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Dictionary of Miramichi Biography

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CRANNEY, MARTIN (1795-1870)

CRANNEY, MARTIN, retail merchant, coroner, customs officer, and MLA; b. Ireland, c1795; m. 1st, Anne Waddleton, d/o Samuel Waddleton, and 2nd, c1860, Theresa McKinnon, a native of Prince Edward Island; d. Chatham, 16 Mar 1870.

The census of 1851 states that Martin Cranney entered New Brunswick in 1815. In 1822 he was one of ten Catholic men who signed a petition asking for a resident priest for the Miramichi. In 1829 he was very much in debt and at risk of losing his house, barn, and lot of land at Chatham. In 1830 he was an administrator of the estate of his father-in-law, Samuel Waddleton, who had come to the Miramichi in the 1790s from Newfoundland.

In 1837 Cranney was appointed a Northumberland County coroner and soon became, in effect, the coroner of Chatham. This was a part-time occupation in which he was active at most times until the 1860s. He was paid fees and expenses on a case basis, and because Chatham was the most populous center in the county he was the busiest and best paid of the coroners. Less lucrative or non-paying offices which he occupied at the parish level, notably in the 1840s, included those of tax collector, overseer of the poor, and school trustee.

In 1846 Cranney was one of four Northumberland County candidates elected by acclamation to the provincial House of Assembly. In one of its sketches designed to introduce new members to the public the Fredericton Loyalist observed that he was small of stature, sedate, and rather melancholy. "One would suppose from his appearance," the paper stated, "that he takes but little interest in the proceedings." This was an unfair remark, but Cranney was an unassuming man, whose principal political legacy is that he was one of the first three Catholics to be elected provincially in New Brunswick.

When Cranney failed to retain his seat in the assembly in the election of 1850 he and his son Thomas sailed to California by way of Cape Horn and joined in the gold rush. His son spent three years in the goldfields, but Cranney was not there more than a few months. In the spring of 1851 he was back in Chatham conducting a small dry-goods store. He was also one of two commissioners of buoys and beacons on the Miramichi. When he was unsuccessful again in the election of 1854 he withdrew from politics. In the 1860s he was on the customs house staff as waiter, searcher, and locker.

As stated in his death notice in the Freeman, Cranney was "a respectable resident of Chatham." He was also one of the more courageous residents, in not veering from the path of moderation during the political turbulence of the 1840s, in speaking out when necessary, even when his quaint, somewhat ungrammatical English was no match for that of his opponents, and in enrolling his children in the County Grammar School instead of a Catholic school when he judged that to be in their best educational interests.

Cranney joined the 1st Battalion of militia in June 1822 as an ensign. He was promoted to lieutenant in 1826 and captain in 1830. In 1838 he was among the senior officers of the battalion who deplored the revolt in the Canadas and declared their loyalty to the crown. He was a militia captain in 1850 and retired as an honorary major in 1865. In that year, he was treasurer of St Patrick's Society of Miramichi, an interdenominational benevolent society of which Thomas F. Gillespie was president.

Cranney and his first wife, Anne Waddleton, raised a family of eight. Notable among them was Thomas Cranney, mentioned above. In 1854 he migrated north from California to the Washington Territory, where he became a successful lumber operator and a member of the upper house of the territorial legislature.

Cranney's second wife, Theresa McKinnon, had outlived him by twenty-seven years when her death occurred at Oak Point in 1897 at the home of her daughter, Mary Margaret Walsh, the widow of Alexander K. McDougall.


[d] church records / Advocate 3 Mar 1897; Broderick; Cook; Facey-Crowther; Fraser (C); Freeman 9 Apr 1870; Gleaner 17 Aug 1830, 28 Mar 1837, 9 Jan 1838, 31 Jan 1843, 7 Feb 1844, 16 Feb 1847, 19 Apr 1852; Graves; Hutchison's; Hynes; JHA 1866 (re. militia); Lawrence; Mercury 10 Mar 1829; NB Almanac & Reg.; NB Elections


i) No evidence was found to support the frequently-published statement that Cranney was a lawyer. ii) The surname "McKinnon" is given in the Chatham Catholic death records for Cranny's second wife, but it is not known if this was a maiden or married surname. Her daughter, the wife of Alexander K. McDougall, was married under the surname "Walsh." iii) See James R. Cotton.