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Alex Crane
Birth: Mar. 27, 1913
Death: Nov. 13, 1965

Charles Alexander Crane
"The Scotchman"
2002 Catherine Byron & Marilyn Ballagh


Alex Crane was born in Edinburgh, Scotland on March 27, 1913, the first child of Agnes Murray and Charles Henry Crane. He was christened "Charles Alexander Crane" - named for his father and his maternal grandfather. His parents called him "Alex." Friends called him "The Scotchman." His children called him "Dad."

Carried in his mother's arms at two months of age, Alex boarded the Donaldson Line of Steamers' T.S.S. "Saturnia" on May 24, 1913. The infant crossed the waters of the Atlantic, never to return to the land of his birth. The seas were rough, and the majority of the passengers stayed in their cabins fighting seasickness the first three or four days at sea. Unaffected by the roiling waters, Alex and his mother found themselves two of the few passengers who made it to the dining room those days. The captain welcomed the pair to the empty dining room, and arranged for them to sit at his table with other crew members. Annie Oakley was listed as one of the passengers, though they never met.

In New York the mother and child boarded a train for Ingomar, Montana. Alex's father, Charlie, was there to meet them with a team and wagon and the little family journeyed to their log cabin home on the Seven Blackfoot.

A sister Nellie (Agnes Helen) was born at Bruce, Montana, on July 25, 1914, and a brother Bob (Robert Scott) was born June 22, 1917. When Bob was fussy as a toddler, 5 year-old Alex was assigned the task of pulling him in a wagon to put him to sleep. Alex quickly tired of the job one afternoon. He pulled the wagon with his little brother in it to the top of a long hill near the homestead cabin. Getting everything lined up for smooth sailing, he pushed the wagon and little Robert off the hill to fare for themselves. The howls of his startled brother announced the wreck at the bottom of the hill. Alex was punished soundly.

At the age of three, Alex planted a colored Easter egg in his mother's carefully tended flowerbed. No one knew of this experiment until the day he came yelling into the house, "It hatched! It hatched!" A cottontail rabbit hopping through the flowerbed was sure evidence to Alex that Easter bunnies did in fact come from Easter eggs.

Dressed in knickers with suspenders Alex was sent to the Linebarger School to begin first grade at the age of four. That was the age children started formal education in Scotland, and his mother thought her children should be educated in the same fashion in America. Alex never claimed to be a star student, but did become an avid reader and life-long learner.

Jim and Maude Trotter's son Earl also went to the Linebarger School. The two became as close as brothers - a friendship that lasted a lifetime. The boys would pass Earl's Granny Linebarger's homestead cabin on their way to and from school, sometimes stopping for a short chat. She became the only grandmother Alex ever knew. Alex's mother forbade eating cucumbers before soaking them in salt water to "get the poison out," but Granny Linebarger would let him eat them peel and all. As he grew older, he delivered buckets of buttermilk to her. Knowing that Granny needed butter as much or even more than the buttermilk, lots of butter lumps were left floating in the tin.

As an eighth grader, Alex attended the Eagle Nest School. He boarded with Fullertons for the year. Waldo Bentley was in the same class. On the way home from school one day he dared Alex to kiss another classmate. "Bet you can't give Rosie a kiss before we get to the next gate," Waldo teased. "Wanna bet?" Alex kicked his horse. Galloping up on Rosie's left side, Alex was planting some semblance of a kiss in passing, only to be stunned when Rosie's right hand and lard pail lunch bucket came up from nowhere and clunked him on the head. As adults the two men had many a good chuckle recalling the days they enjoyed as country schoolboys.

In order for Alex to start high school, his mother moved the family to Ingomar - a distance of about 90 miles on poor roads. They rented a home and settled in. Charlie Crane stayed on the homestead to tend the livestock and crops. The kids looked forward to their father's visits because he would buy them candy bars and order a thing or two for them from the catalog. He enjoyed children, and wanted to treat them to things they thought were special. Mary Rose Trotter Bentley boarded with the Cranes one year in Ingomar, and she said Charlie treated her the same as his own children.

Alex played on the high school basketball team. There were not many players on the bench most of the time, so when the team got into foul trouble, there were a few times when they were down to four eligible players to finish a game. The other teams would voluntarily drop to four players so as not to have an unfair advantage. Alex often cited this as an example of good sportsmanship.

