Now that Shuping and I summer in Minnesota, I was hoping to take advantage of our proximity to local genealogical records.

Last week was my first chance to do so.  We made a day trip north to Grand Rapids, Minnesota and obtained the probate file for Mrs. Caroline S. King, aka “Lena” King, at the Itasca County Courthouse.  This was a research objective I mentioned almost three years ago in a previous post about Lena’s husband Fred A. King.[1]See the post here.

Lena was born Caroline S. Miller in Saginaw, Michigan in 1860 and married Fred A. King (1857-1920) on 15 May 1879.  They moved from Saginaw to Grand Rapids, Minnesota in 1891.  Lena died on 25 April 1932, less than 24 hours before my Mother (Lena’s great-grandchild)  was born, leading some to speculate about reincarnation.

One of the few images I have of Lena King shows her very late in life sitting with granddaughter Helen King Vermilyea (1909-1994).

Grandma King and Helen Vermilyea in 1931 (Author’s collection)

Lena’s daughter, Mrs. Mabel A. Vermilyea, of Coleraine, Minnesota, was the probate petitioner, and Mabel’s husband David M. Vermilyea was appointed special administrator (executor).[2]Itasca County, Minnesota, probate case files, Caroline S. King, aka Lena King (1932), estate file, decree dated 23 June 1933; Itasca County Court Administration, Grand Rapids, Minnesota.

According to the probate file, Lena King died intestate.  As a result, the entirety of her estate was inherited in equal, undivided shares by her three children:

  1. Charles M. King, Clarksburg, West Virginia
  2. Earl S. King, Tacoma, Washington
  3. Mabel A. Vermilyea, Coleraine, Minnesota

4 May 1932 excerpt from Caroline S. King probate file (Source: Itasca County Probate Court)

This darling photograph shows the three siblings around 1887:

Charles, Mabel, and Earl King circa 1887, Saginaw, Michigan (Author’s collection)

The estate was appraised at $5,683.91.  It included very little cash but there were a number of real estate holdings.

23 June 1933 excerpt from Caroline S. King probate file (Source: Itasca County Probate Court)

By far the most valuable item in the estate was the lot which Fred and Lena owned in Grand Rapids and where they resided for many years.  It was valued at $3,000 and described as the:

North half of Block 17 in Kearney’s First Addition and all of Block 1 in Houghton’s Addition, Grand Rapids

In 2014, my mother and uncle and aunt and I visited Grand Rapids.  We tentatively identified 602 3rd Ave. NW. as this lot, or at least part of it.[3]Steven Nelson Jonnes, “Fred A. King: Early Entrepreneur and Politician in Northern Minnesota,” Minnesota Genealogist, 47:2 (Summer 2016): p. 15.  Street name changes in Grand Rapids make old property identifications difficult.

I believe we’re witnessing the effect of the Great Depression in this probate record.  When Fred died in 1920, his probate file revealed real estate valued at $12,000, including 23 properties in Itasca and Koochiching counties.  Lena may have sold off some of these to support herself because her estate only listed nine properties in 1932, if I’m counting correctly.  Nonetheless, the value of her real property appears to have dropped considerably.  Real estate boomed in the 1920s and her original $12,000 in property value in 1920 could have doubled, assuming she kept all of it.  After the crash, it could have fallen by as much as two-thirds (1929 to 1932).

Another example of the decline is the $800 valuation given to their lake cottage on Star Island in Cass Lake in 1932 as opposed to its $2,000 valuation in 1920.

The Star Island cottage on Cass Lake is described as follows:

One (1) two-story, frame summer cottage, and one story, frame wood shed, situated on the east 80 feet of Lot 2, Block 3 Chippewa National Forest Plat of Star Island in Cass Lake, Cass County, Minnesota

I had previously assumed that David and Mabel Vermilyea, or possibly just Mabel solely, inherited the Star Island cottage from her mother.  However, it is clear from the probate record that her two brothers Charles and Earl shared in the ownership.  That’s a bit of a surprise.  I have no record or photographs indicating that Charles or Earl ever visited Star Island after their mother died.  All Star Island references post-1932 list the occupants as David and Mabel Vermilyea, along with their children and grandchildren and various friends.  Of  course, the Vermilyeas lived much closer to Cass Lake than Charles and Earl King.

Cottage on Star Island, 1934 (Author’s collection)

Since Mabel Vermilyea (1885-1938) died only 6 years after her mother, her probate file should have additional information about the lake cottage, including whether or not it had already been sold by then.  I should have thought to order that file at the same time!  Oh well, another road trip, I guess.

References

References
1 See the post here.
2 Itasca County, Minnesota, probate case files, Caroline S. King, aka Lena King (1932), estate file, decree dated 23 June 1933; Itasca County Court Administration, Grand Rapids, Minnesota.
3 Steven Nelson Jonnes, “Fred A. King: Early Entrepreneur and Politician in Northern Minnesota,” Minnesota Genealogist, 47:2 (Summer 2016): p. 15.