Obituaries: Charles and Mary Casbon

obituary (n.)

“register of deaths,” from Medieval Latin obituarius “a record of the death of a person,” literally “pertaining to death,” from Latin obitus “departure, a going to meet, encounter” (a euphemism for “death”), from stem of obire “go toward, go to meet” (as in mortem obire “meet death”), from ob “toward” (see ob-) + ire “to go”[1]

I like obituaries. They are one of the most valuable resources for genealogical information. Besides giving a date of death, they often contain other important dates, such as birth and marriage. In addition, they often give names of family members. They sometimes provide insight into the life of a person, such as their occupation and their standing in the community.

Since I wrote about the family Bible of Charles and Mary (Marrell) Casbon last week, I thought I would be fitting to follow up with their obituaries this week. Charles was the first to go: he died on October 15, 1915.[2]

Obituary of Charles Thomas Casbon;[3]
courtesy of Ilaine Church (Click on image to enlarge)
This obituary was included in the pile of photocopies my father received from Ilaine Church in the early 1990s. It was another valuable find in that collection, since the local newspapers from Valparaiso and Porter County, Indiana are not available online for this time period. Whoever originally copied the obituary probably found it on microfilm at the Valparaiso library.

Charles Thomas was the second surviving son of my third great-grandfather, Thomas Casbon, who emigrated from England in 1846.

The obituary gives us a very nice character description of Charles, especially of his life after retiring from his farm in the country to his home on Monroe Street. I love the description of him “driving his little bay horse and open buggy, or walking along greeting his friends.”

Charles and Mary (left) in front of their home on 203 E. Monroe St, Valparaiso, Indiana; The woman on the right is unidentified, but probably their daughter Sina; as far as I can tell, this house is no longer standing; from History of Porter County, Indiana: A Narrative Account of its Historical Progress, its People and its Principal Interests (Chicago, Illinois: Lewis Publishing Company, 1912) (Click on image to enlarge)

Unfortunately, obituaries sometimes get facts wrong. This can happen because family members make mistakes in their recollections, or newspaper writers and editors record facts incorrectly. The glaring error in Charles’ obituary is the opening statement that he came to Indiana from Ohio when he was eight years old. In fact, Charles first came to Indiana as a young adult.  The History of Porter County gives this account: “In company with a friend, George Bittner, in March, 1862, he arrived at Valparaiso, a small place at that time, where he paused in his journey and in this vicinity has remained ever since, to his own profit and to the benefit of the community.”[4]

The obituary tells us that Charles’ health began to fail about two years before his death, and that he died from “complications of diseases.” His death certificate tells us that he died from “valvular insufficiency of both valves of heart,” of two years’ duration.[5] Oddly, the obituary doesn’t tell us when Charles was born, or his age at death. He was born in November 6, 1840, which would have made him just shy of 75 years old when he died.

His widow, Mary, survived him by more than twelve years, passing away on February 26, 1928.[6]

Obituary of Mary (Marrell) Casbon; from The (Valparaiso, Indiana) Vidette-Messenger, 27 Feb 1928, p. 1, col. 7; (Click on image to enlarge)

Mary’s obituary tells us how her body was discovered by her brother, John, who was evidently living with her. Then it goes on to give more typical information, including her birth, marriage, social activities, and surviving relations. Unlike Charles’ earlier obituary, we really don’t learn much about Mary’s personality.

The only error I see in her obituary is the statement that Charles and Mary came to Porter County “shortly after their marriage” in 1868. This contradicts the date given for Charles arrival, above. The History of Porter County tells us that “he returned to his Ohio home [from Indiana] and there married Miss Mary E. Marrell.”[7] The family Bible also tells us that Charles was residing in Valparaiso at the time of his marriage.[8]

It’s impressive that Mary’s death made the front page of the newspaper. The Vidette Messenger didn’t have a separate obituary section at the time. Most notices of deaths and funeral ceremonies were reported on pages three or four, but some made it to the front page. Whether this was due to the prominence of the person in the community, the circumstances of their death, or some other reason is unknown to me.

Every indication is that the 48-year marriage of Charles and Mary was a strong one. They are now survived by members of the Church family—descendants of Lodema Casbon and her husband Hiram Church. Lodema was the only one of Charles’ and Mary’s children to have children of her own.

Charles’ and Mary’s grave markers, Maplewood Cemetery, Valparaiso, Indiana[9]

[1] “obituary (n.),” Online Etymology Dictionary (https://www.etymonline.com/word/obituary : accessed 8 October 2018).
[2] Indiana, State Board of Health, Certificate of Death, no. 215, Porter County, Valparaiso, Charles T Casbon, 26 Oct 1915; imaged as “Indiana, Death Certificates, 1899-2011,” Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=60716 : accessed 10 August 2016), Certificate >1910-1919 >17 >image 264 of 4078; citing Indiana Archives and Records Administration, Indianapolis.
[3] Photocopy of clipping from unknown newspaper, handwritten date “Wed 27 Oct 1915,” “Succumbs to Death After Long Illness”; privately held by Jon Casbon.
[4] History of Porter County, Indiana: A Narrative Account of its Historical Progress, its People and its Principal Interests (Chicago, Illinois: Lewis Publishing Company, 1912), vol. 2, pp. 459-61.
[5] Indiana, State Board of Health, Certificate of Death, Charles T Casbon, previously cited.
[6] Indiana, State Board of Health, Certificate of Death, no. 6509, Porter County, Valparaiso, Mary E Casbon; imaged as “Indiana, Death Certificates, 1899-2011,” Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=60716 : accessed 24 August 2016), Certificate >1928 >03 >image 1516 of 2757; citing Indiana Archives and Records Administration, Indianapolis.
[7] History of Porter County, Indiana, previously cited.
[8] Photocopy of title page, holy matrimony, births, marriages and deaths pages from The Holy Bible Containing the Old and New Testaments, etc. (Philadelphia: A J Holman & Co., 1882), said to be the Charles Casbon family Bible (original in possession of Bud Church); privately held by Jon Casbon.
[9] Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed 08 October 2018), memorial page for Charles T Casbon (1840–1915), memorial no. 92655517, maintained by George & Linda Novotny; citing Maplewood Cemetery, Valparaiso, Porter County, Indiana. Find A Grave (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed 08 October 2018), memorial page for Mary E Casbon (1844–1928), memorial no. 9265539, maintained by George & Linda Novotny; citing Maplewood Cemetery, Valparaiso, Porter County, Indiana.

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