Alternate Explanations of Dibble History

Doubting Thomas

A man named Thomas Dible/Deble is probably a direct ancestor of our Dibble line, but we aren't sure about a few things. The rest of those things are explained in other footnotes. Here's the first one:

We know that a man named Robert Dibbell/Deeble, living in Dorchester Massachusetts in the 1630s, had an adult son named Thomas also living there, because that Thomas is referred to as Robert's son in some of the oldest Dorchester town records. But in order to connect those guys to England, Dibble researchers usually assume that Robert of Dorchester, a Robert Dibbell who had three children in Glastonbury, Somersetshire, England, and a Robert Deeble who fathered a Thomas Deeble who was later baptized in Devonshire, were all the same person. Unfortunately, we can't be sure that's true. These are all pretty common names in southwestern England.

Even worse, we don't have any unequivocal official documentation for Thomas of Dorchester's birth or ancestry at all. Here's what we do have:

The St. John's, Glastonbury, parish records show that a person named "Francesca", whose father was Robert Dibbell, was baptized on February 16, 1610. The church records are in Latin, so people tend to translate "Francesca" as "Frances".

Assuming she was baptized as an infant, this Frances, if she lived, would have been 24 years old in mid-March of 1634, which is the earliest date given for the sailing of the "Hull company", a congregation of Puritans that came to Dorchester, Massachusetts. The passenger list for this voyage (the name of the ship is unknown) has "Thomas Dible husbandm aged 22 years" and, right after him, "Frances Dible Soror aged 24 years". "Soror" is Latin for "sister". Names, dates and ages on ship passenger lists from this time are "squishy"; a list may have been compiled and dated months before the sailing date, and sometimes people on the list didn't actually get on the ship. But this is the best evidence we have that the father of the Thomas Dibble who came to Massachusetts with the Hull company was a man named Robert. And that's all we can point to, really.

The principal argument against the proposition that the Robert Dibbell we see in Glastonbury is the same Robert Deeble who has a son named Thomas in Massachusetts is that the two men came to America in different ships, perhaps as much as a year or two apart. If they were father and son, why did they do that? Many Dibble genealogists believe that the John Dibbell baptized in Glastonbury, with father Robert, also came to America, but to date we have not found a passenger list for any ship that has his name. If that John was in one of the Massachusetts colonies at the same time as Robert and Thomas, there certainly could have been other Robert and/or Thomas Dibels/Dibles/Deebles, not found on passenger lists, who settled in the neighborhood as well. Later in our story we see Robert and Thomas following separate paths again. If they were prone to disagreements, that might explain them sailing on different ships at different times--if they were indeed the same men.

Even further along the road to conjecture, we have two interesting baptism records from Devonshire County in England. Both of these records are found in the International Genealogical Index (IGI), which is a project of the Mormon Church of Latter Day Saints. The IGI has been divided into two parts; "community contributed" records, which come from anybody who knows how to submit data, and "community indexed" records, which are supposed to have been transcribed from official government or church sources.

Among the IGI "contributed" records, we find one for Thomas Deeble, son of Robert Deeble, with a christening date of 1613 in Exeter, Devonshire. This date lines up with the age of the Thomas who sailed with the Hull company, taking into consideration the fact that a christening did not always occur within a few days or weeks of a child's birth in those days.

The IGI "indexed" records include a Thomasine Deeble, daughter of Robert Deeble, who was christened on April 11, 1613, at St. Andrew's church in Plymouth, Devonshire. Some people have speculated that "Thomasine" is a transcription error and that Thomasine is actually Thomas. If so, this baptism date also corresponds to the age of Thomas on the passenger list. However, this parish register also has a Frances, daughter of Robert, baptized in March 1622; she would only have been about 14, not 24, when the Hull company sailed.

Plymouth is an attractive town for Robert and Thomas to come from, because the first church in Dorchester, Massachusetts, was established in Plymouth, Devonshire, in 1630.

In any event, most Dibble genealogies give 1613 or 1614 for the year of Thomas of Dorchester's birth, but that can be calculated by working backward from his age on the passenger list.

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Recovering Old Dates

"Robert Dible" appears on the passenger list of the Recovery, which is dated March 31, 1633.

There are issues with English recorded dates generally in the 17th. century, and with the date of the sailing of the Recovery in particular.

When you see a date given as "some year/the following year" in old records, as in "1633/34", this doesn't necessarily mean that someone was uncertain about the date. This is actually common usage in 17th. century English and American records. At that time, New Year's Day was March 25. Dates between that day and the following March 24 were all reckoned to be in the same year. Also, although the "new-style" Gregorian calendar began to be used in Catholic countries and colonies in 1582, it wasn't adopted in England or its colonies until 1752, when the start of the year was also changed to January 1, by which time dates had slipped several days from the "old-style" Julian calendar.

People who could write, and especially those who kept records, were usually aware of the differences between calendars in effect in different places, and they adopted so-called "double dating" to convey this knowledge.

In this document, when a date seems certain, I have made the assumption that the "real" year in which a date before 1752 falls is determined by the modern calendar, with its start on January 1. So, for example, I show March 20, 1633/4 as March 20, 1634, because if it was in Gregorian 1633 the recorder would have rendered it as 1632/3. Following the same logic, I give March 31, 1633/4 as March 31, 1633, because the recorder didn't write "1634/5".

But there is no certainty about the year in which the Recovery sailed.

The passenger list for the Recovery is dated March 31, 1633 (no double-date). However, one source claims that the ship could not have sailed before April 30 of 1633, because one of the passengers on the list witnessed a lease in England on that date. This source also says that another passenger appears in a record for April 3, 1633 in Dorchester, MA. It would have taken the Recovery anywhere from three to eight weeks to make the voyage, depending on weather and the navigational skills of the captain, so nobody could leave England on March 31 and turn up in Massachusetts on April 3 of the same year. If the Dorchester records are correct (and they may not be, because some of them weren't actually written down until a few years after the first settlers arrived, and all handwritten records from this era are subject to error both by the original recorder and by whoever transcribed them to printed media much later), then this passenger apparently went back to England in the spring of 1633 and returned on the Recovery in 1634. Finally, this source cites the diary of "William Whiteway of old Dorchester in Dorsetshire [England], who wrote: 'April 17, 1634, Mr. Newburgh [sic] of Marthwoodvale and many others set saile from Waimouth towards New England.' Mr. 'Newburgh' was more precisely, Mr. Thomas Newberry," another Recovery passenger. This source is not completely reliable. Portions of the Whiteway diary are online at Google Books but, unfortunately, the entry cited is not among them. The source cites the date of the first appearance of Recovery passenger Thomas Newberry in Dorchester, MA records as September 1, 1634. However, the Dorchester Antiquarian and Historical Society's History of the Town of Dorchester, Massachusetts has him receiving a grant of land in March of that year. That would only be possible if the Recovery had arrived in 1633, unless, of course, somebody made a wrong assumption about a double date somewhere along the line.

So the mystery of when the Recovery sailed has never been solved.

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Who's on First?

There is a long-running dispute as to which is the oldest English settlement in Connecticut: Windsor, or Wethersfield.

The Wikipedia page for Windsor has the first settlers arriving in 1634, and it has the migration of the Warham party occurring in 1635. There are numerous errors on the Wikipedia page, however, beginning with the statement that Reverend John Maverick also accompanied this party. Although he was a principal organizer of the group, he never made it to Windsor. He was, in fact, dead and buried before the Warham party left.

History of the Town of Dorchester, Massachusetts, published in 1859 by a "Committee of the Dorchester Antiquarian and Historical Society", says, "In the summer of 1635, some Dorchester people had already reached the river and sat down at a place where William Holmes and others, of Plymouth, had erected a trading house two years before (at Windsor)..." This would place the first settlers in Windsor in 1633. This history also gives the Warham party's arrival date as the spring of 1636.

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The House That Thomas Didn't Build

Dibble researchers have frequently reported that Thomas Dibble, Sr. did not build the house he was "ordered" to build in Dorchester, because he went to Windsor, Connecticut. For example, Van Buren Lamb, in a 1951 letter, wrote, "He did not build his house but went with the Rev. Wareham's party, which followed Thomas Hooker to Windsor, Conn." However, there is no direct evidence for this contention.

We know that Thomas was told to build this house within a year of December 17, 1635, when he was awarded about 1.5 acres next to his father Robert's lot. We also know that less than a month later, the two Dibbles were awarded at least another 30 acres of land (though we don't know if that was a joint grant or if they were each given 30 acres) in the area that bordered the town of Roxbury. Thomas doesn't appear again in the record until, possibly, April 9, 1640, when he was then in Windsor, CT. (The precise record states, "Aprill the IXth. 1640. ... These were made Free :- These inhabitants of Wyndsor: .. Tho: Dyblie". Researchers have assumed "Tho Dyblie" and "Thomas Dibble" are the same person.)

There was already a European hamlet at Windsor, CT in November 1635. Warham's group arrived in the spring of 1636, but Thomas was still in Dorchester in May 1637, when he made freeman there. Thomas Dibble appears on a list of founders of Windsor maintained by the Connecticut State Library; the Library's website indicates that the list includes people who arrived by the end of April, 1636. However, the original compilers of the list, Descendants of the Founders of Ancient Windsor, Inc., say that "Founders are individuals who appear on records pertaining to Windsor by the end of 1641."

December 17, 1635 to April 9, 1640 is a long time to go without a house, especially in New England during the "Little Ice Age". Did Thomas live with his father during this time? Did he build a house on his 1.5 acre lot, or perhaps on the 30-acre site near Roxbury? Or did he go to Windsor in 1637 and live with someone else for three whole years while the local leaders pondered his behavior and finally made him eligible, as a freeman, to own land there in 1640? Nobody really knows for sure, though the latter would seem to be the least likely story.

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The Great Dying

When the first large group of settlers arrived in what is now New England (known in the United States as "The Pilgrims"), they found recently abandoned villages, and the decomposing bodies of large numbers of people, all around them. This is not a story that is usually told to schoolchildren when teaching about "the first Thanksgiving". But as William Bradford, religious mystic and on-and-off governor of the Plymouth Colony, explained in his diary, "... the people not many, being dead and abundantly wasted in the late great mortalitie which fell in all these parts about three years before the coming of the English, wherin thousands of em dyed; … ther sculs and bones were found in many places lying still above the ground, where their houses and dwellings had been; a very sad spectackle to behould." Bradford believed that this devastation indicated that God intended to give the land to the settlers.

The quote indicates to us that this deadly epidemic was known to people in England before the Pilgrims came; and scholars have remarked that it was reported by visiting European traders and individual settlers living here and there in the region, who apparently were not affected by it. This differential in survival rates between Native Americans and Europeans is one of the principal reasons why it is believed that the deaths were caused by one or more diseases transmitted to the Native Americans by Europeans; diseases to which Europeans had developed some immunity, but which the natives had not. The most commonly-suspected culprit was smallpox inadvertently passed on by human carriers, but more recently leptospirosis, a disease carried by shipboard rats, has been suggested. Yellow fever, typhoid fever, and other diseases have also been proposed. It was probably a combination of them all.

This horror was not limited to New England. For example, early French and Spanish explorers reported the existence of substantial Native American towns, with much industry and commerce, throughout the Mississipi and Ohio valleys and the region now including the states of Alabama and Georgia, when they visited those areas in the 16th. century. By the time English settlers began moving into those areas in the mid-to-late 1700s, no identifiable traces of those people remained, although there were several large earthen "mounds" in those river valleys. (Archaelogists for many years believed they were ceremonial burial centers, but more recently they have come to realize that they are, in fact, the remains of the towns described by the early explorers.) Scholars now believe that anywhere from 40 million to 100 million people were wiped out across North and South America within a very brief period of time shortly before large-scale European settlement began.

No indications have been found that the settlers who came to Dorchester, Boston, and other areas around Massachusetts Bay beginning in 1630 witnessed anything like what Bradford saw in Plymouth. But then, it was ten years later, time enough for many things to decay beyond recognition, and time also for the native population to begin to recover somewhat.

However, it is certainly clear that if the plagues had not come, those settlers may have received quite a different reception, and may have judged it wise not to push things too far. That doesn't mean they would have abandoned their racist beliefs in their own superiority and entitlement, or their determination to control the land, but it might have led to a history more like that of India, where the Europeans established a few coastal colonies (Bombay, Goa, Calcutta) and extended their power inland by using local leaders as surrogates.

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Marrying Miriam?

Nobody knows for sure who Thomas Dibble Sr.'s first wife was. Many genealogies give "Mary" or "Miriam" Grant, of Dorchester, MA. However, the only record of the marriage that might be reliable comes from New England Marriages Prior to 1700, by Clarence Almon Torrey. The record reads, in its entirety:

"DEBLE, Thomas (1613-1700) & 1/wf ?Meriam/Miriam __?__ (-1681); b 1637; Windsor, CT"

There is no last name. The formatting, numbers and abbreviations are standard for these types of records; they should be read to mean:

Thomas Deble, who lived from 1613 to 1700, married his perhaps first wife, whose first name was "Meriam" or "Miriam", last name unknown, and who died in 1681, in Windsor, CT. The "b 1637" notation could mean "bans published", which means the marriage occurred in 1637 ("b" normally means "born", but if Torrey knew her birth year he would have put (1637-1681) after her name).

According to, Torrey got his information from "thousands of books and journals in the library of the New England Historic Genealogical Society". Those books and journals would have included family genealogies, whose accuracy varies wildly. It is unlikely that he got it from any official records. No official record of this marriage was found when the Mormon Church began its great work of compiling this type of data, or when the great New England indexes of town and church records were being developed.

Van Buren Lamb believed that Thomas' first wife was Miriam Grant, a sister of Matthew Grant, whose Old Church Record is considered a primary source for early Windsor records. He may have gotten this idea from Brace Knapp, who wrote to Lamb in 1981 to say that Grant referred to "sister Dibble" in his diary. The diary is online but there is no such reference in it. Lamb cites the Old Church Record for much of his information on Thomas' family. The references to "sistr Deble" (and one to "sistr Fylar") are in this document, in a list of people who were "taken into communion" in the church and who were still living on December 22, 1677, and they are the only two women who are referred to in this manner. Some Matthew Grant genealogies give his sister Miriam married to a Dibble, and at least one shows that he had a second sister, so perhaps Knapp's supposition is correct, though there isn't enough objective evidence to be sure.

There are official records of the deaths of both of Thomas's wives, but, sadly, the first wife's name is not given in them. Thomas had a daughter named Miriam, and she may have been named after her mother. But he had two other daughters, Hepzibah and Joanna, so who knows?

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The Case of Israel Dibble and Deborah Bartlett

The primary source for this disturbing story is a set of very difficult-to-read handwritten court documents in the custody of the Connecticut State Library. I am also indebted to Jo Edkins, whose transcription of the documents contains more detail than I was able to decipher. You can read her interpretation of the story at:

Edkins was able to make out some of the text on the back of the document that records Samuel's and Hepzibah's change of testimony (I was unable to read any of it). Her transcript includes the lines, "Israel took her by the arm & layd her downe & would have forced her but she said she would cry out He sayd he would stop her mouth with his Glove".

It is not unusual for people to delay reporting a rape to the authorities, but the first thing that was reported was a complaint of adultery by Bartlett against his wife. He knew something had happened immediately; he confronted her right after the event occurred, though in the presence of Israel and his brother. If she had told him as soon as they were alone together that it was rape, why did he not go to court the next day (Thursday, January 23, 1668) and charge Israel with rape? If he didn't believe her, why did he wait until March 1 to charge her with adultery? Of course, one likely explanation is that they tried to reconcile and failed; perhaps the relationship took that long to deteriorate to the point that he was angry enough to go to court and see her flogged or perhaps even hanged. There is no indication of a subsequent divorce, but that record may have been lost. It also seems possible that Bartlett simply waited until the first day that court was in session that year. In many small communities in the early days of settlement, court was in session only for specific brief periods of time.

If there was an assault, it also doesn't make sense for Deborah to have first confessed to adultery. She may have felt ashamed in either case (it is not unusual for rape victims to feel shame), but surely it would be at least marginally better to be seen by the Puritan townsfolk as a victim of rape than as a willing adulteress.

Edkins advances the attractive supposition that Thomas rallied the family to collaborate on their testimony to protect its reputation as a whole and the life of Israel in particular.

Still, it is quite strange that, with all of the other records extant, there is no record of the court's disposition of the case. Both rape and adultery were very serious crimes in 17th. century Connecticut; a guilty verdict on either charge would have had catastrophic consequences. This leaves open the possibility that the judge (or Magistrate--his name was Henry Wolcot[t] Jr. and he was a member of the House of Magistrates, the upper house of the state legislature) didn't think any of the witnesses were credible.

Samuel and Hepzibah seemed, at first, rather eager to get their older brother in trouble. And Israel was visiting in Benjamin Bartlett's house. Bartlett had just left to get some cider. So (according to Israel's sister Miriam, but not to Israel himself), Israel goes to get cider, too? In his own cellar, tramping through the snow in the orchard? Miriam actually testified that she hung up Israel's wet and dirty pants two days in a row, and added that the snow was very deep in the orchard. Benjamin Bartlett, while accusing his wife and reporting that she had confessed, also allegedly told Thomas Dibble Jr. that he thought "that which was sed to be dun was not dun where she sed it was but sumwhere else". This sort of thing is the reason why modern courts don't permit hearsay testimony. The judge may have listened to all of this for a while, then thrown up his hands, decided they were carrying on some sort of family feud, and tossed them all out of court.

On the other hand, the weight of the wealthy and influential Thomas Dibble and his family upon this small town must have been considerable. Seeing that they were determined to stand together, Wolcot, an elected office-holder, may have decided that it was above his pay grade to go against them (or, in the colorful English saying, he was a "Jobsworth") and pronounce one of them guilty.

There are a couple of other minor mysteries in the case. One of the documents has testimony from a "Jone Dible aged 55 years". No one has been able to find a candidate for this person. The age is the same as that of Thomas Sr. Thomas had a daughter named Joanna, but she is believed to have died young. Perhaps this was the shadowy older son of Robert Deeble, John Deeble (though he would have been closer to 65 at this time, if he was there--and there is no reason to believe he was). Perhaps the clerk simply meant to write "Tom" and botched the record. Also, Israel's brother Ebenezer gave testimony and his age is recorded as "21 years or there about". Ebenezer was 26 at the time, but maybe he looked younger to the clerk.

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George and Thomas on Long Island

The notion that George and Thomas Dibble, sons of Israel Dibble, moved to eastern Long Island, New York is a conjecture, though one that is backed by considerable circumstantial evidence.

Israel had three sons who lived to adulthood: Josias, Thomas, and George. Josias was named in his grandfather Thomas Deble Sr.'s will, which is dated February 17, 1700; his two brothers were not. According to Van Buren Lamb, Hartford County, CT court records list Josias as "late of Windsor, now of Saybrook 5 Sept 1700", a month or so before Thomas Sr. died. After listing Israel's children, Lamb also cites a genealogist named Perry, who "says children went to Easthampton, L.I." I was unable to find the original source of this statement.

If Thomas was only disposed to leaving his property to relatives who were living in the area, that doesn't necessarily exclude Josias; "late of Windsor", recorded in September 1700, could mean that Josias left Windsor after February 1700 but was still living there when Thomas wrote his will.

Also, there is no mention of anyone named Dibble (under any spelling) in the East Hampton, Suffolk County, NY (Long Island) tax list for 1683. After that, however, there are several mentions of a Thomas Dibble and a George Dibble in East Hampton records.

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The Abigail Reacher

Actually, while the quick second marriage makes a good story, it may not be true.

And so we come to the final link in our conjectural chain from Robert Deeble to Lt. Jonathan Dibble, the mother of all leaps of guesswork, if you will: Abigail, alleged to be George of East Hampton's second wife.

We know from his will of April 1721 that George Dibble had a second wife named Abigail who bore his son Jonathan. Those facts are not in dispute. Just about everything else about that marriage is either unknown or can be disputed. Here's how it goes:

The following facts have been collected from Volume 5 of the Records of the Town of East Hampton, Long Island, Suffolk Co., N.Y., which incorporate the records of Reverend Nathaniel Huntting, pastor of the East Hampton Church from 1699 to 1753. The preface to that volume states, "In copying the names from the old church record some were hardly decipherable, and though great care has been exercised, some slight inaccuracies may and do occur in the spelling of a name, or possibly of a date, but it is nearly correct and covers all data of this nature to be found in the original records of this town."

Mary Buil married a man named George Dibble on December 28, 1703/4 in East Hampton, Suffolk County, NY.

"The wife of George Dibble" died on January 8, 1706.

On January 20, 1705/6, Rev. Huntting baptized a child of "George Dibbles" named Mary.

On the same day, January 20, 1705/6, Rev. Huntting recorded that George Dibble "owned covt.".

On October 28, 1711, Rev. Huntting baptized a boy named Jonathan, whose father was "George Dibbles".

What can we deduce from the above?

First we have to disregard the slight possibility that, owing to the difficulty of dechiphering the records, something important to us has been lost or mis-transcribed as something else. So, taking the records as given to us as complete and accurate:

There were several Dibbles in East Hampton in the early years of the 18th. century, but there seems to have been only one George. So the wife of George who died on January 8, 1706 would have to be Mary Buil. It's likely she died as a result of complications of childbirth, since her death was associated with her having "lain in" for three weeks.

The child lived and was baptized.

On the same day as the child's baptism, Huntting recorded that George "owned covt."

Lamb, Binders Vol. 1, Image 123, says that "Geo. Dibell and wife accept covenant in E. Hampton church Jan. 20, 1705/6." This is a strikingly specific note of the sort that Lamb often made when he was quoting something. Yet there is nothing in the East Hampton records that mentions a wife of George Dibble in relation to the church covenant. George appears in Huntting's records as both "George Dibble" and "George Dibbles". He never appears there as "Geo." or as "Dibell". "George Dibell" does appear multiple times in other volumes of the East Hampton records. Lamb was careful about recording alternate spellings of Dibble. Huntting did make covenant records in the "so-and-so and his wife" format several times, and one of them is for Thomas Dibble (who we believe was George's older brother), so it's possible that Lamb was confused, but it's also possible that Lamb saw a different copy of these records from those we have available on line.

When someone "owned covenant", it meant that they, as believers in the doctrines of a particular Puritan Calvinist sect, signed an agreement to participate as members of a church. Depending on the specific beliefs of the sect, a person may or may not have needed to own the covenant in order to obtain one or more services of the church, such as marriage or baptism. George had been living in East Hampton since at least 1697 (when he witnessed a land sale), and he married Mary Buil in Huntting's church. However, he's not listed among those who were already church members when Huntting took over in 1699. If we assume that the record is complete and accurate, he apparently did not join up until he needed to in order to get his daughter Mary baptized.

(I had previously speculated that Mary died as a toddler in 1709. I don't know where that date came from. There is no record of her death in the East Hampton records. Lamb (Binders Vol. 1, Image 124) had her dying March 25, 1719. However, she was mentioned in George's will, which was executed April 25, 1721.)

So there is no record of George's second marriage in the East Hampton records. There is likely no such record extant at all, or it would have been listed in one of the many regional indexes of births, marriages, and deaths compiled by various careful researchers in the 19th. and 20th. centuries.

Note that there is a listing of a marriage between a George Dibble and an Abigail in Clarence Almon Torrey's New England Marriages Prior to 1700:

"George (?1655-1725) 2/wf Abigail DIBBLE (166(-)1-); 29 Aug 1685; Windsor, CT"

Those dates, of course, don't match ours.

It could have been a Puritan "do-it-yourself" marriage, conducted in haste in order to give the child Mary a mother. However, the only thing we really know about the date of the marriage is that it occurred before April 25, 1721.

