I’m My Own Grandpa!
Polk County Heritage
I’m My Own Grandpa!
Remember that little ditty that was first sung by Lonzo and Oscar in 1947 and later by Homer and Jethro, and many other folks afterwards? Even though Mark Twain said it wasn’t possible to be your own grandpa, as far back as 1922 news articles have proven him wrong, and cited documented cases where it actually happened.
Although the subject of today’s article, Elijah Newton Cronan, was accused of being his own ‘something or other’, not quite sure what it was, it got too confusing for me to figure out. I’ll tell the tale and let you decide.
In last weeks’ article about cow camps, I stated that most articles about them somehow got around to talking about ‘Doctor’ Cronan, said to be a ‘yarb’ doctor. His most often prescribed medicine for whatever ailed you was a big swig of moonshine or whiskey, legal or otherwise, with which to wash down the yarbs.
As a genealogist I’d be remiss if I didn’t start with a bit of his family history, and tell you that Elijah was born 25 August 1833, son of James and Elizabeth Brooks Cronan, who appear in the 1850-’60 Lumpkin County, Georgia census. He’s with his twin, Joseph, and other siblings, Luke, James K. Polk, Mary Margaret and Nancy E. On 17 March 1853 he married Matilda Lou Frady, daughter of Andrew J. Frady and Martha Dockery and they were parents of eleven children. (pictured: Elijah and Matilda Lou Cronan.)
As a born and raised proud Southerner, member of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, it hurts my heart to have to say it, but Elijah served in Company C 1st Alabama & Tennessee Independent Vidette Cavalry, Union Army, for which his 2nd wife drew a pension of $10 a month.
Matilda Lou died 7 January 1891 and Elijah married Arbella Cain, and they had seven children. Several of the daughters from that second marriage married Armenians who had come South to find a good old country gal wife - just like back at home. Some say they were ‘sold’, others deny the charges. Julia married Housap Gedelian and lived in Michigan, Sinda married a Keloustian, Bertha married Frank Sarkisean, Viola married Harry Kazar, and Florence married John Huckaby.
Elijah died 16 January 1915, and he and Matilda Lou are buried in the old Matlock Cemetery on Parksville Road beside her mother, Martha. Elijah’s daughter, Sarah, married John Presswood, son of Leander and Jane Presswood, and they are also buried there, as are John’s parents.
So, to continue where we left off last week of the 1938 Polk News article by John Shamblin, he concluded the cowcamp part of his article by stating that the old Clemmer Camp was just four and a half miles from Benton. He wrote, “Now the distance from this camp to another house or settlement has no significance except for the fact that it was there that was located what is know as the last licensed saloon in Polk County. At the time of the passage of what is known as the four mile law, saying no spirits could be sold if a school or church were within that set limit, a man by the name of E. N. Cronan was living in a little cabin near where is now located the Clemmer Camp. Cronan got permission to erect a house and clear up a little patch or two for the purpose of raising potatoes, etc., and keeping a few sheep and goats. He had been living near Ducktown among a settlement of people claiming to be part Cherokee Indian, and claimed to be a yarb doctor, so generally was called Doctor Cronan.
When the saloons were closed out of Cleveland, some of the more thirsty ones in Polk and Bradley began to look around to see if there could be a place found in either county that was more than four miles from a schoolhouse. And after some planning and measuring it was discovered that there was no schoolhouse within four miles of the Clemmer Camp. Well, Dr. Cronan was ‘seen’, as the boys say, and agreed to act as a saloonist, and soon a license was secured and a regular saloon was in full blast and doing a thriving business.
But its life was to be of short duration, for while the whiskey advocates has been busy locating and finding a place where they could dispense their liquors, the anti-whiskey element was also busy. And it wasn’t long until they had the school officials convinced to build a schoolhouse within the four mile limit prescribed by law, and forced Dr. Cronan and his partners to close up shop.
This sudden turn of affairs left Doc Cronan and his partners with a lot of unsold liquor on their hands! And to get rid of it, the doctor let it be known that he would write the prescription for patients free of charge for a limited time. And it is told as an actual fact that for about six months after the closing of the saloon that there was a regular epidemic of neuralgia, rheumatism, dyspepsia, and all sorts of ailment in this part of the country that the ‘spirits’ were supposed to cure. Nearly every one stricken with the ailments made a bee line to Dr. Cronan who would, without a single exception, prescribe a few yarbs, and a lot of liquor for his sick (?) patients. After the supply of liquor was exhausted, the good doctor moved on this side of the mountain and located near Benton, where he resided until his death a few years ago.
Now, about the time he moved out of the mountains his wife, Matilda, died. It so happened that he had a neighbor by the name of Joe Cain, who had lost his wife about the same time, and both Cronan and Cain had a grown-up daughter. In time, Cain fell in love with the doctor’s daughter and decided to marry her - but the doctor objected to the match.
However, Cain decided not to be outdone and one day, while the doctor was gone from home, Cain stole his daughter, Margaret Serena, and married her. Well, when the doctor returned home and found that Cain had stolen his daughter he was very angry, and swore he would steal Cain’s daughter and marry her. Although the doctor was 65 years old, and the daughter was 18, good as his word, he caught Cain away from home and stole his daughter, Arbella, and married her.”
O. K., now it’s your turn. Let’s if you can figure out just what relation Cronan’s children by his last wife, Arbella, are to Cain’s wife, Margaret. His obituary said, “each of the men became son-in-law to the other, and each of the daughters became the other’s mother-in-law, so each of the men became his own grandpa (in-law.) So, is he really his own Grandpa - or what?
Thanks to Edna Green for hunting up this picture of Elijah Newton Cronan and all seven daughters from his second marriage to Arbella Cain. We may clobber some of those Armenian names, but I’m using either the death certificate or Edna’s spelling since she’s family and has seen them in print. Starting with Elijah N. and going around in a circle to the left, the first little girl is Sinda (Keloustian), Della (Saroian), the little face peeking out from behind her is Bertha who went by Seto, which was her husband’s given name, but the surname was Zarkarian; Julia (Gedelian), Ida married a local boy, Andy Blackwell; the mother, Arbella holding Viola (Andonian), and Florence, who also married locally, (John Huckaby.) After having those seven daughters, Arbella did finally have a son, William ‘Bill’ Cronan, born a few years after E. N. passed. He married Donnie Evans. I’ve always thought it ironic that although Elijah was a herb doctor, when he had a broken leg (as he did here) about the only thing you could do for it was wrap it up in what we called a ‘tow sack’ (burlap bag). The picture must have been made late 1910, for Viola was 5 months old in the 1910 census and looks to be about a year old here. Elijah died 1915. (Submitted by Marian Bailey Presswood.)
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