First Goes the Farm

Week 37: #52 Ancestors – On The Farm

By Eilene Lyon

I feel compelled to record stories about relatives who, for one reason or another, left no living descendants. One of these is the brother of my great-great-grandfather, Alton P. Crandall. Alton was the oldest child in the family. Next came a set of twins, Elmer E. and Elma A. Crandall, born in 1862 in Berlin, Green Lake County, Wisconsin.1 The Crandall family members seemed to move around a three-county area: Green Lake, Waushara, and Winnebago.

In 1891, Elmer married Nellie Shiner in Green Lake County.2 Their first son, Fay, was born in the same county in 1895. Their second son, Fred, however, was born in Winnebago County in 1897.

Location of Nepeuskun in Winnebago County, near the Waushara and Green Lake County lines to the west. (Wikimedia Commons)

Elmer owned his own farm in 1900 in Nepeuskun Township, Winnebago County, but he had a mortgage.3 The principal crops in the township were typical: wheat, oats, barley, rye, and corn. Dairy rose in prominence in the county in the early 20th century.

By 1905, Elmer no longer had the property and became a laborer.4 (Historic Winnebago County deeds are not available online, so I do not have any records about this property. A newspaper search yielded nothing.)

The 1890s and early 1900s were troublesome years for many farmers, as they dealt with monopolistic pricing by railroads, inflexible banking policies, and corporations buying up land. Losing their home must have been traumatic for Elmer and Nellie.

In 1910, Elmer worked as a grain farmer. He, Nellie, and the two boys lived with Nellie’s mother in Poy Sippi in the early part of the year.5 The reduced circumstances may have put a wedge in Elmer and Nellie’s marriage.

Elmer relocated. He had a residence in Langford, South Dakota, but it is unknown if any of the family lived with him there.6

It appears that 15-year-old Fay may have been incarcerated at the Montana State Industrial School in Miles City, Montana, a “reform school.” It is the most likely explanation for his being so far from his family. The school housed both boys and girls who had been charged with crimes other than murder or manslaughter.

Fay Crandall began to feel numbness or tingling in his extremities, muscle weakness, and/or possibly some back pain. He was put in the care of Dr. W. W. Andrus on September 12, 1910. Dr. Andrus, born in Canada to American parents, played professional baseball in the U.S. before becoming a highly respected physician. He had just completed two terms as Miles City Mayor and served as the county physician and health officer.7

Though Dr. Andrus had impressive credentials, there was nothing he could do for young Fay. Three days later, the boy was dead. Elmer and Nellie had to be devastated at this sudden, unexpected event. The doctor stated the cause of death as Landry’s paralysis.8

This affliction, an auto-immune disorder, is now more commonly referred to as Guillain–Barré syndrome. The paralysis could progress in just hours, or take several weeks—either way, quite rapid. Elmer and Nellie had Fay buried in Poy Sippi, Waushara County, Wisconsin, probably where Nellie and son Fred still lived.9.

Jean Landry. (Wikimedia Commons)

A French physician, Jean Landry, first described the syndrome in 1859, and called it ascending paralysis, because it tended to begin in the feet and work its way up the body.10 An earlier infection triggering the immune system to go rogue frequently caused the syndrome. Georges Guillain, Jean Alexandre Barré, and André Strohl did not pursue their research until after discovering a couple cases in 1916—six years after Fay’s death.11

After burying his son, Elmer transitioned from farming to manufacturing farm implements, possibly to avoid traveling away from home as an itinerant farmer. Eventually, he and Nellie moved to South Beloit, Illinois, just across the state line from Wisconsin. Nellie passed away there in 1932 and Elmer in 1943.12

Younger son Fred developed a wandering lifestyle. According to his obituary and death certificate, Fred never married, but he did live with at least two women as husband/wife: Barbara L. Eau Clair in 1930, and Laura C. in 1940 (maiden name unknown; both women substantially older than Fred).13 There is a record for a 1927 marriage to Barbara in Boone County, Illinois, a woman on her sixth marriage.14

Excerpt from 1930 census for Fred Crandall and wife, Barbara, in Rock, Wisconsin.

Fred Crandall lived at times in South Dakota, Montana, and Idaho. Fred had no children, though in 1930 there is an adopted son and an infant girl (listed as a “boarder”!) in the household. He passed away in Butte, Montana, in 1970, single, a resident of the Lennox Hotel, having worked as a factory employee, a clerk, and finally as a ranch hand.15

Sadly, that is where the Elmer Crandall family line ends.

