Ephraim Cranston – Christopher Cranston’s Brother and Oregon Trail Traveler

Janice Opsahl provided the link to this information about Ephraim Cranston, the brother of Chistopher Cranston and the family member who led the Cranston’s to Oregon on the Oregon Trail in 1850.  The information came from “History of Oregon Illustrated,” Vol. 3 by Charles H. Carney, The Pioneer Historical Publishing Company, Chicago – Portland 1922

Macaulay has said that little can be expected of a man who does not feel justifiable pride in the record of an honorable and honored ancestry. Ephraim Cranston, of Waldo Hills, Oregon, was a man who came of a distinguished line and his own course of life was in harmony with that of the family record. The genealogical line of the Cranston family which is of Scotch-English descent, could be traced back to eleven crowned heads of Europe. The founder of the family in the new world was John Cranston who became a resident of Rhode Island a few years after the Mayflower reached the Plymouth coast. John Cranston served as the first governor of the Rhode Island colony under the English crown, was also attorney general and held high military offices. He served as chief executive of the colony for two years and was then succeeded by his son, Samuel Cranston, who in 1698 was elected governor of Rhode Island and was continued in the office by consecutive elections through twenty nine years, his death occurring while he was still serving as chief executive. No other governor of Rhode Island has ever been honored with an equally long term and it is said: “He also held the highest military office of the state and owed a large part of his popularity to his courage and able leadership of the state’s armies.”

Ephraim Cranston was born in Rhode Island, December 15, 1800, and was quite young when his parents became residents of Ohio, where he was reared. After reaching man’s estate he wedded Roxanna Sears, a native of New Bedford, Massachusetts. Her mother was a representative of one of the oldest and wealthiest families of Boston and after her marriage to a Mr. Quishman removed to Ohio, being numbered among the pioneers of that state. Mr. and Mrs. Cranston began their domestic life on a large farm which he owned and afterward brought under a high state of cultivation. In 1850 he disposed of his extensive agricultural interests in Ohio and largely invested his money in fine heifers which he started to drive across the plains to Oregon. On the long trip, however, he lost many but still had enough left to make a fine herd on reaching this state. When the family were en route reports reached them concerning various Indian massacres and also the fact that western emigrants were falling victims to the cholera, so that they spent the winter in Missouri and did not reach Oregon until October, 1851. They traveled westward with a train of sixty wagons, Mr. Cranston acting as captain of the party and to him all the others looked to extricate them from any difficulties or dangers which they encountered. He was a very forceful and resourceful man, possessed of undaunted courage and determination, whom the Indians styled “Oley Man Wagon Doctor.”

After reaching the northwest Mr. Cranston settled on a farm in the Waldo Hills country and began raising cattle and other stock about ten miles from Salem. His diligence and enterprise brought substantial results and he soon became recognized as one of the leading farmers and stock raisers of that section where he continued to make his home until a few years prior to his death, his last days being spent in Salem.

Mr. Cranston’s prosperity was to him a source of great pleasure, inasmuch as it enabled him to provide liberally for his family. To him and his wife were born nine children, three of whom passed away in infancy while the others reached adult age, but the only one now living is Mrs. Arthur H. Breyman, a resident of Portland. The eldest was Warren Cranston who followed farming near Salem and was a leading resident of that section of the state, being called upon to represent his district in the general assembly; the second son, Samuel B. Cranston, engaged in farming in early life but later took up the study of law and became a member of the bar of Lake county, Oregon; Edward P. Cranston was interested in the gold mines of Baker county, Oregon; Elizabeth became the wife of Quincy Brooks; and William Cranston was likewise connected with mining interests of eastern Washington and of Oregon but passed away in Idaho. The family circle was again broken by the hand of death when on the 6th of October, 1873, Ephraim Cranston passed away on the farm of his son Warren near Salem. His widow survived him for about nine years, her death occurring in Dayton, Washington, September 5, 1882. A contemporary biographer has said: “They were among the worthy pioneer people of the state and Mr. Cranston’s labors constituted an important element in improving the grade of stock raised and thus promoting the agricultural development and prosperity of Oregon.” Mr. Cranston was ever a close student of political problems and issues and in early manhood supported the whig party, while upon its dissolution he joined the ranks of the republican party. He always strongly opposed slavery and put forth every effort to aid the negroes who were attempting to make their way by means of the “underground railroad” in hope of freedom in Canada. Both he and his wife were people of genuine personal worth, highly esteemed by all who knew them. In his early life Mr. Cranston became a universalist and always adhered to the doctrines of that church. In his latter days he read and reread the Bible until he could repeat any passage for which you might ask. Mr. Cranston’s life was of significant service to the state in the vigor he lent to the pioneer era in making this region habitable, in bringing its resources to light and in stamping his intensely practical ideas upon the agricultural development. Such careers are too near us now for their significance to be appraised at its true value, but the future will be able to trace the tremendous effect of the labors of these pioneers upon the society and the life of their time.

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