The word serendipity means “the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way.” I was browsing through various census results the other day, not looking for anything in particular. It was through serendipity that I chanced upon this entry in the 1905 Minnesota state census.
At first, I thought this might be a misspelling, because I was not aware of a Lillie Casbon living in Minnesota. The closest Lillian I knew of was the daughter of Jesse Casbon (1845–1934). She was born and raised in Porter County, Indiana. I began to compare the details in the Minnesota census with Jesse’s daughter: she was born in February 1880, which would have made her 25 years old in June of 1905. This doesn’t exactly match the age of 23 in the census, but it’s close. Her place of birth (Indiana) and those of her parents (father – England, mother – Minnesota) as written in the census match the information I have about Jesse’s daughter. So far, so good.
Then I noticed something else in the Minnesota entry: Lillian’s entry is sandwiched between those for Annie Kitchen and two children, Jessie and Steven. Annie, age 27, was also born in Indiana, and her parents were born in the same states as Lillian. It appears that Lillie is living in the same household as the Kitchens.
Now things started to snap into place. Lillian Casbon, of Indiana, had an older sister, Anna Mae, who was born in December 1876. This would have made her 30 years old in 1905. Anna Mae Casbon married Newton Kitchel in 1898, and had two children, Jesse John (b. 1898) and Steven (b. 1900)., Anna divorced Newton Kitchel and eventually changed her surname back to Casbon. She was apparently still going by Kitchel when the Minnesota census was taken in 1905, but her name was misspelled as Kitchen.
The 1905 census has a little bit more information to give us. We can see that both Anna and Lillian were employed as bakers. Anna had been a resident of Minnesota for 1 year, 1 month and a resident of Red Lake County for 10 months. Lillian came to Minnesota after her sister; she had only lived there for 3 months. As we have seen, both women “fudged” a couple of years on their true ages.
It turns out, Anna and Lillian were not the only Casbons living in Red Lake County at the time. George W. Casbon and his stepmother/aunt Emma (Casbon) Rigg, were living in nearby St. Hilaire, as seen in this image.
I’ve written about George and Emma in the post “Introducing the Iowa Casbons! Part 1.” Anna and Lillian were George’s first cousins, and Emma was their aunt.
St Hilaire and Red Lake Falls are only about 8 miles apart. Is it a coincidence that these cousins were in such close proximity? It’s impossible to know for sure, but it seems unlikely. George’s occupation in the 1905 census was listed as “farming,” but his obituary tells us that he operated “a bakery (my emphasis) and farm in Minnesota for two years” before moving back to Iowa. How interesting that Anna and Lillian were both listed as bakers!
We know that George and Emma maintained contact with their Indiana relatives. We also know that when Emma died in 1910, she was staying with her brother Jesse, Anna and Lillian’s father, in Indiana. Anna was living in the same household, and cared for Emma during her final illness. Emma expressed her gratitude to Anna in her last will and testament with a bequest of 500 dollars. So, it seems likely to me that Anna, Lillian, George, and Emma would have know of each other’s presence in Minnesota.
Why were they all in Minnesota? George might have been there to be close to his future bride, Maud Carpenter. Other than that I don’t have any clues about their reasons for being there. From the residency information in the 1905 census, it looks like Anna arrived in Minnesota first, then George, then Emma, and finally Lillian. I know from the obituary quoted above that George, and presumably Emma, only stayed in Minnesota for two years, but I don’t know how long Anna and Lillian lived there.
It seems like their time in Minnesota was just a small footnote in their life stories. George and Emma returned to Iowa. Anna and Lillian returned to Indiana. Anna eventually remarried. Lillian never married, but eventually started a flower shop in Valparaiso, Indiana, with her other sister Edna. My father recalls them and their shop, located across the street from the Pioneer apartments, and just behind the present-day Porter County Library (now a vacant lot).