Gransden Families in Canada and the US

This page is under extensive review and will be updated over the next few months. © Tina Bean 2014

Around the same time that John’s children were moving from Hampshire to Australia other Gransden family members were on the move. Thomas William Gransden, born in Stockbury on the 2nd of February 1810, second cousin to John Gransden was also making a move away from Kent.

Thomas and John Gransden had shared the same great grandparents. It is unknown if any of these family members would have known each other, particularly after John left Kent and settled in Hampshire. But the same social and economic conditions that affected one family would affect the other.

In the 1820-1830’s the wages of farmer-workers were so low that the Parish would have to contribute money to these people to “keep body and soul together”. With wages so low and a third to a half of the population receiving some sort of assistance from the Parish, rates rose considerably. This placed an even higher burden on land lords with many of the less well off land-holders losing their land due to the high rates.

In the 1830’s the situation became so severe that many of the parishes were encouraging the poorer workers to immigrate to the colonies, with the cost to be met by the parish. This was the only way that many of the Kent parishes could see of reducing the huge drain on their resources.

The unrest due to harsh living conditions and low wages resulted in changes to the poor laws. The idea was that instead of the parishes supplementing the income of poor farmers and other workers the workers would go to live and work in workhouses. However the workhouses were to be made little more than prisons and families were normally separated upon entering them. The reasoning behind this was that if Workhouses were so uncomfortable to live in then people would make greater efforts to find work outside them. This all came down to the belief that many of the poor were undeserving- in that it was their own laziness and unwillingness to work hard that caused them to be so poor. The situation became so untenable that in 1838 in Kent uprisings occurred

Thomas William Gransden may well have found that the living conditions in Kent were too harsh. On 7th of June 1830 Thomas William Gransden married Amy or Emma Green. Seven years later Thomas, his wife Amy and two of their four surviving children boarded a ship for a new life in Canada.

Like the Gransden family who had shipped to Australia just a few short years earlier Thomas, Amy and their children would have found life onboard ship a harrowing experience. Disease was rife with poor food, poor sanitation and high seas resulting in passengers spending most of their time aboard ship perpetually wet. The conditions on board were too much for little one year old Frances Elizabeth Gransden. She died at sea and was buried en route to Canada.

When the small family arrived in Canada they would have been bedraggled and grief stricken. Of the four original children from the family only six year old William Gransden survived. It must have been heartbreaking for the Gransdens to leave their friends and family in Kent, but to have then worked so hard to leave and lose one of their little family on the way to a better life must have been very harsh.

Their troubles did not end once they arrived in Canada. Many or the reports of what Canada was like had been vastly over stated by the many Parishes in England that were desperately trying to get rid of the large numbers of people who were relying on them for money and handouts to survive.

Canada was on the brink of rebellion when Thomas and his family arrived. The Canadians were protesting against poor management by the British government. Families arriving in Canada found that work was as hard to get there as it had been in Kent. Thomas would have had to find some way of supporting a family and he would no longer of had the help of the parish to fall back on if times got tough and he was unable to get enough work to pay for food and accommodation for his family. Thomas seems to have done well and prospered despite many of the difficulties that they encountered and over the next eight years Thomas and Amy had another four children.

While in Canada Thomas and his family lived, for at least part of the time, at Lot8 Con. 3 Whitby Township, in York County, in Ontario. Here it is believed that he was probably a gardener or farmer of some sort. He may well have done some labouring and spent some time working for the larger land owners in the area. The family was certainly not wealthy and would have found it hard making ends meet when they first arrived in Canada.

Whity is on Lake Ontario and was a thriving trade town with farmers from the north using the town as a point from which to sell their grain and crops. It was named after Whitby in Yorkshire, England- a port town. Whitby means white village and may have alluded to the white light house built at Whitby in Yorkshire. Whitby, Canada also has a white light house.

The original township of Whitby was surveyed in 1792 and settlement started in the early 1800’s. It was not until 1836 that a town with a business centre was established. It would have been to this very early township which had a population of around 120 people when the Gransdens arrived that the Gransden family would have come. It is probable that the Gransdens lot was on the outside of the township and so they were able to grow produce which could then be shipped through the harbour at Whitby to all over Canada. In 1855 Whity was incorporated as a town, there was considerable celebration as the members of the township had fates and street parades to celebrate. Thomas and his children may well have taken part in the celebration and listened to the speeches given by the town dignitaries.

On 20th of August 1849 Amy Gransden died at Oshawa, Whitby. Her eldest son William was 18 years of age. The other four remaining Gransden children were between eleven and four years old. They had lost not one child since moving to Canada. For this reason alone the family must have found Canada far preferable to live in then England where they had lost two of their children and a third on the way to Canada. However, even with the improvement of condition that this implies Amy died at just 39 years of age.

