The First Family of James Casbon in England

I have written about James Casbon (~1813–1884) many times, but most of my focus has been on his later years in England, his emigration to the United States, and his children who grew up there. However, he lived most of his life in England and had a large family there by his first wife, Elizabeth Waller. I have never told the stories of James’s and Elizabeth’s children. They would have been adults by the time James departed from England with his second family (wife, Mary, and their children) in 1870.

Technically, James’s living descendants in the United States—some of whom I know and correspond with—are closer in kinship to their English cousins than they are to me, since I am descended from James’s brother Thomas.

James Casbon, undated photo; courtesy of Ron Casbon

I’ll begin with a brief review of James’s and Elizabeth’s lives in England. James’s birthdate is not recorded, but from census records, it seems that he was probably born at Meldreth, Cambridgeshire in 1813 or 1814. Elizabeth Waller was born at Meldreth 11 September 1815 and baptized 15 October of that year, the daughter of William and Sarah (Johnson)
Waller.[1] James and Elizabeth were married at Meldreth 25 July 1835.[2] Elizabeth died of consumption (tuberculosis) 16 August 1852 at the age of 36.[3] James’s whereabouts after her death are unknown until he appears in the vicinity of Cottenham, Cambridgeshire, sometime in the 1860s. He married his second wife, Mary Jackson, at Stretham, Cambridgeshire, in 1866.[4]

The immediate aftermath of Elizabeth’s death is unknown, but there is reason to believe that it had a catastrophic effect on the family. At least two of the children, and probably more, ended up at the local workhouse, a destination reserved for destitute families and paupers. By 1861, the first census after Elizabeth’s death, there is no trace of the family as a unit. Only one of the children can be found in that census with certainty. By then, many of them would have been old enough to enter the workforce, so it is not surprising that they cannot be found together. However, it is odd not to find them at all.

Here is a chart showing James, Elizabeth, and two generations of their descendants, followed by biographical sketches of their children.

Chart showing descendants of James and Elizabeth (Waller) Casbon, numbered by generation and arranged in birth order (Click on image to enlarge)

William Casbon (~1836–unknown)

I held off on writing this post until I knew the answer to the two-William problem. Now that I have the answer, I can be more confident in what I say about James’s eldest son, William.

The only certain records we have of William are the 1841 and 1851 censuses of Meldreth and Melbourn, respectively. His age is given as 5 in 1841 and 15 in 1851, giving an estimated birth year of 1836. The 1851 census also tells us that William had already entered the workforce as an agricultural labourer.

Detail from 1851 England census, Melbourn, Cambridgeshire, showing James Casbon and his family; William, age 15, is highlighted (Ancestry.com) (Click on image to enlarge)

After the 1851 census, the trail for William goes cold, or at least cool. I have found a few records that might pertain to him. The first is in a collection known as the “1861 Worldwide [British] Army Index” (Findmypast.com). The collection includes a record for William Casbon, a private assigned to the 1st Battalion 20th (East Devonshire) Regiment of Foot in Gorakhpur, India.[5] I think this was probably James’s son, especially since he does not turn up elsewhere in the 1861 England census. Given the likely disruption of the family following his mother’s death, it’s plausible that William could have enlisted in the Army, perhaps after a stint in the workhouse.

There are two more interesting records. The first is the baptismal record of William Casbon, son of William Casbon and Lydia Lovely, at Whaddon (a village 1 ½ miles from Meldreth) in 1867 (no date given).[6] The child appears to have born out of wedlock in about 1860, based on his name being listed as William Lovely, age 11, in the 1871 census.[7] It’s plausible but not possible to prove that James’s son William was the father.

The second record is an 1869 criminal court record describing the conviction of Eliza Bacon, age 29, for “feloniously marrying Robert Bacon, her husband William Casbon being alive.”[8] This record might also refer to our William, but there is insufficient information to connect it to him with certainty. I have been unable to find any record of marriage or death for William.

Sarah Casbon (~1837–unknown)

The oldest daughter of James and Elizabeth, Sarah was baptized at Meldreth 8 October 1837.[9] She appears in the 1841 and 1851 censuses and then disappears from view. She would have been 14 years old when her mother died. I haven’t been able to find any further marriage, death, or census records for Sarah.

Lydia (Ann) Casbon (~1840–1885)

Lydia was baptized at Meldreth 20 December 1840.[10] She married, at Chester, Cheshire, 28 August 1859, Daniel Cross.[11] What was Lydia doing at Chester, more than 140 miles from Meldreth? One can surmise that she had found a position of some kind there, either as a servant or dressmaker (her occupation in the 1861 census). The parish marriage record gives Lydia’s father’s occupation as “farmer.” This was an exaggeration, since James was an agricultural labourer, a far cry from one who farmed his own land.

Lydia and Daniel had one son, William, born in 1867. Although I have not traced the family any further, it is evident from other Ancestry family trees that William had a large family. Thus, it is likely that Lydia and Daniel have living descendants today. Lydia’s burial is recorded at Chester on 8 May 1885.[12]

Mary Casbon (~1841–unknown)

Mary was baptized at Meldreth 19 December 1841.[13] Like several of her siblings, she disappears after the 1851 census. Given her age at the time of her mother’s death—about 11 years old—she might have spent some time in the Royston Union workhouse. While researching for this post, I came upon an 1861 census listing for Matilda Casbin, age 19, housemaid at a private home in Westminster St. Martin in the Fields, London.[14] Matilda’s birthplace is listed as Meldreth, Cambridgeshire. Given the last name, the birthplace, the fact that there are no other records for Matilda Casbon, and no other Casbons of that approximate age from Meldreth who are unaccounted for, I think this could be Mary.

Thomas Casbon (1844–1924)

Thomas was born at Meldreth 20 September 1844 and baptized there 15 June 1845.[15] He would have been 8 years old when his mother died. I haven’t found him for certain on the 1861 census, but I have previously written about my theory that Thomas and his father might have been listed in the 1861 census of Cottenham, Cambridgeshire, under the surname Randle. Thomas appears in a few newspaper articles of the late 1860s and early 1870s for minor criminal offenses such as public drunkenness and trespassing. He is recorded in the 1871 census living at Barrington, Cambridgeshire (2 ½ miles from Meldreth) and working as a “coprolite labourer.”[16]

In 1878 Thomas married Sarah Ann Wyers, a former domestic servant from Mepal, Cambridgeshire.[17] The couple had eight children—all but one of them boys—ensuring continuation of the family name. Thomas worked as an agricultural labourer and lived the remainder of his life at Brangehill (possibly a farm), near Sutton, Cambridgeshire. His death was registered in October 1924.[18] He was 80 years old.

George Casbon (1846–1897)

George was born at Meldreth 28 November 1847 and baptized 16 March the following
year.[19] George was sent to the Royston Union workhouse, probably shortly after his mother’s death. I wrote about him recently, describing his arrest and brief imprisonment for running away and stealing clothes from the workhouse. I have found entries in the 1861 census listing for the Royston workhouse that I believe are for George and his younger brother, John. They are represented by the initials “C.G.” and “C.J.” (last initial/first initial) on the census form.[20]

Detail from 1861 England Census, Bassingbourn, Cambridgeshire, Royston Union Workhouse, showing entries for “C.G.,” age 14 and “C.J.,” age 13; in this listing, the first initial represents the surname (Ancestry.com) (Click on image to enlarge)

I believe he can be also found in the 1871 census as “George Carswell,” age 24, birthplace Meldreth, Cambridgeshire, residing in the Army barracks at Stoke Damerel,
Devonshire.[21] This suspicion is supported by the description of George’s occupation in the 1881 census as “formerly a soldier.”

