Tag Archives: Margaret Electa Cranston

He plowed the land with an ox and an ax

There’s a song that goes “…give me land, lots of land, and the starry skies above
Don’t fence me in.” My great grandfather, James Herbert Jerry, purchased a farm in Crozier, Northwestern, Ontario. He was a strong man. He had an ox that pulled the plow. In one hand Granddad Jerry held the reins and in another an ax. As he plowed, he would hit tree roots, and whack, down would come the ax splitting the roots and allowing the ox to continue on. This is how he cleared his land.

Robert and Harriet Jerry with family – Herbert Jerry with gun in Crozier, Ontario

Granddad Jerry grew up in poverty. His family was so poor that 10 year old Herb worked at a neighbour’s farm to earn money for the family. The family moved around, ending up in Crozier, Northwestern Ontario in the early 1900’s. It’s here he met his future wife, a teacher, Margaret Electa Cranston.

In the early 20th century, the only way for a poor adult to get land was to homestead. Homesteaders paid a $10 registration fee and were given 160 acres. Ownership for this land was granted if the farmer lived on the land for 3 years, cultivated 30 acres, and build a house worth $300. Granddad Jerry homestead in Saskatchewan – close to Hawarden. In 1915, he journeyed by train to Comber, Ontario and married Margaret Cranston.
After the wedding they traveled to the farm in Saskatchewan.

Herbert and Margaret Jerry in Saskatchewan

All four of their children, Bethel, Josephine, Bud, and Anna, were born in Saskatchewan. Unfortunately, Margaret, their mother, suffered from mental illness. In 1923, after Anna was born, her illness was so severe she was sent to the psychiatric hospital in Weyburn, Saskatchewan. Since there wasn’t anyone to care for the children, with Grandma Jerry in the hospital and Granddad Jerry working the farm, the children were sent to their maternal relatives in Comber – where family members raised them for 3 or more years.

Eventually, Grandma and Granddad Jerry joined their children. Granddad Jerry tried working in the Leamington factory for a couple of years but didn’t like it. He wanted to farm. His mother and some of his brothers were still in Crozier so they decided to move there. They traveled in a big car, arriving in 1929.

While I was in university, I met an older man who remembered Herb Jerry and how he plowed his land with an ox and an ax. He eventually sold that farm to his daughter and son-in-law and purchased a smaller piece of land not far away. We children would go with Dad to visit him. I remember my great granddad Jerry as a man who loved his land. He was patient and could explain anything about nature.

Herbert Jerry in 1962 at his daughter’s house

He had a difficult life; extreme poverty as a child, and later, an unstable wife who was in and out of the psychiatric hospital. Despite this, in his old age, he exuded peace. He didn’t leave his land until the last years of his life. At about age 88 he finally moved into town to allow his daughter to care for him.

Same name #52 ancestors

Margaret Jerry with class she taught

Margaret Electa Cranston is the teacher, in white at the back.

My great grandmother’s name is Margaret Electa Jerry (nee Cranston) and she has an aunt called Jane Electa Barclay (nee Taylor). I always wondered if this odd name was passed down from a long ago ancestor.

For some reason I thought the name Electa came from the Mulholland side of my tree. I did some research and found a 3 year old Electa Mulholland in the 1861 Census in Beverley Township, Wentworth County, Ontario, Canada. Her parents were George and Jennet Mulholland. She was a twin and her sister was called Celesta. Electa Mulholland  married John Morris Peregine on May 19, 1883. She died in 1899.

Further research uncovered an Electa Mulholland born in New York about 1826
She was living in Pennsylvania in the 1880 Federal United States Census. Turns out maiden name was Whitman. Then I found the tombstone Electa Mulholland born about 1800. Her maiden name was Trowbridge. Obviously, it wasn’t just the Mulholland family calling their daughters Electa.

That’s when I decided to google the name Electa. There is a lot of conflicting information surrounding this name. It either comes from Latin and means “selected” or “chosen one” or it is  a Greek term meaning “ceaseless” or “amber”. I tried using Google Translate but it wasn’t recognized in Greek and the Latin translation came up as “picks”

It turns the name “Electa” was quite  popular in the early years of the New England States which explains why I found it in my loyalist families. I’m quite glad it’s use has been discontinued. It’s a name I don’t like. Thankfully, my ancestors chose it as a middle name.



1861 Census
Library and Archives Canada; Ottawa, Ontario, Canada; Census Returns For 1861; Roll: C-1086; Ancestry.com and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 1861 Census of Canada [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2009.

Ontario Marriage Registrations; Archives of Ontario; Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Ancestry.com and Genealogical Research Library (Brampton, Ontario, Canada). Ontario, Canada, Marriages, 1826-1936 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010.

Book Title: George Wightman of Quidnessett, R I , 1632-1721/2, and descendants : Waitman, Weightman, Whiteman; Ancestry.com. North America, Family Histories, 1500-2000 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2016.

Ancestry.com. U.S., Find A Grave Index, 1600s-Current [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2012; Original data: Find A Grave. Find A Grave. http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi.