James Casbon of Meldreth, England and Porter County, Indiana

Since I started this blog, I’ve been trying to lay down a framework showing the origins of the major Casbon lines, i.e., those lines from which most of today’s Casbons are descended. So far I’ve covered the Littleport/Peterborough Casbons, the descendants of Thomas Casbon of Meldreth, a little bit about the Australian Casbens, and the origins of the Casban line with Samuel Clark Casban. No discussion of Casbon family history would be complete without the subject of today’s post, James Casbon. He is my 4th great uncle, which means he is the brother of my 3rd great grandfather (Thomas Casbon).

This is the only photo I’ve ever seen of James. (Courtesy of Ron D Casbon)

James Casbon has puzzled, challenged, and intrigued me for a number of years. He is the only Casbon I know of who came to America but still has descendants both in England and the United States. There are relatively few records about his life. Every indication is that his life had many hardships. He faced the challenges of poverty and lack of education while trying to make a better life for his family.

James was the youngest son of Isaac Casbon (see From England to Indiana, Part 2), born in either 1813 or 1814. [1] I’ve searched meticulously for his baptismal records without success. There were no requirements for vital records at the time. Most births were documented when someone was baptized – but not everyone was baptized.

Isaac, James’ father, was an agricultural laborer; i.e., he worked for wages when work was available. Isaac died in 1825 when James was no more than 12 years old. [2] James probably had no other choice than going to work to help support his family.

The first record I have of James is his marriage to Elizabeth Waller July 25th, 1835 in Meldreth. I’ve used this record as an example before, to show that James signed with “his mark.” [3]

(Click on image to enlarge)

Elizabeth was born September 1815 in Meldreth, one of eight children born to William and Sarah (Johnson) Waller. Her father’s occupation was “Labourer.” [4]

One thing James never had difficulty with was having children. By 1841, he and Elizabeth had three: William (born about 1836), Sarah (born about 1837), and Lydia Ann (born about 1840). [5] By 1851, another four had been born: Mary (baptized 1841), Thomas (born 1844), George (born 1846), and John (born 1849). [6]

Their last child, Emma, was baptized in August 1852 (but possibly born late 1851, based on her reported age at death). [7] Her mother Elizabeth was buried less than 1 week later. [8] One relative told me that she believes Emma went into a foundling home, because James had no way to care for an infant. This is supported by parish records showing Emma’s abode as the Royston Workhouse when she died in November 1853. [9]

Burial record of Emma Casbon, 8 November 1853 (Click on image to enlarge)

After Elizabeth’s death, James was left with a household of eight children, ranging in age from infancy to age 16, so it would be understandable if he gave the youngest up to the care of others.

After Emma’s death, the document trail goes cold until James’ arrival in America. He doesn’t appear in the 1861 England census. (1 Nov 2018: see updates here and here.) According to family tradition James married either Mary Cooper or Mary Harper while still in England. Records of this marriage have not been found. James and Mary had three more children: Margaret (born about 1864), [10] Amos James (born 1869), [11] and Alice Ann (or Alice Hannah – born 1871 in Porter County, Indiana). [12]

Thanks to a copy of James’ naturalization certificate given to me by Ron Casbon, I was recently able to pin down the date and name of the ship upon which James and his family arrived in the United States. [13]

James Casbon’s naturalization certificate, 3 October 1876 (Click on image to enlarge)

The certificate says that James departed Liverpool and arrived in New York on December 26th, 1871. I suspected the year was incorrect because his daughter Alice was born in Indiana in January 1871. After a bit of detective work, I was able to find this passenger list for the ship Great Western that departed Liverpool November 11th and arrived in New York December 27th, 1870. [14] You can see that his name was misspelled as Custon. You can also see that his second wife Mary was 20 years his junior.

Passenger list of the ship Great Western, 27 December 1870 (Click on image to enlarge)

James made his way to Indiana and settled in Porter Township, Porter County. I doubt that he could afford to buy land, as his occupation was listed as “Farm Laborer” in the 1880 census. [15]

His wife Mary died, probably in 1874 or 1875. He married Mary Payne in January, 1876. [16] She is possibly the same Mary Payne who was a niece of Emma (Scruby) Casbon, the wife of Thomas, James’ brother (see From England to Indiana, Part 8), but this is only speculation on my part.

James died August 22, 1884, from complications of an injury sustained in an unprovoked assault (See The Collage Explained). [17] His widow, Mary, was left with two step-children, Alice and Amos, ages 13 and 15, respectively (Margaret married in 1882). Mary died in 1903, and is buried in Maplewood Cemetery, Valparaiso, Indiana. [18]

James’ legacy today is in the many descendants living in both England and the United States. They are a testament to his struggles and endurance.

[1] “England and Wales Census, 1851.” FamilySearch https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:SGBL-24P [accessed 11 November 2015]
[2] Church of England, “Parish Registers for Meldreth, 1681-1877,” Burials 1825. FHL microfilm #1040542
[3] Church of England, “Bishop’s transcripts for Meldreth, 1599-1862,” Marriages 1835. FamilySearch https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3Q9M-C9T9-NXJM?i=340&cat=1108704 [accessed 20 May 2016]
[4] Church of England, “Bishop’s transcripts for Meldreth, 1599-1862” FamilySearch https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3Q9M-C9T9-N6C5?i=426&cat=1108704 [accessed 1 October 2015]
[5] “England and Wales Census, 1841.” FamilySearch https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MQR8-NWB [accessed 12 July 2016]
[6] “England and Wales Census, 1851.”
[7] Church of England, “Parish Registers for Meldreth, 1681-1877,” Baptisms 1852.
[8] Church of England, “Parish Registers for Meldreth, 1681-1877,” Burials 1852.
[9] Church of England, “Parish Registers for Meldreth, 1681-1877,” Burials 1853.
[10] “United States Census, 1880.” FamilySearch https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MHS7-4N2 [accessed 4 July 2016]
[11] “England and Wales Birth Registration Index, 1837-2008.” FamilySearch https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:2X7G-YF3 [accessed 12 September 2015]
[12] “Mrs Alice Hicks Dies Following Lingering Illness,” Vidette Messenger, Valparaiso, Indiana. The Newspaper Archive Academic Library Edition http://ezproxy.ppld.org:2083/us/indiana/valparaiso/valparaiso-vidette-messenger/1950/03-16/page-6 [accessed 6 August 2016]
[13] Personal collection of Ron D Casbon
[14] “New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1891,” FamilySearch https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:939V-51S2-X5?i=106&cc=1849782 [accessed 10 November 2016]
[15] “United States Census, 1880.” FamilySearch https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MHS7-4N2 [accessed 4 July 2016]
[16] “Indiana Marriages, 1811-2007,” FamilySearch https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:KDH3-B7L [accessed 24 October 2015]
[17] “Murder! That is About what is Made out of the Case of Old Man Casbon.” Copy of Porter County Vidette article published 28 August 1884, from personal collection of Ron D Casbon
[18] “Mary P. Casbon.” Find A Grave Memorial# 109800943. Find A Grave http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=109800943 [accessed 4 July 2016]

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