Did you ever wonder how Cranford got its name?
John Crane was one of the first real settlers in this area, and in 1716 he built a damn in the river which powered two mills, a saw mill on the west side of the river, and a grist mill on the east side. It is his grandson, Josiah Crane, however, who is generally thought to be what is often called “The Father of Cranford.” Josiah was born at Crane’s Mills, and worked primarily as a successful farmer on the land. He also built a store, complete with a post office, which allowed the very first mail delivery directly to Cranford. He was an integral part of the young town’s growth, and became the ultimate citizen when he sold his farm in 1865, and gave away part of his land to establish the First Presbyterian Church in Cranford, with enough acreage for the church itself, a parsonage, and even a cemetery. Most of the land he sold off is now basically the center of town.
The most viable possibility is that the area had been becoming Crane’s Ford” for some time by the time of the town’s incorporation in 1871, because of its importance in terms of travel between Westfield and areas west of here, and Elizabethtown and the east. During the earliest years of the area’s settlement, roads were scarce and certainly not paved. During bad weather and wet months, travelers often had to rely on shallow spots to splash through with their horse and wagons. These “fords” were often called “Crane’s Fords.” Later, during the Civil War years, this area became less of a literal ford, and more of a figurative one, as its roads and the railway continued to serve as a vital east-west connection. “Crane’s Ford” just kind of . . . . stuck.
One passed-down story alleges that in 1849, on the Fourth of July, some children were having a Sunday School picnic at Josiah Crane’s farm. They had such a good time that in thanks to him, they jokingly chalked “Craneville” in large letters on the side of a building. The name was later misspelled as “Cranville” in the Crane farm deed, when Josiah sold the property. This mistake may have helped in the choice of “Cranford,” because it is easier to pronounce than “Crane’s Ford.”
But the truth is, none of us were there at the time. We may never know the exact moment or circumstance that gave this town its name, but we can certainly emblazon that name on t-shirts, school uniforms, varsity jackets, and banners, and do so with pride, as we remember Jon Crane, Josiah Crane, and all of the other settlers who help build this town into what it is today. If they could see it now, they would undoubtedly be very proud.
Although it would be way too much trouble to change all of those signs, banners, and t-shirts to read “Crane’s Pride.”