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Mason M. Imlay, Will County (1866 - 1891)

Mason Imlay was thirteen years old when he arrived at the Joliet train station. He came with twenty other boys and Ebenezer Wright on September 20 1879. He was apprenticed to Thomas Cain, a farmer located near Manhattan IL. Thomas Cain was a widower, living with his daughter Anna Cain on their farm. Cain was an immigrant from the Isle of Man.

Mason's family first appeared in the 1860 census, when his father Robert (32) and mother Lydia (20) had two children, Hannah (4) and Lawrence (1). Robert and his father, John Imlay, owned a variety store in New York City. The 1880 census shows that Mason's mother, Lydia Imlay, was widowed and living with her daughter and son-in-law in Fairfield Connecticut. (Her son-in-law worked in a paper bag factory, so they may have had a reduced ability to take in a young brother in law)

Mason was from New York, but reported his parents as being from Connecticut, perhaps because he knew his mother was living in Connecticut (they were from New Jersey). He was titled "adopted son" in the 1880 census while living with Thomas Cain, and twelve years later Thomas Cain was still acting in the place of a parent to Mason at the age of 25.

Mason was attending the Normal School, or the teaching college at Valparaiso Indiana in 1891 (which later became Valparaiso University). He must have been there for some time because he had a large collection of books and even a set of encyclopedias in his lodgings. We know all this because Mason drowned in August of 1891 while swimming in a pond. The estate included a statement from Thomas Cain, who stated that Mason's parents were both deceased but that he had a married sister in Connecticut, Hannah Wilcoxson.

Mason had lent money to two different men and those debts were collected by the estate executor, to pay off his funeral and court costs. Mason had a collection of books, a gold ring and watch, and a good wardrobe of clothing which were sold and netted $27! His funeral expenses were paid by his estate, including a funeral that cost $51.85 and a grave plot that cost $15. He had a medium sized stone on his grave in Manhattan Center Cemetery, upon which his name was misspelled "Imaly." Mason never married, and left no children.

Mason's sister died in 1895. No trace could be found of his brother, or the dates of his parents' deaths.

Mason must have been an extraordinary young man, to have been a position to lend money to other men and to have accumulated the books he owned. Perhaps much of his success was due to the man who adopted him at age thirteen.

I received Mason's name from a librarian in Joliet who provided me with two lists of boys sent to Joliet from the newspapers there.

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