After the death of Amy Gransden, Thomas met a widow- Elizabeth Stanton through a Quaker organisation called ‘Friends’. Elizabeth had lost her husband John Swanton two years earlier. John and Elizabeth had both emigrated from Ireland together and had six children, all born in Canada. Of the six children born to John and Elizabeth the two eldest died young. The remaining four all lived to adulthood.

The Quaker organisation ‘Friends’ was more than just a church group or in the case of Thomas and Elizabeth, a dating agency, it was a group that would help to build many of the towns of Canada and the Untied States. ‘Friends’ helped create the first farmers co-operative in Canada, known as the Farmers’ Storehouse. This must have helped tremendously with trade for the local farmers. The Quakers advocated simplicity in dress and religion and maintained a belief in religion as experienced through the perceptions of the individual. In general Quakers did not believe in pushing their religion or their values onto others. It is easy to see why farming people such as the Gransdens would have found value in the ‘Friends’ organisation.

Within months of Amy Gransden’s death Thomas had married Elizabeth Swanton nee Aikens. Between 1850 and 1855 Thomas and Elizabeth Gransden had three more children. This bought the total surviving number of children for the family to 12. It was a large family with children aged from 24 down and the first grandchildren on the way.

As Thomas’s children grew older they, like their father, decided to try and improve their lives by moving to other countries and in 1859 William H. Gransden and two of his step brothers, Young and John Swanton moved to Michigan looking for timber. He must have found the move suited him for once there he and his wife and child- Thomas remained. This must have been very difficult for Thomas William Gransden as he had himself moved his family from Kent, England and now he was watching his own family move away from him. It may well have been his own knowledge of how lonely he had first felt when his family had moved to Canada in search of a better life that helped him to decide to once again uproot his family and follow his son to Michigan. Whatever helped the Gransden make their decision, possibly letters from their children describing the benefits of the new country, Thomas and Elizabeth and the rest of their children uprooted in 1871 and moved to Michigan, America.

The trip to Edenville Michigan would have been a trip of pioneers. It was common for

People to travel in wagons similar to the ones we are all familiar with from watching Western’s on TV. The children would have huddled in the wagon by day or run beside the wagon in good weather. Young children would have been held by the elder children and their parents with the constant risk of being thrown over the side from the bouncing and jolting of the wagon.

Thomas was well into middle age by the time he made the trip to Michigan. Some of his children already had families of their own and stayed in Canada. Others of his children made the move to Michigan with him, brining their young children with them. It is probable that Thomas and his families both children and grandchildren came in a convoy of a number of wagons. Many of the family members would have walked the majority of the way with trips between each wagon as the day passed to chat to each of the family members. At night the wagons would have been bought close together for comfort, company and protection.

William, Young and John had settled in the area of Edenville which at the time was given just a number- the number sixteen. In 1869 the Post Office was established, later the owners were asked for a name as it could no longer go by a number. Local legend claims that when the owner, Mr. Church was asked for the name of the Post Office he looked over at the river and up its banks and it reminded him of the Garden of Eden and thus Edenville was named. In 1873 Edenville officially became a township with both the Gransden and the Swanton’s as pioneering members.

When Thomas, Elizabeth and the rest of the Gransden and Swanton families arrived in Edenville, Thomas once again worked as a gardener. He also worked as a labourer as shown by the rates book for Edenville where an entry notes that Thomas was paid $5.00 for work on the towns roadway.

The year of Thomas’ and families’ arrival was an eventful one for Michigan. The great Peshtigo fire of 1871 flamed up on the eve of October the 8th. It is unknown if the Gransdens had already arrived in Michigan by this time or if they were on their way. No matter when they arrived they can have scarcely avoided seeing the devastation left by the fire. The Great Peshtigo fire was the worst recorded forest fire of North America, it covered 1.5 million acres and caused the deaths of between 1,200 and 2,400 people. The whole of Michigan felt the impact of the fire. Most people knew victims or helped house people escaping from the fire. Other’s were called in to help rebuild once the fire had burned itself out. Thomas and his family may well have contributed to some of the rebuild of their new state.

Like many of the Gransdens Thomas seems not to have been averse to taking any work that he could get to help both the township he was living in and to help support his own family. Later in life Thomas planted the Edenville Cemetery. For this he was given the plot of his choosing. Thomas chose a plot on the top of the hill for himself and his wife. He is buried there with his wife, two of their children and other Gransden family members. In the same cemetery are many other Gransden and Swanton descendents. Gransdens and Swanton’s are prominent throughout the township both past and present.

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