Mary (Mereness) Casbon (1850–1932)

I’ve been writing about the wives of my second great-grandfather, Sylvester V Casbon (~1837–1927). The deaths of Adaline (Aylesworth, 1842–1868) and Harriet (Perry, ~1840-1874) must have been very hard on him and his children. Sylvester was 37 years old when Harriet died. Once again, the children needed a mother and he needed a wife. He was prospering as a farmer and, from that standpoint, would have made a good match for many a daughter or young widow. However, in the eyes of the local women, the outcome of his first two marriages might have diminished his prospects as an eligible bachelor.

It would be another three years after Harriet’s death until he remarried. Her name was Mary Mereness. and they were married in Lake County, Indiana, on December 13, 1877.[1]

Marriage record of Sylvester Casbon and Mary Mereness, Lake County, Indiana (Click on image to enlarge)

Mary was the daughter of John I and Eva (Zea) Mereness. Her birth date is recorded in several sources (including her grave stone) as April 15, 1851, but this can’t be correct, since she is listed as being four months old on the 1850 census, which was enumerated on August 16, 1850.[2] So, I think the correct birth date is actually April 15, 1850. The records do agree that she was born in Schoharie County, New York.[3] Sylvester’s biography in the History of Porter County tells us that John and Eva Mereness

were natives of New York, and emigrated to Indiana when their daughter Mary was six years old, becoming farmers in this county. The other children in the family were Abram, Harrison, Peter, Catherine, Ann and Margaret. Their schooling was obtained in New York and Indiana, and some attended the school at Blachley’s Corners and others at the Deep River school.[4]

Sylvester didn’t have to look far to find Mary. On the 1870 census, we find Sylvester and Mary, then nineteen and living with her parents, on the same page, just a few entries away from each other.[5]

Detail from 1870 Census, Ross Township, Porter County, Indiana (Click on image to enlarge)

In fact, they were neighbors. An 1891 plat map shows land that formerly belonged to John Mereness abutting against Sylvester land. The two families must have known each other for quite some time, probably well before Harriet Casbon died in 1874.

Upon their marriage, Mary instantly became “mother” to four children: Cora Ann, age sixteen; Lawrence, twelve; Thomas Sylvester, seven; and Charles Parkfield, five. Sylvester’s youngest son, George, had presumably already moved to Iowa with Sylvester’s sister, Emma, and her husband, Robert Newell Rigg. Henrietta Chester, the daughter of Sylvester’s deceased wife, was probably already married by that time.[6]

Although having a wife and mother in the household must have greatly eased the burden on Sylvester, it could easily have been a difficult adjustment for the children. However, the History of Porter County reassures us that “Mrs. Casbon became a loyal mother to her husband’s children, and to her they owe much of the training which helped them attain worthy positions in life.”[7]

Although only 27 when she married, Mary never had children of her own. Given what had happened to Adaline and Harriet, perhaps this was a good thing.

This photograph, from about 1889, shows Sylvester, then about 52 years old, and Mary, about 39.

This is the earliest photograph I have of either Sylvester or Mary; Is that a bustle? (They were still in fashion, though declining in size by then); photo courtesy of Ilaine Church

This photo, taken about 1905, shows Sylvester and Mary with their children and grandchildren.

Sylvester Casbon and extended family, about 1905, Valparaiso, Indiana; author’s collection (Click on image to enlarge)

Mary and Sylvester moved to Valparaiso when Sylvester retired from farming in 1892.[8] They certainly had a long (50 year), and hopefully happy, marriage, which ended with Sylvester’s death in December, 1927.[9] Mary survived him by a little more than four years, passing way on February 28, 1932, age 81.[10]

Mary’s obituary from the Valparaiso Vidette Messenger[11]  (Click on image to enlarge)
Mary is the only one of Sylvester’s wives to have been buried alongside him, in Graceland Cemetery, Valparaiso.[12]