George married Sarah Pearse in 1881[22] and the couple settled in Fowlmere, a small village about 3 miles from Meldreth. He was listed there as a farm labourer in 1891.[23] George and Sarah had a son and four daughters. Notably, all four of the daughters became domestic servants, one of the few options available to girls from the lower classes. One of these daughters, Hilda Mary Casbon (1887–1921), being unmarried, gave up her son, George, for adoption. George was later shipped to Canada as one of thousands of “British Home Children.”

George, the subject of this sketch, died at Fowlmere 18 October 1897 at the age of 51.[24]

John Casbon (1849–1935)

John was born at Meldreth 10 February 1849, three years before his mother’s death.[25] I believe he was also sent to the Royston Union workhouse, where he is listed as “C. J.” in the 1861 census. In the 1871 census, he is listed as an agricultural labourer at Meldreth.[26] In 1890 he married Sarah Pepper, a local woman who previously worked as a servant and cook in London.[27] John and Sarah lived on Drury Lane in Melbourn, Cambridgeshire, for their entire married lives and had no children. By 1911, his occupation was listed as “shepherd.”[28] John died in 1935[29] and Sarah in 1938.[30]

Emma Casbon (1851–1853)

Emma’s birthdate is not recorded, but her age was recorded as 2 years old when she died of “fever” at the Royston Union workhouse on 4 November 1853.[31]

Death registration of Emma Casbon, Union Workhouse Bassingbourn (Royston), 2 years old; cause of death “Fever” (Click on image to enlarge)

Her baptismal record of 13 August 1852—three days before her mother’s death—is marked “Private,” meaning the ceremony was performed somewhere besides the parish church—most likely at home.[32] Given the timing, this was probably done so that her terminally ill mother could be present at the ceremony, perhaps as a dying wish. The location of Emma’s death—the workhouse—is the most visible and poignant indication of the consequences of Elizabeth’s death. Without his wife, James, a poor labourer, no longer had the resources to care for his family. We don’t know when or how many of James’s children were admitted to the workhouse, but in Emma’s case, it was probably quite soon after Elizabeth’s death.


[1] Parish of Meldreth (Cambridgeshire, England), register of baptisms (1813–1867), p. 8, no. 57; accessed as “Parish registers for Meldreth, 1681-1877,” browsable images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/search/film/007567609?cat=210742 : accessed 28 April 2017), image 201 of 699; citing FHL microfilm 1,040,542, item 5.
[2] Parish of Meldreth, register of marriages (1813–1837), p. 34, no. 100; accessed as “Parish registers for Meldreth, 1681-1877,” FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/search/film/007567609?cat=210742 : accessed 29 Aug 2017), image 363; citing FHL microfilm 1,040,542, item 8.
[3] England, General Register Office (GRO), death registration (unofficial copy), Royston & Buntingford/Melbourn, 1852, no. 117; PDF copy, author’s collection.
[4] “Stretham Marriages 1558 – 1952,” PDF extract, database,  Cambridgeshire Family History Society (https://www.cfhs.org.uk/tokens/tokpub.cfm : downloaded 2 September 2017), >Casben >Stretham >Stretham Marriages 1558 – 1952, James Casben & Mary Jackson, 3 Nov 1866; citing Stretham (Cambridgeshire) parish records.
[5] “British Army, Worldwide Index 1861,” database, Findmypast (https://www.findmypast.com/transcript?id=GBM%2FSOLIDX%2F00170082 : accessed 11 Nov 2016).
[6] “England Births and Christenings, 1538-1975,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:NBFC-TLQ : 6 December 2014).
[7] 1871 England census, Cambridgeshire, Bassingbourn, ED 4, p. 13 (65 stamped), schedule 60, William Lovely in the household of John Willshire; imaged at Ancestry ((https://www.ancestry.com/search/collections/7619 : accessed 29 Sep 20) >Cambridgeshire >Bassingbourne >ALL >4 >images 13-4 of 26; citing The National Archives, RG 10/1361.
[8] Central Criminal Court Calendar of Prisoners in Her Majesty’s Gaol of Newgate, Third Session, Commencing Monday, 20th of September, 1869, p. 10, no. 20; imaged in “England & Wales, Crime, Prisons & Punishment, 1770-1935,” Findmypast (https://www.findmypast.com/transcript?id=TNA/CCC/CRIM9/015/28981/3), image 171 of 236.
[9] Parish of Meldreth, register of baptisms (1813–1867), p. 49, no. 390.
[10] Parish of Meldreth, register of baptisms (1813–1867), p. 54, no. 430.
[11] Holy Trinity parish, Chester, Cheshire, England, p. 173, item 2; imaged as “Cheshire Diocese of Chester parish marriages 1538-1910,” Findmypast (https://search.findmypast.com/search-world-records/cheshire-diocese-of-chester-parish-marriages-1538-1910).
[12] Parish of Christleton, Burials 1885, Refe. item 2,, p 15 Record group Part 1 – 1; imaged as “Cheshire Diocese Of Chester Parish Burials 1538-1911,” Findmypast (https://www.findmypast.com/transcript?id=GBPRS%2FD%2F767404785%2F1 :accessed 8 Nov 2016).
[13] Parish of Meldreth, register of baptisms (1813–1867), p. 55, no. 437.
[14] 1861 England census, Middlesex, Westminster St. Martin in the Fields, Charing Cross, ED 10, p. 12, Matilda Casbin in the household of Lydia A. Knight; Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/8767 : accessed 1 Oct 20) >Middlesex >Westminster St Martin in the Fields >Charing Cross >District 10 >image 13 of 29.
[15] England, General Register Office, birth registration (unofficial copy), certificate no. BCA205377, Royston & Buntingford district, Melbourne sub-district, no. 230, 20 Sep 1844; author’s collection. Parish of Meldreth, register of baptisms (1813–1867), p. 61, no. 487.
[16] 1871 England census, Cambridgeshire, Barrington, ED 2, p. 14, schedule 52; imaged as “1871 England Census,” Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/7619 : accessed 23 Aug 20) >Cambridgeshire >Barrington >ALL >2 >image 15 of 31.
[17] “England and Wales Marriage Registration Index, 1837–2005”, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:2D5X-CWM: 13 December 2014).
[18] “England and Wales Death Registration Index 1837–2007,” FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:QVH4-9L5F : accessed 25 September 2015); Ely, 3d qtr 1924, vol. 3B/144.
[19] Parish of Meldreth, register of baptisms (1813–1867), p. 63, no. 501.
[20] 1861 England census, Cambridgeshire, Bassingbourn, enumeration district 5, p 77(stamped), verso (6th page of Royston Union Workhouse); Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=8767 : accessed 24 April 2020) >Cambridgeshire >Bassingbourn >District 5 >image 23 of 25.
[21] 1871 England census, Devon, Stoke Damerel, St. Aubyn, Raglan barracks, p. 81 (verso), line 10; imaged as “1871 England Census,” Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/7619 : accessed 23 Aug 2020) >Devon >Stoke Damerel >St Aubyn >Raglan Barracks >image 37 of 57.
[22] “England and Wales Marriage Registration Index, 1837-2005,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:2DRB-92T : accessed 26 September 2015), George Casbon, 1881; from “England & Wales Marriages, 1837-2005,” database, findmypast (http://www.findmypast.com : 2012); citing Marriage, Colchester, Essex, England, General Register Office.
[23] 1891 England census, Cambridgeshire, Fowlmere, ED 6, p. 14, schedule 86; imaged as “1891 England Census,” Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/6598 : accessed 23 Aug 2020) >Cambridgeshire >Fowlmere >ALL >District 6 >image 15 of 20.
[24] “Deaths,” Saffron Walden (Essex) Weekly News, 22 Oct 1897, p. 8, col. 8; accessed through “British Newspaper Collection,”  findmypast (https://search.findmypast.com/ : accessed 14 September 2017).
[25] Parish of Meldreth, register of baptisms (1813–1867), p. 68, no. 540.
[26] 1871 England census, Cambridgeshire, Meldreth, ED 15, p. 6, schedule32; ; imaged as “1871 England Census,” Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/7619 : accessed 24 Aug 20) >Cambridgeshire >Meldreth >ALL >15 >image 7 of 32.
[27] “England and Wales Marriage Registration Index, 1837–2005”, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:2DCN-4ZD : accessed 28 Apr 20); Royston, 1st qtr, vol. 3A/352.
[28] 1911 England census, Cambridgeshire, Melbourn, ED 9, schedule 82; imaged as “1911 England Census,” Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=2352 : accessed 24 Aug 2020) >Hertfordshire >Melbourn >ALL >09 >image 168 of 299.
[29] England and Wales, “Search the GRO [General Register Office] Online Index,” HM Passport Office (https://www.gro.gov.uk/gro/content/certificates/indexes_search.asp : accessed 30 Sep 20); entry for John James Casbon, age 85, 1st qtr 1935, Cambridge, vol. 3B/564.
[30] “Search the GRO [General Register Office] Online Index,” (https://www.gro.gov.uk/gro/content/certificates/indexes_search.asp : accessed 30 Sep 20); entry for Sarah Casbon, age 88, 1st qtr 1938, Cambridgeshire, vol. 3B/553>
[31] England, death registration (unofficial copy), Dec qtr 1853, Royston & Buntingford District, vol. 3A/107, Melbourn Sub-district, no. 319; General Register Office (GRO), Southport.
[32] Parish of Meldreth, register of baptisms (1813–1867), p. 75, no. 599.

