Susan Langdon Crane was an activist, a humanitarian, a reformer, a businesswoman and dairy farmer, a gardener, and a devoted member of Park Church. She was also Olivia “Livy” Langdon’s sister which made her Samuel Clemens’ (aka Mark Twain’s) sister-in-law. While being the in-law of a famous writer may be what Susan Crane is best known for, it is certainly not the most important part of her long, meaningful life.
|Susan Langdon Crane|
Susan Crane (center back) relaxes with family
and household staff at Quarry Farm
Quarry Farm was not only a place of leisure for Susan Crane. In 1903, it became a place of business. By the turn of the 20th century things had quieted down at the farm. Theodore Crane had died in 1889 and the Clemens family no longer summered there. In the early 1900s, frequent outbreaks of typhoid fever in the area were linked to dirty milk. The Elmira Academy of Medicine appointed a Milk Commission to try to solve the problem. The commission tried to get local milk producers to make efforts of produce more hygienic milk but all declined because the costs were too great. At the age of 66, Susan Crane volunteered to work with the commission and established the Quarry Farm Dairy. Her dairy produced milk under such sanitary conditions that it was the first to be certified by the health authorities as germ-free. The diary operated until 1919, selling clean milk in and around Elmira and donating it to local hospitals and sick families.
|Susan Crane on the porch at Quarry Farm|
One of Susan Cranes’ most long-lasting and important community roles was as a member of the Park Church. She joined the then Independent Congregational Church in 1852 when she was 16 years old and was a member for 72 years. At the time of her death on August 29, 1924 she was the oldest member of the church. For over 60 years Susan prepared the communion table. She baked the bread, poured the wine, and cared for the linens. She joyfully continue the task even as her strength began to fail in her later years. She also provided floral arrangements for the church every Sunday for 50 years. She became known as “Our Lady of the Flowers,” because of this and only missed doing it twice – once on the Sunday following her husband Theodore’s death and once in the early 1910s when a week of heavy snow made it impossible to get down the hill from Quarry Farm. In a tribute to Susan Crane after her death in 1924, Rev. Albert G. Cornell called this her “floral ministry” and said that she “quietly preached the gospel of beauty through her floral sermons.”