The next question is, who was George Dibble's second wife? The date of the marriage becomes important for that inquiry.

Huntting's records do not give a name for her, nor does the name "Abigail" appear in connection with George anywhere in the East Hampton records.

Lamb (Binders Vol. 1, Image 172), and various published family trees at and elsewhere, give George's second wife's name as "Abigail Corey". This proposition ultimately cannot be verified, nor has its original source been found. Here is what we do have:

Lamb Binders Vol. 1, Image 172 is a page of penciled notes, the first line of which says "Platt Gen." (this has been misread as "Platt Cem.", meaning "cemetery"). A page number, 75, appears at the beginning of a line that contains "Jacob Platt m. Abigail Corey George Dibble m 1 --- 1 Abigail".

This refers to Platt Genealogy in America From the Arrival of Richard Platt in New Haven, Connecticut, in 1638, by Charles Platt, Jr. (1963). Charles Platt based the book largely on two previous works, The Platt Lineage by George Lewis Platt (1891) and The Descendants of Richard Platt, an unpublished typewritten manuscript (c. 1931) by Alrick H. Man. On page 75 of Platt Genealogy in America we find:

"JACOB 9/29/1682 Huntington, L.I., N.Y.
c. 1713 or earlier Huntington, L.I., N.Y.
Abigail Corey

A.M. states: "In the records of Stamford, (I, 179) appears the will of George Dibble of Huntington, dated April 25 1721 and proved Feb. 2 1741 - He mentions his wife, Abigail and their minor children, Jonathan and Josiah, Mary Dibble, his child by a previous wife, and his "wife's son Benoni" -- The witnesses are Samuel Smith, Samuel Smith, Jr., and Epenetus Platt - Benoni Platt named his two sons Jonathan and Benoni, and his daughter Abigail - Assuming that Dibble had married Abigail Platt, widow (with a son Benoni Platt), and as his two sons living in 1721 and mentioned in his will were here, he must have married her several years earlier, indicating death of her previous husband still earlier, at which time no son or grandson of Isaac or Epenetus had died, save, by the hypothesis, Jacob--to warrant a tentative tabulation of Benoni as son of Jacob -- reasonable from George Dibble's will that no other children of Abigail by her previous husband were living in 1721. As Benoni Platt petitioned as a church member in 1731, it may be assumed that he was born not later than 1713 or 1714, when Jacob would have been thirty-one years old. The name Benoni, "son of my sorrow,"--strongly imports in this instance the death of his father before his birth, as in those days the Bible was the principal reading -- and the story of Benoni (later called Benjamin), son of Jacob, grandson of Isaac--was familiar.' A.M. further mentions an inquiry in the Boston Transcript of May 22, 1905 in which the second wife of George Dibble of Stamford is stated to have been 'by birth Abigail Corey.'"

The Boston Transcript carried a genealogy column for many years from the late 19th. through the early 20th. century. Anyone could write in and pose a question, offer an answer, or pontificate on any genealogy-related topic; authors' names were not published, though their initials or pseudonyms were. Here is the relevant portion of the Transcript note mentioned above:

"As to the continuity of descent in the Studley line, the confusion arising from writing Benoni for Benjamin, following the old Jewish precedent in the case of Jacob's son, may be answerable for the apparent break in the line. ... I have seen Benoni and Benjamin on the same page of the records (at Hartford, Conn.) for the same child, but later in life, the Benoni, as above, seems to become exclusively adopted, notably in the case of Benoni Shepard of Tolland, Conn., known in boyhood as Benjamin, and of Benoni Platt of Bedford and Northcastle in Westchester County, N.Y., ancestor of Platt of Tioga County, who possibly was 'my wife's son Benoni' of George Dibble of Stamford, Conn., 1721-2, whose second wife thus referrred to was by birth Abigail Corey." The author of this note was "Sigma".

I have not been able to discover who "Sigma", a frequent contributor to the Transcript, was, though his apparent knowledge of multiple family lineages suggests that he may have been a professional genealogist.

The most salient points in the above sources are:

People have believed that the original surname of George Dibble's second wife was Corey since at least 1905, but we have no documentation for that notion.

We know for sure that George Dibble's second wife Abigail had herself been previously married, and her husband may have been Jacob Platt. We have room for this "may have been" because Charles Platt quoted the earlier Platt Lineage line as follows: "we know little of John, Joseph, and Jacob."

Man knew virtually nothing about Jacob's death or Benoni's birth. His argument is based solely on the year when Benoni Platt "petitioned as a church member"--1731. Assuming he was a very young man at the time, he could have been born in 1713 or 1714. However, as we've seen in the case of George Dibble, there's no reason to expect that a man would always formally join a church as soon as he reached adulthood. George was about 30 or 31 when he joined. If Benoni had joined at age 30, he would have been born in around 1701. In fact, if Jacob's 1682 birthdate is correct, he could have been born at any time between that year and 1714. If we accept the reason for the name "Benoni" as given, then Jacob Platt would have died anywhere between 1700 and 1713. So the marriage could have taken place very soon after the death of Mary Buill in 1706, and well before the birth of our Jonathan in 1711.

There is nothing dispositive about any of this; it's pure conjecture that Abigail was Jacob Platt's widow, in terms of the facts available to us.

The final question of interest is, what family was Abigail born into? As shown, Platt genealogists have accepted the family name as Corey without question or providing proof since at least 1905.

According to The Corey Family of Southampton, and Southold, Long Island, N. Y., by Lucy D. Akerly, there were two Abigail Coreys in the Connecticut/Long Island area (eastern Long Island, New York used to be part of the colony of Connecticut) whose ages could have matched our Abigail. One was born to John Corey and Mary Cornish on November 13, 1670. The other was born to Jacob Corey and Ann Tuthill, probably between 1678 and 1686. The first would have been 40 years old when Jonathan Dibble was born (not common in those days, but also not impossible), while the second would have been no older than about 32. For that reason I had previously argued that Abigail daughter of Jacob and Ann was the best candidate. However, thanks to Corey researcher David A. Cory, I now know that this Abigail was married to Jonathan Mapes at the time (references are in The Salmon Records; a Private Register of Marriages and Deaths of the Residents of the Town of Southold, Suffolk County, N.Y. (1918), and in The Journal of the Reverend Silas Constant pastor of the Presybyterian church of Yorktown, New York (1903)). Meanwhile, nothing beyond her birthdate seems to be known about the daughter of John and Mary Corey. So if George Dibble's second wife, the mother of Lt. Jonathan Dibble of Stamford, really was originally Abigail Corey, the latter (and older) Abigail could be her.

In fact, we know nothing for certain except that Jonathan's mother was George's second wife and her name was Abigail.

This is the sort of genealogical conundrum that separates the women from the girls. Either you believe this story, or you don't. I would like to believe it. It is at least plausible. But in truth, nobody knows.

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By George, Who's Your Daddy?

There are four candidates for the father of Lieutenant Jonathan Dibble. Two are named George, and two are named John.

Both of the Johns have been identified by different sources as the man fingered by the Reverend Henry Griswold Jesup, in his Edward Jessup of West Farms, Westchester Co., New York, and His Descendants (the "Jesup book" that Minnesota Dibble historian Ora Conley Dreher wrote about; the full text of this book is now online).

H. W. Brainard, who may have been a professional genealogist, prepared a set of documents in the early 1930s showing that this John Dibble was descended from Robert Deeble through Robert's son John, who, Brainard said, had his own son John. This second John, Brainard believed, was the father of our Jonathan Dibble.

The only source Brainard cites is Jesup's book, which says, "John Dibble, who possibly may have been the ancestor of Jonathan, was an early settler in the most northerly part of the town of Stamford [CT], which subsequently became a portion of Bedford in the colony of New York. This section of about 7,700 acres was purchased of the Indians and known as the 'Hopground' or hop vineyard, and sometimes called the 'Vineyard.' 'Upon the 4th of February, 1702, the town of Bedford sold to John Dibble, Cross's vineyard purchase for 18 pounds.' In January 1703-4 he makes an independent purchase in the vicinity from the Indians, and in 1704, when the town secured a confirmation from Governor Cornbury of New York of the first patent granted by Connecticut in 1697, his name appears in the list of resident proprietors."

There are several problems with Jesup's book. For example, the source he cites for the list of names on the patent confirmed by Governor Cornbury, A History of the County of Westchester, from Its First Settlement to the Present Time, by Robert Bolton, Jr., makes no mention of this patent or of this John Dibble.

More immediately important, Jesup only says that this John Dibble "possibly may have been the ancestor of Jonathan". He doesn't cite it as a certainty, and he gives no source for his information.

So Brainard's only source for his claim that a John Dibble had a son named Jonathan Dibble born in 1711 in Stamford, CT is a source that merely speculates, without any factual basis, that this might be the case. This case is closed. But for more on the issue of Robert's son John and his connection, if any, to Dibbles in early colonial New England, see John Dibble, Son of Robert Deeble.

The next candidate is the John Dibble who was born to the King Philip's War hero Ebenezer Dibble (son of Thomas, grandson of Robert) in 1673. Van Buren Lamb says this John, with his brother Wakefield, came to Bedford. However, Lamb also says he moved to Mt. Washington, MA, and died "before 1710" in Deerfield, MA, making him an unlikely father for a boy who was baptized in eastern Long Island in October, 1711.

(To further complicate matters, Westchester Patriarchs: A Genealogical History of Westchester County, New York, Families Prior to 1755, by Norman Davis, describes this John son of Ebenezer as the John who bought the "Hopground" in 1702. Davis also reports that he sold it in 1704. Combining this with Lamb's information, it would seem that this John was not in the Bedford/Stamford area for very long at all.)

Third up: George Dibble, a great-grandson of Robert Deeble through Robert's son Thomas, and Thomas' son Thomas Jr. This George has a better claim than either John right off the bat, because the record for the baptism of Jonathan on October 28, 1711 in East Hampton, Suffolk County, NY, which was written by the minister who baptised him and is highly likely to be correct, gives the child's father's name as "George Dibbles".

Van Buren Lamb speculated that George Dibble, son of Israel (see below), had been mixed up in the records with this George. But Lamb has this George being born on April 13, 1687. This would most likely make him too young to be the George Dibble who bought land in March 1703 in East Hampton, Suffolk County, New York, where Jonathan was later baptized. He would have been 16 at the time. Under English common law, he was past the "age of discretion", which allowed him to witness wills or land sales, but he was still an "infant", unable to make most kinds of life decisions on his own. "Infants" could own land (they often inherited it), but they could not sell it. They could buy land conditionally; they had to confirm the sale when they reached the age of 21, at which time they could legally change their minds. So no one in his or her right mind would sell land to a teenager. Also, Lamb has George son of Thomas Jr. dying on April 28, 1709, in Windsor, CT.

We can't be certain that these birth and death dates are correct. I don't know where Lamb got this George's death date. The only documentation for his birthdate is from James Savage's A Genealogical Dictionary of the First Settlers of New England. This is a commonly-used source. But Savage says that in addition to official records that he viewed himself, he relied on "friends" to submit additional data, and he implies a less than critical acceptance of those submissions. One would expect his citations, if correct, to appear in the other most common source of ancient New England records, the Barbour Index, since they both collect the same records, but this George does not.

But if these dates are correct, this George would have been dead for over 2 1/2 years on Jonathan's baptism date of October 28, 1711, a date which, I emphasize again, has to be considered reliable. We could, for the sake of argument, assume that the child was conceived on the day George died and grant a birthdate for Jonathan around February 1, 1710. In those days, people often would wait quite a while to make sure an infant would live before going ahead with a christening, but this scenario asks us to believe that Jonathan's mother waited almost one year and nine months. That's a very long time. Too long to really be credible, I believe.

That leaves George Dibble, great-grandson of Robert Deeble through Robert's son Thomas and Thomas's son Israel. Although we have no firm evidence for this particular George being Jonathan's father, we do know that there was a George Dibble who would have been the right age living in East Hampton at the time of Jonathan's baptism.

We also have the circumstantial evidence of the will of a George Dibble who died before February 2, 1741. The probate abstract says:

"Dibble, George, late of Huntington, L. I., weaver, will dated Apl. 25, 1721, probated Feb, 2, 1741, mentions his wife Abigail, and children Jonathan, Josiah, Mary; wife's son Benoni. Executrix his wife. Witnesses Samuel Smith, Samuel Smith, Jr., and Epenetus Platt..."

We don't have any information on George of East Hampton moving about 75 miles west to Huntington. But this George could have been the East Hampton weaver mentioned in Hedges' History. The will was probated in Stamford, CT, which is just across the Sound from Huntington. "Late of Huntington" almost certainly means that was George's last permanent residence. But if his only living relatives were in Stamford, that might be a reason for probating the will there. Or he may have been visiting them when he died.

So of the four possible candidates, this George is the best option.

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George Redux

The trouble with the Georges rears its head again in southwestern CT.

Our Jonathan was commissioned Ensign in the Stanwich militia in 1743, at the age of around 32. He was promoted to Lieutenant in 1747, age 36. The George who helped found Stanwich made Captain of the same outfit in 1734. From this one conjectures that he was considerably older than Jonathan.

We have to assume that he was not Jonathan's father. Based on several points of circumstantial evidence discussed in earlier footnotes, it seems very likely that Jonathan's father died in 1741 in Huntington (Long Island), Suffolk County, NY, and probably never lived in Stamford.

So George of Stanwich may have been the son of Thomas Dibble Jr., whose family, by all accounts, remained in Connecticut. That George was born in 1687 and would have been about 47 in 1734. We don't really know when he died (despite Lamb, who gave his death date as April 28, 1709 without citing a source, and who admittedly felt that two or more Georges had been confused), so that makes him a candidate. However, that also, perversely, makes him a candidate for father of Jonathan. There are more Georges, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy. And that's where we'll have to leave it.

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Shooting the Bull

There is some dispute on where the Bull's Head Tavern really was, and on whether any portion of it survived into the modern age. Most sources say the tavern was at 50-52 Bowery, just south of Canal St. in lower Manhattan, in today's Chinatown. At least one source says it was a bit further south, at 46-48 Bowery.

According to Michael and Ariane Batterberry's 1999 book, On the Town in New York: The Landmark History of Eating, Drinking and Entertainments from the American Revolution to the Food Revolution, there were actually two Bull's Head Taverns. The "New Bull's Head Tavern" was moved "several miles up the Boston Post Road" from the old one, "in the Manhattan countryside". In lower Manhattan, Bowery St. was part of the Boston Post Road. However, this move seems to have been made after 1786, allowing time for George Washington to stop at the original tavern on November 25, 1783.

The building at 50-52 Bowery became the site of the Atlantic Gardens, a German beer garden, in 1858, owned by a man named Kramer. It is said that this famous bar was the place where the song "Bicycle Built for Two" was first sung. Kramer expanded the building, and, it is thought, the original Bull's Head portion was eventually removed.

In 2013 a controversy erupted as plans were being developed to demolish the Chinese restaurant located on the site to make room for a new hotel. Someone got access to the cellar and took a photograph of what appear to be hand-planed ceiling beams consistent with an 18th. century building, and he claimed this was part of the original Bull's Head Tavern. If that was true, it would have been the oldest surviving structure in Manhattan. The city Landmarks Commission said that the site, although interesting, being a cellar had little visual interest for the city and refused to get involved. Some elected city officials said they wanted to try to preserve the site, but in the end, the demolition went forward. The ceiling beams have been preserved and may yet be displayed in some fashion.

In his 2009 book Shadow Soldiers of the American Revolution: Loyalist Tales from New York to Canada, Mark Jodoin says that the land that Jonathan Dibble owned on the west side of Chatham Square was actually the land that was leased to the owner of the Bull's Head. 50-52 Bowery is on the west side of the street, and Bowery does border Chatham Square on the west--but the two locations are 2-3 blocks apart. Perhaps it was all one big parcel. But Jesup, who seems to be Jodoin's source, made a distinction between the Chatham Square land and the lease for the Bull's Head. Perhaps Jodoin has jumped to an unwarranted conclusion here, or perhaps Jesup omitted a detail.

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Hesitant about Hannah

Some people believe that the Thomas Dibble who married Hannah Jessup was Israel's son Thomas, older brother of George who fathered Jonathan. Both of them migrated from Windsor, Hartford County, CT to East Hampton, Suffolk County, NY in the late 1600s. The available data on this is extremely confused.

There was a Thomas Dibble who married a Rachel Mulford who was in eastern Long Island. Lots of people believe this Thomas was the son of Thomas Dibble Jr., grandson of Thomas Dibble Sr., great-grandson of Robert Deeble. There certainly were a lot of Mulfords in East Hampton at the time.

The Rev. Nathaniel Huntting noted that among "those that have been admitted or restored to full communion since N. Huntting was ordained, with some others received from other churches" was, as of April 27, 1740, "Rachel, wife of Th. Dibble"

However, Rev. Huntting also wrote down that he performed a marriage between "Thos. Dibble Cooper & Wid. Hannah Jessup" on January 21, 1723.

Thomas son of Israel was born in 1670; he would have been 53 on that marriage date, and around 70 when Rachel was admitted to the church, if he lived that long. Nobody knows when he died, but Rachel is listed as "wife", not "widow", or even "Wid.", of "Th. Dibble".

Thomas Dibble ("the third"), son of Thomas Jr, grandson of Thomas Sr., great-grandson of Robert Deeble, was born in 1677. He would have been 44 when Hannah was married, and 63 when Rachel joined the church.

Upon reflection, neither of these people seem like the best possible candidates for either of these marriages, unless Hannah and Rachel were second and third wives of whichever Thomas this was. That's certainly possible.

As we've noted, there were at least two Thomas Dibbles in eastern Long Island in the early 18th. century, one a cooper, the other a weaver. There were probably more, who are unaccounted for by Robert Deeble-line genealogists. It is quite possible that Robert is not the ancestor of all of the Dibbles in early New England or New York. But this inquiry is really beyond the scope of this story, so I'll leave these loose ends dangling here.

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Sons (and Daughters) of Sam

Sorting out what became of the family of Samuel Dibble, son of George, grandson of Lt. Jonathan, is really very difficult. Not much is certain. Here is what we have:

Several sources give the date of a Samuel Dibble's death as 1835. There is no Samuel Dibble in any Indiana census data, nor is there any indication that Samuel went to Indiana; Jesup only says that his children did. Across several decades of census data there is one Samuel Dibble in North Castle, Westchester County, NY, and three Samuel Dibbles in Danbury, CT. Samuel of North Castle does not appear in 1840 or later. Two of the three Danbury Samuels were alive in 1840; the third, probably Samuel C. Dibble, son of the notorious alleged Tory Nehemiah Dibble, certainly did die in 1835 according to a newspaper record. However, because most of what we know about his children indicates that they were born in NY, I have to assume that our Samuel lived and died in North Castle.

Jesup reported that Samuel's children were: Hannah, Harriet, Grace, Malvenia, George, Ingersoll, and Ann.

Van Buren Lamb had this much:

"Elizabeth dau of Samuel & Deborah b. 1805 d. 6 Dec. 1827 at 22y 7 in Bush Yard
Harriett b 1805 m Wm. Gibson of Patriot Switzerland Ind.
Grace b. m. -- Hoyt
* George m. Mary
Ingersoll m. b.c 1830

Starting from the supposition that Van Buren Lamb's data are more or less in the ballpark, we can at least try to track down these children. However, even that simple project soon becomes bogged down in uncertainty.

Nothing has been found for a Grace who married a man named Hoyt.

Nothing has been found for children named Malvenia/Malvinia, Deborah or Ann.

There is a grave for an Elizabeth Dibble matching Lamb's information in the Brush Cemetery. Working back from that, her birthdate would have been in May 1805, giving rise to the supposition that she and George were twins. This is supported by the fact that Samuel's daughter Harriett later had twins; twins run in families.

There is an Indiana marriage record for Harriett Dibble marrying William Gibson on August 23, 1837.

The 1840 Census for Posey Township, Switzerland County, IN gives a William Gibson as head of household, with two other people, one of whom was probably his wife, age between 30 and 39. This permits a birthdate for Harriett of 1805, as given by Lamb.

The 1850 Census for the same location has William age 49 and Harriett age 43, giving her a birthdate of 1807, and shows her as born in NY.

There is an Indiana marriage record for George Dibble marrying Mary Monroe on September 13, 1838.

Census data for 1840 for Posey Township, Switzerland County, IN give a George Dibble, aged between 20 and 39, as a head of household, with 3 other people including, presumably, his wife, age between 20 and 29. The 1850 census for the same place reveals this George as being 45 years old, giving him a birth date of 1805, and also has him born in NY.

There is evidence of two Ingersoll or Ingersol Dibbles in Indiana.

For the first, there is a gravestone in Patriot Cemetery, Switzerland County, Indiana, for an Ingersoll Dibble who was born on ? 16, 1801, in North Castle, NY and who died in 1834.

For the second, the 1840 Census for Switzerland County, IN, has an "Ingersol" Dibble, aged between 20 and 29 (and therefore born between 1811 and 1820), and living in Posey Township. An "Ingersoll Dibble" also shows up at an April meeting of the Switzerland County Democratic Party. The 1850 US Census has an "Ingersol" Dibble, age 36 (yielding a birth year of around 1814), born in NY, living in Vicksburg, Mississippi with a wife named Catharine and a child who was born in around 1842 in Indiana.

Some genealogists have, understandably, confused these Ingersoll Dibbles with George Dibble Ingersoll, who was born to Solomon Ingersoll and Samuel's sister Elizabeth Dibble on September 7, 1812.

Finally, both Jesup and Lamb claimed that Ingersoll had a son named Warren.

Warren Dibble only appears once in the Indiana census records: In 1860 he is 19 years old and living with several other adults and children in a household headed by J. R. Harris in Posey Township.

We have tried to look at every single Dibble who appears in US Census records in Switzerland, Ohio, Dearborn, Jefferson, Ripley, Decatur, and Franklin Counties in Indiana in 1840, 1850, and 1860. Of course, census records don't include people who weren't there in those years, even if they were there at other times. Also, census records are not as highly accurate as we would like, being subject to human error in many ways. And finally, the census indexes are occasionally wrong, so we may have missed one or two Dibbles.

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What Became of Jonathan (2)?

If you thought Samuel was hard to track down, you should try finding Jonathan Dibble (2), son of George, grandson of Lt. Jonathan. (George's first son named Jonathan was a Tory and died in Canada).

There is, first of all, no census record showing a Jon, John, or Jonathan Dibble born around 1788 as a head of any household in CT or NY during the time of Jonathan's adulthood. The members of the household of Jonathan Dibble of Pound Ridge, NY (not far from Stanwich, CT), do match this Jonathan between 1790 and 1810, and the 1810 census also shows a female of an age to be his wife, and another female who could have been his daughter, in that location, but he was too young to have headed that household in 1790 or 1800. That's as close as we get. (Censuses before 1850 only gave the names of the head of the household; everyone else was just counted by sex/race/age group.)

He may have moved around a lot, or he may have died young.

Most published family trees give his death date as 1812, without citing sources. That would be too young to allow for the birth of his daughter Ellen, though. However, the matching male member of the Pound Ridge household is no longer present in the 1820 census, so he could have died between the date of Ellen's conception and that year.

However, Jesup says Jonathan went to Indiana, and there is the fact that a household headed by Mary D. Dibble is found in Switzerland County in the 1840 census. This suggests that Jesup was right.

