Anna Mae (Casbon) Fleming – Widow?

As I researched my previous post about Jesse and Steven Casbon, I uncovered additional bits of information about this branch of the family, and I received a welcome flood of new materials from some of Jesse’s descendants. I’ll be writing about some of the new information in this and subsequent posts.

Sometimes records can be deceiving and lead one to make incorrect conclusions. Such was the case with Anna Mae (Casbon) Fleming, the mother of Jesse and Steven. Specifically, based on census and other records, I made incorrect assumptions about Anna’s marital status and the fate of her husband James H Fleming.

As background, Anna Mae was the second daughter of Jesse (1843–1934) and Emily (Price, 1856–1893) Casbon. Born in Porter County, Indiana, in December 1876, she married John Newton Kitchel there in 1898.[1] They moved to Wisconsin, where Jesse was born in 1898 and Steven in 1890. A daughter, Emma, was born in 1902, but died of pneumonia when she was two months old.[2] Anna and her husband were divorced sometime before 1905. In 1911, she married a Michigan farmer and widower named James Fleming.[3] For reasons unknown, James, Anna, and the two boys moved to Newport News, Virginia, where they appear in the 1920 census.[4]

This is the point where I allowed the records to lead me astray. Specifically, when I found Anna in the 1930 census, she was now living in Baltimore, Maryland, and listed as a
widow.[5]

Detail/composite image from 1930 Census, Baltimore; Anna’s marital status is “Wd” for widowed; she is the proprieties of a boarding house (Click on image to enlarge)

Based on this census, I had assumed that Anna’s husband, James, died sometime between the 1920 and 1930 censuses. This belief was reinforced by an entry I later found for Anna in the 1922 Baltimore City Directory.[6]

Detail from Polk’s Baltimore City Directory of 1922; Anna is listed as “wid J H”

This allowed me to narrow the date of James’ death to sometime between 1920 and 1922. However, I was unable to find a death record for James in either Virginia or Maryland within this time frame. This did not trouble me greatly, since not all records can be found online and he was not the focus of my research efforts.

I don’t remember what prompted me, but I decided to try once again to find James’ death record. This time I did not specify a location or narrow time frame in my online search. The search turned up a surprising result: a death certificate for James Harvey Fleming, who was born March 3, 1863 and died November 12, 1934 in Alma, Gratiot County, Michigan.[7] This was at least twelve years later than expected, based on Anna’s status in the Baltimore directory.

Death certificate of James Harvey Fleming (Click on image to enlarge)

Was this the right James? As I compared what I knew about Anna’s husband and the man named in the death certificate, many of the facts lined up. I knew from an earlier census that Anna’s husband was born in March 1863 and that he had lived in Gratiot County, Michigan.[8] His first wife’s name was Myrtie (Newcomb).[9] He had two sons from his first marriage: Norman W and Marley.[10] Note that Norman was listed as the informant for the death certificate. To confirm my suspicions, I compared two marriage records: James Fleming to Myrtie Newcomb, and James Fleming to Anna Casbon. Both records gave the names of James’ parents as Robert F Fleming and Eliza Rice. There was no doubt: Anna’s husband was the man who died in 1934.

There are minor discrepancies on the death certificate. His marital status is listed as “Widowed” and his wife’s name is given as Myrtie Fleming. While technically correct – he had been previously widowed – it does not reflect the fact that he had been more recently married to Anna. James’ father’s name is incorrectly given as “Jessie” instead of Robert F Fleming. Robert died before the informant, Norman, was born, so it’s possible that Norman conflated the name of his grandfather with that of Jesse Casbon, Anna’s father. These are minor discrepancies and don’t alter my conclusions about James Fleming’s identity.

The death certificate proves that my earlier assumptions about James’ death were wrong, but it doesn’t explain what happened to the marriage or why Anna was listed as a widow while James was still living. Since James was still alive in 1930, I decided to look for him in the U.S. census of that year. He was easily found, listed as an employee (“servant”) at the Gratiot County (Michigan) Infirmary.[11]

Detail from 1930 Census, Gratiot County, Michigan (Click on image to enlarge)

James marital status is listed as “D” for divorced. So, Anna’s status on the 1930 census and 1922 Baltimore directory was clearly incorrect. This false information was presumably given by her. Why would she do that?

It turns out that this was probably a fairly common occurrence. In the early twentieth century, being divorced was less socially acceptable that it is today. The death of a spouse would have been considered a much more acceptable way for a marriage to end. By stating that she was a widow (while conveniently moving to a new city – Baltimore – where people didn’t know her), Anna could avoid the stigma of divorce and the questions of nosy neighbors.

Another possibility is that she was neither widowed nor divorced. James and Anna might have separated without a formal divorce, or James might have abandoned her. Without a divorce record, we can’t know for sure. I’ve looked for a record online but haven’t found one. Many such records have not been digitized and are only available in local court houses.

At any rate, we now have a more accurate picture of what happened. Sometime between 1920, when James and Anna were recorded together on the U.S. Census, and 1922, when Anna was listed as a widow in the Baltimore directory, their marriage ended. Whether this occurred before or after Anna moved to Baltimore is unknown. At some point, James moved back to his home county in Michigan, where he died in 1934.

Finally, Anna really was a widow, and remained so until her death in 1957.