Anna’s Cookbook

Anna Mae (Casbon) (Kitchel) (Fleming) was the second of four daughters born to Jesse and Emily (Price) Casbon. She was born at Porter County, Indiana, 22 December 1876 and died at Orlando, Florida, 16 December 1957.

Thanks to Anna’s great-granddaughter, Jan Hoffman, I have some new material to share with my readers.

Jan has been going through her mother’s (daughter of Anna’s son, Jesse II) papers and other possessions and has found several items that were passed down from Anna. One of those items is this cookbook.

Cover and title page of The National Cookbook, by Marion Harland and Christine Terhune Herrick, 1896; courtesy of Jan Hoffman (Click on image to enlarge)

We know this was Anna’s because of what is written inside.

Inscription of Anna’s cookbook; courtesy of Jan Hoffman (Click on image to enlarge)

Anna Mea [sic]Casbon
   Valparaiso,
      Porter Co.,
         Indiana
            Box 924
               Age 20 years 3 days
               Dec 25 1896
                       to
               Dec 25 1955 =
                    59 years old

The book must have been given to Anna as a Christmas, or perhaps a combined birthday and Christmas, present. She was still unmarried at the time. (She married Newton Kitchel in July 1898.) It’s interesting that she added the age of the book in 1955. I wonder if she presented it to her granddaughter as a Christmas present at that time.

I haven’t been able to find out much about the history of The National Cookbook (although the entire book can be found online at Google Books), but there is quite a bit written about its authors.

Marion Harland is the penname of Mary Virginia Terhune (1830–1922). She was a prolific author of both fiction and non-fiction. She achieved success with a genre known as “plantation fiction.” She later expanded her writing to include domestic matters, such as household management and cookbooks. Those interested in learning more can read a Wikipedia article about her here.

Christing Terhune Herrick (1859–1944) was Marion’s eldest daughter. She followed in her mother’s footsteps as the successful author of many cookbooks and other domestic guides. You can read more about her here.

Anna’s cookbook contained additional surprises. One was this handwritten recipe for “Chilli Sauce.”

Anna’s recipe for “Chilli Sauce’; courtesy of Jan Hoffman (Click on image to enlarge)

Jan says she is going to give the recipe a try. I’m looking forward to her report.

As you can see in the recipe, spelling was not Anna’s strong point. I’ve noted poor spelling in several things written by her. She even misspelled her middle name in the inscription. I don’t know if this reflects an interrupted education or some form of learning disability. I’m glad it did not stop her from writing.

Another item found inside the cookbook was this list of expenses.

A list of expenses found in Anna’s cookbook; courtesy of Jan Hoffman (Click on image to enlarge)

This appears to be a list of expenses for rent, food, supplies, and other services rendered to an unknown party. It references “carring [sic] them around,” “trip West Point,” “hauling their goods from Clay Bank,” “Rig to get there [sic] company at Hartleys Warf [sic].” I’ve identified some of these places as being in the Tidewater Region of Virginia. Because of this, I suspect that the list was written when Anna and her family were living at Newport News, Virginia (under the surname “Fleming”—Anna’s second husband), in the late nineteen-teens to early 1920s.

Family items such as Anna’s cookbook and the handwritten notes inside it help to connect us to the lives of our deceased ancestors. Thanks again to Jan for sharing these. I’m looking forward to more goodies from her!

The Death of William Casbon (~1835–1896)

In “William Problem, Solved!” I mentioned that William Casbon died by suicide. Here is the news article describing his death and the surrounding circumstances. I debated with myself whether to post this because it describes a very private and tragic matter, but I felt that the article was written with sensitivity and worth sharing. I hope my readers agree.

Herts and Cambs (England) Reporter and Royston Crow,
13 Mar 1896, p. 5, col. 6; newspaper image © The British Library Board; all rights reserved; with thanks to The British Newspaper Archive (www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk) (Click on image to enlarge)

Sad Suicide.—On Saturday the County Coroner (Mr. A. J. Lyon) held an inquest at the Railway Tavern respecting the death of William Casbon, aged 61 years, fruit grower.—Sarah Casbon, the widow, deposed that she last saw the deceased alive at 10 a.m. that day: they were in the garden together. She left her husband and shortly afterwards she was unable to find him. She searched for him and eventually found him in a shed at the bottom of the garden. He had a line round his neck and appeared to be quite dead. She cut the rope and laid him down. She then called to a man named Simpson and Dr. Bindloss was fetched. Her husband had been depressed since he came from the Hospital about two years and a half ago.—Alfred Gray, signalman, in the employ of the G.N.R. Company, at Meldreth, said about 10 10 a.m. Mrs. Casbon said to him “I hope you will be a friend to me, my poor husband has hung himself.” He went into the shed and saw the deceased lying on the ground. There was a cord on his breast and a piece of cord was hanging from a raft. Casbon was warm, but dead.—Mr. Bindloss, surgeon, Melbourn, stated that he was sent for about 10 45 a.m. When he arrived Casbon was dead. He had made an examination of the body. There was a coloured mark round the deceased’s neck as if caused by a cord, and death appeared to be due from the hanging. He attended deceased about two years ago for several weeks. He did not think deceased was bad enough to be placed under restraint, but he recommended a change of scene.—The jury returned a verdict of suicide whilst temporarily insane.

Note the jury’s verdict of “suicide whilst temporarily insane.” This verdict was commonly employed because of the peculiar legal status of suicide in England. Suicide, or “self-murder,” became a crime under under English common law in the 13th century. If proven guilty of this crime, the victim was denied a Christian burial and their property could be confiscated and given to the crown. A jury verdict of temporary insanity was frequently employed to avoid these criminal penalties. A series of Parliamentary acts gradually reduced the penalties for suicide, but it wasn’t until 1961 that suicide was completely decriminalized. Prior to that, survivors of suicide attempts could be fined or sentenced to prison terms for their crime.  