A few trees give Jonathan's date of death as March 14, 1835, and his place of death as Switzerland County, Indiana. This seems to have originated with Van Buren Lamb. Lamb received a long, rambling letter from Mrs. Earl E. Gibbs in 1962, in which she cites the "NY Christian Messenger and Philadelphia Universalist of 1834-35 in which is listed the death in Switz. Co. Ind. March 14, 1835, of Jonathan Dibble age 55, formerly of NY. City". The first problem with this is that there is no evidence that the Jonathan Dibble we are tracking ever lived in New York City. (There is also no documented grave for a Jonathan Dibble in that county, and this Jonathan never appeared in a census for that county, although neither of those points is dispositive.) The second problem is that if he was 55 in 1835, he would have been born in 1780, and our Jonathan was born in 1788, as documented by the Barbour Collection of Stamford Vital Records, a good source. There was, though, a "John" Dibble heading a household in Jefferson County, Indiana, just west of Switzerland County, in 1840 who would have been old enough to be our Jonathan. (That fact raises eyebrows for another reason: John Dibble, son of George, who married Sarah Howe and came to Switzerland County from CT in the 1830s, is said to have died in Jefferson County in 1840.)

Jesup says Jonathan had children named Ellen, Mary Ann, Sarah, Charles Henry, and Samuel, "all of whom are now dead" (Jesup was writing in 1887). Van Buren Lamb also lists these children, whom he probably got from Jesup. He also has the marriage of Mary Ann and Eliphalet Platt, for which the only source he gives is "pg 105" of some un-named document.

Various published family trees have picked up these children and assigned them widely varying birth years, without providing any sources.

Mary Ann and Eliphalet do appear in the 1850 census for Rhinebeck, NY. Eliphalet goes back to at least 1830 in that location, and Mary Ann was probably with him too, based on the age ranges and genders of the other people in that household.

Ellen seems to appear in the 1850 census for Ohio County, Indiana, where she was living with her mother in the household of William Davis and his wife. Her age is given as 32, which suggests a birthdate of around 1818. She may also be represented in the 1840 census for that place, which lists a household headed by Mary D. Dibble and includes a female of an appropriate age for Ellen.

There are no official birth, baptism, or census records matching any of the other children. It is quite possible that they have been confused with the children of Jonathan's brother John and/or with those of the various Samuel Dibbles who lived in Danbury, CT.

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When did the Dibbles move to Indiana?

Van Buren Lamb believed that George Dibble's second son named Jonathan lived in New York City for a period of time before moving on to Indiana. Some other researchers have picked this idea up and run with it. As best I can tell, though, there are no facts on record supporting this belief.

Lamb's binder page listing George's children (Binders Vol. 1, Image 167) has "Jonathan b. Mar. 4, 1788 m. Mary D. Smith" in dark black ink. Following Mary's name is the notation, "of NYC 1830" in blue ink--a later addition. When genealogists say a person is "of" some place, that usually means the person lived there, or was said to have come from there. The position of this notation most likely means that Mary was "of NYC". If Jonathan had lived there, we would expect Lamb to have put the notation after his name; there is room on the page for him to have done so. At first glance, the implication is that Jonathan's bride came from New York City; she may have been born and raised there. Of course, since we believe Jonathan fathered children between 1810 and 1820, the notion that his wife was living in NYC in 1830 under a name other than "Dibble" is somewhat suspect. (In light of the 1840 census for Switzerland County, IN, which includes "Mary D. Dibble" as a head of household in Posey Township, it is even more so.) To be scrupulously fair, there were several Mary Smiths in New York City at that time. However, no record of a "Mary D. Smith" has been found there. (In fact, Lamb provides no source for Jonathan's wife's name at all.) On reflection, the notation makes sense only if we assume that Lamb thought that the married couple was "of NYC" in 1830.

However, a thorough search on in February 2016 did not turn up one single census reference to a person whose last name was Dibble and first name started with J in New York City between 1820 and 1840. Now, is neither 100% accurate nor 100% complete, but this is strong circumstantial evidence that he never lived in New York City. Other searches have only turned up citations that can be traced back to Lamb.

And Lamb had more on this.

Lamb's page showing the marriage of Jonathan and Mary and listing their children (Binders Vol. 1, Image 224) has the notation for Jonathan, "res 1830 NYC. To Switzerland co, Ind. 1836". In the upper left-hand corner of the page, where Lamb usually listed sources, he wrote "Jessup Gen.". This is probably the Rev. Henry Griswold Jessup's book, Edward Jessup of West Farms, Westchester Co., New York, and His Descendants. However, that book only mentions the move to Indiana; it says nothing about Jonathan living in New York City.

Lamb received a letter from Mrs. Earl E. Gibbs in 1962, in which she cited the "NY Christian Messenger and Philadelphia Universalist of 1834-35 in which is listed the death in Switz. Co. Ind. March 14, 1835, of Jonathan Dibble age 55, formerly of NY. City" (Binders Vol. 1, Image 195). Unfortunately, the periodical she cited is not available online. However, there are at least two problems with this citation. First, Jonathan's birthdate of March 4, 1788 is documented in the Barbour Index of Connecticut Vital Records, a very good source. Backing that up is Lamb's own citation of Jonathan's baptism on April 20, 1788 at St. John's Episcopal Church in Stamford (Binders Vol. 1, Image 167). Jonathan would have been 47, not 55, on March 14, 1835. Secondly, though not fully dispositive, there are the facts that there are no records of the existence of this Jonathan Dibble in Switzerland County, Indiana, and no known gravesite for him there. Other Dibbles living in that county are well-documented.

It seems probable that Jonathan lived in New York State for some time, though not in that city, and there was a Jonathan Dibble living in Pound Ridge, NY between 1790 and 1820, which today is within commuting distance of the Big Apple, though he could not have been the Jonathan we are looking for. Those facts may be sources of confusion. Jonathan's grandfather, Lt. Jonathan Dibble, owned land in lower Manhattan, though it is not clear that he ever lived there, and that may have further confounded the matter.

As for when the wandering Dibbles finally arrived in Indiana: It is possible that not all of the New York and Connecticut Dibbles came to Indiana together; they may have "trickled in" beginning in the early 1830s. But there is no decisive evidence either way.

There is very good circumstantial evidence in 1820 and 1830 US Census data that John Dibble, son of George and Phebe, was living in Stamford, CT in those years with his wife and children.

It also seems clear that George, the son of John's brother Samuel who was born circa 1805, lived in North Castle, New York before he moved westward.

There is less convincing evidence that John's brother Jonathan was living in Pound Ridge, New York in the same rough time frame--but no convincing evidence that he was anywhere else.

It's tempting to conclude that because they lived in different places, they may have emigrated at different times. But it's important to remember that "Stamford" was a very big area in those days, and its northern reaches lay along the CT-NY border, just on the other side of which lie both North Castle and Pound Ridge. It is likely that they all lived within ten miles of each other, and probably saw each other frequently. So they may very well have decided to go west as a group.

However, different sources tell us different things.

Van Buren Lamb's notebook page showing the marriage of Jonathan and Mary and listing their children (Binders Vol. 1, Image 224) has the notation, "To Switzerland co, Ind. 1836". Lamb provides no source for this information.

The Reverend Jesup wrote, in 1887, "About 1836 or 1837, John Dibble ... Jonathan his brother, and the children (by his 2d wife) of Samuel Dibble, another brother, removed to Patriot, Switzerland Co., Indiana, where many of their descendants now reside."

History of Dearborn, Ohio and Switzerland Counties, Indiana: From Their Earliest Settlement, Containing a History of the Counties, Their Cities, Townships, Towns, Villages, Schools and Churches, from 1885 (no author given; published by F. E. Weakley & Co.), has John arriving in 1832 and says that John's son George, born in 1822, came when he was "about ten years old". That book also reports that "The Universalist Society of Patriot was organized in December 1835", and lists Harriet Dibble among the signers of the Society's constitution.

Harriet was married in Switzerland County on August 21, 1837. Samuel's son George was married there on September 12, 1838.

And then there is the grave of Samuel's first son named Ingersoll, who died in 1834 and is buried in Patriot Cemetery. (As an aside, the Historical Sketch of the Town of Patriot, by H. F. Emerson, provided by the "Patriot Indiana" website (at, says, "The first village cemetery was at the south end of Front Street in what for years later was known as Dibble's orchard." In 1883 a 9-acre parcel of land in this area was owned by Charles Dibble, a son of Samuel's and Jonathan's brother John. But Patriot Cemetery is on the opposite end of town. As for the first cemetery, we don't know where those bodies are buried.)

Of all of these items, Ingersoll's grave is the most convincing; the year 1834 is there, literally carved in stone, and not likely to be an "engraving error". That immediately casts a shadow on both Jesup and Lamb, as does Harriet's remarkable early role in the founding of the local Universalist church. However, it seems safe to credit the three-county History, whose brief biographies "were prepared, for the most part, by the canvassing agents of the publishers", with equal reliability. So let's conclude by saying that the first Dibbles reached southeastern Indiana in 1832, and all of the characters in our story were there before 1840.

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Howe Now?

People named Silas Howe and Abigail Howe lived in Switzerland County, Indiana, and are buried there. And just about everybody says that the parents of John Dibble of Connecticut's wife, Sarah Howe, were Silas Howe and Abigail Fisk. But why do they say that?

Van Buren Lamb had this family connection on several of his binder pages (Binders Vol. 1, Images 187, 194, 196 & 197, for example). Image 194 is the first page of a letter from Mrs. Earl E. Gibbs, which she wrote to Lamb in July 1962. She referred to "John Dibble who mar. 1815 Sarah Elizabeth Howe b May 4, 1799 d. 1875 in Switzerland Co, Indiana. She was dau. of Silas Howe & wife Abigail Fisk Howe who lived in Greenwich or Stanwich, CT. then removed to Stanfordville, Dutchess Co and on to [genoa/geneva] Cayuga co NY, and Ohio and Indiana about 1812." In the binder images following this letter, Lamb added "of Greenwich or Stanwich" to his notes on Sarah's parents.

Assuming that his pages were written in the order in which they were scanned (which may not be the case), then on the earlier Image 187, Lamb gives "Howe Gen." as the source for Sarah's parents. This is probably Howe Genealogies by Daniel Wait Howe, published in 1929. That book has the following:

"Silas Howe (Sylvanus, John, Nathaniel, Isaac, Edward), born probably in Greenwich, Ct., 13 Jan, 1777; married in 1779 [obviously wrong but the digits could have been accidentally transposed from "1797"] Abigail Fisk, daughter of William Fisk, born 22 March 1771."

The book lists their children:

Mary Howe b. Aug 4, 1797; lived in Patriot, Switzerland County, IN
Sarah Elizabeth Howe b. May 4, 1799
Cynthia Howe b. Feb 19, 1801
Amy Howe b Dec 16, 1802; also lived in Patriot
Sylvanus Howe b. Oct 10, 1804
William Howe b Nov 21, 1806
Anna Howe b. July 5, 1808; lived in Wirt, Jefferson County, IN
Jonathan Howe b. Dec 28, 1810
Julia Howe b. Sep 16, 1812
Lemuel Howe b. Aug 30, 1815

The book also says, of Silas Howe and his family, "They moved from Dutchess Co. to Auburn, N.Y. and thence went west, and located first, in 1812, in Cincinnati, O., where he remained several years, then moved to Patriot, Switzerland Co., Ind., where he died 6 Nov. 1859. His children were born before he went to Cincinnati."

Most of what Gibbs told Lamb is so close to this account that it must be the ultimate original source for her information.

The book also lists Sarah's husband John Dibble and all of their children, with the same birthdates that we find elsewhere.

Daniel Wait Howe did not cite specific sources for anything in his book. His editor said that much of it came from "ancient records and relics" that were collected from members of a large Howe family reunion that took place in 1871. However, he never published his work; that came much later, in 1929, after it had been edited, with an unknown amount of additional information added, by Gilman Bigelow Howe. The book mostly concerns the descendants of four men named Howe: Abraham Howe of Roxbury, MA; Abraham Howe of Marlborough, MA; James Howe of Ipswich, MA; and Edward Howe of Lynn, MA. The book says that Abe of Roxbury and James were probably brothers, but that they were not related to the other two men, who also were not related to each other. (The book also contains an Appendix listing many other Howe lines that the author and/or editor could not link to the four principals.) The book gives the Howes with whom we are concerned as descendants of Edward of Lynn.

Either D. W. or G. B. Howe wrote that "Much of the information that we have concerning the Howe families of Lynn, seems to be vague traditions and supposition, and it is largely owing to the fact that the records of Lynn, for the first sixty years are missing." Perhaps that vagueness only applies to those first 60 years, or perhaps it permeates all of the information about that line. But D. W. and/or G. B. Howe seem to have been very careful and conscientious researchers. If they thought some supposition about family history or relationships was wrong, or unsupported by valid documentation, they said so, and explained why. From this I have to conclude that they believed they had solid proof for what they presented concerning our Silas Howe and his descendants.

There is also US Census data that appears to back up some of what the Howe Genealogies says about the travels of Silas and his family (bearing in mind that before 1850, census enumerators only recorded the name of the "head of household"). A family headed by "Silas How" that seems to be a very close match was recorded in Genoa, Cayuga County, NY (about 20 miles south of Auburn) in 1810. There's one daughter under the age of 10 missing, but perhaps one of them died young; it's not Sarah, she would have been between 10 and 11 years old and is accounted for in that age group. There is a "Silis" Howe in Randolph, Dearborn County, IN (just north of Switzerland County) in the 1820 census, but this family isn't quite as good a match. It includes only one adult female. She was between the ages of 26 and 44. That's not old enough to be Silas's wife Abigail, who is said to have died in 1836 and therefore should have been present. The only adult daughter in this age range was married at the time, and there is no adult male matching her husband, so we would presume she wasn't living with the family. We can't find Silas in Dutchess County, NY, but there was a family whose head was "Sylvanne" Howe there in 1830. Silas's father's name, according to Howe Genealogies, was Sylvanus. We don't have a birthdate for him but he could have been a match to a man aged between 70 and 79 living in that household. There was a Sylvanus Howe who served as a private in a New York company during the Revolutionary War, which would be consistent with the age of the man who fathered Silas.

We can't find Silas in US Census data for Ohio. However, the name does appear in the "Ohio, Compiled Census and Census Substitutes Index, 1790-1890" at, where "Silas Howe" appears on a tax list for Cincinnati, Hamilton County, OH.

Silas had a son named Sylvanus, born October 10, 1804 in New York. According to Howe Genealogies, "He went west with his father, locating first in Cincinnati, O. About 1833 he moved to Patriot, Switzerland Co., Ind., where he was for many years a successful business man, and a prominent citizen." There was a family headed by a "Sylvanos How" in Ames Township, Athens County, Ohio in 1830. However, that's about 100 miles east of Cincinnati. But, according to the History of Dearborn, Ohio and Switzerland Counties, Indiana, "Sylvanus Howe, one of the oldest citizens of Patriot...was born in the State of New York, October 10, 1804. When a boy he came, in 1812, with his parents, Silas and Abagail (Fisk) Howe to Cincinnati from New York State, and here the family resided for several years, his father engaged in superintending a tanyard for William Woodard. His father, a few years later, entered 160 acres back of North's Landing which he employed Hardin Heth to clear up. He later moved upon the same and resided there many years..."

North's Landing is just over the Switzerland County line in what is today Ohio County but was, prior to 1840, part of Dearborn County, where we find "Silis" Howe in 1820. The family of Sylvanus N. Howe appears there in 1830, and is a good match to Silas's son.

There is just one problem with all this. We know from census records that John Dibble and his wife and children were in Stamford, CT in 1830. How did it come to pass that John married a much younger woman in Stamford in the mid-eighteen-teens who had been living, since at least 1810, anywhere from several hundred to a thousand miles away?

I can't find any records to support Mrs. Gibbs' assertion that John and Sarah were married in 1815. One would expect to find a marriage record in the Barbour Index for CT or similar indexes for NY for that period, and we don't. There aren't any for Indiana either. But Sarah would have been 16 that year, and their first child was born in 1816, so it's a reasonable date.

There was a family headed by a Sylvanus Howe in Fairfield County, CT in 1790 and 1800, but this seems unlikely to have been Sarah's grandfather, if that gentleman served in the Revolutionary War in a NY outfit in the 1770s and his children hailed from Dutchess County, NY.

The southern border of Dutchess County is about 25 miles north of the northern boundary of Stamford Township. The Dibbles of the CT panhandle had close relatives just over the border in Westchester County. John's grandfather Lt. Jonathan Dibble owned land near Poughkeepsie in Dutchess County in the early 18th. century. It's quite possible that John Dibble and Sarah Howe could have met in those environs before her family moved upstate. It is unlikely that he stayed close to her though; I could not find any evidence indicating that John Dibble ever lived in Dutchess or Cayuga Counties in NY, or anywhere in Ohio.

The History of Three Counties mentioned above, which contains a great deal of information on Sylvanus Howe of Switzerland County and others in that family, also discusses John Dibble and his wife Sarah. It records that John "... was born and reared in Fairfield County, Conn., and married there Sarah Howe and in 1832 came to Switzerland County." And that is all it says about them. Ordinarily the authors of the book's biographies mentioned just about every family connection that was known, and especially those of important people. It seems highly unlikely that nobody knew that John Dibble's wife was the sister of Sylvanus Howe, who was a major figure in the region for much of the 19th. century.

It is perhaps romantic to suppose that John, a man in his twenties, met Sarah when she was a pre-adolescent child somewhere among the Howes and Dibbles of southeastern NY, and they formed a connection that survived her travels, to the Finger Lakes and later to Ohio and Indiana, across a period of five years or more. Such things are not unheard of, though to modern sensibilities, they seem mildly repulsive. The authors of the Howe Genealogies, it must be said, seem to be highly credible. That book also says that three great-great grandchildren of Silas bore the names Warren Dibble Howe (Warren Dibble was a putative son of one of the Ingersol Dibbles, who were both nephews of John Dibble); William Gibson Howe (William Gibson married John Dibble's niece Harriet Dibble); and Robert Ingersol Howe--names that suggest more than a passing involvement with the Dibble family.

On the other hand, it also seems reasonable to suppose that John's wife Sarah was a Howe of a different hue, one whose lineage is entirely unknown, and that she came from southwestern CT. After all, as the Howe Genealogies attest, there were a lot more Howes than Dibbles in early America, and they weren't all related to each other, by far.

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Where and when was Jonathan Dibble born?

Unfortunately, Jonathan didn't live long enough to make it into the 1900 Census, which actually recorded the month and year of each person's birth. Even that would not be definitive, due to the notorious inaccuracy of census records, but it would have helped.

There are only two sources that give the month and day of his birth, and they both have December 15. So assuming that is correct, then we have:

The 1850 Census for Posey Township, Switzerland County, Indiana has "Johnathan" Dibble age 13, birthplace "Ia". (Although one might think this means Iowa, "Ia" was in fact a common abbreviation for Indiana used by census enumerators in the 19th. century.) The date on which this information was recorded, according to the hideous handwriting of the enumerator, was the 27th. day of "Lepleul" or something, probably "September". This gives a birthdate of December 15, 1836.

The 1860 Census for Posey Township has Jonathan Dibble age 22, birthplace Ind. This information was compiled June 20, 1860. The resulting birthdate is December 15, 1837.

The 1870 Census data for Warsaw Township, Goodhue County, MN, collected on July 19, 1870, has "Johnathan" Dibble age 32, birthplace Indiana. This also gives a birth year of 1837.

The 1875 Minnesota Territorial/State Census has: Jonathan Dibble, age 37, birthplace Ind. This data, gathered on May 1 1875, gives a birth year of 1837.

Jonathan's Military Enlistment record gives his age at enlistment, in February 1865, as 27. This also supports a birthdate of December 15, 1837.

Van Buren Lamb's Binders Vol. 1, Image 190, (the Gibbs letter) gives Jonathan Dibble b. 1833.

Lamb Vol. 1, Image 187 (cites "Howe Gen") has Jonathan b. Dec 15 1833 (this refers to Howe Genealogies: Genealogies of Abraham of Roxbury, James of Ipswich, Abraham of Marlborough and Edward of Lynn, Massachusetts (1929), and that book does indeed have that birthdate for Jonathan Dibble, son of John Dibble and Sarah Elizabeth Howe).

Finally, Jonathan's obituary in the Cannon Falls Beacon (March 30, 1877), has him born in Switzerland County, Indiana on December 15, 1837.

Although individual census records can be wildly wrong, we can place more confidence in a series of several census records that provide the same information. The enlistment record and obituary clinch it: Jonathan Dibble was born on December 15, 1837 in Indiana.

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Where did John Dibble die?

According to his headstone, John Dibble of Connecticut died in Jefferson County, Indiana in August 1840. Jefferson County is just west of Switzerland County. He was 58 at the time; it's easy to imagine that he had business in the county and, perhaps, heart disease caught up with him there. Unfortunately, we don't know where in the county he died.

On the other hand, the 1840 census for Jefferson County, Indiana shows a household in the town of Lancaster, about 25 miles or so west of Quercus Grove, headed by a John Dibble, age between 50 and 59. Living with him was a male between the ages of 15 and 19. This could be John's son Harvey or his son Alonzo, neither of them is accounted for elsewhere at this time. This John does not appear in later censuses. This raises the question of whether John and Sarah were separated near the end of his life, though the fact that she had just given birth to Sylvanus would seem to militate against that.

There is also the possibility that this was John's brother Jonathan, separated from his wife Mary D. Dibble who was then living in Posey Township, Switzerland County.

In any case, John's gravestone is in Patriot Cemetery in Switzerland County. So no matter what urged him to wander, in the end he came home.

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What happened to Harvey?

John Dibble, son of George, grandson of Lt. Jonathan Dibble of CT, allegedly had a son named Harvey who was born on November 10, 1824. The only source I have for this is Van Buren Lamb, who has Harvey on three of his binder pages (Binders Vol. 1, Images 187, 196, 210). Lamb provides no source for the identity or birth of this person. However, on Image 196, he shows Harvey marrying Maria Phipps, and on Image 210 he gives this marriage as taking place on March 9, 1865 in Patriot, Indiana.

The marriage of a Maria Phipps to a Harvey Dibble in Switzerland County, IN did occur, though the Family Search Indiana Marriages Index record for that event has it on April 8, 1869, and most sources say this Harvey Dibble was born in 1842 to Silas Dibble, son of John. This Harvey shows up quite frequently in census and other records. Lamb's Image 210 has Harvey in Company D of the 18th. Indiana Infantry regiment during the Civil War, a fact that is backed up by official military records. This is probably the same Harvey Dibble described in Historical Sketch of the Town of Patriot as one of two Civil War veterans, members of the Grand Army of the Republic, still living in the county in 1931, at which time this Harvey was "nearly 90". That would give him a birth year of around 1842.

A Harvey Dibble born in 1824 appears nowhere else but in Lamb's notebook and in published family trees that relied on him (or on this website, which repeated it uncritically until 2016; sorry about that).

That being said, the 1830 Census for Stamford, Fairfield County, Connecticut shows two male children between the ages of 5 and 9 for John. One of those could be Harvey (the other would be Alonzo). And the biographical sketch for Charles Dibble in History of Dearborn, Ohio and Switzerland Counties, Indiana reported in 1885 that Charles' father John "reared a family of ten children to maturity (seven born in Connecticut) — nine sons and one daughter — seven still living: Silas, Henry, Charles, George, Alonzo, John and Sarah". We only know of two children born outside of CT--Jonathan and Sylvanus. John could have taken in someone else's child, but if he didn't, that leaves room for Harvey as the tenth child. In any case, Harvey is not listed as still living, though he allegedly was raised "to maturity", that is, an age between 18 and 21, or thereabouts. So if he ever lived at all, he likely died between 1842 and 1850, unmarried and without children. Or perhaps he was just invisible, like Harvey the rabbit.

