Cedarhurst, Part III: Tracking back the generations

By Joseph Back

Who was Cordenio Severance? Having posed this question two weeks ago the answer still somewhat alludes us, though progress might be made.. Along with a partial and incomplete family pedigree (with story), we can state from available census and other records reviewed that Mr. Severance was once employed by a “C. K. Davis” and associated with one “Kellog,” living and working in St. Paul for part of the year, specifically at 244 Pearl Street if records are correct. Marrying Mary Francis Harriman on June 26, 1889 at Cottage Grove, Mr. Severance went on to create a legacy for the area, and not just his family.

That said, we are also faced with a larger question in seeking who Mr. Severance was, namely this: what makes a man, or for that matter, a woman? What determines their path in life and details? Are they determined, or are they made by the individual?

As to this, we needn’t confuse philosophy with genealogy. We might start in turn at the family, which if nothing else can tell us something about names and patterns in the same.

Take “Cordenio.” From where did this name orig-


Situated off Keats Avenue just north of 70 Street South, the Cedarhurst Mansion of Cordenio and Mary Severance has a proud legacy and long back story. Do you know it? Photo by Joseph Back. CEDARHURST

FROM PAGE 1 inate? That question is beyond a sure answer at this point, but clues in the family pedigree do suggest one theory: It was his father’s middle name.

The father’s name and relation to the son is secured by the will of Erasmus Cordenio Severance, mentioning as well a sister for Mr. Severance, named Carrie.

More than the first name, however, is the middle—“ Arnold”—which records suggest may be tied to the maiden name of Mr. Severance’s mother. Prior to her marriage to Erasmus Severance, Mr. Severance’s mother was named Amanda Julia Arnold, a certainty arrived at by way of old census and marriage records. That said, identifiable census records are closed for the duration of one’s life.

As to the last name of Mr. Severance, it’s relative easy: the son inherits his father’s name. Cordenio Arnold Severance was the son of Erasmus and Amanda Severance, and Alexandra Severance the daughter of Cordenio.

This leads to a second question: how might one trace back a woman’s name after she is married? One possibility as seen with Cordenio, is to incorporate it as a middle or other name of succeeding generations, another is to trace those around her to a common place, and check for associated pattersns in naming. In which case, we’re in luck: the obelisk which contains “Severance” at Cottage Grove Cemetery also contains many other names, and leads to go on. Still the question alludes us, though: who was Cordenio Severance? That answer might lie in part by way to discovering C. K. Davis and/or “Kellog.”

For that, we await a future installment, leaving the reader to fill in the blanks on the Severance family pedigree and Cedarhurst family tree, for the meantime.

July 20, 2022