I don’t know why William was hospitalized two years before his death, but it appears that he had been clinically depressed for quite some time. There would have been few, if any, resources available to help him. One cannot help but feel sorry for him and great sympathy for his poor widow, Sarah.

References:
1. Gerry Holt, “When Suicide was Illegal,” BBC News Magazine, online edition, 3 Aug 2011 (https://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-14374296 : accessed 5 Oct 2020).
2. Georgina Laragy, “’A Peculiar Species of Felony’: Suicide, Medicine, and the Law in Victorian Britain and Ireland,” Journal of Social History, Spring 2013, vol. 46/3, pp. 732–743.

William Problem, Solved!

Oh Joy! Oh Joy! It finally arrived!

“It” is the marriage certificate for William Casbon and Sarah West that I ordered in late August after writing The Two William Problem. I knew from the General Register Office (U.K.) website that the certificate was dispatched on September 10th and I’ve been eagerly awaiting its arrival ever since.

This was the treat in my mailbox yesterday!

Readers may recall that two children named William Casbon were born in Meldreth, Cambridgeshire—one to William Casbon and one to his brother James—in the 1835–­1836 time frame. One of the two married Sarah West in 1855 and can be traced in records all the way to his death in 1896; the other was lost to follow up. The question was, Which one married Sarah?

To learn the answer, I needed to expend some funds and purchase the actual marriage record of William and Sarah from the General Register Office.

Here is the certified copy of the record …

(Click on image to enlarge)

… and a more detailed view.

Copy of the marriage record of William Casbon and Sarah West, 10 November 1855, Melbourn, Cambridgeshire (Click on image to enlarge)

The certificate contains a wealth of information. Reading from the top down, we can see that the couple was married in the Baptist Chapel at Melbourn. The marriage took place on 10 November 1855; the bride and groom’s names are given and their ages are listed as 21 and 30 years, respectively. He was a bachelor and she a spinster (i.e., previously unmarried). His occupation was farm labourer and hers dressmaker. Both were residing in Meldreth at the time of the marriage.

Now for the big news: William’s father was William Casbon, farm labourer—not James. Problem solved! We also see that Sarah’s father was John West, a gardener.

Detail of the marriage certificate showing the fathers’ names and occupations (Click on image to enlarge)

Although this confirms what I believed, it contradicts what several others have listed in their online family trees, namely, that James Casbon was the father of William and father-in-law of Sarah. It’s nice (and important) to finally have proof of the correct relationship.

Aside from solving the problem of William’s parentage, the certificate contains several items of interest. The first is the fact that they were married in the local Baptist Chapel. This will not sound unusual to modern ears, but in England it was a relatively new thing in the mid-19th century for marriages to take place in so-called non-conformist denominations. The Marriage Act of 1753 required that all marriages, except those of Jews or Quakers, be performed by the Church of England. If a couple failed to wed in the Anglican Church, they had no legal rights as married people.[1] It wasn’t until 1836 that a new Marriage Act allowed couples to be married in buildings belonging to other religious groups, including Baptists.

Aside from their marriage, I have no evidence that William and Sarah were affiliated with the Baptist Church. Their children’s’ baptisms are not recorded in the Baptist church register, nor in the Meldreth (Anglican) parish register.

William and Sarah’s ages are also interesting. Based on census reports and his age at death, I estimate William’s birth year as 1835. The marriage certificate suggests that he was born in 1834. I wonder if he intentionally overstated his age on the marriage certificate. On the other hand, Sarah’s age was understated. Her baptism occurred in April 1832; therefore, she was already 33 years old when she married William.[2] It was unusual then, as it is now, for men to be so much younger than their wives.

This was not the only important difference between William and Sarah. Although not obvious from the record, they came from different social classes. As the son of a farm labourer and being one himself, William was in the lower working class. Sarah’s father was a gardener. This might not seem significant, but in fact, censuses and other civil registers show that John West was a landowner and had the rights to serve on a jury and to vote. His status was more like that of a skilled tradesman.

In the lower left-hand corner of the certificate, we see that William signed with his mark and Sarah signed her own name. This shows that he was at least partially illiterate, while she was able to read and write. Sarah’s education is confirmed by the 1841 census, where her occupation is given as “school mistress.”[3] Given that children’s education was not compulsory at the time, Sarah’s literacy is probably more unusual that William’s illiteracy and is another reflection of their different social classes.

One other difference not shown in the marriage record is that William and Sarah came from different places. William’s home was Meldreth, in southern Cambridgeshire, and Sarah grew up in Soham, Cambridgeshire, about 22 miles northwest of Meldreth and on the opposite side of Cambridge city.

Although an insignificant difference by today’s standards, the distance is outside of the norm for their time. It would have been unusual to know someone beyond about a ten-mile radius of one’s home village.

How did a farm labourer from Meldreth become acquainted with an educated woman from Soham? This is only a guess, but perhaps Sarah moved to Meldreth or Melbourn for employment purposes. Although she came from a higher social class, her father died in 1853[4] and probably left his family in a state of financial distress (supported by the fact that his widow, Sarah, was described as a “washerwoman” in the 1861 census).[5] Sarah (the daughter), an educated unmarried woman, might have found employment in Melbourn as a dressmaker or even as a governess. At the age of 33, she might have been more willing to overlook class differences in her quest for a husband. Could pregnancy have been a factor in the marriage decision? It seems unlikely, since their first child was born one year after their marriage.

Whatever the reasons, the couple had a long and fruitful marriage. They had three children, Walter (b. 1856), William (b. 1860), and Priscilla (b. 1862). They had been married more than 40 years when William died (sadly, by suicide) in 1896.[6] Sarah died on 22 December 1905 at the age of 83.[7]

I’m fortunate that my two-William problem had such an easy solution. In many cases, records do not exist or cannot be located to resolve this kind of problem.


[1] “Marriage Act 1836,” Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marriage_Act_1836 : accessed 28 Nov 20), rev. 13 Sep 20, 15:49.
[2] “England, Select Births and Christenings, 1538-1975,” database, Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=9841 : accessed 28 Sep 20); entry for Sarah West, 6 April 1823, Cambridge, England.
[3] 1841 England census, Cambridgeshire, Soham, ED 2, p. 5, line 14; imaged at Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/search/collections/8978/ : accessed 28 Sep 20) >Cambridgeshire >Soham >ALL >District 2 >image 4 of 17; citing The National Archives, HO 107/73/14.
[4] “England, Cambridgeshire Bishop’s Transcripts, 1538-1983,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/search/collection/1465708 : accessed 29 Sep 20) >007676701 >image 474 of 520; Soham deaths, p. 182, no. 1449, John West, Soham, 80 yrs old, 2 Dec 1853.
[5] 1861 England census, Cambridgeshire, Soham, ED 6, p. 47, schedule 278; imaged at Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/search/collections/8767 : accessed 29 Sep 20) >Cambridgeshire >Soham >ALL >District 6 >image 48 of 50; citing The National Archives RG 9/1036.
[6] “Meldreth: Sad Suicide,” Herts and Cambs (England) Reporter and Royston Crow, 13 Mar 1896, p. 5, col. 6; online image, “The British Newspaper Archive,” findmypast (http://search.findmypast.com/bna/viewarticle?id=bl%2f0001795%2f18960313%2f075 : 28 July 2017).
[7] “Holy Trinity Churchyard: Monumental Inscriptions,” Meldreth History (https://www.meldrethhistory.org.uk/topics/holy_trinity_church-2-2/churchyard/holy_trinity_churchyard_headstones : accessed 29 Sep 20).

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.

