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Thomas Cranage (1834-1911)
Founder of sugar industry in Michigan.

  • 1915: Historical biography.
  • 1911: Article on his death, Saginaw Daily News.

    1915: Historical Biography (transcribed Nov. 2007)

    History of Michigan, Volume IV, by Charles Moore (1915)


    In the late Thomas Cranage, who died March 5, 1911, Michigan had one of its great business organizers and executives. Upwards of fifty years he was identified by residence with Bay City, where most of his interests centered, but the scope of his activity was too wide to be confined to one locality. Mr. Cranage should be best remembered, perhaps, for his courage and far-sighted judgement in helping to introduce beet-sugar manufacture to Michigan. That is now one of the stateís best sources of wealth, and comparatively few realize that its establishment was due to the forehanded enterprise of a little group of Bay City capitalist, who some fifteen years ago ventured money and reputation on a project that had never before been successfully tried in the United States outside of California. The qualities of business prescience displayed in this instance were characteristic of Thomas Cranage in his entire career. His business was not his sole monument, for he exercised a practical helpfulness in many ways to promote Bay Cityís civic riches and institutions.

    Thomas Cranage was born in Shropshire, England, July 21, 1833, a son of Thomas and Mary (Hill) Cranage. His father was born in England, September 15, 1804, and the mother at Ludlow, August 17, 1798, and they were married June 21, 1827. The father died at Detroit, Michigan, April 20, 1886, and the mother passed away in the same city July 4, 1873. In 1835 the family embarked on a sailing vessel which after several weeks landed them in New York, and in April of that year they reached Cleveland, Ohio. They lived at Cleveland, subsequently at Warren, and later at Princeton, Ohio, and in September, 1845, moved to Detroit.

    Thomas Cranage thus spent his early boyhood chiefly in Ohio, and finished his education in Detroit. At Detroit his father was a well known speculator in real estate, a builder of residence property, and many of the old business structure of that city were erected by him. After completing his studies the son had his first experience as a clerk in a wholesale drug house for Theodore Eaton. Later he became confidential man for Mr. Easton and managed that business for several years. In 1863 Mr. Cranage became associated with the late Samuel Pitts in the lumber business, and moved to Bay City, as one of the active men in the lumber and manufacturing interests conducted under the Pitts name. He was a member of the firm of Samuel Pitts & Cranage. From Bay City Mr. Cranage conducted lines of industry. Samuel Pitts had bought a milling property at Bay City in 1858, and the lumber business grew from a plant manufacturing a few million feet to one with annual output of many millions. Besides the large lumber mills and salt plant, the industry comprised a planing mill, many thousand feet of river frontage and docks, and all the equipment and organization that went with this industry in the early years.

    Many years ago Thomas Cranage became one of the organizers of the Bay County Savings Bank, and after the death of its president, Alexander Folsom, consented to take the position of president, which he held until his death. For many years he was director and treasure and president of the Michigan Salt Association.

    In 1897 Thomas Cranage was one of a committee, the other members of where were E. Y. Williams and M. Garland, appointed to investigate the beet-sugar industryof the west, with a view to its introduction into Michigan. The committee after completing their work made a very favorable report, advocating the establishment of a sugar factory and a systematic education of the farmers in the cultivation of the sugar beet. That was the first step taken in creating the now great Michigan sugar industry. The report of the committee was only a preliminary, and nothing might ever have come of it except for the persistent energy of the few men, including Mr. Cranage, who were bent upon realizing the possibilities of the undertaking. It proved a very different matter to interest capital sufficient for the erection of a factory. Men with money were naturally slow in venturing it upon so wide a departure from established industries, and Mr. Cranage was the first to subscribe twenty-five thousand dollars for the construction of a plant. Other members of the committee did likewise, but as two hundred thousand collars were needed to finance the project it was for some time on the point of failing altogether. Finally, however, the necessary amount was subscribed, a plant erected, and the experiment proved successful. With this example another company was formed, and other factories erected by other organized concerns, and the competition became so keen that it very nearly proved disastrous to the entire group of sugar companies, since there were not enough beets raised in the state to supply the plants. For a number of years Mr. Cranage was a guiding spirit in the Michigan beet-sugar industry. He served as president of the Michigan Sugar Company, and also organized the Iowa Sugar Company and also built a factory in the state of Iowa.

    Besides his presidency of the Bay County Savings Bank from May, 1889, Thomas Cranage was vice-president, from 1890 until resigning January 30, 1900, of the Flint National Bank of Bay City, was managing partner of the Pitts & Cranage Lumber Company, president of the Cranage Steamship Company, owning three of the largest steamers on the great lakes, was president of the McGraw Transportation Company, president of the Croxton Steamship Company, a director in the Shearer Brothers Office Building Company, and not only in Bay City, but in the state at large, his name and influence were long preeminent in financial and industrial affairs.

    Although his inclination were not such as go give him prominence in political life, Mr. Cranage gave much public spirited and valuable service to his city and state. He was a Republican, but never accepted any of the honors of practical politics. He was the first president of the Bay City Library, acting on its board for a number of years, and served on the board of water commissioners, and the board of education. While his life was one of profound activity in practical affairs, he was devoted to matters of intellectual interest, and during his leisure could usually be found in his fine private library, and has a broad information much beyond the scope of the average man. The late Mr. Cranage stood high in Masonic circles. He joined the order at Detroit, in 1859, and was one of the charter members of the Bay City Lodge. He took thirty-two degrees of the Scottish Rite. He and his family worshiped in the Episcopal church, and he was for over forty years warden of Trinity parish, and served on the building committee, and a liberal contractor toward the erection of the beautiful church edifice.

