Chain Migration of the Dibben Family Part III: Walter Dibben (1860-1899)

SS Servia (1881):
Considered the first “modern” ocean liner –
Library of Congress

Walter Dibben was the 8th child of Reuben and Mary Ann Boiling Dibben. He was born in January 1860.

(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 have found Walter in the 1861 and 1871 English census records living with his parents. I have not found him in the 1881 census but he showed up in ship immigration records arriving in New York on the SS Servia on Jun 11, 1888. He was 27 years old and was a blacksmith like his father and brothers. He planned on going to Illinois – undoubtedly to join his brothers working at the steel mill.

Walter Dibben Immigration 1888 –

I have not found any records of him arriving in Chicago and what he did until 1891. The city directories are not perfect and there was so much influx of new immigrants to Chicago, they did not always catch everyone at home to get their information. The absence of the 1890 US census is an obvious gap.

What I have been able to find out: he married Mary Ann Latham on November 26, 1891.

Walter Dibben and Mary Ann Latham Marriage – 1891
Chicago, IL

They had a little boy named Walter Thomas Dibben on 29 March 1893.

Walter Thomas Birth Record 1893 –
Illinois, Cook County, Birth Certificates, 1871-1940,” database, FamilySearch ( : 18 May 2016), Walter Thomas Dibben, 29 Mar 1893; Chicago, Cook, Illinois, United States, reference/certificate 3464, Cook County Clerk, Cook County Courthouse, Chicago; FHL microfilm 1,287,939.

They are not listed in the city directories until 1896 and 1896 when Walter is living with his brother Alfred at 9120 Superior Ave. Was he living with his wife and son? Maybe. It is difficult to know.

Alfred and Walter Dibben 1896 Chicago City Directory –

In the 1900 Census, Mary Ann (listed incorrectly as “Margaret”) and her son Walter Thomas are living with her family the Lathams. I wasn’t able to find Walter Sr. in the census.

Walter Thomas Dibben 1900 Census –

What happened to Walter after 1897 when he disappears from the city directories again?  I couldn’t find a death certificate in Chicago. But I did find a death record in England on April 4, 1899:

Walter Dibben Death Record April 4, 1899 –
Permission to reproduce when Crown Copyright acknowledged

He must have returned to England sometime between 1897 and 1899. I suspect he was very sick with diabetes (his primary cause of death.) There was plenty of work in Chicago, so he didn’t return to England for work. Was his marriage over? Was he unable to take care of them because of his diabetes? Working at the steel mill was brutal work and if one had a chronic disease, it would be more wearing on the body than for others. Some things we will never know. I hate that.

And what happens to Mary Ann and Walter Thomas? Another sad story…Walter Thomas died in 1905 at the age of 12.

Walter Thomas Dibben –
Funeral Announcement 1905

Walter Thomas is buried at Rosehill Cemetery where my 2nd Great Grandparents John and Olive Dibben are buried.  He is not at the same cemetery as the other Dibben brothers who worked in south Chicago are buried. He is not in the same cemetery as his mother Mary Ann, so I like to think maybe John paid for his nephew Walter Thomas to be buried with his family.

Mary Ann must have been terribly distraught to have lost her husband and her only child. I was happy to see that she remarried a widower John W. Leigh in 1907. He was an engineer and also worked at the steel mill. He had a son Cecil about the same age as her son Walter and hopefully being a mother to him gave her some happiness. John died in 1923 and she died in 1947. They are buried together at Oak Woods Cemetery in Chicago.

Follow-up: I am ordering the death certificate for Walter Thomas to see what he died from and I am going to check to see if they got a divorce or not. I suspect not, but I will check.

Next:  Frederick Dibben – bigamist?

Update 3/19/20 – I received the death certificate for 12-year-old Walter Thomas. He died of “uremia caused by acute nephritis – cold following tonsillitis.”  A quick “google” search gives the following information from the National Health System in the UK:  “The causes of acute nephritis in children are different compared to adults. In children, it is most commonly caused by an infection, in particular, by the streptococcus bacteria. Streptococcus is usually responsible for sore throats, but can trigger a response in the body that leads to the glomeruli being damaged.” One of the many reasons I am grateful my children were born after antibiotics were developed!

Also, there was no divorce found for Walter and Mary Ann Dibben in Chicago.

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