Cora Ann (Casbon) Sams (1861–1940)

Cora Ann was the first child born to Sylvester V (1837–1927) and Adaline (Aylesworth, 1842–1868) Casbon. She was born September 1, 1861 in Porter Township, near Hebron, in Porter County, Indiana.[1] Her parents may well have been living with Adaline’s family at the time, as they had just recently been married, and Sylvester did not make his first land purchase until a few months after Cora’s birth.[2]

Cora’s mother, Adaline, died in 1868, before Cora was seven years old.[3] She was thirteen when her “second mother,” Harriet (Perry) Casbon died in 1874.[4] She was sixteen when Sylvester married for the third time, to Mary Mereness.[5] The loss of two mothers must have been very difficult for her. I suspect she had to “grow up fast” and take on many of the household and child care duties.

She was eighteen when she married John Sams, a labourer working on a farm in nearby Boone Township.[6] John seems to have come from an itinerant family. He was born in Tennessee, but moved to Kentucky before he was six years old and then came to Porter County while still “in his youth.”[7] Eventually, John became “one of Porter county’s most Influential and progressive farmers.”[8]

John and Cora had four children at widely spaced intervals. The first, a daughter named Vina Mae, was born in June 1881.[9] The next child was a son who died shortly after birth in 1892.[10] Goldie was born in 1898 and Lester in 1904.[11] Cora became a widow in 1916 when the automobile John was in was struck by a train.[12] She continued to live in the Hebron area until her death on March 16, 1940.[13]

I received this photograph a number of years ago from the wife of one of Cora’s grandsons.

Portrait of Cora, Mae and John Sams, 1892; back of the photo is on the right. Courtesy of Rosemary Sams.
(Click on image to enlarge)

I hope you will take the time to study the photograph. It is lovely by itself, but is even more remarkable because of the written description in Cora’s own hand.

Mae was 11 years old and could not walk. Taken 1892
My dress was dark green water-wave silk (soft) with plain green silk
ribbon was pale pink – 2 piece dress know then as a basque with croquette ball buttons

Mae dress green navy and orange wool plaid with navy blue plush white collar, green bow, gold chain with gold purse as a charm
Dads suit black and high top black boot which were very stylish those days also wore a vest
                                                                                                                   Cora Sams

That’s an amazing dress! The description really brings it to life and highlights how important written communications were in the days before telephones and color photography. Given that Mae was eleven years old, the photo must have been taken in the latter half of 1892, within a few months of the birth and death of their son. From their clothing it seems that John must have already been well on his way to becoming a prosperous farmer.

It seems that Cora’s words were written several years after the photo was taken, since she talks about “those days.” Was she writing to someone in particular, or just recording her memories for posterity? Whatever the answer, we are lucky today to be able to share this link to the past.

[1] “South County Woman Dies,” The (Valparaiso, Indiana) Vidette-Messenger, 16 Mar 1940, p. 1, col. 5; online image, Newspaper Archive (accessed through participating libraries: 11 July 2016).
[2] Porter County, Indiana, Deed Record Book N, p. 12, Giles Aylesworth to Sylvester Casbon, 19 Dec 1881; imaged as “Deed records, 1836-1901,” FamilySearch( : accessed 19 Sep 2017), image 378 of 880; citing FHL microfilm 1,703,772, item 2.
[3] Weston A. Goodspeed and Charles Blanchard, Counties of Porter and Lake, Indiana: Historical and Biographical: Illustrated (Chicago: F.A. Battey & Co., 1882), p. 706: online image, Internet Archive ( : accessed 22 Aug 2016).
[4] Ibid.
[5] Lake County, Indiana, Marriage Record D, 5-10-1877 to 8-19-1885, p. 31 (stamped), 2d entry, Sylvester Casbon and Mary Mereness, 13 Dec 1877; imaged as “Indiana Marriages, 1811-2007,” FamilySearch ( : accessed 15 April 2018), Lake > 1877-1885 Volume D4 > image 54 of 329; citing FHL microfilm 2,414,589.
[6] 1880 U.S. Census, Porter County, Indiana, population schedule, Boone Township, p. 10 (penned) B, family 98, John Sames in household of A.W. Smith; imaged as “United States Census, 1880,” FamilySearch ( : accessed 19 April 2018), Indiana > Porter > Boone > ED 145 > image 10 of 17; citing NARA microfilm publication T9, roll 305.
[7] “More About Accident That Shocked City, The Porter County (Indiana) Vidette, 23 Feb 1916. p.3; online image, Newspaper Archive (accessed through participating libraries: 10 Jul 2016).
[8] Ibid.
[9] “United States Social Security Death Index,” database, FamilySearch ( : accessed 11 Jul 2016), Mae Felty, Mar 1973 (b. 9 Jun 1881); citing U.S. Social Security Administration, Death Master File.
[10] Find A Grave, database with images ( : accessed 25 May 2018), memorial for “infant son” Sams, b. 22 May 1892, Find A Grave memorial no. 183415597, created by “Jim”; citing Cornell Cemetery, Hebron, Porter, Indiana.
[11] Indiana, State Board of Health, death certificate no. 190 (stamped), Porter County, Boone Township, Goldie M.A. Sams, b. 5 Feb 1898, d. 1 Mar 1913; imaged as “Indiana, Death Certificates, 1899-2011,” Ancestry ( : accessed 25 May 2018), Certificate >17 >1913 >image 238 of 1793; citing Indiana Archives and Records Administration; Indianapolis. “United States Social Security Death Index,” FamilySearch ( : accessed 11 Jul 2016), Lester Sams, Sep 1984 (b. 9 May 1904).
[12] Indiana, State Board of Health, death certificate no. 134 (stamped), La Porte County, La Porte Township, John Sams, 17 Feb 1916; Ancestry ( : accessed 19 April 2018), Certificate >1916 >09, image 1796 of 2137.
[13] “South County Woman Dies,” The (Valparaiso, Indiana) Vidette-Messenger, 16 Mar 1940.

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