Jesse Casbon in the News

Of Thomas Casbon’s (1803–1888) three sons, I know the least about Jesse. He was born at Meldreth, or possibly Melbourn, Cambridgeshire, in 1843.[1] He came to the United States (via Quebec) aboard the ship Parkfield in 1846. Jesse served in Company D, 148th Ohio Regiment, during the American Civil War and afterwards joined his family in Porter County, Indiana.[2] He married Emily Price, almost twelve years his junior, in 1872,[3] and had five children—a son who died in infancy and four daughters. Most of his adult years were spent farming in Porter County, Indiana. He died at the age of 90 in 1934.[4]

I have recently received some interesting newspaper articles about Jesse. They fill in a few blanks about his life, although they raise questions as well.

“Caution!”

The Porter County (Indiana) Vidette, 30 December 1875, p. 2, col. 6; courtesy of Steve Shook (Click on image to enlarge)

                                                               Caution!
Whereas my wife Emily has left my bed and board without just cause or provocation, I warn all persons not to harbor or trust her on my account, as I shall pay no debts of her contracting after this date.                                                                   JESSE CASBON.
    December 15th, 1875

I received this item from Steve Shook a few weeks ago. Steve is the unofficial Porter County historian as well as administrator of the excellent Porter County, Indiana, genealogy and history website. He also writes a blog titled Porter County’s Past: An Amateur Historian’s Perspective. I highly recommend both of these sites to anyone with family links in Porter County.

What does this brief newspaper item tell us? To put it in simple terms, Jesse and Emily’s marriage must have been going through a “rough patch.” We know nothing about the circumstances or who, if anyone, was at fault. We only know that Emily left Jesse and he was notifying the public that he would not be responsible for her continuing support.

The couple had been married two and a half years at this point. Their oldest daughter, Maude, was about 18 months old. Did Emily take Maude with her or leave her behind?
(It’s also possible also that a son, Ivan, had been born, but we don’t have birth or death dates for him.)

Apparently, advertisements such as this were quite common well into the twentieth century. It was usually husbands, but occasionally wives, who posted the ads. The intent of the ad might have been to shame and embarrass the spouse as well as to serve as a legal notice. I suspect that in this case, it was also an attempt to force Emily to return to Jesse’s “bed and board.” She apparently did so in short order because the next event I know of in their married life is the birth of their daughter Anna in December 1876, just a year after the ad was placed.

Was it a happy marriage? I can’t say. However, they remained married for 21 years until Emily’s death in 1893. I have written of Emily before, regarding her hobby of beekeeping and her deathbed testimony of Christian faith. It seems that their separation in 1875 was a temporary blip in their married life, whether it was happy or not.

“Public Sale, March 16th

Steve Shook also sent me this advertisement. It was placed about three months after the “Caution!” item.

The Porter County Vidette, 9 March 1876, p. 2, col. 4; courtesy of Steve Shook (Click on image to enlarge)

                                                     Public Sale, March 16th
I will offer for sale, three miles south of Gates’ corners, on
     Thursday, March 16th, 1876,
the following property: 3 work horses, 1 two-year-old colt, 6 head milch cows, 15 head of stock hogs, 4 brood sows, 200 bushels of corn, 6 or 8 tons of hay, 1 two-horse wagon, 1 set of double harness, 1 Furst & Bradley corn plow, 1 laporte corn sheller, Plows, Drags, and Household Furniture, consisting of Stove, Chairs, Bedstead, Cupboard, Table, Bureau, etc. …

I wonder what was going on in Jesse’s life at this time. It looks like he might have been liquidating as many of his possessions as possible. Perhaps he was just raising cash to buy land, since he purchased 40 acres of land at Gates Corner two months later.[5] (Per Steve Shook, “Gates’ Corners is located where present days Indiana state Road 2 and county roads 100 South and 300 West intersect one another … named after Moses Gates, who owned 160 acres directly north of this intersection.”) If Jesse was short on cash, it was only a temporary condition since he was described later in life as “a prominent farmer”[6] and “a wealthy widower.”[7]

“Animals Cremated”

The Porter County Vidette, 7 December 1900, p. 2, col. 1; microfilm image, Porter County Public Library (Click on image to enlarge)

     Valparaiso, Ind. Dec. 5.—Jesse Casbon’s barn, together with the contents, 14 cattle, three horses, the entire grain crop and farming implements, was destroyed by fire. Loss, $3,500; partially insured.

I’ve had this article for quite some time and posted it at an earlier date, but decided to re-post, since it fits in with today’s theme.

By this time (1900), Jesse was living in Center Township, just outside of Valparaiso, on about 160 acres of land adjacent to what was known as the Porter County Poor Farm. I don’t have any other information about the fire or its aftermath.

“A Birthday Party”

One day after Steve Shook sent me the “Public Sale” advertisement, I received the text of this article from Ilaine Church, a distant cousin-in-law and frequent genealogy correspondent. It describes a much happier episode in Jesse’s life.

The (Valparaiso) Evening Messenger, 25 Nov 1912; courtesy of Ilaine Church (Click on image to enlarge)

     Jesse Casbon, residing on the Laporte road, east of town, was the victim of a clever surprise Sunday, the occasion being his 69th birthday anniversary. The affair was secretly planned and carried out by his two daughters, the Misses Edna and Lily Casbon. Quite a number of relatives repaired to the home, but the disagreeable weather during the day kept many away who otherwise would have been in attendance. As a remembrance of the event Mr. Casbon received many valuable presents. At noon the guests were served with a dinner that made the tables groan and creak with its weight. Those present were S. V. Casbon and wife, Thos. Casbon and family, Lawrence Casbon and family, Charles P. Casbon, Jr. and family, and the Misses Iva and Mabel Priest. The afternoon was pleasantly spent in social intercourse and all departed with the wish that the Misses Lily and Edna would get on many more such happy affairs.

One thing I like about old newspapers is how much detail they go into describing local events. I also like this story because it names so many people. Of Jesse’s four daughters, only the two youngest, Lillian and Edna, were unmarried and living in Porter County in 1912. Of the guests mentioned, S.V. Casbon was Jesse’s oldest brother, Sylvester, and Thomas, Lawrence, and Charles P. (incorrectly referred to as “Jr.”) were Sylvester’s sons. Iva and Mabel Priest were the surviving grandchildren of Jesse’s oldest sister, Mary Ann (Casbon) Priest, deceased. By this time, Jesse’s sister Emma was also deceased.

Notably absent was the remaining brother, Charles Thomas Casbon. Was this because of the “disagreeable weather” or was their perhaps some bad blood between Jesse and Charles? I’ll describe the reason this might have been the case in my next post.

Of note is the fact that Jesse was now living east of Valparaiso on the “Laporte road.” LaPorte was the county seat of LaPorte County, directly east of Porter County. A 1911 directory tells us that Jesse lived on rural route 6, which included portions of the LaPorte road (now Indiana route 2).[8]

I have left out a series of news articles that were written between 1909 and early 1912. These will be the subject of my next post.