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Another Harvey Conundrum, Part 1

There are enough issues concerning Dibbles named Harvey to confound any genealogist, amateur or otherwise. In fact, there are enough to justify at least four footnotes. You've already read one (if you read the footnotes at all). Here's another.

Most census data for Harvey Dibble, son of Silas Dibble of Switzerland County, Indiana, give his age as indicating a birthdate in around 1844. The Find-a-Grave website gives his birth year as 1843. No specific dates are given.

However, Van Buren Lamb initially gave his birth year as 1854, but then later made a notation placing him between his sister Mary Ann, born in 1842, and his brother John, born in 1844 (Lamb Binders Vol. 01, Image 201).

Further confusing the issue, Lamb also mistakenly assigned his four daughters and his wife Maria Phipps to Harvey, son of John Dibble of Connecticut (Binders Vol. 01, Image 210). That Harvey was, according to Lamb, born on November 12, 1824.

Many published family trees give the birthdate of Harvey, son of Silas, as November 12 or November 27, 1842. This seems like a simple inadvertent transposition of digits that has been perpetuated through the years.

On the other hand, the author of Historical Sketch of the Town of Patriot was a personal friend of Harvey, and he reported that the gentleman was "nearly 90" when he wrote that paper on January 29, 1931. Assuming "nearly" means "within one year of", that sets the year of Harvey's birth as 1842. But "nearly" doesn't have to be that precise, and I am inclined to trust a date taken from a headstone more than a calculation based on a given age.

I am therefore assigning him a birth year of 1843, but using the birthdate of November 27, which came from George A. Dibble III, as the best option.

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George Junior?

Various records, historical documents, and family trees talk about George Dibble, Jr., of Switzerland County, Indiana, prior to the Civil War. One would presume that a man called George Jr. would have a father named George. However, this does not seem to be the case, at least for the time period in which these reports were made.

I believe that I have documentation for every single Dibble who lived continuously in Switzerland County between 1830 and 1880 (I may not have some transient Dibbles). Among them are only four George Dibbles: George Dibble, born around 1805 in New York, son of Samuel Dibble whose father was George Dibble of Stamford, CT; George Dibble, born in 1822 in Connecticut, whose father was John Dibble, brother to Samuel; George S. Dibble, born in 1855 to John's son Henry J. Dibble; and George Dibble born in 1868 to the George who was born in 1822. This last George is the only "real" George Jr., but neither he nor George S. was alive at the time of these reports.

Some of these reports have George Dibble Jr. marrying Mary Craig in 1846. The District Court's Clerk did indeed record the marriage license as having been issued to "George Dibble, Jun." George even signed himself as "George Dibble Jr." when he witnessed the last will and testament of Henry Monroe, father in-law of his older cousin George.

However, in the deposition taken in the disputed Indiana State Senate election in 1843, from "George Dibble, jun.", George gives his age as "twenty-one years of age on the 21st day of September, 1843". That makes his birthdate September 21, 1822.

The commonly-given month and year for the birth of George Dibble, son of John Dibble of Connecticut who brought his family to Switzerland County, Indiana, is September 1822. The most commonly-given birthdate for this George is September 12, not 21. This may have come from Van Buren Lamb, who gives September 12, 1822 as George's birthdate on several binder pages (Binders Vol. 01, Images 187, 189, 196, 197, 211). He only provides a source for one of these notations: "Howe Gen.". This probably refers to the Howe Genealogies by Daniel Wait Howe (1929), which indeed does have this birthdate. However, this George died on January 2, 1893 and was buried in Antioch Cemetery in Posey Township. His birthdate as carved into his monument was September 21, 1822--consistent with his testimony. It seems likely that someone transposed the digits of 21 to 12 somewhere along the line.

The biographical sketch of this George in the History of Dearborn, Ohio and Switzerland Counties (1885) gives the year of his birth as 1822, reports his marriage to Mary Craig, says his father was John Dibble--and does not call him "Junior".

The only reasonable explanation for these facts is that people started calling this George "Junior" to distinguish him from his cousin. Perhaps some of them even thought the older George, who had 17 years on the younger, was his father. At any rate, the younger George apparently found this distinction convenient, or useful, because he adopted it himself.

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Netting Nathan

We have gone out on a limb by speculating that the Jacob Powell who married Sarah Elizabeth Dibble was Jacob A. Powell, a son of the Jacob Abylott Powell who brought a large family from Maryland to Indiana. There are good references that link other Powells who married Dibbles into that family. But the only sources for the Jacob A. Powell connection are public trees on, none of which have documented their information.

Also according to one of those trees, Jacob Abylott Powell had a son named Nathan. This was the (relatively, locally) famous Captain Nathan Powell, a big-time river shipper, meat-packer, and bank president. It would be natural to assume that he was a younger brother of Jacob A., who stayed with him for a time.

However, this Nathan was born in 1813. Unfortunately, the Nathan Powell who was living with Jacob A. Powell and Sarah Elizabeth Dibble in 1850 was only 15 at the time. There's no doubt about it; the census record for him is written in an extremely clear hand. He had to have been born around 1835.

Even more unfortunately, I have been unable to find a record for any other person who matches this Nathan. He's a mystery, at least for now.

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Solving Sylvanus while Hunting for Harvey

Sylvanus Howe was Patriot, Indiana's leading citizen for much of the 19th. century. According to both the Howe Genealogies and the History of Dearborn, Ohio and Switzerland Counties, he was born in New York in 1804, and came with his parents to Indiana "several years" after 1812. The History of Three Counties says he owned several farms in Switzerland County, as well as several lots and houses in Patriot. He also ran a distillery and owned a large general store in the town. Although we have no records indicating that his holdings extended outside the county, it's at least possible that he made real estate investments elsewhere.

Sylvanus's father was Silas Howe, who is pretty much unanimously accepted among Dibble genealogists as the father of Sarah Howe, wife of John Dibble. That would make him Harvey Dibble's uncle, and if that's the case it's a pretty good reason why Harvey would go to work for him. What seems much odder is that this well-established Switzerland County businessman and landowner would, in his old age, move all the way across the state to take up farming in Illinois, and that his nephew would follow him there. This raises the question of whether the Sylvanus Howe we see in Robinson, IL is the same Sylvanus who was called "the father of Patriot". Here's what we've found.

Sylvanus died in 1892 and is buried in Switzlerland County. However, he doesn't show up in any census data for that county after 1860. (It doesn't help that nearly all of the data from the 1890 federal census was destroyed.)

The 1870 US Census for Palestine, Crawford County, Illinois shows Harvey Dibble, a farm laborer born in Indiana whose age was about 25, living with his wife "Mariah" in a household whose head was Sylvanus Howe, age 66, a farmer born in New York. That matches Harvey, Maria, and Sylvanus of Patriot somewhat well. The age given for Harvey does not exactly match his birth year of 1843. On the other hand, the 1880 census reports Harvey's first daughter as having been born in Illinois in around 1871.

1871 was also the year in which the Howes held a big family reunion in Massachusetts. Prior to the event the organizers sent out letters of invitation to family members, whom they asked to bring with them any and all information about the family. Sylvanus Howe of Robinson, IL appears in a list of names that was included in a pamplet that documented the event. Unfortunately, the pamphlet doesn't explain what role Sylvanus played, but the information that was collected later became the basis of the Howe Genealogies, by Daniel Wait Howe. Sylvanus may have been Daniel's principal informant on the Indiana Howes of Switzerland and Ohio Counties. This gives more weight to what the book reports about those families, since Sylvanus certainly would have been close enough to know their stories.

According to that book, Sylvanus, son of Silas, had four wives and seven children: He married Sarah A. Scranton on October 5, 1828. Their children were Silas Quinlan Howe, born March 8, 1830, and George Oscar Howe, born December 30, 1831. Sarah died on December 9, 1832. Sylvanus married Laura Scranton in June 1834, and she died on September 11, 1840. He married Mary D. Clancy on May 19, 1844. One or both of these wives produced three more children: Clarence Howe, Abbie Howe, and Frank Howe. What became of Mary Clancy is not reported, but on February 22, 1859, Sylvanus married Mary Presser, and they had two more children: Abigail Howe, born April 25, 1860, and Halleck Howe, born August 24, 1862.

The History of Three Counties says that Sylvanus had a fifth, unnamed wife. (It also reported that only three of his wives were deceased at the time of writing, suggesting that the marriage to Mary Clancy ended in divorce.) The 1880 census for Robinson, Crawford County, IL shows a Sylvanus Howe, age 75, born in New York, living with a wife named Anna and several people who are listed as his sons or daughters.

Meanwhile, back in Indiana, according to Howe Genealogies, Sylvanus's son George Oscar Howe married America Butler, and they had children named Sylvanus, Abigail and Eliza. This family, the book says, later lived near Palestine IL, which is close to Robinson. I can't independently verify that. But assuming the family was in the neighborhood, then in 1870 the younger Sylvanus, who was probably born in 1855, wouldn't have been ready to work as a farm laborer even if his grandfather was too old to handle the farm himself. This explains why somebody else would be tapped for the job, but not why Sylvanus's nephew living 150 miles away was the best candidate.

At any rate, by 1880 Harvey was not on the farm in Palestine. We don't encounter the younger Sylvanus again until 1910, when he was living in Robinson, Crawford County.

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Another Harvey Conundrum Part 3

There are two more odd things about Harvey Dibble's story:

1. Why did he give up what seemed to be a successful and growing meat and grocery business to move to Illinois and mind a farm?

2. Harvey was a professional butcher; why did he give up that trade and become a laborer and performer of odd jobs?

These conundrums come from the available US census data. One confounding thing about 19th. century census records is that almost all of the records for the 1890 census were destroyed. Knowing what Harvey was doing in 1890 might answer some questions. Of course, census data can be wrong. So can the people who index census data, and so can the algorithms used to search census data as it was indexed. For example, our Harvey Dibble probably was in Switzerland County, IN, in 1880, but listed on the census as "Hary" Dibble. This is a problem because if you use to search for census records for people named "Harvey Dibble" who were born in around 1843 in Switzerland County, this "Hary" doesn't come up, even if you use the most general matching criteria for first names. Even more troubling, if you use the same criteria to search for all people named "Har" Dibble, then only "Hary" comes up; there are no Harveys in the results.

We are pretty sure that the Harvey Dibble who was born to Silas Dibble in Switzerland County, Indiana, in 1843, was a butcher. His brother Alonzo, serving on the USS Victory in the Civil War, wrote a letter to their mother in September 1864 acknowledging receipt of her letter reporting that Harvey was taking up butchering. There is also an "H. Dibble meat market" in Patriot listed in the 1880 Indiana State Gazetteer and Business Directory. Harvey's occupation (as "Hary") is given as "butcher" in the 1880 census for Posey Township.

Harvey may also have been the Dibble who partnered with a man named Scranton to form the Scranton & Dibble General Store that was located in Patriot around the time of the Civil War. This is pure speculation, of course (and there was a Dibble Hardware Company in Rising Sun whose owner we haven't been able to identify). But J. M. Scranton had a beef and pork packing and distributing operation in Patriot in 1861, according to G.W. Hawes' Commerical Gazetteer and Business Directory of the Ohio River, and that seems a good fit.

But it's not such a good fit that Harvey, almost immediately after getting married in 1869 (we have his marriage license and certificate), would have traveled to Crawford County, Illinois to work as a farm laborer on a farm owned by someone else. Still, the 1880 census gives the birthplace of Harvey's (again, as "Hary") first child, Addie, as "Ill".

But could there have been two Harveys, one in Indiana and one in Illinois? Perhaps. But the one living in Crawford County, IL, was given by the 1870 census as having been born in Indiana. There are no other Harvey Dibbles represented in census data living anywhere near that county in Illinois at that time--except one.

That one was reported in 1880 as confined to the Anna State Hospital for the Insane for "mania", and had been there for two years at the time. This could not have been Harvey the butcher, because the census counted him in Indiana on June 9, 1880, whereas institutionalized Harvey was counted on June 27 of the same year.

That leaves us with our unanswered questions. Bipolar disorder, which falls, with several other conditions, into the antique psychiatric category of "mania", can explain a person suddenly changing jobs and uprooting his home. Having been heavily medicated for several years could also explain why a skilled butcher might end up doing general labor and odd jobs for a living. Post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of wartime service could also explain all of these things. But there is the matter of those enumeration dates.

So the Harvey who was institutionalized could have been the Harvey who worked on the farm in Crawford County in 1870; he was listed as having a wife in 1880. But it would be a huge coincidence that his wife's name was also "Mariah", which is how Harvey of Patriot's wife's name is usually spelled, and how it was listed in 1870 in that county. And if Harvey of Patriot wasn't the farm laborer on Sylvanus Howe's farm (whichever Sylvanus Howe he was) in Illinois in 1870, then how did his first daughter get born in that state in 1871?

Again, all of this could be much ado about a lot of hopelessly messed-up census data. So I have taken the path of least resistance in telling Harvey's story.

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Aligning Alonzo

In the midst of World War II the good people of Chicago seemed rather anxious to claim Civil War veteran Alonzo Dibble as a long-time resident. His obituary in the Chicago Tribune says he moved to Chicago in around 1880, and he marched in that city's Memorial Day veterans parade until they were no longer held.

Census data is not perfect, but we have him in Switzerland County in 1880, and in Loveland, Ohio in 1890 (Veterans Schedule) and 1900 (full census). He doesn't show up in Chicago until 1910, and he was gone from there by 1927, according to his wife Mary's death certificate, which says she had lived in Detroit for 10 years when she died in 1937.

That being said, they were both buried in Chicago, which would seem to say something about how they felt about the place.

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Chillin' in Illin'

The story from Sylvia Grabill reprinted here was an early draft of a version she later published. The draft had the Dibbles moving from Illinois to Kansas. All mention of Illinois was removed from her final version. It may be that she was unable to find evidence documenting the Dibbles' stay in Illinois, in which case her immigrant train would have journeyed from Indiana (probably Indianapolis) to Kansas.

It's attractive to think of them going there because William Dibble's sister, Mary Dibble Ford, and her family did move to McLean County, Illinois, briefly, before moving on to join the William Dibble family in Kansas. Plus, McLean County is where William and Mary's somewhat-distant cousin George Dibble and his family moved sometime in the 1850s, although they were all probably gone from there by the time William's family arrived.

But diligent searching has found no records of William and Lucy Dibble in Illinois. That doesn't mean they weren't there; it could just mean they weren't there very long. Based on the birthdates and birthplaces of their children, and Sylvia's story, the "window" for their travel from Indiana to Kansas is October 1, 1876 to February 2, 1878. Sylvia's first draft had them leaving Illinois in mid-December 1877. So if they went to Illinois at all, they were there only a bit longer than one year. That period does not include a census year, and the Dibbles didn't have any children born during that period, so there's no reason for them to appear in typical surviving records of the time.

The decisive piece of evidence in support of the idea that the Dibbles went from Indiana to McLean County, Illinois before moving to Kansas is Sylvia's statement that they were drawn to Kansas by advertising from the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe railroad. That road did not run anywhere in Indiana. However, it did have a branch (now abandoned) that ran to Peoria, IL, about 50 miles west of McLean County. One would think that the railroad would not advertise in a state where it had no track, but it certainly would want to entice people in central Illinois to use its services.

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Sorting Stephen

Stephen Dibble, son of Henry J. Sr., was born on January 27, 1852. It's a bit of a stretch to think that he could have served in the Civil War, though it's not completely impossible. Teenagers as young as 14 are known to have lied about their ages to enlist. I have this birthdate from Linda Dibble McCool, a descendant of Henry J.'s son Charles; I don't know where she got it, though a good guess would be from the Silas Dibble family bible in possession of Geneva Dibble.

Charles also had a son named Stephen, born about 1851; he would be a marginally better candidate for the war veteran "Steve Dibble", but even less is known about him than we know about Henry J.'s boy. This would be an interesting topic for later investigation.

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When did which Dibbles come to Minnesota?

Dibbles have been recorded as living in Minnesota since 1809, long before the area was a state or anything more distinct than just part of the Louisiana Purchase. There were also Dibbles in Dodge and Olmsted Counties, just south of Cannon Falls' Goodhue County, and in Winona County, by the mid-1880s. Some of those Dibbles may have been descended from Robert Deeble, just as our line probably is, but the connection doesn't seem to be much closer than that. A likely Robert Deeble descendant, Eva Dibble of Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, was living as the second wife of George E. Ray in LeSueur County, some 75 miles west of Cannon Falls, in the 1890s.

Among the Dibbles we are most concerned with, there is some confusion as to who settled in Minnesota, and when.

It seems clear that Alonzo Dibble was in the Cannon Falls area in July 1854, because we have an eyewitness, Charles Parks, who met him on the trail between Red Wing and Cannon Falls as Alonzo was moving to his claim. Parks did not mention Jonathan, perhaps because he was only 16 at the time. (However, some sources say that Jonathan did not arrive until the fall of the following year.) In any event, he was living there with Alonzo on September 27, 1857, when the state census enumerator recorded him.

Beyond that, though, things get murky. Consider the brothers' land patents. Photographs of the actual patents from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) reveal the following:

Alonzo's original claim included the south half of the northwest quarter of section 24, and the southeast quarter of the northeast quarter and northeast quarter of the southeast quarter of section 23, in township 112--160 acres--which would be the eastern half of the portion of the Alonzo Dibble tract shown in section 23 on the 1877 plat of Stanton Township, plus the central section of the portion shown in section 24 of that plat. This patent is dated 1856.

Jonathan claimed the north half of the southwest quarter of section 24, township 112--80 acres--which would be the area where School No. 7 appears on the 1877 plat, just south of Alonzo's land in that section (a location that tends to disprove a later arrival date for Jonathan, as the rapid influx of settlers would have made it unlikely that any land adjacant to his brother's claim would have still been available). This patent is dated 1858.

Jonathan also claimed the northeast quarter of the northeast quarter of section 12, township 111--40 acres--which is several miles due south of the above two claims, in Warsaw Township not far from Sogn. This patent is dated 1871.

And, a Silas Dibble claimed the south half of the northeast quarter and north half of the southeast quarter of section 12, township 111--160 acres--which is just south of, and adjacant to, Jonathan's Warsaw Township claim. However, this patent is dated 1857.

We probably can ignore most of the dates. All the patents are "pre-emption certificates", which means the settlers had "pre-empted" or occupied the land some time before filing a claim. Three of the patents refer to claims filed at the Red Wing land office, which did not open until August 1855, and we know Alonzo was already on the land over a year before that. The BLM also states that it was quite common for land patents to be issued, and dated, years after the claims were filed during this period in history, due to the enormous backlog of claims engendered by land rushes exactly like the one that took place in Goodhue County. The date of 1871 for Jonathan's second patent (which, unlike the others, was filed at the New Ulm land office well west of Cannon Falls) still raises questions. Although by 1871 Goodhue County was well settled, other evidence supports the notion that Jonathan filed this claim later, perhaps after returning from his Civil War military service.

Then there is the question of Silas Dibble. Jonathan's and Alonzo's brother Silas was 38 in the summer of 1854, he had five living children (one of the dead ones was also called Silas), and his wife was pregnant with another. He was successful as a riverboatman. Would he have traveled all the way to Minnesota under those circumstances, and if he did, why didn't Parks notice the crowd of kids around Alonzo, or Silas himself for that matter? Both Alonzo and Jonathan appear several times in the subsequent historical record of Cannon Falls and Goodhue County. Silas is never mentioned. We might conclude that he was simply one of the "other" Minnesota Dibbles who are not in our line. But there is the nagging fact that his claim was right next to Jonathan's in Warsaw Township, and it was occupied for some time before March 1858. This seems like too much of a coincidence to ignore.

As we shall see, Jonathan and a lot of other people left the Cannon Falls area not long after getting there. Perhaps Silas was one of them. But, given the difficulties of transporting a bunch of young kids and a pregnant woman almost a thousand miles up the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers in 1854, plus the fact that some of Silas's sons later served in the Civil War in Indiana units, another possibility emerges.

Alonzo was a young bachelor recently returned from an unsuccessful effort to make his fortune in the California goldfields. Jonathan was a teenager. These land claims were filed under the federal Cash Entry Act of 1820, which required grantees to purchase the land, either at public auction or for $1.25 per acre. Together, the younger brothers claimed at least $450 worth of land. Where did they get that kind of money? Perhaps the older, established Silas provided it, and in return the brothers also claimed a parcel for him, from whose prospective sale Silas expected to profit in the high-flying land market of the time?

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Who was Ann Eliza Smith?

Several Ann or Ann E. or Ann Eliza Smiths have been found whose birthdates approximately match the information found on her headstone. This is the curse of having the name "Smith".

However, we now have pretty convincing evidence for who she was and where she came from. The 1850 US Census for Posey Township, Switzerland County, Indiana has an "Ann E. Smith", age 11 and born in Indiana, living in the household of Daniel Smith and Olive Smith. (We previously reported the father's name as "James" Smith, which is how indexes it, but on close inspection, the first letter of Mr. Smith's first name is clearly a D, not a J. The second letter is "a". The rest could be "wes" or "nees" or "nies". The last letter, it seems to me, is NOT an "l", but the handwriting is so bad that one could easily also read the last name as "Pruitte".

The census enumerator wrote down the age he was told by the family on the date he collected the record, which was September 19, 1850. This would make Ann's birth year about 1839. However, for various reasons, families did not/do not always tell census enumerators the truth about birthdates or other things. Various family trees give her birthdate as February 9, 1838. Most definitively, though, there is a photo of her gravestone in the Cannon Falls Community Cemetery at her Find-a-Grave website. The stone says, (as best I can tell), "Aged 35 Ys 9 Mo. 9 Ds". That would give a birthdate of January 21, 1838.

Olive is not that common a name, so Daniel Smith's wife and daughter named Olive link a lot of other data together. The Daniel and Olive Smith family was living just across the Ohio River from Switzerland County, in Gallatin County, KY, by the time of the 1860 US census, but Ann was not recorded with them. This supports a marriage to Jonathan Dibble after his return to Indiana sometime in 1857 or 1858 but before 1860. (Despite dilligent efforts, we still have not been able to find a marriage record.)

Daniel Smith was born in New York according to that census. Jonathan's second wife, Sarah, whom he married after Ann died, is said to have been Ann's younger sister. The Smith family in Posey Township in the 1850 census also had a daughter named Sarah who was three years old in that year; she is with them in KY in 1860 as well. The 1875 Minnesota State Census for Goodhue County shows Jonathan married to a Sarah whose parents were born in New York.

Finally, Jonathan's fourth child's name was "Daniel Smith Dibble", not "James Smith Dibble".

Taken together, all of these connections must be more than coincidence. So the mystery of who Ann Eliza Dibble was has been solved.

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When did Jonathan return to Minnesota?

We have three sources for the date of Jonathan's return:

1. Jonathan's obituary in the Cannon Falls Beacon said he "has been a resident of this state ever since [his first arrival] with the exception of about four years."

2. A "Historic Note" dated 1899, probably also from the Beacon, which says, "Richard Dibble, of the firm of Dibble Bros. was born Nov. 1, 1862, at Rising Sun, Ind. and came to this village at two years of age." (reprinted in Roots and Wings by Connie Bickman [1996])

3. His son Dick's obituary in the Beacon, which says Dick came to Cannon Falls with his parents five years after his birth in November 1862.

The first source puts him back in Minnesota in 1864, assuming he left around the beginning of 1860. He probably left before then, but "about four years" leaves some leeway. The second source would have him returned by November 1864. The third source delays his return until 1867. However, we also have his military service with a Minnesota unit, beginning in February 1865. This, with the other evidence, tips the balance to a return date of some time in 1864.

