Henry Blakeslee and Muriel Elizabeth (Smith) Crane
A Sketch created in 19th Century History

ALBERT H. CRANE writes:
     My father married Muriel Elizabeth Smith from Detroit. They the Harrison Hutchins farm in 1919 or 1920 and moved from what was then called the Little Yellow House, where my cousin Richard Crane and his wife now live, and moved into a house on the south side of M-89.  This house burned to the ground on November 11, 1928. I can remember so well riding my bicycle home from school in Fennville, and as I came over the hill east of our house, seeing it totally in flames. Many people came to our aid and as there were seven children at the time, we were parceled around the neighborhood until Dad and Mother could find a place to live.  We finally got back together at the Collins house which was directly across from the old high school on main street.  Builders went to right work and by the next May we were in the new house.

     Our OLD house that burned had some interesting features for a farm house.  We had running water by the way of a large storage tank in the attic.  This furnished enough pressure to supply water to the kitchen and bathroom. At first the water was pumped by windmill and later by a one-cylinder gas engine.

     There was also an "icehouse" under the back section of the house.  Dad had purchased an old Modle T Ford truck and built quite a large box on the back.  We would take a picnic lunch and head for Singapore near where the old saw mill used to be.  There we would all shovel sawdust, then have our picnic and head for home.  This sawdust was stored in a pile near the "icehouse".  Come winter, Dad with team and sleigh, plus several neighbors, would head for Hutchins Lake to cut ice.  It would take several days and a lot of hard work, but in time we would have the icehouse packed with cakes of ice and insulated with sawdust.  As I recall, this ice would last us all summer and well into September.  Of course it probably would have lasted longer had we not used quite a bit to make ice cream.  We had our own cows and chickens and it seems that at least once a week, usually on Sunday, Mother would make a batch of custard and Dad and we boys would grind out a gallon.  Usually the girls would show up in time to lick the dasher.  When we ran out of ice the iceman would stop and leave about twenty-five pounds, twice a week.  (I believe the ice-making plant was in Douglas .) The deliveryman would stop by with his little truck and cut off what we needed.  We kids would always try to be on hand to get a piece of ice to suck on.

The Blakeslee Crane family about 1931.
Back row, standing, Edward, Albert, and Shirley E. (Smith).
Seated, Henry Blakeslee, Robert,
John Calvin, Emilyn, Muriel and Elizabeth

     My brother, Edward, died at age ninteen and my brother John Calvin, was killed in 1943 while on a naval training flight near Miami. This leaves Shirley, Emilyn, Elizabeth, Robert and me.

     My mother was brought up strictly as a city girl in Detroit.  She and my father met at Michigan State College where both graduated in 1914.  I have often wondered how she survived coming to a small country town, but survive she did. She told me the story about the first morning after her arrival on the farm when big, gruff, kindly Elmer Knowlton, my grandfather's hired man, came over to see how they were doing.  As yet unpacked, Mother served coffee in the only cups she could locate -- demitasse cups.  Later Elmer was to tell grandpa that he just didn't know about that new wife of Blakeslee because she served coffee in thimbles.

    As  we  children came along, Elmer and his wife, Sophie, were to play a memorable part in our lives.  We were always fascinated by the way Elmer would shake with laughter but never make a sound.  Sophie became our baby-sitter, maker of the world's best cookies and our friend.
Later Elmer was to tell grandpa that he just didn't know about that new wife of Blakeslee because she served coffee in thimbles.
    As  we  children came along, Elmer and his wife, Sophie, were to play a memorable part in our lives.  We were always fascinated by the way Elmer would shake with laughter but never make a sound.  Sophie became our baby-sitter, maker of the world's best cookies and our friend.

    For a number of years there were ten of us at each meal -- seven children, Mother, Dad and Mother's father, Charles Smith.  It seemed like there were always little ones around and we all helped with the things we were capable of doing.  My job was to milk the two cows, feed the horses and chickens and empty the wash water.  Of course we took care of our rooms and kept clean.  Having Grandfather around was great too.  He would read to us and tell us exiciting stories.  He was a great student of Shakespeare, probably because as a young man he worked at the theaters in New York.  I remember him telling us about the Booth actors.  Of course there wasn't much in the way of entertainment but I can never remember being bored as we seemed to make our own entertainment.  It was about 1932 when we got a radio and what a great thing it was.

     My only comment as I end this is that as we live our lives we may or may not end up with a fortune, but if we have fond memories, they are our greatest treasures.                
by Albert H. Crane

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In the map below you see the location of the first trail through the area from Swan Creek to Mack's Landing.  The main Blakeslee Farm was in center marked, Harrison Hutchins. Alvin Hutchins owned 100 acres on the north side of the highway at the same time Harrison did. Blakeslee's brother, U.S. inherited the J.H. Crane farm to the west. U.S's son Dick later acquired the farm across the road by the trail. Currently several hundred acres are Crane Orchards. The Hutchins Cemetery is just east of  Crane's Pie Pantry.   Notice Clifford Paine's Home across from his grade school, PEACH BELT.  He married Edith Crane, Blakeslee's sister.
View Albert Crane Page.

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