Edwin William Dibben was the seventh child of Reuben and Mary Ann Dibben. He was 22 years old when he appeared in the 1881 England census living with his parents and working as a bricklayer. He does not appear in any other English census records after 1881 and I couldn’t find a death record for him. Where did he go?
(Reminder about the English Dibben Family – Reuben and Mary Ann (Boiling) Dibben’s children who made it to adulthood: John, George, Mary Ann, James Clark, Alfred, Richard, Edwin, Walter, Frederick, Francis and Wilfred)
I thought Edwin might have come to Chicago to join his older brothers, but he does not appear in any of the Chicago City Directories (they so seldom fail me…). I started looking through other records and I found a marriage for an Edward (not Edwin) Dibben and Charlotte Teed on October 28th, 1884.
Well, this could be him, the age didn’t match exactly, but these old Chicago marriage certificates don’t have any other data e.g. witnesses or names of parents to confirm the connection.
I started looking at the newspapers for any mention of “Dibben” and found something that busted it all open.
Edward Dibben was killed when the roof caved in at the Repair Shop at Rolling Mill’s Southworks plant on October 10, 1886. His brother Alfred Dibben testified at the inquest which validates that this is Edwin Dibben and explains why he does not appear in more records for Chicago.
Frederick Teed, Edwin/Edward’s brother in law also testified:
Both men testified about the safety practices of the mill and how that contributed to the collapse of the building. Alfred testified that the building may have fallen from the “dross from the vessels, which is sometimes very heavy, and is cleaned from the roof once a week, might have caused the fall.” Frederick says they hadn’t removed it in two weeks.
In the end, the jury concludes he died from being crushed by the roof falling, but the cause of the roof falling was unknown.
In researching the history of Rolling Mill (later Illinois Steel and then US Steel), I found that in 1896 a hospital was built at the plant. The description tells it all as far as how dangerous working at the plant was for its workers. Illinois Steel was selling how humane and state of the art their facilities are, however it begs the question about the working conditions that require an on-site hospital. Of particular note is the “post mortem room” in the basement anticipating that some workers will die on the job. It brings to mind the Haymarket Riot (1886). The Jungle (1906) by Upton Sinclair and the rich labor rights history of Chicago.
I still need to determine if there was a lawsuit filed by Charlotte Teed Dibben for the work-related death of her husband. I haven’t been able to find a record for her after Edwin/Edward’s death. I hope she landed on her feet.
Next: Walter Rueben Dibben (son of Rueben) and another sad story for the Dibben Family