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"Florence Kilborn" (the search for ...)

We know that the community of Florence was named after Florence Vandenberg Kilborn, the granddaughter of Eliza Mitchell,* who was the wife of the founder, James Comly Mitchell, and that she died at age 14.  Eliza's daughter was named Hannah and married Nathaniel Kilborn, probably during the time they lived in Bellevue, Iowa (Jackson County).  At least that is what has been documented,* and we have even seen a picture of someone that is supposed to be Florence, but did she ever really exist?  The proof should be documented in the U.S. Census data, right?  Except, Florence is not listed in any census data,* at least as a daughter of Nathaniel and Hannah Kilborn.  Assuming that she was not alive when the census data was collected, here is how the history could be written.

Florence Kilborn, daughter of Hannah K. and Nathaniel Kilborn, was born in Bellevue, Iowa somewhere between 1850 and 1854, and died at age 14.  Currently, we do not know the exact date of birth.  The facts and data collected allow us to extrapolate some theories about the missing data, but nothing is concrete.  For example, the statement that Florence was born between 1850 and 1854 is based on other things that we do know, or things that are taken for granted as being true.  The 1850 (September 10) census for Florence's family do not list her, and neither does the 1870 (June 20) census.  Based on the knowledge that the town of Florence was named after her in 1854, she must have been born between 1850 and 1854.  Also, the fact that the 1870 census does not list her substantiates the possibility (and theory) that she died at age 14.  She could have died as early as 1864 if born in 1850 after June (based on the 1870 June census data).

The obvious question would be, "What about the 1860 U.S. Census?"  Not only is she not listed in the 1860 census, neither are her parents. Nathaniel and Hannah Kilborn are listed in the 1850 census and the 1870 census but not the 1860 census.  That can happen for various reasons, for example, if no one is at home when the census data is collected, and if there is not a return visit by the census data collector, or on a return visit, again no one is at home, then there will not be a listing (return visits did not happen very often; generally only when the same census taker passed by a house that they knew previously did not get registered).  Missing a house entirely often happens in rural areas, or in cases where the home is in a non-U.S. territory (such as early Nebraska, while it was still considered "Indian Country.")  There is no reason to believe that is the case here as the Kilborn family lived in Bellevue, Iowa both in 1850 and 1870. Bellevue, Iowa in 1850 was on the edge of U.S. civilization, but by 1870, it was beginning to be of substantial size.

Starting from the beginning, the 1850 census (compiled in September) for Bellevue, Iowa (Jackson County) lists the James C. Mitchell household as having five inhabitants.

NameAgeOccupationValue of Real Estate ownedBorn
Mr. James C. Mitchell40None2500Pangborn*
Eliza 41  Africa
Nathaniel Kilborn 28None1500Missouri
Hannah K. 26  England
John D. Simmons*10*  Iowa or Tex???*
1850 U.S. Census data - Bellevue, Iowa (Jackson County) - Compiled September 1850

Since Hannah and Nathaniel were both living in the Mitchell household, this would suggest that they were married but were without any children. Notice that Hannah's name is listed as Hannah K. It is not clear if the K refers to a middle name or to Kilborn, implying she is already married to Nathaniel.

Note: Census records were written out in longhand and very often are hard to read.  They have been transcribed, but by someone that does not know who the individuals are, so sometimes the transcribed version will be an interpretation of what was written in longhand, and consequently can be wrong.  Having knowledge of some specifics when doing research very often will show this to be true.  The transcribed version must be accessed separately for each name.  When researching a name, an option is to view the entire household (provided data is available).  Also, the original census page can be viewed.  The above table was derived from viewing a copy of the original photo-copied census page and not the household listing; therefore, the birthplace of John D. Simmons is in question.