[1] Meldreth Parish (Cambridgeshire, England), register of baptisms [1813–67],” p. 59, no. 469; accessed as “Parish registers for Meldreth, 1681–1877,” browsable images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/search/film/007567609?cat=210742 : accessed 28 April 2017), image 226; citing FHL microfilm 1,040,542, item 5.
[2] Ohio, Roster Commission, Official roster of the soldiers of the state of Ohio in the War of the Rebellion, 1861–1866 (Cincinnati: The Ohio Valley Press, 1889), vol. 9, p. 583; image copy, Hathi Trust Digital Library (https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/000454243 : accessed 10 February 2019).
[3] “Indiana Marriages, 1811–2007,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/search/collection/1410397 : accessed 11 September 2018) >Porter > 1871–1875 Volume 4 > image 79 of 246.
[4] Indiana, State Board of Health, Certificate of Death, no. 2487; “Indiana, Death Certificates, 1899–2011,” Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=60716 : accessed 13 December 2016), >Certificate >1934 >01>image 2493 of 3006.
[5] Indiana, Porter County, Deed index 6, Grantee, Mar 1876–Dec 83, Jesse Casbon from Stephen William,
13 May 1876; imaged as “Indiana, Porter, Deed records, 1836–1901,” browsable images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/search/film/008035253?cat=609009 : accessed 12 Jan 17); citing FHL Film 1,703,896, Item 5.
[6] “Church Makes Sensational Charge,” The (Valparaiso, Indiana) Evening Messenger, 30 Jun 1909, p. 1, col. 4; Porter County Public Library, unnumbered microfilm.
[7] “Escaped Bullets; Valparaiso Farmer was Victim of an Attempt at Assassination,” Bedford (Indiana) Daily Mail,
1 Jul 1909, p. 4; imaged at Newspaper Archive (accessed through participating libraries: 12 Apr 2016).
[8] Bumstead’s Valparaiso City and Porter County Business Directory Including Rural Routes (Chicago: Bumstead & Co., 1911), p. 378; imaged as “U.S. City Directories, 1822–1995,” Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/search/collections/2469/ : accessed 31 Mar 20) >Indiana >Valparaiso >1911 >Valparaiso, Indiana, City Directory, 1911 >image 184 of 204.

Rural Routes in Porter County, Indiana

Have you ever seen a postcard or letter addressed like this?

Postcard from Kate (Marquart) Casbon to her younger sister Mary Jane “Dot” (Marquart) Dye, May 1913; the postcard mentions Kate’s three sons, Leslie, Lynnet, and Loring, and two of Kate and Mary Jane’s brothers, George and Ed; author’s collection (Click on image to enlarge)

The address is written as “Hebron R.3. Ind.,” meaning Hebron (Indiana) rural route 3. The abbreviations “R.R.” for Rural Route and “R.F.D.” for Rural Free Delivery will be familiar to many. I’m sure that many of my Casbon relatives grew up on rural routes. I was familiar with the abbreviations but didn’t really have a clear concept of what they stood for.

As I dug deeper, I learned that rural routes have an interesting history. Up until 1896, free home delivery of the mail was limited to cities. Farmers and others who lived in the country and even people who lived in towns had to go to the nearest post office to pick up their mail. There were many subsidiary, or “fourth-class” post offices, located in towns or more remote outposts. These usually were part of an existing business establishment such as a general store or sometimes even a private home.[1] Rural Free Delivery was started on an experimental basis in 1896, with routes determined by postal inspectors. “A number of factors went into an inspector’s decision, such as creating routes so that carriers did not end up using the same road twice in the same day, each route had to reach at least 100 families, and the roads had to be passible throughout the year.”[2]

Rural Free Delivery was instituted throughout the United States by law in 1902. Routes were developed and “country people” began to receive their mail in mailboxes located along the routes. Many of the fourth-class post offices were no longer needed and closed down.

In Porter County, Indiana, numbered Rural Routes originated at the post offices in Chesterton (four routes), Hebron (four routes), Valparaiso (eight routes), and Kouts (two routes). These routes provided effective coverage of the entire county. Mailing addresses simply listed the post office, route number, and state.

As I said, I did not have a clear understanding of what these routes looked like. I thought they might refer to specific roads, or perhaps districts. In fact, they were circuitous pathways that sometimes looped or doubled back. They look more like urban bus routes to me than anything else.

I was lucky to find a map of Porter County routes in 1911.[3] A portion of the map is shown below. I have color-coded certain routes where various Casbon relatives lived at the time.

”Map of Porter County, Indiana showing rural delivery service” (1911), with certain routes drawn over and color-coded (Click on image to enlarge)

Here are the Casbon relatives who lived on these routes in 1911:[4]

  • Valparaiso Route 2: Hiram and Lodema (Casbon) Church
  • Valparaiso Route 5: Benjamin and Alice (Casbon) Edwards
  • Valparaiso Route 6: Jesse Casbon, Thomas S. Casbon
  • Valparaiso Route 7: Charles P. Casbon, Lawrence L. Casbon
  • Hebron Route 3: Amos (misspelled as “Anas”) Casbon, John and Cora (Casbon) Sams
Detail from Bumstead’s Valparaiso City and Porter County Business Directory Including Rural Routes (1911), showing entries for Casbon along rural routes (Click on image to enlarge)

As you can see, Rural Route addresses don’t provide an exact location as do modern street addresses. Most Rural Routes have now been replaced with street addresses. I believe that numbered Rural Routes continued to be used in Porter County until the early 1990s.

I found this short video about Rural Routes on YouTube.

Do any of my readers remember their R.R or R.F.D. addresses?


[1] United States Postal Service (USPS), “Rural and Urban Origins of the U.S. Postal Service,” report no. RISC-WP-19-007, p. 6; PDF download, USPS Office of Inspector General (https://www.uspsoig.gov/document/rural-and-urban-origins-us-postal-service : accessed 3 Sep 20).
2] “Rural Free Delivery,” Smithsonian National Postal Museum (https://postalmuseum.si.edu/exhibition/behind-the-badge-postal-inspection-service-duties-and-history-history/rural-free-delivery : accessed 3 Sep 20).
[3] United States, Post Office Department, ”Map of Porter County, Indiana showing rural delivery service” (1911); imaged at “Indiana State Library Map Collection,” Indiana State Library Digital Collections (http://cdm16066.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/landingpage/collection/p15078coll8 : accessed 1 Sep 20) >Porter.
[4] Bumstead’s Valparaiso City and Porter County Business Directory Including Rural Routes (Chicago: Bumstead & Co., 1911), p. 378; imaged as “U.S. City Directoriies, 1822-1995,” Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/search/collections/2469 : accessed 3 Sep 20) >Indiana >Valparaiso >1911 >Valparaiso, Indiana, City Directory, 1911.

The Two-William Problem

This post describes a situation that is all too common in genealogy research. What happens when you have two people with the same name at the same place and time? How does one connect them to the right parents, wives, and children? This is a big problem when someone is trying to trace their family tree back in time and they discover two people with the same name, either one of whom who might be their ancestor.

I’ll illustrate with two men from Meldreth, Cambridgeshire. Two brothers, William
(1806–1875) and James (~1813–1884) Casbon, both sons of Isaac Casbon (~1773–1825), each had a son named William, born within a year or so of each other.

Basic family tree showing two of Isaac Casbon’s sons and their two sons, each named William

Births were not registered in England at that time, so birth dates must be estimated from other records, such as baptisms and censuses.

Unfortunately, only one of the Williams was baptized, and the baptismal record only confuses the matter.[1]

Meldreth Parish, register of baptisms; William Casburn, 7 February 1836 (Click on image to enlarge)

As can be seen, William was baptized at Meldreth 7 February 1836. He is said to be the son of William and Elizabeth. That seems straightforward, except, there is no record of William Casbon marrying a woman named Elizabeth. His wife’s name was Mary (Cooper) and she died in July 1835.[2]

On the other hand, William’s brother James (b. about 1813) married Elizabeth Waller, who was still alive in 1836.

So, there is a problem with the baptismal record. The name of either the father or mother is wrong. Maybe the vicar or curate was tired and wrote one the names incorrectly. My guess is that he inadvertently replaced the father’s name with that of the child. If so, the baptism applies to the son of James and Elizabeth, but there is no way to know for sure.