    Thomas Cranage was married at Detroit, October 20, 1863, to Miss Julia Pitts, daughter of Samuel Pitts, who was one of the most successful men in Michiganís lumber industry and business affairs, and Mr. Cranage was associated with him in all enterprises. The three children of Thomas Cranage and his wife were: Sarah Pitts Cranage, born September 2, 1864, died at Bay City in 1875. Mrs. Mary Cranage Tupper, born at Bay City, July 27, 1867, and now the wife of Dr. Tupper, a well known physician of Bay City, has one child, Thomas Cranage Tupper. Samuel Pitts Cranage, who born in Bay City September 26, 1865, graduated from the University of Michigan, and though educated for the law has given most of his attention to the business developed by his father.

    March 6, 1991, article, Saginaw Daily News (Feb. 2007: Contributed by Jim Petrimoulx)

    Saginaw Daily News -- March 6, 1911 (Page 3)



    Bay City, Mich., March 6, -- Thomas Cranage, father of the beet sugar industry in Michigan, died at his home in this city Sunday night from blood poisoning and the infirmities of old age. He was 77 years old, and for years had been one of the leading figures in Bay county's industrial and financial interests. Coming to this city from Detroit in 1863, where he had been engaged in the drug business, he became interested in the lumber business with Samuel Pitts under the firm name of Pitts and Cranage, having married the daughter of Mr. Pitts.

    In 1897 Mr. Cranage became interested in the manufacture of sugar from sugar beets and built the first sugar factory in Michigan, which is now a part of the plant of the Michigan Sugar Company.

    For 20 years he was the president of the Bay County Savings bank. Although for the last 10 years he had retired from most of his activities, he still retained the presidency of the Cranage Steamship company and of the McGraw Transportation company.

    One son, Samuel P. Cranage, and one daughter, Mrs. Virgil L. Tupper, both of this city, survive him.

    Additional Notes.

      1850 - Census: Detroit, Wayne, Mich.

    • Cranage, Thomas - b. 1804, England.
    • Mary, wife - b. 1800, England.
    • William, son - b. 1831, England.
    • Thomas, son - b. 1833, England.
    • Mary E., daughter - b. 1836, Ohio.
    • Rosalee, daughter - b. 1838, Indiana.
    • Wagner, Adam, unk. - b. 1835, Germany.
    • Hubbard, Mary, unk. - b. 1850, Mich.
    • Veshtes, W.F., unk. - b. 1815, Germany.

      1870 - Census: Bay City, Bay, Mich.

    • Cranage, Thomas - b. 1834, England.
    • Julia, wife - b. 1838, Mich.
    • Sarah, daughter - b. 1865, Mich.
    • Samuel, son - b. 1866, Mich.
    • Mary, daughter - b. 1868, Mich.
    • Collins, Julia, unk. - b. 1840, Mich.
    • Crothy, Catherine, unk. - b. 1852, Mich.
    • Phelps, Margaret, unk. - b. 1853, Mich.

      1880 - Census: Bay City, Bay, Mich.

    • Cranage, Thomas - b. 1835, England - lumberman.
    • Julia Potts, wife - b. 1838, Mich.
    • Samuel, son - b. 1866, Mich.
    • Mary, daughter - b. 1868, Mich.
    • Muschinsky, Francis, other - b. 1861, Germany.

      1910 - Census: Bay City, Bay, Mich.

    • Carnage, Thomas - age 76, b. England.
    • Julia Pett, wife - age 72, b. Mich.
    • Wintimeyer, Christin, female - age 21, b. Mich.
  • Related Pages/Notes

    Thomas Cranage

    Related Pages:
    Tupper, Virgil Dr. s-inlaw
    Garland, Michael
    Trinity Epis. Church
    1890 Map - location of Pitts & Cranage.
    People Referenced
    Collins, Julia
    Cranage, Mary (dau.)
    Cranage, Rosalee (sis)
    Cranage, Samuel (son)
    Cranage, Sarah P. (dau.)
    Cranage, Thomas Sr. (father)
    Cranage, William (bro)
    Crothy, Catherine
    Eaton, Theodore
    Folsom, Alexander
    Garland, Michael
    Hill, Mary (mother)
    Hubbard, Mary
    Muschinsky, Francis
    Phelps, Margaret
    Pitts, Julia (wife)
    Pitts, Samuel
    Tupper, Virgil Dr. (son-inlaw)
    Tupper, Thomas C. (g-son)
    Tupper, Virgil L. Mrs.
    Veshtes, W.F.
    Wagner, Adam
    Williams, E.Y.
    Wintimeyer, Christin
    Subjects Referenced
    Bay City, MI
    Bay City Library
    Bay County, MI
    Bay County Savings Bank
    Bd. of Education
    Bd. of Water Commissioners
    Cleveland, OH
    Cranage Steamship Co.
    Croxton Steamship Co.
    Detroit, MI
    Episcopal Ch, Bay City
    First sugar plant
    Flint National Bank
    Iowa Sugar Co.
    Ludlow, England
    Masonic Lodge
    McGraw Trans. Co.
    Michigan Salt Assoc.
    Michigan Sugar Co.
    Michigan sugar industry
    New York
    Pitts & Cranage lumber
    Princton, OH
    Shearer Bros. Co.
    Shropshire, England
    Trinity Parish, Bay City
    Univ. of Michigan
    Warren, OH
    WRITINGS: History As It Was Written Then.