Hannah K. was the daughter of Rev. John and Eliza Vandenberg of England.  After being widowed, Eliza married James Comly Mitchell, and later still, moved to Bellevue, Iowa.  It is speculated that Hannah met Nathaniel Kilborn in Bellevue, Iowa but it is not clear; at least Nathaniel was born in the U.S., although the 1850 and 1870 census records show different states (Missouri and Ohio).  The RootsWeb Project for Iowa for the 1850 census shows the records as showing ME as the state of birth (which would be Maine). The Family Search database maintained by the Latter Day Saints, list the birthplace as Ohio.

In the 1850 census, Nathaniel was spelled Nath'l.  Also, Hannah (age 26) is missing the final h (written by the enumerator, not Hannah).

In 1870, (age 46) Hannah's occupation is "Keeping House."  Even though no one by the name of Florence is listed, there are three children listed:
James, aged 18, attending school
Hannah, aged 13, attending school
and Nathaniel, aged 2.

The 1870 census (compiled June 20th) for Bellevue, Iowa (Jackson County) lists the Nathaniel Kilborn household as having at least six inhabitants.  The six persons are the last six on the original census records page.  Time and cost prevented me from more than a glance at the next page to see if any significant data exists there (on my To Do list).  Here is the transcribed data from the census record.  Notice the 1870 census added a new field to indicate the "Personal" estate value.

NameAgeOccupationValue of Real Estate ownedValue of Personal EstateBorn
Nathaniel Kilborn49Flour Manufacture100006000Ohio*
Hannah 46Keeping House  On the Ocean
James Kilborn * 18Attending school  Iowa
Hannah Kilborn 13Attending school  Iowa
Nathaniel Kilborn 2   Iowa
Winnie Wychman (F) 18Domestic Servant  Iowa
1870 U.S. Census data - Bellevue, Iowa (Jackson County) - Compiled June 20th, 1870

Notice that Florence's mother, Hannah, lists her birthplace as "On the ocean" for the 1870 census and "England" for the 1850 census.  Presumably, she is getting more technical in 1870.  Since in 1850 Hannah is 26, she would have been born in approximately 1824.  Her mother Eliza, following the death of her first husband, married James C. Mitchell in 1836 in Liverpool.  Therefore, unless Eliza traveled the seas often, Hannah was possibly born while her mother traveled to England from her own birthplace home in Cape Good Hope, South Africa.

There is some evidence to indicate that Hannah might have been born on a ship in the English Channel. For a ship to be in the English Channel, it would likely be en route to somewhere, either departing England or arriving. If arriving from Africa with her mom, most likely, this would not have been a Navy ship that transported Eliza to England, unless her deceased husband was being transported back to England and she was allowed to travel along.

There has been speculation that Hannah was born on a Navy ship since her father was in the British Navy.  The family of military members rarely ever had the opportunity to step aboard a Navy ship.  A Navy ship might have had what would be considered a medical facility, but not likely anything comparable to a hospital or a facility that would handle childbirth; in other words, there is little chance that a birth would ever take place (intentionally) aboard a Navy ship.  The families of Navy personnel lived on land as anyone else did.

Therefore, if Hannah were born "on the ocean," it would most likely be an ocean liner en route to England.  In this case, it possibly was a coincidence, possibly an early birth.  Women rarely planned a travel of such distance if near to giving birth. We do not know the circumstances of why (or if) Eliza traveled at a time that ended up being when Hannah was born. We do know that her husband died at some point, and it could be that the death caused Eliza to travel, regardless of her being pregnant. Without having detailed information such as newspaper clippings, any guesses are speculation.

We know from the facts gathered thus far, that Florence could have been born as early as 1850 but after the census, or as late as 1854 to be around when our town was named.  From data collected from the 1870 census, we know that the Kilborns had a son (James, named after Florence's stepfather, Mr. Mitchell) who was 18 at the time, thereby being born around 1852.  This means that when our town of Florence was named (1854), little Florence had a brother that was a tiny bit older than her.  The family also had a daughter named Hannah (named after her mother) that had to be born around 1857.  If Florence died at age 14 as is commonly presumed, then she would have known of her younger sister, Hannah.  She may even have known of another brother (the youngest) named Nathaniel born around 1868, if she was born as late as 1854, since that would place her death in the same year as his birth (est. 1868).