Feature image: Region near Miles City, Montana, where young Fay Crandall died in 1910. (Wikimedia Commons)

  1. Elmer E. Crandall. Wisconsin, U.S., Birth Index, 1820-1907 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2000. 
  2. Elmer E. Crandall and Nellie L. Shiner. Wisconsin, U.S., Marriage Index, 1820-1907 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2000. 
  3. Elmer Crandall. Year: 1900; Census Place: Nepeuskun, Winnebago, Wisconsin; Page: 6; Enumeration District: 0129; FHL microfilm: 1241824 – via 
  4. Elmer Crandall. Wisconsin Historical Society; Madison, Wisconsin; Census Year: 1905 – via 
  5. Year: 1910; Census Place: Poy Sippi, Waushara, Wisconsin; Roll: T624_1738; Page: 4B; Enumeration District: 0108; FHL microfilm: 1375751 – via 
  6. Fay E. Crandall. Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services; Helena, Montana; Montana Death Records – via 
  7. Two interesting biographies of William Wimar Andrus: and 
  8. See note 6. 
  10. and 
  11. Ibid. 
  12. Nellie Crandall. Illinois, U.S., Deaths and Stillbirths Index, 1916-1947 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2011. and Elmer Ellsworth Crandall. Winnebago County, Illinois, U.S., Deaths, 1844-1992 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2013. and 
  13. Fred Crandall. Year: 1930; Census Place: Rock, Rock, Wisconsin; Page: 1B; Enumeration District: 0049; FHL microfilm: 2342344 – via and Year: 1940; Census Place: Melrose, Nez Perce, Idaho; Roll: m-t0627-00751; Page: 2A; Enumeration District: 35-35 – via 
  14. Fred Crandall. Illinois, U.S., County Marriage Records, 1800-1940 [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2016. 
  15. “Fred Crandall is Dead at 72.” The Montana Standard (Butte, MT), March 24, 1970, p. 10 – via 

41 thoughts on “First Goes the Farm

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    1. I was not able to find out much about the adopted son (or even if the adoption was official). I’ll have to do a bit more digging. If Fred had any descendants, no one seemed to know about them. His obit said his only survivor was a cousin (he actually must have had a lot of cousins).

      I’m sure Fay’s death was a huge shock to the whole family. How awful that he was so far away. Yes, this syndrome is not so deadly now.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Digging a little bit more, it seems that Barbara adopted Earl McKinney. Earl was probably related somehow to her first husband, but not his son. She seems to have married her first husband, Roy C. McKinney twice, and he died in 1931, three years after she supposedly married Fred Crandall. A very confusing scenario. Earl was born in Massachusetts, confusing things more. And how the baby girl is connected (also appears to be related to Barbara somehow) I have not figured out.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Well, I’ve updated the story a bit. Barbara married at least five times before she married Fred – all ended in divorce. She married Roy McKinney twice and appears to be buried next to him. Earl MicKinney was not a son or even nephew to Roy. Earl’s obit never mentions Barbara or Fred, only his birth parents, Earl Sr. and Teresa. Barbara must have been quite something!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Wow! Sorry if I sent you down that rabbit hole!! I guess I just wondered whether Fred had any descendants, whether bio or not. I’d guess that he did not adopt Earl. I hope it was worth checking!! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  1. I love that you want to record the stories of those family members without direct descendants. If not you, then who!? It was interesting how you are able to tie in a little history on the Guillain–Barré syndrome. I can’t imagine what Nellie and Elmer felt being apart from their son and then losing him so suddenly.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You have interesting stories concerning your family tree Eilene. It’s sad about Fay and how quickly his condition deteriorated. I rode the bus to/from work for years and a bus buddy a few decades ago had Guillain–Barré syndrome. She had to quit work and we lost touch. You don’t hear of it much anymore, or maybe it is just that COVID has monopolized the air waves for the last year a half, so other ailments are not discussed as much. I never had any kids so after I’m gone my family tree will go kaput.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My line also ends with me. My older brother had one child. My younger has only steps.

      I do think these family members find a way to share their stories with me (I’m not really a believer in afterlife, but energy does not die). I’ve never know anyone with GBS, but I imagine it might be like a fast-acting version of MS or ALS or other auto-immune syndromes.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I do have the family albums and my mom sat down with me and shared stories and names of what family members are in the album that I never met. But I don’t really have any exciting stories to relate like you do. I have a few fellow bloggers with MS, all fairly young and they write about their setbacks sometimes and the treatment sought to relieve those setbacks.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. It’s good that you have preserved the albums. You have a treasure that has not yet yielded its secrets. I hope you decide to seek out the stories someday. And they will connect you to family you can get to know, as well. Have fun!

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Thank you – yes, I have a friend who used her Ancestry account to dabble a little in my family tree, but I really only learned the proper names of my grandmother’s siblings – most of them had nicknames, including my grandmother who went by “Minnie” instead of Wilhemina.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. That’s a start! Sounds like a German family. (I have a ton of German ancestry.) Minnie is a common nickname – who would really want to be called Wilhelmina? I like the idea of visiting the Old Country origins of my ancestors. I did visit a village in southern Germany on one of my trips.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. Yes it did Eilene because of all the siblings, only one went by Bill (for William) – the rest had odd nicknames. I am glad I wasn’t named for my grandmother, much as I loved her. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      6. Thank you Eilene – there’s no abbreviations of it either! Though I once had a boss who called me “Linny” but he was too nice, a former priest, probably the politest person I’ve ever met, so I never said how much it really irked me! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

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