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"Never Volunteer for Anything" -- Richard Kenneth Dibble

There was a Union draft call in early 1865, and it is tempting to believe that Jonathan did not deliberately abandon his young family, and that he was drafted.

A man named Jonathan Dibble appears in the U.S. Civil War Draft Registration Records, 1863-1865, a database maintained by In fact, there are two records for this name in that database, the principal difference between them being that one shows Jonathan as married. Both show him residing in Lillian Township, Goodhue County, MN. Stanton Township was briefly named Lillian. They also have him being born in 1833 in Connecticut, and show his "Age on 1 July 1863" as 30.

However, most other records for Jonathan's military service show him as having enlisted, and having been born in 1838.

There is yet another twist in the story. The 1909 History of Goodhue County, Minnesota, edited by Franklyn Curtiss-Wedge, has Jonathan Dibble on a list of men who enlisted in the army in the Civil War from Cherry Grove Township. That township is on the southern border of the county, a goodly way from Warsaw Township and even farther from Stanton/Lillian Township.

So Jonathan may have registered for the draft sometime earlier, but after July 1, 1863, and subsequently decided to enlist. That seems possible. Or there may have been another, five-years-older Jonathan Dibble in the area, who was born in CT and went to war instead of our Jonathan. This seems very unlikely. The third possibility is that someone screwed up the records at some point, which happens all the time.

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Coping with the Coplins

The original version of this website, circa 2000, reported that the Coplins came to Cannon Falls in 1875 or 1876. This was based on the obituaries in the Cannon Falls Beacon of Norman Coplin and his mother Parthinia ("Parney"). However, that newspaper seems to have been unaware, as I was in 2000, that the Coplins had two children who died very young and were buried in the Cannon Falls Community Cemetery long before that time.

The gravestone (there is a single stone for both children) clearly says "Albert born Apr. 15 1863 died Sept. 11, 1864", and "Cora born June 18 1870 died Sept. 25 1870." And there lies a problem, so to speak. Their daughter Ella was born on December 10, 1864, and, according to all sources, in Michigan. Let's backtrack.

Norman Coplin was with his parents Jared and Parney in Lenawee County, Michigan at the age of 11 in 1850. His parents and younger brothers were in Hillsdale County, MI in 1860, but Norman was not counted with them. He doesn't show up again in any census that I can find until 1875, when he is in Nobles County, Minnesota, in the southwestern part of the state.

One explanation is that Norman traveled a lot and he and his family were somewhere on the road and no enumerators found them when the 1865 Minnesota state census, and the 1870 federal census, were taken. Another explanation is that they were recorded, but have been indexed under some heavily corrupted version of their name, which has been variously recorded as Coplin, Coplan, Copeland, Copelin, and Copelyn. (I tried all those variations, but census enumerator handwriting can be atrocious, and the people who index the handwritten records can make odd decisions.)

Norman also had a daughter named Hattie; the presence of both Hattie and Ella with the family helps track them through the census data we do have.

Hattie was born in 1861 in Michigan. Albert was born in April 1863, but we don't know where. Norman's wife Eliza would have been pregnant with Ella by March 1864. Either they were in Cannon Falls in September 1864, when Albert died, and back in Michigan by December of that year, or (gruesome thought), Albert died in Michigan and they brought his body with them when they came to Cannon Falls sometime after Ella was born. How long after? Long enough that they could also bring Cora's body after she died in 1870? Although the Victorians held attitudes, and engaged in practices, concerning dead children that seem to us rather morbid and obsessive, this still seems unlikely.

Another possibility is that, discouraged after Albert's death, they returned to Michigan to be near their family. Although it would have been a tough trip with Eliza more than six months pregnant, they may have felt that she and her baby would get better medical care back home than on the Minnesota frontier, making the travel worth the risk. The idea that they returned temporarily either for emotional support, or better doctoring, or both, makes a bit more sense when trying to explain why they were back in Cannon Falls for Cora's birth and death in 1870.

The family was in Worthington, Nobles County, MN in 1875. Perhaps there were better milling jobs there. The Beacon also says that they were in Northfield, MN before coming to Cannon Falls. Northfield is only about ten miles west of Cannon Falls; it was another mill town on the Cannon River. So they may have moved from Worthington to Northfield briefly, and then on to Cannon Falls the following year. Or they may have lived in Northfield at some earlier time; the Beacon's language doesn't preclude that.

The Beacon also says that Norman's mother Parney came to Cannon Falls about two years before she died in 1879. That death date matches her headstone, and this would mean she arrived in 1877. She had been a widow since 1861 but maybe she needed help due to her advanced age, and Norman's family was the best option by that time.

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Ya Doesn't Hasta Call Me Johnson...

The notion that Johan Peter Johannesson of Jonkoping County, Sweden, is the earliest known ancestor of our Clarence Casper Johnson represents a "best guess" conjecture. I am really not certain of this. Variations on "Johan Johanson" are as common as dirt both in Sweden and the upper Midwest of the United States. So it's no surprise that there are a few more or less equally likely candidates. Here is what I have:

Family members with whom I corresponded in the late 1990s and early 2000s believed that the Johnsons were of Swedish descent. This immediately raises a significant problem, because the Johnsons were devotedly Catholic. Roman Catholicism was extremely rare in Sweden in the 19th. century. The practice of the Catholic religion by Swedish citizens was illegal there until the middle of that century, and Swedish citizens could not legally convert to Catholicism until 1860; in fact, Swedish citizens could not legally formally leave the Lutheran Church until 1951. Catholics are still rare in Sweden today and virtually all of them are immigrants or descendants of immigrants from some other country; they are not of native Swedish descent.

One might assume that Clarence Casper Johnson converted to Catholicism in order to marry his Polish wife, who was a Roman Catholic. However, Clarence, his father, and other members of his family are all buried in the Clayfield Catholic Cemetery in Ellsworth Township, Pierce County, WI. At least in those days, you couldn't get buried in a Catholic Cemetery unless the Catholic Church recognized you as a Catholic.

On the other hand, there is at least one other Johnson of likely Swedish descent (his name was Lars) buried in that cemetery. And some Swedish immigrants to the United States in the mid-19th. century came here at least in part to obtain greater religious freedom. So perhaps Catholic Swedes aren't quite as rare as we might think.

Assuming the family story that the Johnsons were Swedish is correct, the next hurdle concerns identifying an immigrant.

The first version of this website reported Francis A. Johnson, born in 1880, as the earliest known ancestor. However, he was born in the United States. The family story is that his son Sidney retired to Florida and brought Francis there to live with him. This information gives me confidence that the Find-a-Grave web page for Francis Alfred Johnson, which has him born on March 2, 1880 in Welch, Goodhue County, MN, and gives his death as May 20, 1976 in Lake County, FL, is the one we're looking for. The "Minnesota Births and Christenings Index 1840-1980" has a "Frans Alfred Johnson" born March 2, 1880 in Welch, Goodhue County, MN, and gives his parents as "John P." and "Sarah Stena".

So far, so good. But now things get murky. I have been unable to find a record for a family that completely matches a Francis Johnson born in 1880 with parents with those names. The closest I get is from the 1880 US Census for Welch, which was recorded on June 4, 1880. The family includes John P. Johnson, a 51-year-old farmer who was born in Sweden, his wife Sarah, age 37 and also born in Sweden, and four children born in Minnesota, the oldest of which is Mary, age 7, and the youngest of which is "Frank", age 2. A child who was 2 on June 4, 1880 was not born on March 2, 1880. However, census data is riddled with errors, so let's assume the enumerator meant to write "2/12" (the standard notation for 2 months old), and that he was off by one month.

The problem with this is that the family probably appears in the 1875 Minnesota State Census for Welch, as J. P. Johnson age 42, born in Sweden, Sarah Johnson age 28, born in Sweden, and Mary Johnson, age 1, born in MN. Somehow both John and Sarah got 9 years older in just 5 years. But let's say that the Swedish accents of these people were difficult for the enumerator(s) of one or both censuses to understand, and let that explain the discrepancies.

Let's move on to 1900, when the US Census recorded John P. Johnson, age 70, born in Sweden, and his wife Sarah, age 53, born in Sweden, now living in Isabelle Township, Pierce County, WI, very near to where Francis A. Johnson and his family lived, and not too far from Welch. Presumably by then, the couple's English would have improved substantially. John's age is sort of consistent with that of the 1880 John, but this Sarah would have been 33 in 1880. And that's not all. This census recorded that John immigrated to the US in 1870, but that Sarah immigrated in 1888, and that the couple had only been married 10 years. No children were reported living with them, so there's no clear link to Francis here, but if all these points are true, this Sarah could not be his mother. It is, of course, possible that the first Sarah died and John married a second Sarah. He probably liked the name, after all.

Five years later, the 1905 Wisconsin State Census reported this couple again in the same location, and while Sarah was five years older, John had miraculously only aged two years.

It would be less difficult to ignore these discrepancies if there weren't so many other "John Johnsons" (and close variants) in and around these parts of Minnesota and Wisconsin, of similar ages with similarly-named wives. The only reason I've zeroed in on this particular couple is that the evidence favoring the others is even less convincing.

So let's say we have a Swedish immigrant known in America as "John P. Johnson" who was born between 1829 and 1833. What can we find in Sweden?

The closest match is Johan Peter Johannesson, who was christened on March 31, 1833 in the parish of Lommaryd in Jonkoping County. This rather nicely matches a Find-a-Grave page for John P. Johnson, buried in the Bay City Cemetery in Bay City, Pierce County, Wisconsin (the home of Francis Alfred Johnson and his children), who was born on March 30, 1833. The page has a photo of the headstone, in which we can clearly read the dates. It's also interesting that his christening was in March, because the 1900 census for John has him born in March--but in March 1830, not 1833. Might the family have waited three years to baptize the child? Well, just maybe, if they were secretly-practicing Catholics and it took that long to find a priest, although this John is not buried in a Catholic cemetery as his purported descendants were. I am inclined to believe that dates carved on headstones are not inadvertent transcription errors; I expect them to come from relatives who should be in a position to know. But I suppose there are cases where my expectations are unfounded, and any one or more of these dates could be wrong.

There is also a Swedish marriage record for a Johan Peter Jonsson who, on February 21, 1860, married Anna Stina Andersdotter in Alseda, some 60 miles south-southeast of Lommaryd. The match on "Stina" is somewhat interesting, but there's no Sarah, and "Stina" is short for "Christina" and several Scandinavian variants on that name; it's not a full name. So this record may have nothing to do with our Johan.

As of the second half of 2017, this is the best we can do, and I've written the story as though all of this were probably true, but I don't really know for sure.

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Parsing Parnille

Olga ("Ollie") Morud, my main source for much of the Morud and Halden family history, wrote that Anna Maria Kvern Halden's brother Arne Kvern and their sister "Parnille" immigrated to Preston, Fillmore County, Minnesota a "few years" before the Haldens moved from there to Fergus Falls in 1869. However, the 1910 US Census for Fergus Falls reported that Arne immigrated in 1871.

I have not been able to find any records of the existence of the Haldens or the Kverns in Preston, or Fillmore County, but Arne Kvern is well-documented in Fergus Falls. Parnille does not show up there. In fact, I haven't found any official records that clearly point to someone we can recognize as Ollie's Parnille.

"Pernille" is a known Norwegian female name, a shortened form of Petronilla. Some family trees list a Pernille Kvern as Arne's sister; this woman was allegedly born on February 4, 1851 or 1852 in Solor, Norway, the region where Valer and Kverndalen lie. These trees have no documentation for this person. Other trees link a Pernille Olson, who was born in February 1850 according to the 1900 US Census for Erdahl Townhip, Grant County, MN, as Arne's sister, again without documentation for that link. Erdahl Township is only about 20 miles southeast of Fergus Falls, but, also according to that census, this Pernille married Eberhardt Olson in 1879 in Norway and they emigrated to the United States in 1880.

Ollie may have had incomplete information, or her memory might have failed her. But it is striking that her story does not mention a husband for Parnille if she came to this country with one. It is also notable that Pernille Olson came here 9 years after her alleged brother Arne did.

I think it is likely that Pernille Olson has been mixed up with Arne's sister. Since there is no good documentation for anything about Arne's actual sister, I have not included any details on her in the story, but that may change if I get more information.

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The Kongsberg Church

Ole Morud's daughter, Olga ("Ollie") Morud, wrote an epic history of the family that has been published and widely distributed. According to her, the Haldens and those who came with them established a Lutheran congregation soon after they arrived that was served by a Pastor Wold, and which met in Lars Halden's home. Ollie also said that that the Kongsberg congregation was formally organized in 1872, but did not have a church building until 1886, which was built on land donated by Lars. She said the farmers could build the church but they didn't know how to build a steeple, so it didn't have one until much later. Most of the evidence I've been able to collect supports this story. There are some contradictions, but I'm not sure the other sources are any better than Ollie.

The Kongsberg Cemetery clearly was on Lars Halden's original claim. It is still there today, and seems to be maintained by the Bethlehem Cemetery Association, which is associated with the Bethlehem Lutheran Church of Fergus Falls, successor to the Kongsberg Church. Unfortunately, neither church officials nor the local historians know anything about the Kongsberg Church building.

One would think that the original church would have stood next to the cemetery. Indeed, a Google Earth photo shows a large oval wagon track north of the graves and within the border of trees surrounding the cemetery that seems large enough to have enclosed a church building. There is no sign in the photo of a building there, but there is something, perhaps a monument, that stands near the north end of the oval.

According to a website maintained by the Bethlehem Lutheran Church, the Kongsberg congregation was organized by Reverend Johan Bergh on February 18, 1872 "in rural Ottertail County". However, just 6 months after that congregation got started, Rev. Bergh organized another one in the city of Fergus Falls, "Evangelical Lutheran Our Savior's Congregation". The website goes on to say, mysteriously, "In 1884, the parish split, leaving Our Savior’s and Kongsberg together who called Pastor Wold to serve their congregations." The parish that split is not identified, and Kongsberg is not mentioned again, which implies that at some point Our Savior's and Kongsberg merged completely. Ollie's information and the approximate date of Lar's daughter Eline's marriage would date the merger around 1900 or later.

The website is not entirely accurate. It says, for example, that by 1917 there were only three Lutheran Churches in Fergus Falls, and lists them as Our Savior's, First Lutheran, and Zion. But there was at least a fourth church there at that time, Trinity Lutheran, which, like Kongsberg, was established in 1872. So I don't know what to make of the discrepancy between Ollie and the Bethlehem website concerning Pastor Wold. Was he the first minister for what became the Kongsberg Church? If so, was he the same Wold who took over, apparently from Rev. Bergh, in 1884? Were there two Pastor Wolds? Or was Ollie and/or the website's author confused?

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Ole Ole in Free!

Olga "Ollie" Morud reported that her father Ole "took ship for the United States" in the spring of 1889. She also says that he first went to Reynolds, North Dakota.

I have not found a ship's record for his trip. The 1900 and 1920 US Census records for Helgeland Township, Polk County, MN give Ole's year of immigration as 1892. The 1905 Minnesota State Census for the same township reports that in early June 1905, he had been a US resident for 12 years and 4 months, which gives an arrival date in February 1893; it says he had been residing in Helgeland for 10 years, or since June 1895. The 1910 US Census for that location says he immigrated in 1893.

We could assume that, owing to language issues, Ole was confused about the question, or the census enumerators were confused about his answers. Perhaps Ole thought he was being asked when he came to Minnesota from North Dakota (we don't have a name for the 1900 enumerator; the 1905 enumerator was H. H. Thomas, the 1910 enumerator was Jesse W. Campion; presumably neither was a Norwegian; in 1920 the name was W. J. Durbahn, which could be German). Although we have two possible years across four censuses, it seems unlikely that if the actual year was 1889 that it would not have been recorded at least once.

Well it was, by Ollie Morud, who reported a lot of accurate information about her family. The original version of this website, which was produced before I had access to census data, used what she said. However, I can't in good conscience do that today.

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Wither Widow Sarah?

The story that Richard "Dick" Dibble learned butchering on his uncle Alonzo's farm as a teenager, while staying there after his father Jonathan died, comes from Dick's namesake, his grandson Richard Kenneth ("Dick") Dibble. But the historical record on this is confusing.

According to the US Census, Jonathan's widow Sarah, and his four children by his first wife Ann--Nathan, Richard, Minnesota ("Minnie") and Daniel--were living together with Sarah as head of household in 1880 in Cannon Falls (presumably in the house Jonathan left to her). However, that same census also recorded Nathan as a farm laborer on Alonzo's farm. Census enumerators are supposed to record "members of the household", which is supposed to mean people who live there. Now, Alonzo's farm was only two or three miles from Sarah's house, so Nathan could easily have commuted daily for work on foot or horseback, or perhaps he stayed on the farm during the week and came home for weekends, which could explain why he was counted in both locations for the Census.

But things are a bit more squirrelly in the 1885 Minnesota State Census. By that time, Richard was married and had his own place with his wife and daughter, and Daniel, his younger brother, was recorded as living on Alonzo's farm. Nathan only appears in Sarah's household in town. But Minnie was recorded as living in both places, and the alleged dates on which both households were surveyed are the same--May 1, 1885.

Now again, it's possible that Minnie rode out to the farm to visit in the morning and got counted there, then returned home after lunch to be counted in town. It may even be likely. Although the forms say "... enumerated by me on {date]", we don't know who "me" was because the enumerator's name is not filled in at the top of either census form, and only one of the forms is actually dated, but the handwriting on the forms is different. It's also possible that May 1 was the date on which somebody compiled notes made by one or more enumerators in their wanderings onto at least one of the forms.

Nevertheless, I've concluded that the more time the kids spent on the farm, the more likely it would be that census enumerators would find them there. So I've written the story accordingly.

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We Have the Meats!

My story of the genesis of Dick Dibble's first butcher shop is probably fairly accurate, but it is based on interpolations of the available facts rather than unimpeachable sources.

"Tanner & Seager, meat market" is listed under "Cannon River Falls" in the 1878 Goodhue County Business Directory and Gazeteer (as transcribed at A memoir written in 1920 and published in Roots & Wings related that "Tanner and Seager were conducting a meat market as well as S. Hansen" in 1880, though the author notes that his memory may have faded after forty years.

The Cannon Falls Beacon reported on April 9, 1886 (as transcribed in Roots & Wings), that "A few years ago [George Tanner and Dick Dibble] bought out the meat market run by H. N. Geering, and for several years they had the entire monopoly of the business here, there being no other meat market until the fall of 1885." This suggests that the Tanner & Seager butcher shop closed its doors not long after the memoirist saw it in 1880.

In 1880 the US Census reported that William Tanner the younger and Foster B. Seager were butchers. In that same year it recorded George Tanner as a "clerk in store". It seems rather striking, then, that Dick Dibble partnered with a clerk rather than an established butcher for his venture. Roots & Wings is known to contain many errors. But if Dick's partner was actually the butcher William Tanner, why didn't they use the just-closed Tanner & Seager shop, rather than buying out the Geering establishment? It may be that George Tanner's genius was for business, or at least, for bookkeeping, while Dick supplied all of the butchering know-how. Then again, George was only four years older than Dick, who was just 20 in 1882, when William Tanner was 29. Dick and George may have palled around as teenagers and William might have thought of Dick as "just a kid."

In any case, William Tanner was probably otherwise engaged. We don't know precisely when William Tanner and Foster Seager started their nursery business, but we have a brief biography of Foster Seager ("Railroads in Minnesota, Part II", a website assembled by Lawrence A. Martin) that says he stopped farming after 1875 and implies that the nursery started before 1879. Roots & Wings has an 1886 snippet from the Beacon that says the business was started "in the spring of 1885". Since I know that the meat market existed in 1878, I described that business as the partners' first venture. We only know that their ice business was operating in 1909 (from the Franklyn Curtiss-Wedge history of Goodhue County).

Geering may have owned businesses simultaneously in St. Paul and Cannon Falls for some years. He sued someone in the St. Paul municipal court in 1878. He opened a meat market at 101 South Wabasha Street in St. Paul in around 1886 (there's a parking lot for an office building at the corner of Wabasha and Water Streets there now). In December of 1891 a St. Paul paper reported that he had been in business "at his present stand for over five years", having come from Cannon Falls where he had "a big business". But if he sold his Cannon Falls business to Dibble & Tanner around 1882, he may have been operating at a different location in St. Paul even earlier.

As for the location of the Tanner & Dibble shop: This is a pretty well-educated guess. We don't know where Geering's shop was. But on August 6, 1886, the Minnesota Farmer, a Minneapolis paper, published a plat map of the Cannon Falls business district that showed "Dibble & Tanner Market" in the fourth lot south of Mill St. W. on the west side of 4th. St. The Beacon reported in 1886 that Tanner & Dibble occupied a 2-story frame building of over 2,600 square feet. The photo labeled "West side 4th. St. looking south from Mill St. before 1878", on my "War and the Great White North" page, shows a two-story white frame storefront four buildings from the right. I have some doubts about the accuracy of the published plat map; it shows no fewer than FOUR billiard parlors in that block, three of them on the west side, it shows two locations for a Boser & Matsch Harness shop, a block apart, and it has the Ellsworth House on the corner of Mill and 4th where the Citizens Bank should be, and vice-versa. Much could have changed after the photo was taken also; we know that at least the first three wooden buildings shown there were replaced by the "Estergreen Block", a brick building, by 1886. So while it's not absolutely certain that the white store was still standing in the early 1880s, it's a pretty good bet that Dibble & Tanner was right about in that spot.

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Chasing Charles

According to the lengthy obituary that appears on Charles Ahlers Jr's Find-a-Grave memorial, "In 1873, he removed to Texas where he lived until 1880, when he returned to Red Wing ..." However, the 1880 US Census finds him and his family in Kechi, Sedgwick County, Kansas, a suburb of Wichita. With them were seven children. All of them, including Lewis born in 1874 and Charles born in 1877, were recorded as having been born in Minnesota. The 1895 Minnesota State Census has the younger Charles born in Texas, however, as does his Find-a-Grave memorial page, which also reports the family's journey "through Indian Territory first Kansas, then Minnesota and Red Wing". The latter census also has Lewis born in MN, and it has the family resident in Red Wing for only 13 years, which would put their return in 1882, not 1880.

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A League of Their Own

Amateur baseball was a very big deal in the upper Midwest in the late 19th. and early 20th. centuries; many of the small towns in the region fielded more or less well-organized teams. Although the topic has received a lot of attention from sports historians, so far I've been unable to unearth much information about Cannon Falls teams.

It seems that the village had several teams off and on from the late 1850s, including two teams in the 1880s and 1890s that were separated by a few years during which, perhaps, no one could be bothered to take an interest in organizing games.

Richard "Dick" Dibble played shortstop for at least the 1880s team, which was described as "famous" in the obituary of Dick's teammate and brother-in-law, Ed Wilson. The team also featured Dick's erstwhile business partner Fred Hillman. It may have been this team that the Minneapolis Tribune reported as playing a game on May 16, 1889 against "St. Olaf's school" in neighboring Northfield in celebration of Norway's "independence day". (Norway's "Constitution Day" is celebrated on May 17 every year; it commemorates a new constitution that declared Norway, up until then part of Denmark, an independent nation, even though Norway had actually been ceded by Denmark to Sweden as a result of Denmark being on the losing side in the Napoleonic Wars. Norway did not actually become independent from Sweden until a "friendly divorce" on October 26, 1905. But I digress...) St. Olaf's school eventually morphed into St. Olaf's College, but in 1889 it was more like a high school-cum-junior college. This raises the question of whether the Cannon Falls team in that game was actually the local high school team and not Dick's adult amateurs.