Per the 1850 (September 10) census, Nathaniel (Sr.) was 28 years old, and was born in Missouri.  Per the 1870 (June 20) census, Nathaniel was 49 years old and was born in Ohio.  This seems like a contradiction for the birth date, since in less than 20 years (19 years and 9 months), he aged 21 years.  In the 1880 U.S. Census, Nathaniel is listed as age 59, confirming or at least endorsing that he was 49 in 1870.  It could be that after 20 years of sweeping Hannah off her feet, that he admitted that he was actually a year or so older than he originally said.

Also, there appears to be the contradiction in where Nathaniel was born, however, there has been cases where different census year birthplaces being different ends up being correct.  This does occur in historical documents where the specific territory is in one state but that same territory becomes part of another state.  For example, North Carolina once extended all the way to the Mississippi River before Tennessee was named as the western part. That means there are birth records in western Tennessee that have North Carolina as the birth state. Many researchers presume their ancestors traveled to Tennessee after being born somewhere in North Carolina, when in fact, they might have been born in the same spot they lived.

Here is one possible explanation why Nathaniel's birth states could be correct, at least based on the concept that state lines changed, and could have in this case:  New states were cut out of other states or larger territories.  In this case, I can't see how but imagine that there was a territory called Missouri Territory that was so large that it covered what we now know as Ohio.  The same birthplace could have been known as two different names at two different times (words that also were used as state names).  If in 1850 the place that Nathaniel was born were considered to be called Missouri, as in Missouri Territory, the word Missouri would end up in census records. The same place could very well have been known as Ohio in 1870.  Only one problem in this case; there was not a Missouri Territory that covered any lands that are now part of Ohio, at least as far as I can find. There was a Missouri Territory, and it consisted of what was previously known as the Louisiana Territory, but was renamed in 1812 to avoid confusion with the new state of Louisiana. The areas covered in the Missouri Territory did not cover Ohio. Therefore, the two different location names for Nathaniel Sr. are still questionable.

It is also important to note that in the 1880 U.S. Census data* that the Nathaniel Kilborn household only had Nathaniel and Hannah listed; Nathaniel as a "miller," and Hannah as "Keeping house."  It is understandable that son James would be 28, and daughter Hannah would be 23, both of age to be out of the house.  The youngest son Nathaniel would be only 12 but his whereabouts is unknown for this census.

Son, James is however listed in the 1880 census as a Grain Buyer, married to a lady from Prussia, and had a two-month-old son.

The 1880 census gives us additional information: Bellevue, Iowa is in Jackson County, and Jackson County had several other Kilborns living there; most notably, Nick, who was born in Germany in 1849, and who was married to Marlinda, also born in Germany.  They had three children, Michael (4), John (3), and Cathrine (10 months).  An elder Michal* Kilborn was 70 years old at the time, also born in Germany.  Most likely, these were relatives of Nathaniel Kilborn.  Nick was probably a younger brother, and most likely, Michal (70) was their father.  Nick's wife Marinda was born in 1855 in Germany, one year later than little Florence Kilborn.  Even though she was born in Germany, if she had moved to Bellevue at an early age, she may have grown up with Florence, or went to school with her.  Nick himself is not too much older than Florence (born 1849) and if Florence was his niece, he could have been the favorite uncle.  The only problem with this theory is that Nick was born in Germany, and if Nathaniel (Sr.) is his older brother, why would Nathaniel be born in the U.S., and his later siblings be born in Germany?  It is possible that Nathaniel's mother came to the U.S. but returned, and then later the rest of the family moved over.  Very possibly, Nick is a younger cousin of Nathaniel, or not even related at all.

Needless to say that the story is not over so stay tuned.  If you want to see the latest development on Florence Kilborn, you have to wait just a bit until the new data can be displayed on the web.  There is one fascinating fact that has never been published prior, but now already on our site in a hidden page.  To access it you need to send an e-mail