The Case of D.M. Canright

Chapter 2 - Canright's Beginnings

Canright says: "I was born in Kinderhook, Branch Co., Mich., Sept. 22, 1840. That his statement is correct in regard to both place and time, is capable of abundant proof.

Hiram Canright acquired 80 acres of land in Section 4 of Kinderhook on June 5, 1835. (History of Branch Co., Mich. (1879), p. 291) On Feb. 13, 1838, "Hiram Canright, and wife Loretta, of Ovid" bought from David Tripp 80 acres in Section 4, Township 8, Range 6. (Index to Deeds (1833-50) p. 261, Coldwater) It is evident, then, that somewhere between June 5, 1835 (when Hiram obtained some right to his land) and Feb 13, 1838, (when he actually procured it) he and Loretta moved to Kinderhook, Branch Co., Mich.

The Canright farm lay in good country. Stevens and Conover declared: "No county in the state will rank before Branch in the fertility of its soil." (Branch Co. Gazetteer (1870-71), p. 21) The Michigan History Magazine speaks of "the rich lands of Coldwater prairie." (Vol. 19, p. 193) I have a letter from a resident of Kinderhook itself, Mr. Otis Barnes, which says that "the soil is of good texture and very desirable land from the beginning."

Mrs. Canright’s maiden name was Richardson. She was born in Massachusetts, at New Salem, on July 20, 1811. When she died at Grand Junction, Colo., on Sept. 8, 1904, she had, therefore, attained the age of 93 years, 1 month and 18 days.

On Feb. 13, 1963, Mrs. Zoe Jennings, of Portland, Ore., a granddaughter of Hiram and Loretta, wrote me that Loretta had come to live with her mother in Cheyenne, Wyo., when she, Zoe was almost four years old, and had remained a member of the family until her death, which occurred sixteen years later. Her grandmother had told her that their nearest neighbors in Kinderhook were two miles distant. She also spoke of being alone one day when Indians came to the house and sat on the floor. After they had been given something to eat, they withdrew.

Hiram Canright is listed as the head of a family in Kinderhook at the time of the 1840 census, which was completed by September 17th.14 It is indicated that he was then between thirty and forty years old. Since we have seen already that he was born in April of 1807, he was a little over 33. The female between twenty and thirty is, plainly, his wife Loretta, who was then 29. The two girls, one under five and the other between five and ten, were, of course, their first two children.

Beginning with the 1850 census, the reports contain the names of wives and children, as well as of those men who stood at the head of families. They also state the precise ages of all, and their place of birth. It is in this way that I first learned that Hiram was born in 1807, and that his oldest daughters, Sarepta and Salina were born in New York State in 1834 and 1836 respectively. Inasmuch as Mr. & Mrs. Canright were living in Ovid on Feb. 13th, 1838, it is evident that they came there before the winter had begun, and, therefore, sometime in 1837, if not the preceding year, after Salina’s birth. Since Salina, as well as her older sister, Sarepta, was born in New York state, no doubt can fairly be entertained that the Canrights moved to Kinderhook from the Empire state. Mrs. Jennings, their granddaughter, cited above, wrote me: "I remember grandmother saying they lived in upstate N.Y., went to Mich."

The 1850 census of Kinderhook, taken on July 19th, informs us that Dudley (nine), John (five) and Jasper (two) were all born in Michigan. The 1860 report, prepared on July 30th, confirms this. Since Dudley was registered as nine in July of 1850, and as nineteen in July of 1860, the two accounts harmonize with his statement that he was born in September of 1840.

We have later proofs that Dudley was born in the fall of 1840. On April 11, 1867, he was married in Battle Creek, to Lucretia Cranson. The marriage record in the Calhoun Co. Courthouse (Marriage Record Bk. 5, p. 263, Marshall) states that he was, at the time, 26 years of age. This agrees perfectly, for, being born in September, he would not have been 27 until that fall, five months later.

A couple of years after Lucretia, died, her husband remarried on April 24, 1881. The record of this marriage, in the Allegan Co. Courthouse, says that Canright was then 40. Again, the agreement is perfect, for, born in September, he would not have become forty-one for another five months.

In the County Clerk’s office, in the Courthouse at Hillsdale, Mich., is an official record of Dudley Canright’s death, which took place at the home of his eldest daughter in that town. The record states that he died on May 12, 1919, at the age of 74 years, 7 months and 20 days. This would mean that he was born on Sept. 22, 1844 (instead of 1840). A letter from his son, written May 23, 1962, confirms that Sept. 22 was his father’s birthday. We have already seen—from the two census reports of 1850 and 1860, and from the two marriage records of 1867 and 1881—that the 1840 date is correct. The death certificate, therefore, must be in error.20

The 1840 date is corroborated by an article in the Hillsdale Daily News for Monday, May 12, 1919, which states: "Rev. D.M. Canright, aged 79 years, and a well-known Minister of the state, of the Baptist denomination, died at 3:15 this morning from a stroke of paralysis, at the home of his daughter, Mrs. G.C. Dey, 19 Howell St." (p. 2). This report is confirmed by the Otsego Union, printed in Otsego, Mich., where Mr. Canright had lived for a number of years, and where his funeral service was conducted ere he was buried in the local cemetery. On Thursday afternoon, May 15, 1919, this paper says: "Rev. D.M. Canright, aged 80 years, died at the home of his daughter, Genevieve Dey, in Hillsdale, Monday." The next issue states that "Mr. Canright was 80 years old" (May 22, 1919, p. 1). In reality, he was 78 years, 7 months and 20 days, which the one paper calls 79, seeing he was nearer 79 than 78; and the other 80, dealing in round numbers only.

So, we have abundant proof that Canright was born in Kinderhook, Branch Co., Mich., in the fall of 1840. Thus far we have seen that he had two older sisters and two younger brothers. He also had two younger sisters. There are mentioned in the 1860 census record for Kinderhook, Branch Co., Mich. Mary was then eight, therefore born in 1852; and Eva was six, therefore born in 1854. So there were seven children in the family. Sarepta, the eldest, was born when her mother was 23; and Eva, the youngest, just 20 years later.

That the family enjoyed some measure of honor in the Kinderhook community is evident from the fact that Hiram, its head, held local township offices now and again. When the first town meeting was held in April of 1842, Hiram was chosen to be one of the overseers of highways. He held the same position in 1853, 1855 and 1858. In 1843 he was elected to the office of Commissioner of Highways, and again in 1848. A third office bestowed on him was that of constable, both in 1845 and in 1857. Thus during a period of 17 years, from 1842 to 1858 inclusive, he held some kind of office about half the time.

Such, then, are the available facts relating to Canright’s beginnings. He was the eldest son of Hiram Canright, whose grandfather had served in the Revolutionary War. He came from godly, as well as patriotic stock, as is indicated by the Bible names in the families of his forbears. He was born at the close of the fourth decade of the nineteenth century, on a farm, in a pioneer settlement in the southern part of Branch Co., Mich. He belonged to a family of seven children, whose father was a respected and trusted citizen of Kinderhook.



 14 See microfilm at Michigan State Library, Lansing, Mich.

20 The Hillsdale record is in error on another point: it says that Dudley’s father was Jasper, where he was Hiram. Jasper being a younger brother. That his father was Hiram is not only plain from the two census reports, but also from the record in the family Bible.

Previous Chapter Next Chapter BACK HOME