There are many newspaper reports about Cannon Falls baseball games from this period of time. Maddeningly, only one of them gives the actual name of the team--the "Cannon Falls Stars"--and it's impossible to tell if that was the high school team or the older crew. (The 1880s team may not have had a name at all; apparently a Cannon Falls Beacon reporter asked about it and was told the team's name was "Dennis".) One might assume that an adult team would never play against a high school team, but that doesn't seem to have been the case for basketball. There are several reports, for example, of Ed Dibble's twin sons Willard and Willis playing basketball as adults against regional high school teams.

Dick's son Archie played organized amateur baseball, and the family believes that he once broke his leg sliding into a base. Unfortunately, I can't confirm that story. There are many newspaper accounts of Cannon Falls (and other Goodhue County) teams fielding players named "Dibble", but the reporters apparently figured everybody knew who the players were so they didn't bother to supply first names. We believe that not only Archie and Dick played high school and/or amateur ball, but that Ed's b-balling twins also played the game, as did Dick's nephew Donald Dibble (son of his meat market partner Dan). For the most part, we don't know which of them played in which games, but sometimes the stories listed the players and their positions, giving last names and first initials. I've found one story listing "A. Dibble" at left field and "D. Dibble" as the catcher, in July 1914. Although the Cannon Falls Beacon likely covered local baseball from its inception, issues prior to 1906 aren't available online. Earlier stories may well have contained the details we need. But I have not found any account of a Cannon Falls player breaking a leg, which would seem to be a likely topic for a story. I can't blame the dearth of early issues of the Beacon for that: Archie was just 10 years old in 1906.

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What became of the Kowitz Brewery?

Enough information has been collected as of early 2018 that I can offer some conjectures as to what became of Ferdinand Kowitz's brewery after the fire of 1888.

First, we know, from the Minnesota Historical Society's 1999 application to the National Register of Historic Places to obtain landmark status for several buildings on 4th. St. in Cannon Falls, that the Kowitz Saloon building, just north of Scofield Drug, was built soon after the 1887 downtown fire, and that it continued to be known as the Kowitz Saloon for some time before 1910. Would Ferdinand have continued to run a saloon after he no longer had any of his own beer to sell? Well, probably. After all, having lost his main business he would have needed the income from the saloon more than ever.

A website operated by the Yoerg's Beer company in St. Paul, which provides basic information on hundreds of Minnesota breweries, reports that the Ferdinand Kowitz Brewing Co. operated in Cannon Falls from 1882 to 1889 with an annual production of 1,000 barrels. (That's not strictly accurate; the brewery was operating under the Kowitz name by around 1876.) However, this suggests that the brewery continued to operate for at least some months after the fire.

We also know that up to 1896, Ferdinand owned some land in the Randolph area, just over the border in Dakota County. He may not have owned all of the land that he thought he owned at the time of his death. But for sure he had 80 acres encompassing the east half of the northeast quarter of Section 35 in Hampton Township, a couple miles northwest of Cannon Falls (this is approximately where Hamilton Ct. meets Harry Ave. near the Simon Horse Company today). His son George may have had around ten acres in the southwest quarter of the northwest quarter of the northwest quarter of Section 1 in Randolph Township, just a bit west of the today's intersection of County 29 Blvd. and Rte. 20, south of the Hancock Concrete Products facility. This is plenty of land to accommodate the plan to start a new brewery that was reported by local newspapers the February after the January 1888 fire.

As for the precise location of the brewery at the time it burned: Chronicles of Cannon Falls (1976) says, ""Another enterprising industry on the North Side was the Kowitz brewery--located a block or so northerly of the river where it is presently crossed by the state trunk highway bridge." Roots & Wings has this to offer: "Kowitz's main business, however, was the north side brewery. ... The buildings and property later housed Lorentz Locker Plant, but the land included up to Highway 20 and more land up to the property later known as the Ray Black farm. Ole Hagen later built a home on the brewery property and dug up old beer bottles in the garden and near the house. Kowitz had also built a large house in the same north side area for his wife and six children. Later the house burned, except for about 1/3, which still remains and is generally known as the Roger Zimmerman house."

The "state trunk highway bridge" seems to be the bridge that connects 4th. St. south of the river with 5th. St. N on the other side of the river. "A block or so northerly" of this bridge puts us at the corner of 5th. St. N and Cannon St. W, which is where the Zimmerman house still stands today. Unfortunately, I can't find the Ole Hagen property. Between the bridge and the river south of Cannon St. W there are five houses, with Cannon Falls Canoe and Bike Rental further to the south, and, in the northeast corner, stands the Raw Bistro Pet Fare factory.

Here we seem to have hit paydirt. According to Mike Lorentz of Lorentz Meats, the dog food factory is the site of Lorentz's original meat processing plant, and the Lorentz family believes that's where the Kowitz Brewery was. Mike's parents, Ed and Mary Lorentz, bought the plant from the Bremer Brothers in 1968, and they say that the Bremers razed the "brewery" in the 1950s to build that plant. The malt house was supposedly the only building that survived the January 1888 fire. However, the 1894 plat map for Cannon Falls shows two structures in this area ("Mill Block 6", which is mentioned in Ferdinand Kowitz's will). One is very close to the river and the Third St. bridge where Raw Bistro is today. The other is further west, southwest of what appears on the plat map as the corner of Fourth St. N and West Cannon St. (Fourth St. and West Cannon do not intersect today). But the Raw Bistro factory may stand where Ferdinand's malt house was.

What about Ferdinand's ice business and hog farm?

There's an old photo showing people cutting ice out of the river near the falls. I don't know which falls those were, or which river they were on; there are and were several falls on both the Cannon and Little Cannon Rivers in and near town (including the "Big Falls", which were destroyed when the Cannon was dammed to create a hydroelectric power plant and Lake Byllesby in 1910, and others lost when the Little Cannon was dammed to create Lake Fredrickson in 1954; the latter dam, and lake, are now gone.) In any case, Ferdinand had plenty of river right alongside his brewery, so there's no reason to believe he didn't cut his ice there.

One would assume that the hog farm occupied the broad stretch of land north of the brewery that Ferdinand owned. But in 1894 there was no Ray Black farm on the Cannon Falls Township plat map, and much of the land north of where the brewery stood was owned by someone named Martha J. whose last name was either St. Clair, as shown on the City plat map for that year, or Sinclair, as indicated by the Cannon Falls Township map. However, there's a town lot and house owned by a Raymond A. Black at 100 Bavarian Circle today, which is near the corner of County 17 Blvd. (Washington St. W) and 1st. St. N, about a half-mile northeast of the Raw Bistro factory.

If "up to Highway 20" (Highway 20 runs north and south all the way through Cannon Falls and beyond; in the main business district it's the same as Fourth St., and on the North Side it's 5th. St. N) means the intersection of Highway 20 and County 29 Blvd, in Randolph near George Kowitz's little parcel, then there's another clue. In 1894 George Bremer owned about 205 acres in Sections 6 and 7, just a bit north of the city. It would make sense for the Bremer Brothers, who took over the location of Ferdinand's saloon by 1910, and of his malt house in the 1950s, for their meat business, to have purchased part of his hog farm as well.

And while we're on the subject, there are some interesting coincidences. Bremer Brothers Meats was established in 1892 and competed with Dick and Dan Dibble's Dibble Brothers for decades. It's interesting that the firm took over the saloon owned by Dick's second father-in-law. And Ed Lorentz, who bought the Bremer plant in 1968, was the brother of Nick Lorentz, whose daughter Mary married Dick's cousin John Dibble, a great-great grandson of Alonzo Dibble.

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The Morud Marriage

This website previously gave December 9, 1895 as the date for the marriage of Ole Morud and Eline ("Ella") Halden, and some family trees have that date. It comes from Olga ("Ollie") Morud's widely-referenced family history. I have not been able to find a marriage certificate, a Lutheran church record, or any other documentation for this date, which is repeated in many places without providing a source.

The problem with this is that the 1900 US Census record for the Ole and Ella Morud family states that the couple had been married for three years. The data for that record was supposedly collected in June of that year (although no actual handwritten date was filled in on the form). Even allowing some leeway, this would put the marriage sometime in 1897. Census data is riddled with errors of course, but this point is backed up by the 1910 Census, which records them as having been married for 13 years. Ole and Ella seem to have been pretty clear about it. Also, the 1905 Minnesota State Census has Ella arriving on Ole's farm eight years and four months prior to June 1905, which would be around February 1897.

Their first child, Leonard, was born on October 1, 1897, according to a variety of pretty reliable sources. If the marriage actually happened on December 9, 1896, that allows just enough time for that pregnancy. It also works better with the census data; Ole and Ella probably would have said "about 3 [or 13] years" in response to the enumerators' questions in that case.

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Hey there Chiecke!

Previous versions of this website gave the family name of Rosa ("Rose" or "Rosy") Cichy, wife of Francis A. Johnson the elder, as "Chiecke". I did that because later generations of the family considered themselves to be of German descent. Rose's mother, Katherina Peffer, had parents who were born in Germany, and the spelling variant "Pfeffer" is a pretty common German name. Chiecke is not a common German name but it does exist. The family name appears in some census data as "Chichy" or "Cichey". But Rose, her brothers and sisters, and her brothers' descendants, all went by the name "Cichy", so I am now using that spelling.

But it's more than just a spelling change. "Cichy" is Polish for "silent". The 1910 and 1920 US censuses recorded Rose's father Constant Cichy and his parents as ethnically Polish, though they had lived in Germany. Parts of what used to be Poland came under German control in 1793, so many Poles lived in "Germany" for a while. There was actually no "Germany" until 1871, only several separate German principalities or "states", including West Prussia, where Constant lived. The Polish lands awarded to some German states in the 1790s were transferred to Russia by the Congress of Vienna in 1815, after Napoleon's defeat, but apparently Constant's family had left that area, known as "South Prussia", by then, if they had ever lived there at all.

It's also not immediately clear when Constant arrived in the United States. His obituary in the Park Region Echo said he "served in the Prussian army in the war with Denmark, 77 years ago. Three years later he came to America, which was then in the throes of the Civil war." The obituary also says he spent his first two years in America working in a saw mill in Michigan, and that he came to Red Wing, Minnesota "at the close of the war," and then was in St. Cloud before moving further west to Millerville in Douglas County, arriving when there were only three other settlers in that township. I have no date for the obituary, which appears on his Find-a-Grave page, but he died in January of 1937. 77 years previous to that was 1860. Prussia fought two wars with Denmark, The First Schleswig War, 1848 to 1852, and the Second Schleswig War in 1864. He was born between 1837 and 1841 (see below) so he could not have fought in the first one, but in neither case could the United States have been fighting the Civil War, which ran from April 1861 to the late spring of 1865, three years later. Constant himself gave census enumerators three different years for his arrival in the US; in 1900 he said he came in 1865; ten years later he said he arrived in 1868, and in 1920 and 1930 the year was given as 1866. If he really came three years after the Second Schleswig War, that would be 1867. An arriving passenger list for the ship "Friehandel", dated June 1, 1866, lists a "Constantin Cichy" arriving in New York from the German port of Bremen and gives his nationality as "Prussian". However, it states his age as 26, which gives him a birth year of about 1840. This is fairly close to his headstone, which has him born in 1841 (even though both his obituary and the Find-a-Grave page with the headstone photo give his birthdate as September 19, 1837, and the 1900 US census has him born in September 1839). I can't find any census record of him for 1870, in Michigan, Minnesota, or elsewhere, though he was probably in Douglas County by then, since that was the year his first child was born, in that place. The 1920 US Census gave his year of naturalization as 1872. We don't know who the informants were for the obituary. I'm more inclined to credit descriptions of events than their dates, but I have to go with the passenger list for June 1866 for his arrival, less than two years after the end of the Second Schleswig War. Clearly he did not arrive during the US Civil War, and we don't know how long he was in Michigan, or Red Wing or St. Cloud, but the township of Millerville was established on November 23, 1867. It's barely possible that he could have lived in Michigan until June of 1868 and then come directly to Millerville about as quickly as the train, and later his legs (he "walked out to Millerville" from St. Cloud), could carry him to arrive in time to still be only the fourth settler there.

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Francis Johnson had a farm, ee-yi, ee-yi, oh?

Actually, he may have had at least four farms that we know of. And although previous versions of this website portrayed Francis' farm as small, that wasn't always the case.

We had long believed that the farm where Francis' four children were born and raised was located on the road between Bay City, Wisconsin and Red Wing, Minnesota--that is, west of Bay City. However, Francis's great grandson Richard Scott Dibble visited Bay City in September, 2020 and returned with a plat map showing land owned by "F.A. Johnson" east of town. This prompted an investigation in depth.

When Francis' father Johan Peter Johannesson (John P. or "J.P." Johnson) came to Goodhue County from Sweden he settled in Welch Township, in the north-central part of the county, not very far from Cannon Falls. "John Johnson" is about as common a name in Wisconsin and Minnesota as one can find ("John Smith" is rare by comparison there, owing to the influx of Scandinavian immigrants in the mid-to-late 19th. century), so we have to be careful about making assumptions. And we don't know what sort of resources John had when he arrived, or whether he was able to buy land initially (he came in 1869 or 1870, making the notion that he filed a claim on vacant land pretty unlikely, as just about all of the land in Goodhue County had been claimed by then). However, a "Jno. Johnson" had 160 acres in Section 1 just southwest of the Eggleston post office in Welch Township in 1894, and a "Jno. Johnson" had 80 acres further south in Section 23 in the same year. Also in that year, "Jno. Jonasen" held 120 acres in Section 2. (There were two separate 40-acre parcels owned by "F. Johnson" in Section 24 at that time, but Francis would only have been about 14 then.) Even if John had arrived in Minnesota penniless, it's reasonable to believe that he could have saved enough money over 14 years to purchase his own farm; many impoverished settlers accomplished that feat in those days, when neither advanced skills nor much education were necessary to make a good living. Probably the map-maker knew what he was doing and "Jonasen" and "Johnson" were different people. But we can't rule out the possibility that our John Johnson had at least one and perhaps two fairly large farms before he moved to Wisconsin. And he may have held on to one of them; the 160 acre parcel near Eggleston was still held by "Jno. Johnson" in 1914 (also in that year the two 40-acre parcels labeled "F. Johnson" in 1894 were held by "Frank Johnson", although it seems that at least some people were in the habit of calling our Francis "France", not "Frank").

Whether he kept some Goodhue County land or not, by 1895 "J.P. Johnson" owned an 80 acre parcel less than a mile west-northwest of Bay City, Pierce County, WI in the southern half of the southwest quarter of Section 5. The plat map does not show a structure on the land, and the road to Red Wing does not border it or pass through it; it runs southeast-northwest some 150 yards from the northeast corner. On the 1877 plat map this parcel was owned by H. Meinke and on that map the road does cross the northeast corner near a structure of some kind.

By 1905 the western 40 acres of this parcel were owned by "Wm. Johnson" while J.P. still held the east 40. I have not found any members of our Johnson family named "Wm." (or William), and I believe I've accounted for all members who would have been old enough to own land in 1905. This was likely William Johnson, born about 1874 in Sweden; he immigrated in 1888 and worked as a fisherman and in a fish market in Bay City before buying the western 40 acres of J.P.'s farm and raising a large family there with his wife Mathilde. J.P. had the east 40 in 1908 as well.

J.P. Johnson died in 1915 and presumably left the 40 acre parcel to Francis, because that farm is owned by "F.A. Johnson" on the 1917 plat map. However, in that year "F.A. Johnson" also owned 35 acres in the southeast corner of Section 4, and 20 adjoinng acres in the southwest corner of Section 3, east of Bay City. In subsequent years "F.A. Johnson" only appears east of town: in 1920 and 1930 the 40 acre plot on the west side is owned by "W. Boothe". The undated, unsourced map collected by Richard Scott Dibble in 2020 does not match any of the maps I've found online, and it shows "F.A. Johnson" with a total of 68.5 acres in the southeast corner of Section 4 and the northeast corner of Section 9. Later maps show the east-side farm in somewhat different locations, and in 1959 there were adjacent parcels owned by "Francis & Rose Johnson" and "F.A. Johnson". Some of this land is approximately where the east end of Main Street in Bay City dead-ends against an area with a large, oval-shaped private road or driveway on which there are several buildings, including the house where Francis' son Clarence and his family lived in the 1940s, at 6263 Main St. Richard Scott Dibble took photos of that house in September 2020, and also of a house he identified as the "France Johnson" farmhouse, about 200 yards or so north of Clarence's house at 6274 Great River Road. According to Richard Kenneth Dibble, who married Clarence's daughter Gladys, Clarence's house was about "200 feet from Charence's parents." (Before Clarence lived there, he and his wife and children occupied a remodeled chicken coop elsewhere on Francis' farm; that building was torn down and replaced by an A-frame house also photographed by Richard Scott Dibble, but I have not been able to determine its location.)

The 6263 Main St. house, and some of the land to the east that was owned by F.A. Johnson, is now owned by Duane and Barbara Johnson, who say they are no relation to our family (and I believe them; Duane was born October 31, 1949 and I can find no Johnsons in our line who could be his parents). He also is probably not a descendant of the William Johnson mentioned above.

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Ferdinand Kowitz's Will

I am confused by Ferdinand Kowitz's will, which seems to refer to real estate that he did not own, and is inconsistent regarding the number of his children.

The will is dated July 1897, the month before he died, which suggests he knew he had a terminal illness. In it, he left the property where he lived and on which his brewery had stood to his second wife, Katrina, as follows: "Lots Six (6) Seven (7) Eight (8) Eleven (11) and Twelve (12) Block Forty Two (42) of St Clairs addition to the Village of Cannon Falls, Goodhue county Minnesota according to the plat thereof recorded in the office of the Registrar of Deeds in and for said County. Also Mill Block number Six (6) of the said Village of Cannon Falls..."

The lots in Block 42 run along Fifth St. N. Lot 12 is just east of Lot 11 on Cannon St. W., and those two lots are where Ferdinand's house stood (and where the Zimmerman house is today). Mill Block 6 is, according to all of the evidence, the location of the mostly-burned buildings of Ferdinand's brewery. The 1894 plat map for Cannon Falls shows two structures in that block, one of which is just about where I believe the malt house stood. The house lots on this map are too small to show the names, or even initials, of their owners. But many larger lots in that part of town do have names. Mill Block 6 is big enough to show a name, but oddly, none of the large undivided "Mill Blocks" on this map show any names. So while the map does not definitively identify Ferdinand as the owner of the city land listed in his will, it's not dispositive.

Ferdinand also left "all that part of West half (1/2) of the North West quarter (N. W. 1/4) of Section no one (1) in township 112 North of Range Eighteen West lying South of the Center of the St. Paul and Dubuque public highway except ten (10) acres heretofore deeded to Ada Plumstead, containing Forty-four (44) acres more or less all being in the County of Dakota and State of Minnesota." On this the plat map (in this case, the Dakota County plat map for 1896) would seem to be more definitive. In the area Ferdinand describes, there is a small parcel, probably less than ten acres, owned by "G. K." (south of Hancock Concrete Products today). That could be George Kowitz, but not Ferdinand. The rest of the land listed is owned by C. H. Thayer. There is no Plumstead listed anywhere on that map. Ferdinand did own 80 acres a bit further northwest in Hampton Township, Dakota County in 1896 (next to another lot owned by C. H. Thayer); that specific parcel is not mentioned in the will at all. There's an 80-acre parcel bordering Ferdinand on the west in Hampton Township for which the map gives no owner. Perhaps that was Ada Plumstead's? Or perhaps the map-maker was confused and put Thayer's name in Randolph where Ferdinand's should have been, and vice-versa? It's certainly strange.

Then there's Ferdinand's count of his children. Two paragraphs of his will refer to his "then surviving children". But in another paragraph, he directs that when his "other Real Estate" is sold, the proceeds should be divided with one third going to his widow and the remainder to be divided equally "among my three living children or their heirs". In 1897 Ferdinand had five living children: his daughters Emma Kowitz, Edith Wilson and Bertha Dibble, and his sons George and Herman Kowitz. Edith was specifically mentioned in the will; she was to get $500 as soon as possible after Ferdinand's death for some reason, to be deducted from her share of the final distribution. We can't assume that Ferdinand meant to include only his three unmarried children (Emma, Herman and George), since Edith was married.

If these errors are due to dementia, its onset was quite early; Ferdinand was only in his mid-50s when he made the will. However, one source reported that the Cannon Falls County records state that Ferdinand died of cirrhosis of the liver. This can have many causes but a common one is severe, chronic alcoholism. That could explain the muddled condition of a will written shortly before his death. One wonders what really happened to all that money and land.

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They (also) have the meats??

Two curious stories were printed in the Zumbrota, Goodhue County, newspapers in June of 1902. On June 19 of that year, the Zumbrota Independent reported: "Kowitz & Wilson of Cannon Falls, both experienced meat market men have bought the outfit formerly owned by J.C. Steinbach, and have opened a market at the old stand. Them two gentlemen come well recommended, and will start a first class shop." The following day, the Zumbrota News added, "Kowitz & Wilson of Cannon Falls who recently purchased the meat market outfit from J.C. Steinback, took possession of the shop the first of the week and have opened up for business. Messrs. Kowitz & Wilson are not novices to the butcher business and their aim will be to give the public the best on the market at a fair living profit."

This is striking because up to that point there had been no mention of either a Kowitz or a Wilson running a meat market in or around Cannon Falls in any of the local or regional newspapers. If they had, they would have been in direct competition with Dick and Dan Dibble's Dibble Brothers shop. Kowitz and Wilson are, of course, familiar names for us, and the possiblity that these two guys were competing with their in-laws bears investigation.

Zumbrota is a little village in the south-central part of the county, about five miles south of Pine Island, about 20 miles south of Red Wing, and perhaps 25 miles southeast of Cannon Falls, where the Wilsons known to us lived. It's some 75 miles northwest of La Crosse, Wisconsin, where George Kowitz was shortly before and after the events of June 1902.

Though we have no direct information, George's interest in butchery is at least easy to explain. His father, Ferdinand Kowitz Sr. wasn't just a brewer and saloon operator; he had a sizeable hog farm on the North Side of Cannon Falls, where he raised meat that he sold in his saloon and also fed to his brewery workers. George may have learned butchering skills working on that farm.

A partner named Wilson is much harder to explain. All of the Wilsons related to the town barber (and Dick Dibble's brother-in-law) Ed Wilson are accounted for. They were either too young, or occupied in other professions. An search for male Wilsons of an appropriate age to be "experienced meat market men" who were living in or near Goodhue County in 1900 produced no candidates whose occupations involved butchering. There were lots of farm laborers named Wilson, and farming can involve slaughtering animals, but in my opinion, having "farm laborer" on one's resume is not equivalent to being experienced in working in, or running, a meat market. Newspaper searches did reveal a few meat market operators named Wilson in Minnesota around this time period. Among these there were three promising candidates: A Robert Wilson who had a "meat delivery wagon" in Minneapolis in 1881; J.M. Wilson, whose meat market in Verndale, about 75 miles east of the Haldens' home of Fergus Falls, burned down in 1898; and a Wilson who had two partners, McCormick in 1873, and Mattson in 1889, in Eyota. Any of these candidates might reasonably have considered partnering with George Kowitz to be a profitable move. However, we can find no evidence that there was ever really a firm called "Kowitz & Wilson of Cannon Falls".

