Jesse Casbon vs. Hiram Church

This startling article appeared in the 30 June 1909 Porter County (Indiana) Vidette:

Porter County (Indiana) Vidette,, 30 Jun 1909, p. 1; microfilm image, Porter County Public Library (Click on image to enlarge)

                                                 Farmer Narrowly Escapes Bullets
   Hiram Church, a well known farmer living about two miles southwest of town, came near being the victim of an assassin’s bullet at an early hour this morning.
   Mr. Church was awakened about two o’clock by noises outside the house. He arose from bed, lighted a lamp and went to the window to investigate. The moment he reached the window a pistol shot rang out in the night air, the bullet lodging in the ceiling of the room in which Mr. Church was standing. In an instant a second shot was fired, the leaden missile being flattened against the stove.
   Hastily donning his clothes, Mr. Church summoned his son and struck out after the would-be assailant. The man was traced as far as Sager’s woods where the trail was lost.
   Before going home Mr. Church went to the home of Jesse Casbon, a man with whom he has had more or less trouble, and found him just returning to his place of abode.
   Mr. Church came to Valparaiso and swore out a warrant for the arrest of Mr. Casbon, charging him with assault with attempt to commit murder.
   The two men have had trouble over the renting of the farm on which Mr. Church resides, and the case is now in court, having been taken to Lake county on a change of venue. Bad feeling has existed between the two men for a year or more.
   Mr. Church is positive that he recognized Mr. Casbon through the window. The bullet which struck the stove was from a 32 calibre revolver and would easily have caused death had it not went wide of its human target.
   Mr. Casbon was arrested this afternoon by Constable Bryarly. He gave bonds for $1,000 and was released.

The next day the Evening Messenger reported that the grand jury returned an indictment against “Jesse Casbon, charged with shooting at Hiram Church, felonious assault.”[1]

For background, Jesse Casbon (1843–1934) was the third son of Thomas Casbon (1803–1888), who emigrated from England to Ohio in 1846 and then moved to Porter County, Indiana in 1865. Hiram Church (1866–1951) was the son-in-law of Jesse’s brother Charles Thomas Casbon and was married to Charles’s daughter Lodema. The Church family had been in northern Indiana since at least 1850. Hiram and Lodema hosted the 1901 Casbon family reunion at their home in Valparaiso.

As the article states, Jesse and Hiram Church were involved in a property dispute. The property involved was  about 160 acres located mainly in sections 26 and 27 of township 35 north, range 6 west, located about 1 ½ miles southwest of downtown Valparaiso, the county seat, and directly west of the county (poor) farm. Deed records show that Jesse purchased this property in 1879.[2] A plat map from 1895 shows this land in Jesse’s possession.

Detail from a map of Center Township, Lee and Lee’s Atlas of Porter County, Indiana. Illustrated (Chicaco: Lee & Lee, 1895), p. 39; imaged at Library of Congress (https://www.loc.gov/resource/g4093pm.gla00070/ : accessed 6 Sep 20), showing Jesse Casbon’s land southwest of Valparaiso (Click on image to enlarge)

At some point Jesse rented the farm to Hiram Church. This contradicts the entry for Hiram in the 1910 census, where he is listed as the owner, not renter, of this property.[3]

Unfortunately, I don’t have access to any court records, so the details of the legal case are unclear. A fragment of a letter from Emma (Casbon) Rigg, Jesse’s sister, who was visiting from Iowa at the time and staying with him, suggests that Church claimed he had a verbal agreement that Jesse “would & did sell him the farm for 11000 [dollars].”[4]

Returning to the shooting, the odd thing is that I have not been able to find any evidence that Jesse was ever tried for the alleged assault. A few years ago, I searched the Valparaiso newspapers (on microfilm) at the Porter County Public Library, and I found no further mention of the shooting. Were the charges dropped?

Instead, the newspapers shift to the legal battle between Jesse and Hiram Church. An article in the 1 August 1909 (i.e., only one month after the shooting) Porter County Vidette quotes the Michigan City (LaPorte County, Indiana) Dispatch, stating that “Hiram Church filed an action against Jesse Casbon to quiet [sic: quit] title to a farm in Porter County owned by the former.”[5] In other words, Hiram claimed that he was the rightful owner of the property. Even though it was only one month later, no mention was made of the assault charge against Jesse. The article also stated that the venue for the case was changed from Porter to LaPorte county.