But this is only the beginning of our two-William problem. First, how do we even know that both brothers had sons named William? The answer lies in census records. Both Williams appear with their respective families in the 1841 and 1851 censuses. Here are their entries in 1851.[3]

1851 England census, Meldreth, Cambridgeshire, entry for William Casbon and his family (Click on image
to enlarge)
1851 England census, Melbourn, Cambridgeshire, entry for James Casbon and his family (Click on image
to enlarge)

We can see in the upper record that William the father, whose age is incorrectly stated as 40, is a widower and lives with his daughter Elizabeth, age 19, and son William, age 16. This gives us an approximate birth year for William, the son, of 1835. This is consistent with the year his mother died. We can also see in the lower record that James’s family includes his son William, age 15, which gives him a birth year of about 1836.

As we’ve already seen with William the father, ages reported in censuses are frequently incorrect. However, this is less likely to occur with children, and the ages of the two sons in the 1841 census are consistent with the same birth years. So, it is likely that William, the son of William, is about one year older than the son of James.

Unfortunately, the situation becomes unclear from this point forward. We know that a man named William Casbon married Sarah West in 1855.[4] The marriage was registered at Royston, Hertfordshire, a few miles from Meldreth. I only have an index entry of the marriage. This does not include details such as date, location, names and occupations of each party’s father, or names of witnesses. Therefore, I don’t know whose son married Sarah West.

After 1855, I have a complete set of censuses from 1861 through 1891 for William and Sarah. William died at Meldreth 7 March 1896 and Sarah died 22 December 1905.[5]

The grave monument of William and Sarah Casbon, Meldreth, Holy Trinity Church (incidentally, this is the only Casbon monument that remains in the Meldreth churchyard) (Click on image to enlarge)

The inscription reads as follows:

In/ Memory of/ WILLIAM CASBON/who died March 7th 1896/ aged 61 years/
“We hope to meet again at/ The Resurrection of the just/ A light is from the household gone/
A voice we loved is stilled/ A place is vacant in our home/ Which never can be filled”./
Also of / SARAH, wife of the above/ who departed this life/ December 22nd 1905/
aged 83 years./ She hath done what she could/ Her end was peace.

William’s given age of 61 suggests that he was born sometime between March 1834 and March 1835, which would be consistent with him being the son of William (b. 1806). However, this is hardly sufficient to be considered proof.

Of the second William, there is no certain record after the census of 1851. There are no additional census records, no marriage record, and no death or burial records. I have found a couple sources which might refer to him—I will refer to them in a future post—but they provide no clues as to his parentage.

So, we have two Williams, born in about 1835 and 1836. One was married and had a family; we don’t know what happened to the other. One was the son of William (b. 1806) and one was the son of James (b. about 1813), but we don’t know which William was which. This is a problem for the living descendants of William and Sarah West, who can’t determine whether they are descended from William or James.

There are several family trees on Ancestry that list James Casbon as the father of William and father-in-law of Sarah. These do not contain any supporting information or justification for the choice. My own bias is that William (b. 1806) is more likely to be the father of the William who married Sarah West.

Fortunately, there is a potential solution to this problem. I referred above to the marriage record of William and Sarah. The official marriage certificate is supposed to give the names of the bride’s and groom’s fathers. As of this writing, I have ordered a copy of the marriage certificate from the General Register Office in England. When it arrives, I will hopefully have a definitive answer. I will provide an update when I receive the certificate.

Do you have any two-(insert any name) problems in your family tree?


[1] Parish of Meldreth (Cambridgeshire, England), register of baptisms (1813–1867), p. 40, no. 360; accessed as “Parish registers for Meldreth, 1681-1877,” browsable images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/search/catalog/210742 : accessed 27 Aug 20) >Film #007567609 >image 219 of 699.
[2] Parish of Meldreth, register of burials (1813–1875), p. 29, no. 232, Mary Carsbon, 28 Jul 1835; accessed as “Parish registers for Meldreth, 1681-1877,” FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/search/catalog/210742 : accessed 27 Aug 20) >Film #007567609 >image 457 of 699.
[3] 1851 England census, Cambrideshire, Meldreth, ED 5b, p. 7, schedule 28; imaged as “1851 England Census,” Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/8860 : accessed 27 Aug 20) >Cambridgeshire >Meldreth >ALL >5a >image 8 of 25. 1851 England census, Cambrideshire, Melbourn (“Melbourn in Meldreth”), ED 11c, p. 32, schedule 126; imaged as “1851 England Census,” Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/8860 : accessed 27 Aug 20) >Cambridgeshire >Melbourn >ALL >11c >image33 of 36.
[4] “England and Wales Marriage Registration Index, 1837-2005,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:2DQ3-WY3 : accessed 23 September 2015).
[5] Kathryn Betts, “Holy Trinity Church, Meldreth: Monumental Inscriptions,” PDF download, Meldreth History (http://www.meldrethhistory.org.uk/page/holy_trinity_churchyard_monumental_inscriptions?path=0p2p120p53p95p94p : accessed 27 August 2020); entry for William and Sarah Casbon, item 27, unnumbered page 8 of 23.

The Casbon Family Reunion, October 1901, Valparaiso, Indiana

Casbon family reunion 24 October 1901; author’s collection (Please! Click on image to enlarge and see names)

I’ve had this photograph for so long that I don’t remember where or who it came from. I believe I was given a copy sometime in the 1990s when I was just starting my genealogy research. Many of today’s Casbons have seen a version of the photo because it serves as the cover image for the “Casbon Family” Facebook group. Although I’ve used it in a previous post and in my book, I have never written about the photograph in detail or given it the attention that it deserves.

The picture is a treasure. A lot of old photos don’t have names of the subjects written in. I was very lucky that my version of the photo came with a separate “key” that provided all the names. I used the key to add labels to the original photograph. It’s always nice to be able to put a face to a name, but how often can you put 36 faces to 36 names?

This is the only photograph I know of that shows all of Thomas Casbon’s (1803–1888) living children—Sylvester, Charles, Jesse, and Emma—together. Mary Ann, the oldest daughter, passed away in 1890. All of them, except for Emma, were born in England. Likewise, Amos, the son of Thomas’s brother James (~1813–1884), was born in England.

The picture gives us a glimpse into how people lived at the turn of the twentieth century. We can see how they dressed and what a typical house in the Midwest looked like. We can even see that bicycles haven’t changed that much in 120 years! (Woodie Marrell looks pretty proud of his bicycle!)

I’m especially lucky because the event captured in the photograph was reported in the local newspaper.

Photocopy of an article from The (Valparaiso, Indiana) Messenger, 31 October 1901; courtesy of Ilaine Church
(I think)

The Casbon family had a reunion at the home of Hida Church in this city Thursday. A sumptuous dinner and a pleasant social time marked the affair. The guests were: Sylvester Casbon and family; Charles Casbon and family; Jesse Casbon and family; Mrs. M. [Emma] Rigg, of Iowa; Lawrence Casbon and family, of South Bend; John Sands [Sams] and family, of Boone Grove; Lawrence Casbon and family, of Boone Grove; John [Thomas] Casbon, of Deep River; Charles Casbon, Jr. [son of Sylvester, therefore not Charles junior], of Valparaiso; Myron Dayton and wife; Mrs. Mary Casbon [widow of James] and John Merrill and family.

The attendees of the reunion included most of the living descendants of Thomas and James Casbon, who emigrated to the United States with their families in 1846 and 1870, respectively. To me, the photograph is a testimony to the brothers’ determination and a visual confirmation of the family’s growth and prosperity since coming to America.

I’ve created a diagram showing how most of the attendees were related. It is color coded by generation. Attendees are indicated by bold-face type. Several deceased individuals, including Thomas and James, as well as former wives, are listed in the diagram in order to make the lines of descent clear. Their names are printed in italics.

