Biography of John William Crancer

John William Crancer. Among the justly honored names of Leavenworth County that have been identified with Leavenworth since pioneer times, that of Crancer deserves special mention because of the sterling qualities of the men who have borne it both in the past and the present. In the fall of 1856, John William Crancer came to Kansas with the expectation of making his home here in case the country presented business possibilities for the future. Leavenworth was then on the frontier and was one of the principal forwarding points. Mr. Crancer foresaw that it was destined to become a place of importance and made up his mind to make this his future home. He returned to his former home in St. Louis, Missouri, and in the spring of 1857, with his wife and infant son, journeyed up the Missouri River by boat and landed at Leavenworth on February 22, 1857, and for more than fifty years afterward was so identified with Leavenworth, that their interests in large measure were the same.

John William Crancer was born December 20, 1832, in the City of Munich, Bavaria, Germany. When two years old he was brought by his parents, John and Mary Craneer, to America and a home was established on a farm in Madison County, Illinois. There his early years were passed, toilsome ones in the main on the home farm as his father’s helper, but he had some opportunity to attend the district school in the neighborhood. This comprised his entire educational training, but he was a close observer and when chance offered, an omnivorous reader, and in subsequent life never lacked in intelligence or wisdom.

Mr. Crancer was about sixteen years of age when he left the paternal roof and made his way to St. Louis, Missouri. There he found employment as a clerk in a general store but later learned the tinner’s trade and worked at the same there in conjunction with handling stoves and hardware, until he came to Leavenworth. Having but little capital he naturally started his business in this city in a small way, but the same foresight that had operated in bringing him to this section again was manifested in securing Government contracts and thus his venture was placed on a sound basis. Gradually his business was increased and expanded until it became one of the large concerns of Leavenworth and he lived to see it developed into a wholesale as well as retail establishment. It was a fitting monument to his industry and sagacity, and in many ways was typical of the man. Honesty was its foundation and he conducted it on careful, conservative lines, his settled policy being at all times to give full value for every dollar received. He became one of the solid, substantial men of Leavenworth, one whose opinion was well worth considering and one who stood for all that was best in American citizenship. He died April 6, 1909, honored and respected for his many sterling qualities.

In 1854 John William Crancer was married at St. Louis, Missouri, to Miss Mary Nichols, who still survives, being now in her eightieth year and an esteemed resident of Leavenworth. She is a member of the Episcopal Church. They became the parents of six children: John W., who was born at St. Louis, died at Leavenworth during the cholera epidemic in 1858; and Isabel, who is the wife of William Heinke; Frances; Edwin W.; Cora C., who is the wife of Edward T. Rhodus and Julia, who is the wife of George S. Barnes, all born in Leavenworth.

In politics Mr. Crancer was a democrat up to 1896, when, owing to the free silver coinage plank in his party’s platform, he voted the republican ticket and thereafter was identified with that organization. He was in no sense an office seeker but, being a strong advocate of education, served with credit as a member of the board of education. He was reared in the faith of the Roman Catholic Church but was not a strict ritualist, being content in the belief that an honest life and a devout reverence for sacred things was the essential element of future salvation.

Edwin W. Crancer, prominent in the affairs of Leavenworth, is the only living male representative of the late John W. Crancer. He was born here September 18, 1862, and had practically spent his entire life here. He was educated in the democracy of the public schools and after creditably completing his course became connected with the hardware establishment founded by his father, and for over twenty years he was entrusted with its general management. Since 1909, when the business was incorporated, Mr. Crancer had been president of the corporation and as such, while continuing the old honest policy, had authorized some changes in methods as modern conditions seem to demand.

Since 1896 Mr. Crancer had voted with the republican party. When the commission form of municipal government was established in 1908, Mr. Crancer was elected the first mayor of Leavenworth under the new law. Under that election he served one year, during which time, through his able administering along business lines, Leavenworth was improved with twelve miles of paving. In 1913 Mr. Crancer was recalled to the mayor’s chair and that his business administration was approved by his fellow citizens was evidenced by his re-election in 1915. Public improvements of value and scope have been carried forward through his energy and good judgment, over forty miles of the city streets are now admirably paved, the public utilities are in fine condition and the city, as never before, had been set with its face toward the sun of progress.

In 1902 Mr. Crancer was married to Miss Edna Darrah, and they have three children, two daughters and one son: Mary, John and Edna. Mr. Crancer’s fraternal associations are numerous and include membership with the different Masonic bodies, the Elks, the Eagles, the Moose and the United Commercial Travelers. Personally he impresses a stranger as being a man of quiet determination, of sound judgment and forward vision, one who recognizes that success lies in efficiency and works for it.



Connelley, William E. A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans. Chicago : Lewis, 1918. 5v. Biographies can be accessed from this page: Kansas and Kansans Biographies.

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