The three young Cranes were enterprising during their Ingomar years - the late 1920s. They delivered water to the homes in Ingomar using a sturdy three-wheeled steel wagon with a long handle to carry one 50-gallon barrel from the water car on the Milwaukee tracks. Every barrel of water earned them 50 cents.

The family raised chickens and sold fryers to people living in Ingomar. A kerosene-heated incubator hatched the eggs. The kids tended the chickens until they were ready for slaughter. They especially liked the customers that bought them feathers and all!

Alex turned sixteen in March and graduated from high school in May of 1929. His Uncle Tom Murray from Scotland had been writing for a couple of years asking that Alex be sent back to "the old country" to attend the university after finishing high school. Uncle Tom had no children of his own, but wanted to provide a college education for this nephew. Alex never went, and it is not certain when he learned of the opportunity that was being opened to him. Alex's mother often spoke of it in later years, voice cracking. "I just couldn't part with him," she would say.

Alex began operating the family farm at the age of 16. He was an avid reader all his life. He subscribed to Popular Mechanics and Popular Science magazines and read them cover to cover. Life Magazine, Saturday Evening Post, Look, National Geographic, and The American magazines were devoured when they came in the Tuesday or Saturday mail sack. Upon his death in 1965, copies of Popular Science dating back into the 30's were found in a storage cabinet.

One summer in the 30's when times were tough, he moved to New Deal to work as a truck driver building the Fort Peck Dam. Earl Trotter, who was also working on the dam, urged Alex to stay saying, "I know you can use the money." Alex's answer was, "No. I need to go back. The folks need me." He never held a job away from the place again.

Alex's skills as a mechanic, and an inventor, were evident when he was young. Gerrit Wille remembers a system of ropes Alex devised that allowed one person to move an entire load of loose-stacked hay at once, rather than having to lift it with a pitchfork one "pitch" at a time. Other creations included a V-snow plow for the W-6 tractor; a hay stacker powered by an old car engine; a wooden grain elevator; and a bale buncher that collected bales as they popped out of the square Oliver baler. When his kids were raising bum lambs he built a bum lamb feeder. Tin cans with pipes welded at the bottoms to hold nipples perched above 8 miniature stalls where the lambs stood to drink milk measured and poured into the cans.

Alex felt a strong community responsibility to his neighbors. He used the snowplow to clear the roads in time for Ruth Sowers to travel to Jordan before the birth of a child. She had been worried about getting snowed in, and Alex had reassured her he would see that she got out in time. The plow cleared the roads, Ruth made it to Jordan with time to spare, and the little fellow was named "Scotty." Sadly, within a few weeks the infant died of crib death and was buried in the cemetery now called Hearts at Peace.

Alex's scientific ability discerned the frivolity of Hollywood special effects photography. After watching the movie Ben Hur he explained how one chariot could never have cut the spokes out of the other chariot's wheels the way the movie showed. "The cutting chariot would have been hopping and jumping up and down instead of cutting in a circle like they showed," he explained. His less discerning family agreed, but pointed out that he really took the glamour out of the chariot race!

A keen sense of humor was Alex's trademark. A friend remembers a time when the threshing crew stood around the machine telling jokes while Alex oiled with a squirt can. One fellow totally engrossed in telling a tall tale jumped when he discovered Alex had squirted his back pocket full of oil.

When lightning struck Alex and Amy's house in the 1950s, lightning rod salesmen swarmed through the country. Alex was walking home one afternoon from down in the breaks, when a Billings car stopped to offer him a ride. Alex accepted. The driver talked non-stop about this Alex Crane who was such a hard man to catch. "This is my third trip out here, and he's gone again," he ranted. When the car topped the hill at the Crane mailbox Alex said to the driver, "You can just let me out here. I'm just under the hill. Thanks for the ride. Sure hope you can catch up with that feller you've been lookin' for." The driver had no clue who his passenger was that day - and never did show up at the Crane place to sell the lightning rods!

Alex was an advocate for education. For years he served as clerk of School District #19, the district that included Spring Creek and later, Pine Grove schools. When his oldest child was school age, he and the neighbors donated materials and labor and built and furnished the Pine Grove school building on a budget of $800. He was one of the initial leaders that worked to bring 4-H and the MSU-Extension programs to the county.