A 6 July 1911 article in the Hammond Lake County Times stated that the case of “Jesse Cashon [sic] vs. Hiram Church; Possession” was filed in the superior court at Crown Point, Indiana.[6]

The Hammond Lake County (Indiana) Times, 6 Jul 1911, p. 5, col. 1; microfilm, Porter County Library; author’s collection (Click on image to enlarge)

What had happened with the case in LaPorte County? Why was a case now being filed in Lake County (immediately west of Porter County), where it had supposedly been filed once before in 1909? I don’t have answers.

The resolution of the case is found in this undated article I received from Ilaine Church (a granddaughter-in-law of Hiram Church).

Undated news clipping, unknown newspaper; courtesy of Ilaine Church (Click on image to enlarge)

                                                             Settled Out of Court
   The case of Church against Casbon for the possession of real estate has been settled out of court and dismissed. The suit has been a noted one and has been in the courts for about four years. It was tried at Crown Point and Church won the suit. A new trial was secured by Casbon and the case was venued to Laporte county, where it was dismissed after the court received notice of the agreement for a settlement. The plaintiff gets possession from the defendant of a farm located near the county house, which was the subject of contention for which he is to pay the defendant $12,000.

This summarizes the case in a nutshell, although I wish there were more details. Apparently, Hiram Church won the case in Lake County referred to in July 1911, but what had happened in the preceding two or three years? It seems to have bounced back and forth between Porter, LaPorte, and Lake counties.

Even though undated, the article must have been written in either late 1911 or early January 1912, because a deed recorded in Porter County shows the sale by Jesse Casbon to Hiram Church of a piece of property matching the description of that first purchased by Jesse in 1879, for the price of 12,000 dollars.[7]

It is frustrating not having the details of either case—the alleged assault or the property dispute that might have triggered it. One thing that is clear is that there was a great deal of animosity between both parties in the dispute. It is unlikely that a 12,000-dollar payment did anything to ease the hard feelings.

In my previous post, I mentioned the possibility of bad blood between Jesse and his brother Charles. Given that Hiram Church was married to Charles’s daughter, is would be understandable if Charles took Hiram’s side in the argument and distanced himself from his brother.


[1] “Grand Jury Adjourns,” The (Valparaiso, Indiana) Evening Messenger, 1 Jul 1909, p. 1, col. 3; microfilm, Porter County Library.
[2] Indiana Porter County, Deed Index 6, Grantee, Mar 1876—Dec 83, Casbon Jesse from John T Derrit x3, 20 Mar 1879, Parts S26, 35, 27 T35 R6, recorded 15 Apr 1879; in collection “Deed records, 1836-1901,” browsable images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/search/catalog/609009 : accessed 12 Jan 17; citing FHL Film 1,703,896, Item 5.
[3] 1910 U.S. census, Porter County, Indiana, Center Township, ED 137, sheet 7B, dwelling 115, family 118; imaged as “1910 United States Federal Census,” Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/search/collections/7884/ : accessed 6 Sep 20) >Indiana >Porter >Center >District 0137 >image 14 of 26.
[4] Fragment of letter from Emma Rigg to George Casbon, undated (ca. May 1910); image copy supplied by Claudia Vokoun, now in author’s collection.
[5] “Change of Venue in Four Cases,” The Porter County (Indiana) Vidette, 4 Aug 1909, p. 2, col. 1; microfilm, Porter County Library.
[6] “New Cases in Superior Court,” The Hammond Lake County (Indiana) Times, 6 Jul 1911, p. 5, col. 1; microfilm, Porter County Library.
[7] Porter County, Indiana, deed records, book 11, page not recorded, [copy of] warranty deed dated 10 Jan 1912, Jesse Casbon to Hiram Church for $12,000, E 1/2 SE 1/4 S27 and part W1/2 SW 1/4 S26 and part of NW 1/4 S 35, T35 R6W; photocopy, author’s collection.

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