[1] 1900 U.S. Census, Forest County, Wisconsin, population schedule, Cavour Town, enumeration district 39, sheet 5B, dwelling 87, family 90, Anna Kitchel in household of Newton Kitchel; imaged as “United States Census, 1900,” FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HY-6X19-MYQ?i=9&cc=1325221 : accessed 25 July 2017), Wisconsin > Forest > ED 39 Cavour town > image 10 of 16; citing NARA microfilm publication T62, roll 1789. Porter County, Indiana, Marriage Record Book 11, Sept 1895–Jan 1899, p. 430 (stamped), Newton Kitchel and Anna Casbon, 9 Jul 1898; imaged as “Indiana Marriages, 1811-2007,” FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33S7-9R15-4M4?i=253&cc=1410397 : accessed 18 June 2017), Porter > 1895-1899 Volume 11 > image 254 of 286; citing Porter County Clerk, Valparaiso.
[2] Indiana, State Board of Health, Certificate of Death, Center Township, Porter County, no. 118, Emma E Margreete Kitchel, 6 Apr 1902 (age 2 mo, 7 d); imaged as “Indiana, Death Certificates, 1899-2011,” Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=60716 : accessed 10 July 2018), Certificate >1902 >10 >image 1020 of 2753; citing Indiana Archives and Records Administration, Indianapolis.
[3] Oceana County, Michigan, Marriage Register, vol. 4, 1911, p. 205 (penned), record 3515, James H Fleming & Anna Casbon Kitchel, 16 Jun 1911, imaged as “Michigan, Marriage Records, 1867-1952,” Ancestry  (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=9093 : accessed 25 June 2018), Registers, 1887 – 1925 >1911 – 1915 >1911 Manistee – Washtenaw >image 294 of 703; citing Michigan Department of Community Health, Division for Vital Records and Health Statistics.
[4] 1920 U.S. Census, Warwick County, Virginia, population schedule, Newport News, enumeration district 86, sheet 5A, p. 5 (stamped), family 74, James H Flemming; imaged as “United States Census, 1920,” FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33SQ-GRN2-CNJ?cc=1488411 : accessed 25 July 2017), Virginia > Newport News (Independent City) > Newport News Ward 1 > ED 86 > image 18 of 21; citing NARA microfilm publication T625, roll 1899. FHL microfilm 1,821,899.
[5] 1930 U.S. Census, Baltimore City, Maryland, population schedule, enumeration district 4-583, sheet 5A, p. 173 (stamped), 602 North Ave., dwelling 85, family 104, Anna Fleming; imaged as “United States Census, 1930,” FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33S7-9R4J-W2C?i=8&cc=1810731 : accessed 26 July 2017), Maryland > Baltimore (Independent City) > Baltimore (Districts 501-673) > ED 583 > image 9 of 18; citing NARA microfilm publication T626, roll 856.
[6] Polk’s Baltimore City Directory 1922 (Baltimore: R.L. Polk & Co., 1922), p. 743, Fleming, Anna (“wid JH”), imaged as “U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995,” Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=2469 : accessed 28 June 2018), Maryland >Baltimore >1922 >Baltimore, Maryland, City Directory, 1922 >image 380 of 1156.
[7] Death certificate, Alma, Gratiot County, Michigan, register no. 118, state office no. 129 1397, James Harvey Fleming, 12 Nov 1934; imaged as “Michigan, Death Records, 1867-1950,” Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=60872 : accessed 5 July 2018), Certificates 1921-1942 >103: Gratiot-Alma, 1921-1935 >image1413 of 1516; citing Michigan Department of Community Health, Division of Vital Records and Health Statistics, Lansing.
[8] 1900 U.S. Census, Gratiot County, Michigan, population schedule, Seville Township, enumeration district 59, sheet 1B, dwelling & family 19, James H Flenny; imaged as “United States Census, 1900,” FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HY-DTBS-FYV?i=1&cc=1325221 : accessed 5 July 2018), Michigan > Gratiot > ED 59 Seville township > image 2 of 29; citing NARA microfilm publication T623, roll 713.
[9] Marriage register, Missaukee County, MIchigan, no. 188, 2 Dec 1891, James H Fleming & Myrtie Newcomb; imaged as “Michigan Marriages, 1868-1925,” FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HT-D8QQ-7Z?i=281&cc=1452395 : accessed 5 July 2018), 004208240 > image 282 of 646; citing Department of Vital Records, Lansing.
[10] 1910 U.S. Census, Oceana County, Michigan, population schedule, enumeration district 127, sheet 2A, p. 94 (stamped), James H Fleming; imaged as “United States Census, 1910,” FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33SQ-GRVJ-1J6?i=2&cc=1727033 : accessed 5 Jul 2018), Michigan > Oceana > Greenwood > ED 127 > image 3 of 16; citing NARA microfilm publication T624, roll 669.
[11] 1930 U.S. Census, Gratiot County, Michigan, population schedule, Newark Township, Gratiot County Infirmary, enumeration district 29-18, sheet 11A, p. 193 (stamped), line 6, James Fleming in household of Lee Raycraft; imaged as “United States Census, 1930,” FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33S7-9RHS-9SQ?i=20&cc=1810731 : accessed 5 July 2018), Michigan > Gratiot > Newark > ED 18 > image 21 of 24; citing NARA microfilm publication T626, roll 989.

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