We also haven't found an explanation for why their Zumbrota venture didn't last. The shop opened on June 20, 1902. At that time George Kowitz had been married for almost two years, and their first daughter had been born in La Crosse, WI the previous November. Their second child was also born in that city, in September 1903. At least by 1905, George had given up the butchering trade and was working as a laborer (as best we can tell; the 1905 Wisconsin State census gives his occupation as "Lub.", and since that makes no sense in any context, including the butchering trade, I've read the vowel as a poorly-formed "a" to make it "Lab.", or laborer; George was a butcher again 1910 but by 1920 he was working as a stationary fireman for a railroad, so this laborer position could also have been with a railroad). Needing to take care of a wife and two children would have made a good income a necessity, but it's hard to believe that he could have done better as an unskilled laborer than he had as a partner in a meat market--even a tiny one in a very small village.

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Taking Flak and Other Names

Our Polish immigrant ancestor was known in Winona, MN as "Steve" or Stephan (or sometimes Stephen) Orzechowski. The family has always known that was not the name he was born with. But the family's belief that his real name was "Flakiewicz" seems not to have been true.

Several family members have heard that Stephan's son Casimir, who, at around the age of 9 when he came to America, was old enough to remember the family name, was angry that his father changed it, and when he went out on his own he changed it back--but, not wanting to seem too "ethnic", he shortened it to "Flak".

Recent research by a descendant of Stephan's son Joseph, Jess Garcia, has turned up a fairly convincing set of Polish ancestral records for the family. In all of those records, the family name is "Flak", not "Flakiewicz". Both names are found in many parts of Poland and neighboring countries. (Following Slavic language rules for forming patronymics, or "father's names", "Flakiewicz" would translate as "son of Flak", but only in Russia were those rules followed strictly in modern centuries; elsewhere these are just two different family names.) But, while there is room for doubt as to whether these Flak records really document our family, we have not been able to find any Flakiewicz records that match the other things we know at all. Of great importance is the "discovery" of a man named Darek Flak, who can convincingly be shown to be a descendant of Stephan's younger brother Karol; Darek reports that the family name has always been Flak, and not shortened from Flakiewicz.

A man who likely was our Stephan boarded a passenger liner in Bremen, Germany in 1913 under the name "Szapan Flakewitz", bound for America. Stephan always said he changed his name to avoid the Russian army, from which family members believed he may have deserted. But such a minor name change wouldn't have been likely to fool anybody who was seriously looking for him.

He seems to have adopted "Orzechowski" almost immediately upon arrival in America, but he did not formally change his name until September 15, 1941 "as part of the naturalization", as recorded on his naturalization certificate. That certificate indicated that his legal name before then was "Flakiewicz".

The names of all of the family members who immigrated to the United States were "Americanized" thereafter, sometimes rather inexplicably. Stephan was known as "Sczepan" in his native land (which is understood to be Poland but at the time he left, it was a part of the Russian Empire called "Vistula Land"). Casimir was probably born "Kaziemierz". His sister Angeline was born as "Antonia"--a perfectly adequate "American" name on its own. Another child, Waclaw, became known as "Vincent".

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Flak Ancestors?

The notion that our Polish ancestors are descended from a man named Jan Flak who lived in Radziwie, west of Warsaw, in 1800, is pure conjecture. There are several other possible lines. But here's how I arrived at this one:

Most of the credit for what follows here is due to Jess Garcia, a great-granddaughter of Stephan Flak/Orzechowski. Her research turned up several reliable points:

The passenger list from the ship George Washington, which arrived in New York on May 12, 1913, contains a Flakiewicz whose first name looks like "Szapan" and who was going to meet someone in Winona, MN. This person's birthplace is given as "Stozek". His nationality is given as "Russia" and his "people" as "Polish".

Children with the last name "Flaik" and first names matching those of Stephan's children; a woman, Marianna "Flak" (a match for Stephan's wife "Mary"); and a man named Felix "Flak", which matches one of Stephan's brothers, arrived in New Brunswick, Canada, on April 22, 1914.

A man named Darek Flak can show that he is descended from Karol Flak, Stephan's brother, and that Karol's son Stanislaw, Darek's grandfather, is buried near a place called Stoczek in Poland.

There are a lot of Stoczeks in Poland, but one of them, Stoczek Wegrowski, is the parish in which a man named Sczepan Flak, men named Karol and Feliks Flak, and several other people were all born to parents Stanislaw Flak and Jozefa Liziewska, according to records at, a Polish genealogy website. This Sczepan was born in 1876, which reasonably matches other records giving our Stephan's birthdate or age at various times (see When was Stephan Flak born?).

From there, it's possible to trace a chain from Stephan's father Stanislaw back to a Michal Flak.

I found several possible birth records for a Michal Flak (the province names and borders are modern ones; Poland has a long history of reorganizing and renaming its internal jurisdictions):

Lodzkie Province

b 1795 to father Jozef and mother Elzbieta Sadzaczka in Zakosciele, Drzewica Parish

Malopolskie Province

b 1816 to father Dionizy and mother Justyna Zub in Ujkow, Olkusz Parish
b 1830 (as Mateusz Michal Flak) to father Franciszek and mother Marianna Romanska in Gorlice Miasto, Gorlice Parish

Mazowieckie Province

b 1788 to father Jancenty and mother Marianna in Kamienica Parish
b 1800 to father Jan and mother Katrzyna in Radziwie Parish

Slaskie Province

b 1792 to father Wincenty and mother Urszula in Bodziejowice, Irzadze Parish
b 1826 to father Andrzej and mother Agata Machurzonka in Zelistawice, Siewierz Parish


b 1819 in Lwow sw. Anna Parish

Let's assume that Sczepan's father Stanislaw was born around 1840 and would have married at about age 23. Of the above candidates for his father Michal, the most attractive geographically would be those in Mazowieckie Province (where Stoczek Wegrowski, as well as Warsaw, is), and of those two the most likely would be the one born in 1800. He could have fathered Stanislaw at age 40. The other guy in that province would have been 52 in 1840. The others are all quite possible though. And the Geneteka records don't seem to be complete, so there could be other candidates whom we may never find.

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Serfs Up!

I have been unable to resolve several conflicting sources concerning whether and which of our family members may have been serfs, and when and how serfs in so-called "Congress Poland" were freed. I have therefore chosen to use Tsar Nicholas II's Emancipation date of 1861 in the main narrative.

The story is complicated for us because it begins with Jan Flak, who lived in South Prussia (part of the Second Partition lands) when his son Michal was born in 1800. Although the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth Constitution of 1791 regulated the behavior of landowners and provided some protections for serfs, it did not abolish serfdom. The Prussian October Edict of 1807 began the process of freeing Prussian serfs, and by 1810 all, including those in former Commonwealth territory, were freed. But "corvee labor"--intermittent forced unpaid labor by tenant farmers on behalf of a landlord--was not outlawed at that time. This, along with a prohibition on freedom of movement, are the two hallmarks of serfdom. So even after 1810 serfdom of a sort still continued in Prussia until the revolutions of 1848, when corvee labor was finally abolished.

Then there's the Kosciuszko Uprising of 1794. This unsuccessful revolt against Russian and Prussian rule was led by Tadeusz Kosciuszko, who is known to Americans for his activities in George Washington's Revolutionary army. Kosciusko claimed the authority of the already-defunct Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth government for his actions, which included fully freeing the serfs in areas formerly under that government. Some people seem to believe that this act gave legal status of freedom to those people, but it had little practical effect.

After Napoleon's defeat, the 1815 Congress of Vienna redistributed Polish lands to the victors. This resulted in "Congress Poland", which included most of the land formerly held by Prussia, being granted to the Russian Empire. The Russians restored full conditions of serfdom in the former Polish lands where it had been softened by the Commonwealth Constitution or abolished by Kosciuszko, Prussia, or Napoleon's client states.

The next member of the Flak family for whom we have a location is Michal's son, Stanislaw Flak, who was in Stoczek Wegrowski in 1863. Stoczek is about 80 miles east of Radziwie. We don't know which members of the Flak family moved east, or when. If Jan was not a craftsman or professional, it is possible that he and his son Michal moved east, crossing from Prussian to Russian territory, as runaway serfs or semi-free peasants, prior to 1815. Michal may have moved later, as an adult, or Stanislaw may have been the first Flak to leave Radziwie. If Jan and Michal were free and "on the lam", we don't know if the Russians would have tracked them down as individuals and formally reintroduced them to serfdom.

Now we come to the problem of when the Russians (re)abolished serfdom in Poland. Some sources say that all serfdom in the "Russian Empire" was abolished by Tsar Alexander II's Emancipation Manifesto, and that included Congress Poland.

The Wikipedia "Emancipation Reform of 1861" page says "In Congress Poland and in northern Russia peasants became both free and landless (batraks), with only their labour to sell, while in other areas peasants became the majority land-owners in their province(s). " A commenter on that page's "Talk" tab says this is not correct; s/he claims, without evidence, that "Instead, Poland and the Baltic regions had been reformed in earlier legislation (I believe in the 1820s) as a sort of test run for the later liberation of serfs in the rest of the country. Because liberation without land had not worked out very well, the 1861 legislation included land, but at an excruciatingly high price (which, itself, led to problems)."

Meanwhile, the Wikipedia "January Uprising" page claims that Polish serfs were not freed until 1864. The author says that this was done deliberately by the Russians to ruin the Polish nobility (szlachta), by taking away their main source of income, as retaliation for their support of the uprising. This author claims that there was no compensation paid to the landlords for the land redistributed to the freed peasants, and that peasants were not allowed to sell the land back to the nobility. The overall tone suggests the author's belief that the landowners were treated unfairly and that this has led to ongoing problems in Poland. The Talk tab for this page contains comments from people objecting to the idea that the serfs "suffered" (similar to claims made by "Lost Cause" advocates and other white nationalists in the United States that American slaves were well treated and happy). There is also a comment suggesting that some portion of the page was authored by Russian revisionists motivated by reactionary nationalist and Russian Orthodox ideology. In view of the content of the Talk tab, I don't regard this version of events as authoritative.

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The Jewish Theory

Stephan Orzechowski of Winona, Minnesota deliberately withheld nearly all information on his origins from most family members. This close-mouthed attitude has persisted among some of his descendants. But when they gathered to talk, they sometimes speculated about all the "secrets". One theory was that the family, or some of its members, were actually Jewish. Richard K. Dibble, who married one of Stephan's granddaughters, picked up on this line of thinking and he suggested that Stephan may have been Jewish and adopted Catholicism as part of his identity switch when he came to America.

The actual family name, Flak, cannot settle this, nor can the family names of the women the Flak men married. Flak (and Flakiewicz for that matter), as well as Liziewska (Stanislaw's wife), Artechowska (Michal's wife), and the family names of both of Stephan's known wives, Wachowitz and Banaszek, are all found among Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish families in Poland and surrounding areas.

Church records are also of no help. In the last years of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, on into the first years of Congress Poland (at least beween 1780 and 1826), Catholic churches kept all civil records for the region; see (That source is somewhat ambiguous on whether the church stopped maintaining at least copies of those records when other religions gained the right/responsibility to keep their own records.)

That doesn't mean there were no Jews in the family at some point. Jews were alternately tolerated and persecuted in those regions at various times, and many "conversions" were either coerced or done out of convenience. If such conversions had happened, the family would have taken extreme pains, and perhaps dealt out harsh punishment for slip-ups, to keep them secret and appear outwardly Christian at all times. Those habits of secrecy, and their potentially traumatic consequences, could have crossed generations and helped to maintain the Orzechowskis' reticence into modern times.

There are some tantalizing clues in the demographic data.

There were a lot of Jews in this part of Europe before the German holocaust. Many little villages, as well as large towns and smaller cities, in what is today Poland were majority-Jewish in the 19th. and early 20th. centuries. According to the JewishGen website, the Jewish population of Stoczek Wegrowski in 1900 was 864. The entire population of that village today is 890. Now, a lot of people, not just Jews, died in Poland in World War II, and we don't know what the total population of Stoczek was in 1900--or more to the point, in the 1870s amd '80s, when our Flaks lived less than two miles down the road in Zgrzebichy. But even taking that into account, it is likely that most of the people with whom they interacted were Jewish.

We do have to remember that if the rest of our assumptions are correct, the Flak family was not native to this area. The 1897 Jewish population for Plock (across the river from Radziwie, where Jan and Michal Flak lived) was 7,480, compared to a 126,675 total population in 2009. That's about a 6% Jewish population. Plock was a much smaller place when the Flaks lived there, and we don't know how many Jews lived there then, but this does not support the theory that early Flaks were Jewish. On the other hand, our chain of logic that brings the Flaks from Radziwie to Stoczek is quite shaky, with potentially fatal flaws, so we also can't rule out a Jewish connection.

As for the theory that Sczepan was Jewish and adopted a Catholic identity just before fleeing from Russia: by all accounts the Winona Orzechowskis were very Catholic, and quite involved in the St. Stan's church and community. All of the children, including those who were born in "Vistula Land", thought of themselves as Catholics, and they went to St. Stan's elementary school. It seems very unlikely that they all could have brought off such a deception convincingly.

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When was Sczepan Flak born?

We have the following sources for Sczepan Flak/Stephan Orzechowski's birthdate:

December 20, 1877: Previous version of this website (prior to May 2019) from a letter from Ben Schultz to Bonnie Cattnach on July 30, 1992
December 24, 1878: Employment record from the Chicago and North Western Railroad
December 24, 1878: World War I draft card
c. 1878: 1930 US Census
c. 1878: 1940 US Census
1879: Headstone (photos on this website, and at Find-a-Grave)
c. 1879: 1920 US Census
c. 1879: calculation based on his given age of 62 on the date of his naturalization certificate: September 15, 1941
c. 1883: immigration passenger list

I'm going with December 24, 1878, the date from his employment record and draft card, for the following reasons:

First, I am not completely (though I am mostly) convinced that the Geneteka record is actually for our Sczepan Flak. I am quite aware of Sczepan's propensity to lie, whether to his family, a ship's bursar, census enumerators, US immigration authorities, the US army (which he probably did not like any more than he did the Russian one), or an employer. I'm guessing that when he died nobody close to him really knew when he was born, and they gave 1879 to the engraver based on his naturalization paper, so I'm not affording my customary deference to his headstone. The December birth month on his employment and draft records matches the birth month copied from the St. Stanislaw's Church records and provided to Stephan's granddaughter Bonnie (Gatz) Cattnach by Ben Schultz of the Winona Polish Museum. And 1878 is the most frequently occurring birth year among all those given.

Yeah. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

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A Casimir Sweater

In correspondence with your author, Stephan's granddaughter Bonnie [Gatz] Cattnach said that she had heard that St. Stanislaw's Church in Winona, MN, where the family settled, had doctored Casimir's birth records as well as Stephan's marriage records because the parish authorities did not believe that Casimir had been born in wedlock to a first wife that Stephan claimed he had, and who died shortly after Casimir arrived. There may be a germ of truth behind this story.

That is, if we take the available Polish records at face value.

Stephan's eldest son, Casimir, is given by several sources as having been born in Warsaw. All available sources also record Warsaw as the birthplace of Casimir's brother Waclaw (later called Vincent) and his sister, Antonia (later, Angeline).

Casimir's birthdate is given by all but one known source as March 4, 1905. These sources include his headstone, his employment record at the Chicago and Northwestern Railway Co., his father's petition for citizenship, and his listing in's Social Security Death Index. Census data for 1920, 1930 and 1940 also indicate a birth year of 1905 for him (although there are two Casimirs of the same age in the 1920 Census, one of whom was in a juvenile detention facility in Red Wing, Goodhue County, MN while the other (most likely ours) was counted in not-so-far-away Winona a few days earlier). His obituary has him born on March 4, 1904.

Polish records published by the website (provided by Jess Garcia, a great-granddaughter of Stephan, known in Poland as Sczepan) give a marriage between a Sczepan Flak and Julianna Wachowicz in 1907 in Brzoza Parish. They give a marriage for a Sczepan Flak and Marianna Banaszek in 1908 in Postoliska Parish. The closest Brzoza to our region is about 100 miles southeast of the family's home parish of Stoczek Wegrowski, and about 60 miles south-southeast of Warsaw. There's a Postoliska about 25 miles northeast of Warsaw.

The family remembers "Mary" or "Marianne" Banaszek (or "Banacek") as being the name of Sczepan's wife when he was known as Steve Orzechowski in Winona, so that suggests that the Geneteka records may be accurate.

However, they are not complete. Geneteka does not have any records associating the names of any of Sczepan's children with him. In fact, the only record at the site for a Casimir within our time period is Kazimierz Flak, born in 1908 in Korytnica, which is about ten miles south southwest of Stoczek. No parents' names are given.

Although I have treated most of these records as pertaining to our family, it is possible that some of them may not. If the marriage records belong to our Sczepan, and Casimir was indeed born in 1905 in Warsaw and not in 1908 in Korytnica, then who Casimir's mother was is up for grabs. She may have been Julianna, whom Sczepan married considerably after the fact. She may have been somebody else, to whom Sczepan may or may not have been married. She probably was not Marianna, though if, as it seems, Sczepan got around a lot, then even that is not out of the question.

For purposes of our story, I have assumed that Casimir was born in March 1905 in Warsaw and that, therefore, Sczepan first encountered his mother in that city in the first half of 1904 or earlier.

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The "Gypsy" Theory

One of the speculations swirling around the Orzechowski family of Winona, MN, due to Stephan's deliberately contrived absence of facts, was the notion that his wife Marianna or "Mary" was a "Gypsy".

"Gypsy" is a pejorative term for people who belong to the ethnic group known as the Roma or Romani (not to be confused with "Romansh", a Romance language spoken in southeastern Switzerland). The Romani came to Europe from the northern regions of what is now India about 1500 years ago. Although some of them have a nomadic or itinerant lifestyle, that is not true of all Romani. The Romani of Poland were leading largely settled lives in that region by around 1200 AD. Romani people who fully identify with that ethnicity practice strict Hindu rules of self-governance and association. But others have more or less assimilated into the surrounding cultures, and in Poland typically practice Catholicism.

Like many Jews, most Romani people took family names from the region they settled in. Although one can slightly narrow down those names based on those that were common in the regions where Romani people settled, there are no Polish names that can be solely identified as Romani. "Banaszek" is a name seen among Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish families in Poland. I have not found an indication that any Romanis have that name.

One point that bears on our story is the fact that in the 19th. century, the Imperial Russian government persecuted Romani people in the Polish regions even more harshly than it did Jews. As a result, a lot of them were murdered, or starved, or left for safer places. At one point there were only about 1000 Romani people in all of Congress Poland ( Further, most of the Romanis in Poland then and now lived in the southern and western regions, far from Sczepan's stomping grounds. So the odds that Sczepan Flak would even meet one of them, let alone marry one, were quite low--but not zero.

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Rats for Dinner?

There is no question that life for ordinary soldiers in the Imperial Russian military was miserable and and sometimes brutal. The army had a long history of corruption among its officers, who frequently stole supplies and sold them on the black market. This, coupled with disorganized supply systems, led to widespread malnutrition and inadequate clothing and shelter. Although Tsar Alexander II introduced reforms, including elimination of the cruelest types of discipline such as flogging, they were broadly resisted by conservative military officers (see "An Inquiry into the Imperial Russian Military Experience, 1701-1917", an unpublished Masters dissertation by Joe N. Frazar III, here: Soldiers who broke the rules could be tied to some heavy object and exposed to the weather, or beaten mercilessly. The recession and loss of the Russo-Japanese War made things even worse. According to Wikipedia, "By 1904 Russia was spending 57% and 63% of what Germany and Austria-Hungary were spending on each soldier, respectively. Army morale was broken by crushing over 1500 protests from 1883 to 1903." Eating rats was a very real possibility for Russian soldiers at this time.

But, based on other things that we think we know about Sczepan Flak, it takes some work to credit his claim that he came to America primarily to get away from the Russian army.

First, he emigrated in May 1913. That is more than a year before the outbreak of World War I, and well after the end of the Russo-Japanese War. So he was not escaping from combat.

It is true that Russia imposed punitive conscription on Polish men at various times following unrest in the country, but at other times, Poles seem to have been immune from conscription (although one source states that following the 1863 uprising, Polish men who did not pass Russian literacy requirements in high school were routinely conscripted: There was a conscription campaign during the Russo-Japanese War in 1904. We have a story from a descendant of Szcepan's brother Karol (thanks, again, to Jess Garcia) that Karol was drafted at that time. Karol was about 21 at the time, a typical age for draftees everywhere. The experience of draftees in that war helped lead to the Russian Revolution of 1905, which, in turn, led to a round of punitive conscriptions in Poland--er, "Vistula Land"--in that year and for a few years afterwards. Sczepan would not have been of ideal conscription age at that time; he was at least 27 and may have been in his early 30s. More to the point, he fathered a child in March of 1904 or 1905, was married twice, in 1907 and 1908, and fathered a child in 1909 and again in 1911 or 1912. Terms of service in the Russian army, even in peacetime, were much longer than those with which Americans are familiar. In the early 1900s the usual term was 6 years of active service followed by 9 years in the reserves. (Just before World War I, by which time Sczepan was already in America, the initial term was reduced to 3 years for infantry and artillery conscripts and 4 years for engineers and cavalry.) Conscripts were not free to leave their units, for the obvious reason that they were likely to desert. So if Sczepan was in the army, he would not have had the time for the family life that he seems to have lived.

Unless he was drafted, served briefly and unhappily, and deserted almost immediately. It this happened around the time of the 1905 Revolution, it doesn't make sense as a reason for him to emigrate six to eight years later. If it happened between 1911 and 1913, it was well beyond the end of the "punishment" draft, and he would have been in his mid-to-late 30s--not very valuable as a front-line soldier. Conscription at that time seems unlikely, unless he made himself a target for the Russian authorities, say, by organizing strikes or demonstrations. If so, he may have had quite an interest in recent Polish and Russian political history, including knowledge of the differences between moderate "whites" and radical "reds" among Polish nationalists. But if the Russian authorities had been actively looking for him, changing his name from Sczepan Flak to "Szapan Flakewitz" probably would not have fooled them for very long.

Considering all of this, it's difficult to characterize Sczepan Flak with much confidence. If he did indeed serve in the Russian army, the experience could well have traumatized him. He may also have had an attitude problem predating any such service. Either of those scenarios could have led him to get involved in labor disputes and/or military mutinies. In the course of such involvement he may have picked up some political education. If he took on a leadership role, the Russian authorities might well have taken an interest in him, leading him to flee. His later history contains only tantalizing details: participation in at least one strike, hushed conversations about "reds" and "whites", a violent temper. There are many understandable paths that could have led him to become the man his family remembers, but we may never know which of those paths he followed.

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White or Red?

The word "white" was associated with Stephan Orzechowski in the minds of many of his family. How this association came about, however, is not clear. Some family members thought that his real name, which they thought was "Flakiewicz", translates as "White" in Russian or Polish. However, the Russian (and Belarusian) word for white would be spelled, in English, as "byely", and is spelled in Polish as "bialy".

Anyway, it is virtually certain that Stephan's original family name was "Flak". If you lean toward the German end of things (western Poles intermingled with Germans quite a bit), then the name means "flatland" or "lowland"--and the places our Flak family came from certainly do fit that description. However, if you are looking for a more Polish derivation of the name, then you get "bowel", "gut", or "rag", of which probably the less said, the better.

Other family members thought his departure from the Russian army was related to the Bolshevik Revolution, and that perhaps he and his family were "White (anti-revolutionary)" Russians fighting the "Red" Bolsheviks. Tales that Stephan was "landed"--a member of the gentry or even, perhaps, of the minor Russian nobility--support this contention, though, as we've suggested, they could have come from the noble history of the Orzechowski name as well. However, the Russian Revolution broke out in February, 1917--almost four years after Stephan came to America--and at that time it was a democratic revolution. The Bolsheviks did not take over until November (October by the old Russian calendar) of 1917, and the Russian Civil War between Whites and Reds began after that.

