William H. Gransden

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

William H (probably Henry) Gransden was just six years old when he boarded the ship that took him away from his families’ homeland. At the age of six he would already have been expected to work and to help support his family. Playtime would have been spent in the fields scaring birds away from the crops and scaring mice and rabbits out of the harvest fields. At the age of six young boys were already expected to be lifting crops and possibly helping with the ploughing.

It is unlikely that William would have had many new clothes and these would have been reserved for Sunday church if he did have any. The rest of his clothes would have been second hand and hand me downs from other families and relations in the district. William would probably have spent many of his young years cold and hungry.

At a very young age William would already have watched as his two brothers William and Joseph died. It is unknown if they ever made it past infancy but both were alive long enough to be baptised. It can only be imagined what William would have felt like when his parents first talked to him of immigrating across the ocean to Canada. William would have had to say a last farewell to all of his friends and it is doubtful if he would have ever been in contact with them again. The boat trip to Canada must have been a frightful experience for a young boy, particularly when his young sister died but it must also have been a time of high adventure.

William would have made new friends onboard, with the other children and families with kids who were also travelling to a new life. It can be well imagined the stories of pirates and sea monsters that would have occupied the minds of young children as they spent time on the ship. This would have been one of the few times in his life that William would have had time to get bored and to rest without working all day, it is probable that the children made good use of the time.

Once in Canada William would once again have had to help his father with his market garden, farm. His life would have been very similar to the life that he had left in Kent and he may well have wondered why they had left if there was no change. However once again he would also have found lots of adventures to participate in. It must have been very exciting discovering a new country and imagining all the wild adventures that a six year old boy could get into in any spare time that he had.

Whitby had no school when William and his family arrived, the first school was not built until 1873 so days would have been spent working rather than at school, although William must have received some sort of an education as he was both literate and numerate. It is quite possible that one of the more educated families in the district took an interest in the young children of the area and gave them some rudimentary schooling. Churches and ministers were also common ways to educate young children, boys in particular.

As well as education and work William would have had time to explore his new country. It must have been very exciting watching a town take shape, seeing all the boats coming into port with people who wanted to buy and sell produce. It would also have been a great place to meet all the children of the new families. A lot of families were moving into the area at this time and it would not have taken William long to have made new friends.

William spent most of his early years in Canada and in 1853 he married Janet Coon. It is uncertain exactly who William was working for at this stage but it is likely to have been the Ingersoll Lumber Company. The Ingersoll Lumber Company had been set up by Adam Oliver. Adam had been a carpenter and in 1850 he had moved to Ingersoll near London Canada, here he set up a construction company and later a lumber yard. Both these businesses flourished and Adam later became Mayor of Ingersoll when it became a town.

It is uncertain what William’s level of education was when he first started to work for the Ingersoll Company but it seems that he may have worked for the company for at least a short time as a book keeper, indicating that at some stage during his time in Canada William had received some degree of education.

Timber was a profitable business in Canada and the industry was concentrated in three main regions St John’s River, New Brunswick and the Ottawa River. In particular the St John’s River region was used for transportation of the wood after it was cut.

Once the trees were cut they were transported on the rivers and shipped to Quebec City before being sent to Europe. The Timber was usually cut by a small group of men who were usually living in isolated areas. The timber was square cut, turning it into great square blocks, which were cut in the forest before the logs were transported. The blocks were then assembled into great rafts which were floated downstream to the next port of call. Timber getting was a very dangerous business it was common for people to be crushed to death by the great logs and for fires to decimate areas, often catching unwary families in their wake.

When William married Janet Coon in 1853 they had one child, Thomas Gransden born on the 12th of February in 1854. Unfortunately Janet did not survive long after having her child and she was buried in Whitby the same year.

William moved to Michigan in 1859, he was looking for timber of the Ingersoll Lumber Company. Lumber camps were usually isolated. All the surrounding land was owned by the company that ran the camp with housing set up for the people working at the camp. Houses were basic and provided by the company with the better houses going to those who had the better job. However even these were rarely above two rooms. In some cases multiple families would live in one two bedroom house together.

Conditions were very basic with the company attending to all the needs of the workers- as far as they saw them. If workers were good and they were injured then they may be put into new jobs that they could do with their injuries but in many cases they were left without a home and without a job.

Women and children were often separated from the men, particularly single women who were often not supposed to live in the towns that sprang up around the wood mills, until they were married. Single men could live in dormitories sleeping in bunk beds until they were married and were eligible for a house. Many workers were itinerant and would only be in a particular area for a season. These workers were particularly isolated as it was uncommon for those who were staying for any length of time to bother getting to know people who passed through the town with the seasons. Seasonal workers often worked on farms during the summer and then came to the camps to work as lumberjacks during the winter.

For those who were cutting the timber and hauling it the day started around 3am and finished after 6pm. One anonymous lumberjack described his life as one of the hardest in the world. Getting up at 2.30am get breakfast at 3am, walk four miles to work with a cold dinner and then get back from 7-9pm. He then described eating supper and rolling up in lousy blankets to fall asleep exhausted only to be woken up at 2.30am to start it all over again.

A few years after moving to Michigan William came back to Canada where he met his second wife Mary Anne Elliott. Mary Anne had been born in New York to Irish parent and was working in a hotel in Walsingham where William was staying. William and Mary Anne married and Mary Anne moved to Michigan with William where their first child Catherine was born.

Not long after the birth of Catherine, William and Mary Anne moved to Edenville, which was then known as Jerome. Edenville had been founded in 1734. The name Edenville is attributed to the beauty of the area and also to the mountains close by- Mt Adam and Mt Eve. William and Mary Anne and their growing family moved to the area where the settled on forty acres of land in section 14. They paid $120.00 for the land and the deed was signed on the 10th of April 1867, although it remained unrecorded until the 9th of May 1874. The log cabin that William built on this property was the home of the family for many years until it was sold to his son William Thomas Gransden in 1896.

During the time William and Mary Anne lived in the log cabin their family grew with the birth of eight more children after Catherine. One of these children, Emma lived less than a month, but in all William and Mary Anne was remarkably lucky for the time with all of the other children living adulthood and most of them marrying and having their own families. Unfortunately tow of their children died in early adulthood. This must have been a severe blow to the family.

After experiencing one of the many tragedies that were common in lumber camps William moved to Chicago for a number of years. It seems that he may just have found life in a lumber camp too much in the long run, or it may have had to do with the death of his son John who also died around this time, however William spent some years in a business selling coal and ice under the name of William Green- his mothers maiden name.

Eventually William returned to Edenville when his son David went to Chicago to find him. William returned to his family and the cabin that he had built and lived there for the remainder of his life. William’s life had been one of hard work and this did not change right up to the day of his death. William died when he went to cut a hole in the ice for the cows to drink water in the middle of winter. Unfortunately he suffered a heart attack and was later found by Mary Anne. It can only be imagined what Mary Anne would have felt being confronted with the death of her husband in this way. William died in 1905 and Mary Anne survived him until 1926. Mary Anne was not long outlasted by many of her children as she had lived to the grand old age of 87 years old.

In 1914, as Mary must have been feeling herself too old to continue to look after their house without William Mary purchased land to the south of the land she was on and the house was cut up and sold to the Edenville School for firewood by her grandson Lyle Gransden. The land that Mary Anne had purchased was later sold to her son David who paid $300.00 for it, Mary Anne had been living with David since the death of William. It seems that he may well have owned the original block as well as this was later sold to Lyle Gransden in 1934.


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