[1] 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; image, “Indiana Marriages, 1811-2007,” FamilySearch ( : accessed 15 April 2018), Lake > 1877-1885 Volume D4 > image 54 of 329; citing FHL microfilm 2,414,589, item 1 (image 61 of 919).
[2] 1850 U.S. Census, Schoharie County, New York, population schedule, Sharon Town, n.p., dwelling 392, family 393, Mary Mereness in the household of John J. Mereness; imaged as “1850 United States Federal Census,” Ancestry ( : accessed 11 April 2018), New York >Schoharie >Sharon, image 54 of 63; citing NARA microfilm publication M432, roll 596, p. 376B.
[3] 1855 census of New York State, Schoharie County, Sharon district, , n.p., dwelling 427, family 454, John I. Mereness; imaged as “New York, State Census, 1855,” FamilySearch ( : accessed 15 April 2018) >Schoharie >Sharon >All, image 31 of 50; citing FHL microfilm  868,878.
[4] History of Porter County Indiana: A Narrative Account of its Historical Progress, its People and its Principal Interests, vol. 2 (Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1912), p. 484; online image, Hathi Trust Digital Library (;view=1up;seq=140;size=150 : accessed 15 April 2018).
[5] 1870 U.S. Census, Lake County, Indiana, population schedule, p. 431 (stamped), dwelling 68, family 69, John Marinus; imaged as “United States Census, 1870,” FamilySearch ( : accessed 11 April 2018), Indiana > LaGrange > Ross > image 11 of 44; citing NARA microfilm publication M593, roll 333.
[6] Personal communication, Jon Casbon with Linda Pearson, 13 September 2016.
[7] History of Porter County Indiana, p. 484.
[8] Ibid.
[9] Indiana, State Board of Health, Certificate of Death, no. 36661 (stamped), Valparaiso, Porter County, Sylvester Casbon, 10 Dec 1927; imaged as “Indiana, Death Certificates, 1899-2011,” Ancestry ( : accessed 15 April 2018), Certificate >1927-1927 >15, image 2675 of 4752; citing Indiana Archives and Records Administration; Indianapolis, Death Certificates, 1926–1927, roll 15.
[10] Indiana, State Board of Health, Certificate of Death, no. 5742, Valparaiso, Mary Casbon, 28 Feb 1932; “Indiana, Death Certificates, 1899-2011,” Ancestry ( : accessed 15 April 2018), Certificate >1932 >02, image 2753 of 3010; citing Indiana Archives and Records Administration; Death Certificates, 1932, roll 2.
[11] “Death Claims Mary Casbon.” The (Valparaiso, Indiana) Vidette Messenger, 29 Feb 1932, p. 3, col. 8; online image, Newspaper Archive (accessed through participating libraries: 16 Jun 2016).
[12] Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed 15 April 2018), memorial for Mary Casbon (15 Apr 1851–23 Feb 1932), Memorial ID 116217328, created by “Kathy”; citing Graceland Memorial Park, Valparaiso, Porter County, Indiana.

5 thoughts on “Mary (Mereness) Casbon (1850–1932)”

  1. The home where I was raised, 501 Academy St., must have been built by Sylvester about 1892 and who did my dad purchase if from? Do I have that correct? Can you locate any details of the building of that house? I have many memories of that house where I lived from about 1931 to 1943??? Dad

  2. You are correct. 501 Academy St is the home you were raised in, and presumably built by Sylvester when he retired and moved to Valparaiso. A city directory from 1893 shows both he and Lawrence living at 21 Academy Street. I believe the houses were later renumbered, so it became number 501. This was originally called Lot 1, Block 2 or Pierce’s Addition to Valparaiso. I have a copy of Sylvester’s will, dated 9 August 1920, in which Sylvester willed this lot and its contents to his wife Mary. Presumably your father, Leslie, either purchased it directly from Mary, inherited it, or bought it from her estate. Those records aren’t available online but could probably be located in Valparaiso. I might be able to find a copy of Mary’s will, however. I doubt that records of its construction can be found, unless it is mentioned in a newspaper. Newspapers from the 1890s aren’t available online, however.

    1. Thank you. I learned the lesson that if I don’t document my sources well, I may have trouble finding them again. Plus, if others want to validate my work, they can do it. If I ever decide to publish my work in a book, I’ve already got my references!I use Evidence Explained by Elizabeth Shown Mills, the bible for genealogy citations.

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