Summer spots: Part One

Even the birds are socially distancing at Crane Beach. August 2020

With this most unusual summer now coming to an end, my family of four spent a lot more time together and got to enjoy some outdoor spots within an hour’s drive from Boston. We visited several spots owned by the Trustees of the Reservations and, as a way to remember this time, I’ve done some genealogical research on people historically associated with these places. The first place I’ll discuss is Crane Beach on Crane Estate.

Last summer, our staff outing was to nearby Castle Hill – obviously this summer we were unable to do any such outing. This property was purchased in 1910 by Richard Teller Crane, Jr. (1873-1931), president of the Chicago-based Crane Co. (manufacturer of plumbing supplies and other goods), which he had inherited from his father. The fifty-nine room summer “Great House” that stands there today was completed in 1928. The private beach and surrounding land was donated to the Trustees by Richard’s widow Florence (Higinbotham) Crane after his death, with the remaining property, including the mansion, following after her death in 1949.

On our summer outing last year, we split into three groups, and our tour guide had a vast knowledge of the mansion and property, despite only working there for the summer. He gave a very intimate summary of how the summer lives were for Richard and Florence, and for their two children – daughter Florence and son Cornelius Vanderbilt Crane (1905-1962), later an explorer and philanthropist. Cornelius married opera singer and divorcee Cathalane Isabella (Parker) Browning in 1929, and adopted her daughter Cathalene Parker Browning. While the couple divorced in 1940, and Cornelius disinherited his adopted daughter, she named her son in his honor: Cornelius Crane “Chevy” Chase.[1]

The ancestry of the Cranes goes back to numerous families in New England that I have worked on before, but one connection caught me by surprise. Florence’s paternal grandfather, Henry Dumont Higinbotham (1806-1865), is profiled and pictured in an 1878 history of Will County, Illinois. The entry begins:

I’ve made several posts here on the Lippitt family, a family history I am compiling that is near completion, including a recent post about addressing queries from the copy editor. In searching the manuscript now for Higinbotham or Higginbotham, I found “Miss Lippit, of Providence” under the following family:

As this genealogy followed the Lippitt surname for nine generations, my treatment of Catherine (Lippitt) Higginbotham would only be given under her parents in the fourth generation, with references to herself and her husband (whom I now can identify as Niles). Oh, well, one more thing to add that I only discovered by tracing a different family backwards, rather than the original family forwards. As I note in the above work, Catherine (Lippitt) Higginbotham’s matrilineal great-great-grandfather was Rhode Island founder Roger Williams (also my own ancestor), so I can claim a distant kinship to the Crane family whose former beach we’ve enjoyed throughout this summer.[2]

Continued here.


[1] See Gary Boyd Roberts, The Mayflower 500, 311, for Chevy Chase’s descents from Mayflower passengers William and Mary Brewster, John and Elizabeth (Tilley) Howland, and John and Joan (Hurst) (Rogers) Tilley. Cathalene Parker Crane’s father is given as Cornelius Vanderbilt Crane on her 1941 marriage in New York City to Edward Tinsley Chase.

[2] See Descendants of Roger Williams, Book One, which traces the descendants Roger’s daughter Mercy Williams, wife of Resolved Waterman and Samuel Winsor. Phebe (Rhodes) Holden [in Lippitt genealogy image], was the daughter of John and Waite (Waterman) Rhodes, and granddaughter of Resolved and Mercy (Williams) Waterman. I descend from Mercy (Williams) and her second husband Samuel Winsor, making myself and the “Crane children,” eighth cousins once removed (of the half blood).

About Christopher C. Child

Chris Child has worked for various departments at NEHGS since 1997 and became a full-time employee in July 2003. He has been a member of NEHGS since the age of eleven. He has written several articles in American Ancestors, The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, and The Mayflower Descendant. He is the co-editor of The Ancestry of Catherine Middleton (NEHGS, 2011), co-author of The Descendants of Judge John Lowell of Newburyport, Massachusetts (Newbury Street Press, 2011) and Ancestors and Descendants of George Rufus and Alice Nelson Pratt (Newbury Street Press, 2013), and author of The Nelson Family of Rowley, Massachusetts (Newbury Street Press, 2014). Chris holds a B.A. in history from Drew University in Madison, New Jersey.

6 thoughts on “Summer spots: Part One

  1. Chris, just a couple of my family names pop up from this. I’m an Otsego County native with RI relatives who arrived in in NYS soon after the Revolution. Greene, Niles, Rice as a first name which is a clue of sorts.
    Thanks for this. As you said, just a few more to
    add to the collection.,

  2. In that brief account I noticed the intermixing of Holden, Rice, Green and Rhodes families I have in my Rhode Island Roots. Since I descend from John and Wait (Waterman) Rhodes as well as Thomas and Freedom (Williams) Hart we are cousins.

  3. My connection to the Cranes is via the back staircase. My great-grandparents James W. and Mary (Beynon) Pratt, were servants at Castle Hill in the 1910s, and my grandfather spent part of his childhood there, until Mary fell sick with TB and went to the Millett Sanatorium in Brockton, and my grandfather and his sisters went to live with their uncle in New Brunswick.

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