The Selective Service Board, known as the local Draft Board, met monthly to review the eligible young men in the county who were being called to serve in the military. The last years that Alex served on this board the VietNam conflict was escalating. Several young men came to visit him explaining their reasons for wanting deferment or classification change. Some were trying to finish college degrees.

He was a man of independence and confidence. Living in a cowboy's world, he wore White (a brand of boot) lace-up boots and striped coveralls. He was most at home in his log shop with the 55 gallon barrel stove keeping the place warm while he overhauled a tractor. A forge and anvil sharpened many a plowshare for farmers in that neighborhood. In the late 1950s, some of the hard work of the blacksmith hammer was replaced by an electric powered trip hammer.

In the late 1930's Alex met Amy Buffington at a dance at the old Fairview Hall. A few years later she taught the Spring Creek School. On October 30, 1943, Alex and Amy were married in Billings, Montana. The couple made their home on the Crane place for all their married lives.

In his later years, Alex was the manager of the Fairview Hall. He was charged with the responsibility of seeing that it was warm, and keeping a semblance of order. No hats were allowed on the dance floor. If a dancer forgot, the hall manager would remove it and hang it on the pegs on the wall. Alex was filled with rhythm, and would often break into a jig when he danced with Amy. She would smile and do her own genteel version of a jig, never missing a beat while they danced side by side around the hall. Sometimes he would sprinkle wax on the dance floor as he and Amy jigged.

On November 13, 1965, Alex took a tractor and small scraper out to cover a culvert that had pounded out. It had snowed. The tractor slipped and rolled, crushing Alex under it.

His mother, Agnes; brother, Robert; sister "Nellie" Agnes Kerr; and wife, Amy, and three children survived him: Catherine, 20 years; Marilyn, 18 years; and Robert A. "Bobby" who was 11 years old.

In his will, Alex set aside 4 acres to be used as a community cemetery overlooking the Missouri Breaks. He and Amy are buried there beside Alex's parents and sister Agnes. It is named Hearts at Peace.

[C. Byron's note: Submitted to and printed in "Tartan Tales" printed by the Miles City Caledonian Society in 2002. The book is a collection of stories of Scottish immigrants to southeastern Montana. Alex's birth in Scotland qualified him to be included.]
***

The following poem was written by Phyllis McKeever Watt's husband, Steve. Phyllis and the Crane kids shared country dances and good times growing up across the Seven Blackfoot from each other. The friendship lasted a lifetime, and has continued with ensuing generations. Steven and Phyllis made their home near her family's ranching operation on Snow Creek.

ALEX CRANE

He was scotch, a dour man
Not given much to smiling.
But he could smile, and his
smile was beguiling.

He was a working man
a thinking man
a gentleman
And in the end I know that
I have lost a friend.

August 20, 1976 
 
Family links: 
 Parents:
  Charles Henry Crane (1867 - 1950)
  Agnes Murray Crane (1879 - 1976)
 
 Spouse:
  Amy Rose Buffington Crane (1918 - 1993)
 
 Siblings:
  Alex Crane (1913 - 1965)
  Agnes Helen Crane Kerr (1915 - 1972)**
  Robert Scott Crane (1917 - 1980)*
 
*Calculated relationship
**Half-sibling
 
Note: Stone shared with wife, Amy R. Crane. Son of Charles H. and Agnes Crane. Born in Edinburgh, Scotland. Father of Catherine, Marilyn and Robert A. Crane.
 
Burial:
Hearts at Peace (on the Alex Crane Ranch)
Brusett
Garfield County
Montana, USA
 
Created by: Catherine Byron
Record added: Sep 01, 2002
Find A Grave Memorial# 6739443
Alex Crane
Added by: Carole Steele
 
Alex Crane
Added by: Anonymous
 
Alex Crane
Added by: Anonymous
 
 
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You must have been a wonderful man to inspire such lovely thoughts and words from your child. May you rest in peace.
- EveyBl
 Added: Jun. 21, 2014
Dad -
I often search my mind to try to find the sound of your voice. I only wish I'd verbalized the thoughts running through my mind that last day as you walked out of the house. They were simply "Thank you for all you did for us." You were the best...(Read more)
- Catherine Byron
 Added: Sep. 1, 2002
 
This page is sponsored by: Catherine Byron

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