Crane moved back to the old Josiah Crane home in Tennessee. Meeting with reverses, the most notable being the destruction of his home by fire in the winter of 1874-75.

Josiah died in 1876 in Cannon County, Tennessee and Prudence died after the 1880 census.

Their Path


Census Records

1830 Franklin, Bradford County, Tennessee Line 9

Note: Prudence is listed as Head of Household and it doesn’t appear Josiah was living in this household at this time. I was unable to find Josiah by himself elsewhere. Also note a Benjamin Bates – approximately the same age as Prudence, is living near. Is this a brother??


1840 8th Civil District, Cannon County, Tennessee Line 2

Note: Name listed as McCrane and also note a William Bates living near who is close in age to Prudence. Is this a brother??


1850 8th Civil District, Cannon County, Tennessee 9/23/1850 Line 25

Note: Unable to find Josiah in the 1850 census at this time. He should be in Illinois according to children’s birthplaces.


1860 Woodbury, Cannon County, Tennessee 7/16/1860 Line 14

Note: Spelled McCrane


1860 Sherrill Township, Texas County, Missouri 7/7/1860 Line 26

Note: Mary remarried to W. M. Gordon


1870 District 8, Cannon County, Tennessee 7/5/1870 Line 15


1880 District 8, Cannon County, Tennessee 6/19/1870 Line 47 Prudence Crane


1880 Whiteville, Baxter County, Arkansas 6/15-16/1880 Line 27 MaryGordon


Marriages on Record in Marion, Williamson Co., Illinois Courthouse 1839 - 1865 Volume 1 page 13
Archived letter of Dr. Thomas Van Buren Crane
Leonard Crane Pension Records
Census records
Interviews and correspondence:
Rosine Webber
Mozella Kersse
Nanette Wickham
Barbara Crane Shearman
Know Moore
Various Rootsweb pages on Internet
Past and Present of Greene County, Missouri

The Descendants of Josiah M. and Mary Jane (Norman) Crane

Letter by Dr. Thomas Van Buren Crane