Thursday, July 14, 2016

Tidballs Take Root in Minnesota

Thomas and John Tidball, late of bustling Bristol, England, were living on the southern Minnesota prairie in 1885 (see last week's post). It is not clear what drew them there, but they didn't stay long. While the booming port of Duluth at the head of Lake Superior never compared with industrial Bristol, it must have been closer to the urban life the young men had back home.

Genealogists grieve over the loss of the 1890 census in a 1921 fire in the basement of the Commerce Building in Washington, D.C. Fortunately, for Tidball researchers, Minnesota took censuses in 1885 and 1895. The 1885 census found John and Thomas in Steele County in southern Minnesota, but the 1895 census found them back in Duluth. John was a delivery clerk living at 11 W. 7th St. At home were "Mrs. John Tidball," 33, Ellenor,10, Aubrey, 7, and Esley, 2.  A family Bible records that 7-day old Walter died in February 1887 in Steele County. Thomas, a grocery clerk, lived at 1207 W. 4th St., with wife Emily, 33, and daughters Margaret, 9, and Alice, 7.

Thomas remained in Duluth for the duration, but in 1900, the John Tidball family was back in southern Minnesota, this time a few miles farther south in Geneva, Freeborn County. John was a day laborer. Five years later, the 1905 Minnesota census found John back in Duluth employed as a milk wagon driver.  He was probably doing better in 1910, when the census recorded him as an "engineer (stationary)." The 1920 census makes his occupational trajectory more clear; he was an "engineer" in a school. Thomas was listed as a grocer in 1900 and a clerk in both 1905 and 1910.

Some other records fill in some of the gaps:

  • Thomas declared his intent for citizenship in June 1883 in Duluth. Next in line at the courthouse was his future brother-in-law, William Haycraft.
  • John declared his intent in Freeborn County in October 1886.
  • No deeds have been found, but Thomas was on the 1888 tax rolls in Steele County for 20 acres -- a small farm even in those days.
  • Thomas was back in Duluth by 1889, when the city directory listed him at  511 5th Ave. W.
  • The 1894-5 directory listed John as an "oiler" for the Duluth Street Railway; he resided at 1112 W. 3rd. St. Thomas was a clerk the the grocer Cannon and Holmes on W. Superior St.
  • John has apparently not yet gone back south to Freeborn County in the summer of 1899, when the Duluth News-Tribune reported that Mrs. John Tidball attended a party for Mrs. Nichols. The 1900 directory stated that John has moved to St. Paul (about half way between Duluth and Freeborn County).
  • The 1905 city directory confirms that John was back in Duluth in 1905;he was a "driver" for Bridgeman and Russell, a dairy products and cold storage company.
  • The 1910 directory clarifies that John was an "engineer" at Nettleton School. His son, Aubrey was a janitor at Irvin School.
R. L. Polk Duluth Directory, 1910
The tale of the Tidball brothers in Minnesota is hardly exceptional, but is probably not an atypical immigrant story. It is not clear why they chose Duluth, apart from it being an emerging port city at the head of the Great Lakes and near to the Minnesota iron mines. They apparently gave farming a try, but having come from a working class family in Bristol, it is not surprising that they returned to Duluth where job opportunities were greater.

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