However, "whites" and "reds" are terms from Polish history as well, referring to moderate and militant nationalists, respectively. In the story I have intimated that if Stephan knew Polish history and cared about the politics of the 1905 Revolution that roiled both Russia and Poland in the years before he came to America, he might well have used those loaded terms himself, in talking with family members such as his brother Feliks, who may have come to America with Stephan's wife Marianne (though so far we have found no trace of him), or with other Polish immigrants in Winona.

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What did Dick Dibble own and when did he own it?

In 2020 I completed the most thorough investigation of this topic that I believe it's possible to perform using only readily-available resources, including both online searches and perusal of several books of Cannon Falls/Goodhue County history. I have not been able to interest either of the local historical societies in helping me with this research, and I haven't been able to travel there myself to look up deed transfers or other records in person. That may be a project for my retirement years. In the meantime, here's what we have to work with:

Dick's grandson Richard Kenneth Dibble (my father) had a lot to say on this topic: "Dick did very well by selling meat to the Army during WWI and prior - which started him on the way of buying buildings in downtown Cannon Falls and later a farm to raise his own meat (without middlemen). As Dick moved to real estate he knew his brother, Dan, couldn't handle the butcher shop - so Dick set him up in the liquor store business. [Dick's wife] Bertha had a sister, Eve [Edith], and Eve's husband Ed [Wilson] was the local barber. I remember Dick setting him up in one of his buildings [in] downtown Cannon Falls, rent free. He still couldn't make a go of it so he gave Ed cash every week at the end of the normal Sunday night lemonade parties." In describing a photograph (which I can no longer identify) R. K. Dibble also wrote that "From the picture you can't see my granddad's buildings. The brick building on the left is the local GM car dealer. On the far side of him is the 'sweet shop' and then the 'Butcher shop' which my grandpa owned. Then across the street from the butcher shop is the dry goods store which he also owned. Now, the first building on the right is the liquor store and on the far side on it is the post office--both of which he owned."

We must first bear in mind that my father was a man of strong opinions, and he took a pretty jaundiced view of nearly all of the members of the Dibble side of his family except for his grandfather Dick. Some of the facts I've collected don't square with his statements about Dan Dibble and Ed Wilson. For one thing, Dick seems to have been off-and-on with the Dibble Brothers butcher shop, at one point apparently selling out his share to Charles Benway (Cannon Falls Beacon April 4, 1919, reprinting a story originally from August 1893) and later buying it back, and later retiring from that business entirely, while Dan was consistently involved from 1889 until at least 1920. Dan himself dabbled in real estate as well; he owned 52.5 acres of land along the Cannon River in northeastern Stanton Township in the 1890s, and he bought and sold several residential properties in Cannon Falls over the years. Ed Wilson was also a landowner; he owned at least 5 residential lots in Cannon Falls in the 1890s, and lived on a farm "near Oxford" that he may have owned in 1919. (I can find no "Oxford" in Goodhue County using internet sources--it's listed as a "ghost town" by the Goodhue County Historical Society, although it had its own baseball team in 1913--but there was an Oxford Mill, now in ruins, on the Little Cannon River a bit south of Ed Dibble's farm on Oxford Mill Rd. in southeast Stanton Township. There was also an Oxford Methodist Church in Section 32 in that township, a few miles west of the river. Assuming that the mill and the church were in or near the vanished Oxford, I've looked at plat maps for Stanton and neighboring townships (Cannon Falls, Warsaw, and Leon), and can only find land owned by George E. Wilson, Ed's brother--74.46 acres in Section 6 in the northwest corner of Leon Township--on the 1925 Goodhue County plat map. But there are numerous smaller lots in the area that were too tiny for the map maker to identify, including a few quite near George's farm. Any of those could be Ed's place.) His barbershop was also doing well enough in 1894 to employ at least two "assistants".

As for the locations my father described:

"The local GM car dealer" was probably what became Kruse [Chevrolet] Garage, 421 Mill St. W., which is on the south side of Mill St. However, that location was largely empty until some time after 1905. The Sanborn Fire Insurance map for 1921 shows a large "Garage" there. The 1938 Sanborn map labels the location as "Auto Sales & Service".

The Meyer and Johns Dry Goods building stands on the southwest corner of Mill St. W. and 4th. St. It is separated from the car dealer at 421 Mill St. W. by an alley. It was probably built immediately after the 1887 fire. It appears on the 1893 Sanborn map as "D.G. & Clo." (dry goods & clothing). On that same map the Westman & Danielson building, one building north of Main St. on the west side of 4th. St., is labeled the same way. On the 1899 map the Meyer and Johns building is labeled the same way, but the Westman & Danielson building is labeled "Gen'l Mdse.", which is a common synonym for "dry goods". In 1905 Meyer and Johns is still "D.G. & Clo." while Westman & Danielson is "D.G." and Van Campen is labeled as "Gro., B & S, etc.; Gro. & Crockery" ("Gro." is for "grocery"; "B & S" likely stands for "boot & shoe"). By 1921 Meyer and Johns is labeled "Dry Goods", Van Campen is "D.G." and Westman & Danielson is "Gro." There are also a clothing store and a millinery shop on the east side of 4th. St. between Mill and Main in that year, either of which could be considered "dry goods". The 1938 map labels all of these locations simply as "S", for "store" or "shop", or "rest", for restaurant. There was also a "Gen'l S." (general store) in the west bay of a one-story building on the north side of Mill St. W., across the street from the garage, according to the 1905 Sanborn map, which might fall into the "dry goods" category.

Dibble Brothers meat market was in the Hawkins building, built soon after the 1887 fire; it originally had two entrances on 4th. St. and housed four small shops. The meat market was four doors south of the Meyer and Johns building on the west side of 4th. St. in 1893 according to the Sanborn map from that year. On that map, the shop just north of Dibble Brothers was "Conf."--a confectionary shop. The 1899 map for that location shows "Rendering Rm. Meat." for the Dibble Brothers shop, and "Rest, Candy, Fruit, etc." for the shop north of it. In 1905, the "Meat Rendering Rm." is still in the same place, and the shop to the south of Dibble Brothers was labeled "Confec." In 1921, "Meat" is still the business in the fourth shop south of the corner. Unfortunately the 1938 map only labels these locations on 4th. St. as "S"--presumably for "store" or "shop"--except for one "Rest."

The 1899 Sanborn map shows a "Barber B." in the Van Campen building on the west side of 4th. St. at the corner of Main St., probably on the second floor. The 1905 Sanborn map shows a "Barber" just north of the Dibble Bros. "Meat Rendering Rm." in the Hawkins building. A "Barber" is in the same location on the 1921 map. However, that map also shows a "Barber" on the east side of 4th. St. about halfway between Mill and Main streets.

A post office appears on the east side of 4th. St. south of Main St. on the 1938 map in a location that was labeled "Office" in 1921. However, there was a "P.O." on the Sanborn map for 1921, in the center bay of the Mill St. W. building that held the general store mentioned above, in 1905.

None of the Sanborn maps show a liquor store. There was such a store in the N.C. Olson Building, on the east side of 4th. St. N., just north of Main St., in the 1880s. The city of Cannon Falls went "dry" via local ordinance in April 1912, and remained so until Prohibition ended in 1933. However, Chronicles of Cannon Falls (page 53) contains a reference to advertising in the Beacon of a saloon or liquor store operated by D. S. Dibble, but no date is given.

I do not think the Sanborn maps show every building or commercial location in Cannon Falls at the times of their publication, and there are, of course, several years between each one during which things could have changed. However, using all of the information available I can't assemble these physical locations into any geographic scheme that matches my father's recollections, which I think were likely inaccurate. He was born in 1925 and lived in Minneapolis; he only visited his Cannon Falls relatives on occasion. He probably was thinking of things as they were in the mid-to-late 1930s and remembering his grandfather Dick's stories (Dick died in 1940), when he wrote about them at the turn of the 21st. century. He certainly can be excused for failures of memory. I also can't fully vouch for his claims that Dick Dibble "owned" all of the commercial buildings under discussion, but we have more information on that.

One would think that he owned the location of the Dibble Brothers meat market, but I can find no definitive proof of that. Dibble Brothers was established in 1889, when Dick returned to Cannon Falls from St. Paul, where he had gone to live a few months after the 1887 fire that destroyed the wooden building that housed the Tanner & Dibble butcher shop. Dibble Bros. stood very near to the location where the Tanner & Dibble building had been, but we don't know who owned the latter building or the city lot it stood on (people can build and own buildings on land that they lease from others, and vice versa); if Dick owned the lot he could have sold it at any time after the fire. The one-story limestone building that occupies that location and adjacent lots, the Hawkins building (now part of Althoff's Hardware), "was probably built soon after the fire of 1887" by O. J. Hawkins, "proprietor of a confectionery and harness shop here" and originally owned by him--though again, he didn't have to own the lots in order to own the building. (This information comes from an application to establish a federally-protected “Cannon Falls Commercial Historic District” made to the National Register of Historic Places in December 1999, which was completed by Gemini Research of Morris, MN, based entirely on “other” information in the possession of the Goodhue County Historical Society; I have a PDF copy of this application in my records with file name "Cannon Falls Historic Buildings.pdf", which I refer to as "CFHB"). CFHB says that Dibble Brothers was located in the Hawkins building "in the late 19th or early 20th century", and the Sanborn maps support that contention. There was still a harness shop in the southern-most bay of the building on the 1899 Sanborn map, and the meat market was in the bay just to its north. CFHB has a bit more information on the history of the building but not on its ownership. So it is possible that Dick Dibble bought the building at some point, perhaps around the time that Hawkins moved his harness shop into the building now addressed as 406 Mill St. W., shortly after that structure was built in 1899.

However, he may simply have leased a store bay for the meat market from Hawkins, or he could have leased the entire building. Both ownership and a full-building lease would be consistent with my father's recollection that Dick "set up" Ed Wilson with a barbershop "in one of his buildings"; there was a barbershop in the Hawkins building bay just north of the meat market in 1905 and 1921, and could still have been there in 1938 if "S" stands for "shop". The photo on the "Between Two Wars" page of this site, captioned as "West side of 4th. St. looking north from Main St. Cannon Falls, early 1900s", shows a barber pole outside that shop. Though it's really too small to see here, it is visible in Roots & Wings.

Although I can't find evidence that Dick Dibble owned a "dry goods store" anywhere in Cannon Falls, a Dibble was involved with a dry goods business there. On August 26, 1921, the Beacon reported that the Cannon Falls Dry Goods Company changed its name to the Fred C. Carlson Company; the Stanton Township farmer and local politician, E. A. (Edward Alonzo) Dibble, Dick's cousin, was vice-president of the company. We can't be sure where this business was located but members of the Carlson Family operated a dry-goods store in the Van Campen building, and John H. Carlson, possibly Fred's older brother, ran a hardware business in the two-story limestone building between the Hawkins building and the Meyer and Johns building (now the northern part of Althoff's Hardware and designated the "C.B. Johnson Hardware" building). CFHB has a full ownership history of the C.B. Johnson building from its construction in 1887 to 1996, which doesn't include any Dibbles. According to CFHB, the Van Campen building was purchased by "Cannon Falls' Masonic Order, the Oriental Lodge #34" in 1927, but does not state who owned it between then and 1899, when it ceased to contain a Van Campen-owned business. Dick was also a Mason, but he belonged to Asa Chapter 75 of the Royal Arch Masons. I've found nothing precluding his ownership of that building between 1899 and 1927. I also can't rule out his possible ownership of the Meyer and Johns building. CFHB says only that the business, not necessarily the building, was owned by Fred W. Meyer in 1919, and that the building underwent "several changes in ownerhip".

The Beacon and other sources contain numerous mentions of a "Dibble Block" or "Dibble building" in Cannon Falls. I think I have fairly conclusively established the facts on this building.

The earliest description of the location that I have found is attributed to E. L. Clark, a writer for the Cannon Falls Beacon circa 1903, in Chronicles of Cannon Falls: "Mr. E. [Eli Ellsworth] began business under favorable auspices and continued in the log building about a year when he realized that more room was absolutely essential. He accordingly erected a frame store building on the north side of Mill St. seventy by sixty feet, two stories in height with one story for a living house. The site of this building is now occupied by the R. Dibble, Aug. Eklof and O. F. Peters block." We don't know precisely when Ellsworth's frame building was erected, but it was destroyed by the 1887 fire, and everything between the bank building (in 2014 the law office of Timothy Dillon) on the northwest corner of Mill and 4th. streets and the location of the Lampert lumberyard (the Body Works chiropractic clinic in January 2021) was an empty lot in 1899 according to the Sanborn map. Shortly after that map was published, the two-story Eckloff & Hawkins building previously mentioned, and its twice-as-wide two-story neighbor to the east, the Peters Block, were built just west of the bank. At some point after that a one-story, 3-bay limestone, brickfaced store building was constructed just west of the Eckloff & Hawkins building. CFHB calls this the "C. O. Lundquist Grocery/Lars Quale Cafe" building and says only that it was "probably erected in the mid-to-late 1890s." However, on April 25, 1903, the Minneapolis Journal reported: "Cannon Falls, Minn....Building operations have commenced in town and are going on with a rush... Richard Dibble is constructing a store building in the business portion. It is to be of stone, with brick front, one story high." I have collected a great deal of evidence from Beacon stories beginning in 1906 that positively indicates that this building, currently addressed as 408-410 Mill St. W., is the "Dibble Block", and I believe it was what Dick was building in the 1903 Minneapolis Journal story. If only Beacons earlier than January 1906 were available online, I am sure I could find stories detailing its construction there. This building, among other things, was the location of the Cannon Falls Post Office (in the center bay) from January 1915 to some time in 1925, when it moved to the location south of Main St. mentioned above. So my father's story that Dick Dibble owned the Post Office was true. I doubt my father was thinking of the general store that briefly occupied the west bay of Dick's building when he referred to Dick owning a "dry goods store". That business, which was there in 1905, was supplanted in August 1907 by the Wastedo Creamery (Cannon Falls Beacon, August 2, 1907; discussed below), and successor creameries occupied it until at least 1938, as shown on that year's Sanborn map.

I am tempted to present all of the detail that I have on this building; some stories published in the Beacon and in some local histories about the various tenants of the building, which bays they occupied and when, conflict with each other and cannot be true. But I doubt that anyone is interested except me, so I will refrain. I will simply say that although there were, on occasion, saloons and/or cafes that sold liquor in the Dibble Block before the town went dry in 1912, the only such business that might have also been a liquor store was not owned by Dick or Dan Dibble.

Dick Dibble also owned a few other pieces of real estate at various times.

He owned the house at 121 Mill St. from January 1908 until his death in 1940 (Cannon Falls Beacon January 17, 1908: "Charles Krabiel has sold his home property to Richard Dibble and Mr. Dibble has sold the corner property occupied by Emil J. Holmes to Mr. Holmes."); his widow, Bertha, lived there until she died in 1960. Emil Holmes was a local real estate agent; he was the father of Milton Holmes, first husband of Dick's niece Jean S. Dibble (Dan Dibble was her father). I have not been able to establish where the "corner property" that Dick sold to Holmes was (121 Mill is also a corner property).

Dick also owned a 160-acre cattle farm on Spring Valley Road just southeast of Cannon Falls, at least between the years 1914 (Historic Map Works: and 1933 (Historic Map Works: I can't definitively establish when he purchased the farm beyond the fact that the land was owned in 1894 by Mary J. Swenson and Gustav Westman. The Beacon reported that on May 11, 1912, Dick had the county surveyor do some work for him, though we don't know which of several possible parcels that work involved. However, it may not have been too long before the 1914 plat map was printed; the Beacon reported on September 10, 1915: "Alfred Widholm is building for R. Dibble a house on his farm, on the Spring Garden road. The house is 16x26 and 14 feet high with an L 14x22. The cellar is the full size of the building. Mr. Dibble also built this season a stone barn 35x70. The stone work was done by Andrew Halvorson and the carpenter work by Mr. Widholm." It's not unreasonable to think that he began those improvements shortly after he bought the land. He may or may not have sold it before he died. By 1954, though, it was not in his widow's possession; it was owned by Arnold & Maxine Rude.

Although the location of the land is established, that of the house is not. A house 14 feet high is likely to be a one-story building with an attic; it would be very short for a two-story house. A one-story house at 31357 County 25 Blvd., Cannon Falls, on the northeast corner of the property, could match the description; it has an "el" and what appears to be a full basement (Google StreetView at:,-92.8936636,3a,49.9y,197.6h,78.23t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1s4lWJnOkww12SptV6vyK5vw!2e0!7i13312!8i6656). However, there is a possible location on Spring Garden Road that is just about 3 blocks away from Dick's Mill St. house. That house could be said to have an "el" but no evidence of a basement can be seen, and it is two stories tall with a steeply-pitched roof--likely much taller than 14 feet (Google Earth arial view at:,+Cannon+Falls,+MN+55009/@44.5044183,-92.9000748,356m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m5!3m4!1s0x87f7a5294aef0a73:0xdfe7b41829a1908!8m2!3d44.5077635!4d-92.9024977) There is a large barn near the house at the first location; there's a much smaller outbuilding near the second house. On the whole I believe that the house at 31357 County 25 Blvd. is a better candidate.

Dick also acquired land formerly owned by his brother Dan along the Cannon River in the northeast corner of Stanton Township near where Highway 52 crosses the Cannon River today, perhaps in the vicinity of Sandstrom Auto and Truck Repair at 30127 59th Ave Way. In 1914 this parcel was 59.5 acres (Historic Map Works: By 1933 it was down to 12.5 acres (Historic Map Works:

On June 23, 1916, the Beacon ran one of its customary "[N] Years Ago" features, this one "republished from the Beacons of January 2 to January 16, 1891", that reported: "James Elder has sold his house and lots in town to R. Dibble and on Tuesday left with his family for Tallapoosa, Georgia, where they will spend the winter. Mr. Elder will be back in the spring and resume his well drilling business." James Elder and his wife had adopted Dick's nephew Milford (son of Minnie Dibble who died shortly after the child was born) a few years before this sale. I have not been able to locate this property. It is possible that it was actually Dick's brother Dan who bought those lots; there are newspaper references to Dan owning some adjacant lots on Hoffman street, and this wouldn't be the first (or last) time the Beacon got a Dibble name wrong.

About a month after the Elder property was sold, the Pine Island Journal reported, on February 27, 1891: "A List of Delinquent Taxes Upon Real Estate Within the County of Goodhue ... for the Year 1889, Remaining Unpaid and Delinquent on the First Monday of January, A.D. 1891 ... Village of Cannon Falls ... R Dibble" owner of lots 1 through 10, Block 84. Per, that's in the St. Pius V Catholic Church Cemetery. This is confirmed in an article published in the Beacon on December 13, 2013, which said, "Land described in 1863 as Blocks 85 and 86, then the eastern edge of town, was purchased through donations and became the Cannon Falls Cemetery. Block 84, purchased at the same time, later became the St. Pius V Catholic Cemetery which adjoins the city cemetery." A brochure for the cemetery says "In 1889 Father Robert J. Fitzgerald received property for Calvary Cemetery," which is "now the present-day St. Pius V Cemetery", and the first burial took place there on August 12, 1889. Dick allegedly owed the taxes for that year, but the city had purchased the land for the cemetery in 1863 (and probably donated Block 84 to the church at a later date). The Pine Island Journal article can't be correct, and if Dick did owe taxes on ten lots in some block for 1889, it could not have been for the Elder property, since he didn't own that before late 1890 at the earliest--if he ever did at all. A different Dibble may in fact have been delinquent on his taxes; again, there were several instances when one of the local papers got a Dibble's first name--or initial--wrong.

In fact, the Beacon got a whole creamery's location wrong. On August 2, 1907, that paper reported:

"A New Industry

Cannon Falls to Have a Creamery with Everything Up-to-Date.

The Wastedo Creamery Company have leased the Dibble building on Hoffman street and will immediately install a butter making plant equipped with the best machinery and appliances belonging to the trade..."

And elsewhere in the same issue: "Frank Stone is busy preparing the Dibble Building for the machinery for the creamery."

An exhaustive examination of the records indicates pretty conclusively that the Wastedo Creamery was actually established in the west bay of the Dibble Block on Mill St. W. and that there never was a "Dibble building" on Hoffman St. However, the 1921 Sanborn map shows that the Farmers Creamery Company was on the north side of Hoffman Street; that company was established in 1896, as indicated by a Beacon article from March 18, 1921 describing the company's 25th. anniversary celebration. Likely the Beacon reporter knew where the Farmers Creamery was and absent-mindedly substituted Hoffman for Mill St. in the article.

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Where and when did Archie Dibble serve?

The only record we have for Archie's military service is his Honorable Discharge paper. This document reports simply that he was wounded on October 3, 1918 and that the last unit he was assigned to was Company A, 7th. US Engineers. Our narrative assumes this was the only unit he served with, but that could be wrong.

If it's not, then a larger problem is presented by the date of his wounding. The 7th. Engineers were attached to the 5th. Division. The 5th. was involved in both the St. Mihiel and Meuse-Argonne offensives. However, several sources concur that the 5th. Division was taken off the line after St. Mihiel, on September 16 or 17, and did not return to the front until October 11 or 12, when it joined the post-Argonne phase of the offensive. If all this information is correct, then Archie would not have been wounded in combat. However, he received a Purple Heart medal, which can only be awarded for an injury caused by enemy action.

There are a few possible solutions to this puzzle. The Meuse-Argonne campaign began on September 26, and Pershing's forces began drawing on their reserves almost immediately. While the 5th. Division is not recorded as being part of the designated reserve contingent for that operation, it may be that men were drawn from it anyway, and Archie could have been one of them. A second possibility is that Archie's unit, while not on the front line, may not have been moved very far back while it waited for reinforcements and provisions. A stray bullet, or more likely an artillery bombardment shell, might have found its way to him behind the lines. It may also be that an error was made on Archie's discharge papers. Suppose the wrong month was entered and the wound occurred on November 3. Archie's unit, the 7th. Engineers, was definitely in combat then, having just built a bridge across the Meuse River and crossed to the east bank where withering German fire pinned them and several brigades of infantry down for a full day.

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Where did Herman Kowitz die?

Herman's obituary, probably in the Cannon Falls Beacon, says he died at Forsythe, MT, which is about 90 miles east of Great Falls. The less-reliable Roots and Wings says he was shot in Hysham, MT, some 60 miles northeast of Billings. While it's certainly possible that he was shot in one town and died in another, these two towns are a good 100 miles apart, and there were no medivac helicopters, and probably not even a motor ambulance, to take him from one to the other. In short, we don't really know where this happened.

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Della and Van Buren

Some time in 1951, the ur-Dibble researcher Van Buren Lamb sent one of his inquiry cards to Willard Dibble Sr., on the farm in Stanton Township. He passed it on to his sister Della, the family genealogist, and Della and Lamb exchanged some letters. Lamb saved them in one of his loose-leaf binders. All of the binders were scanned to electronic format by George Dibble III in the first decade of the 21st. century, after the original version of this website was published. Your author did not receive a copy of them until February 2015, when he resumed working on this website after a break of nearly 15 years.

From Lamb's correspondence with Della, I learned that Della's brother Willis had met the Indiana Dibble, Alonzo, who served on a river gunboat during the Civil War.

And, I learned that Della had given Lamb my entire family tree, from Jonathan Dibble of Cannon Falls all the way down to my father Richard Kenneth Dibble, my mother Gladys Ruth Johnson, and my oldest brother David Dibble. If this correspondence had occurred a few years later, no doubt my name would be enshrined in one of Van Buren Lamb's binders.

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