A diagram showing those descendants of Thomas and James Casbon who attended the October 1901 reunion (Click on image to enlarge)

Also included in the photograph but not the descendants of Thomas or James Casbon are Woodie (or Woody) and Susie Marrell, the children of John Marrell, who is mentioned in the news article, the brother of Mary Marrell Casbon.

There are also several notable absences from the photograph. George W. Casbon, Sylvester’s youngest son, who was raised by his aunt Emma (Casbon) and uncle Robert N. Rigg, was living in Iowa. Note that Emma was present at the reunion. Charles Parkfield Casbon’s wife, Julia (Bidwell), is not in the photo, even though the news article says that Charles “Jr.” was there with his family. Julia would have been almost eight months pregnant with their first child, Herman, at the time. Three of Jesse Casbon’s daughters—Anna, Edna, and Lillian—were not there. Anna was married and living in Wisconsin; I don’t know why the other two were absent. Finally, Amos Casbon’s two sisters, Margaret (“Maggie”) and Alice, were not there. Maggie was married and living nearby but was possibly estranged from the others. Alice was also married and living nearby.

The reunion was held at the home of “Hida”—Thomas Hiram Church, Jr.—and his wife, Lodema (Casbon). The 1900 census tells us that Hida and Lodema lived at 5 East Elm Street in Valparaiso.[1] The streets were later renumbered, and this house can now be seen at 105 Elm Street.

The house at 105 Elm Street, Valparaiso, Indiana; courtesy of Ilaine Church (Click on image to enlarge)

Aside from no longer having a covered front porch, the facade of the house has changed little since 1901.

As separate branches of the family grew and dispersed, the tradition of reunions dwindled. However, since both Sylvester and Amos married Aylesworth girls, their descendants continued to attend the annual Aylesworth reunions in Porter County, Indiana. My father remembers attending these. These reunions still occur the first weekend in August every year (except this one, thanks to COVID-19). In recent years, Casbon reunions were started up again, hosted by the late Michael J. Casbon. I was fortunate to attend the most recent one of these in 2017.


[1] 1900 U.S. Census, Porter County, Indiana, ED 81, sheet 9A; imaged as “”United States Census, 1900,” FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HY-6QNS-WRP?i=16 : accessed 12 Apr 2017) >Indiana >Porter >ED 81 Center Township Valparaiso city Ward 1 >image 17 of 31; citing NARA microfilm publication T623, roll 398.

Occupations

The 19th century was a time of tremendous social and economic change in England. The industrial revolution and growth of the railroads created economic growth, new job opportunities, and shifted segments of the population from their traditional rural homelands to the cities.

How did this affect our English Casbon ancestors? We can gain some insight through the review of census data. Beginning in 1841, roughly the beginning of the Victoria era, census reports listed the place of residence and occupations of household members. When combined with genealogical data, these reports can provide insight into how the changes of the 19th century affected multiple generations of family members.   

Hence, today’s post is a bit of a “science project.” I have compiled the occupations and locations of Casbon family members from 1841 through 1891. These are separated into family groups which are further subdivided by generation.

In the early 1800s, there were two main family groups with the Casbon surname or its antecedents (such as Casbel, Casburn, etc.). One of these families arose in Littleport, Cambridgeshire, but over the course of a generation became based in Peterborough, Northamptonshire (now Cambridgeshire). I refer to these as the Peterborough Casbons. Their common ancestor was Thomas Casbon, born about 1776 in Littleport and died near St. Ives, Huntingdonshire in 1855.

The second group arose in the rural area south of Cambridge and became associated with the village of Meldreth. This family group was larger than the Peterborough Casbons and all were descended from Thomas Casbon, who was born at Meldreth in 1743 and died there in 1799. I have divided the Meldreth group into three subgroups, corresponding to the offspring of three of James’s sons. The first-generation members of each of these subgroups were first cousins to those in the other two groups.

A third family group named Casbon sprung up in Chatteris, Cambridgeshire in the mid-1800s. They were descended from John Casburn, who was born about 1818 and died in 1848 (but does not appear in the 1841 census). This family group lived predominantly in Chatteris throughout the 19th century and eventually died out in the mid 20th century due to the lack of male heirs. Because John’s children were born in the 1840s, their occupations were first listed in the 1871 census.

I have not been able to connect any of these three major family groups together through genealogy records.

For this project, I created a spreadsheet for each group or subgroup showing those family members whose occupations were recorded in the 1841–1891 censuses. The family members are separated by generation; their occupations and places of residence are listed by census year. Thus, it is possible to see how a given individual’s place of residence and occupation changed over subsequent census years. A brief analysis and commentary follow each spreadsheet.

Peterborough Group

(Click on image to enlarge) Extracted census data for four generations of Peterborough Casbons; direct descendants are listed underneath their parents in the next generation; a wife, Jane (Cooper), is listed underneath her husband; occupations are listed as found in the census; some additional information is listed to explain why census data is not given

What is most apparent in this group is the strong family tradition of gardening and related occupations across all four generations. The only exceptions to this tradition in the males are John Casbon (1863), who was listed as a grocer in 1891, and Charles Casbon (1866—see below).

The term “gardener” is a bit ambiguous in the census listings. In one sense, a gardener might be little more than a servant or labourer [British spelling intentional], employed by a landowner to tend his grounds. However, the term was also applied to self-employed men who ran commercial nurseries and sold bedding plants, trees, and shrubs to others. There is abundant evidence that Thomas (1807) and his descendants were the latter kind of gardener, but it is unknown how the term applied to Thomas (1776).

Of the women, two Sarahs (1834 and 1865), worked as domestic servants before getting married. Elizabeth (1861) worked as a dressmaker in 1881, but we know from other sources that she later served as a domestic servant.

Emily (Cantrill—1846) and her son Charles Casbon (1866) deserve special mention. Emily was either divorced or separated from her husband, Thomas, and moved to her parents’ home in London, along with their two children. I haven’t been able to find a description of her occupation, “hair draper,” but I suspect it is another term for hair stylist. Her move to London probably opened the door for her son, Charles, to have such a unique occupation—“Photographic Artist”—compared to the other men in this group.

Meldreth Group 1

(Click on image to enlarge) Extracted census data for three generations of Meldreth Group 1

Jane (1803) and William (1805) were both children of John and Martha (Wagstaff) Casbon. Jane was “crippled from birth” (1871 census) and listed as a “straw plaiter” in the 1851 census. William was an agricultural labourer for his entire life. His three sons left Meldreth, with two settling in parts of London and one settling a little further south in Croydon. John (1843) had a criminal record and worked as a labourer of one sort or another his entire life. I’m assuming that his occupation of gardener in 1881 refers to the working-class meaning of the term.

William’s sons Reuben (1847) and Samuel (1851) both spent some time working for railways. Their occupations reflect the diversity of jobs in urban locations compared what would have been available Meldreth. Although still members of the working class, Reuben and Samuel were probably able to maintain a higher standard of living than their father. Note Samuel’s first occupation as a coprolite digger. This reflects a short-term economic “boom” when coprolite was mined for fertilizer in the area surrounding Meldreth.

William’s female descendants all entered into various forms of domestic service, probably the most common employment for girls from working class families.

Meldreth Group 2

(Click on image to enlarge) Extracted census data for three generations of Meldreth Group 2

James (1806) was the son of James and Mary (Howse or Howes) Casbon. In some records he is referred to as James Howse or James Itchcock Casbon. He was born and raised in Meldreth. Unlike the other Meldreth families, he was a landowner. This put him in a higher social class than the other Meldreth Casbons and allowed him to serve on juries, and possibly to vote.

For reasons unknown to me (unless it was tied to his bankruptcy), James moved from Meldreth to Barley, Hertfordshire, a distance of about five miles, sometime between 1851 and 1854. His oldest son, Alfred Hitch (1828), became a tailor, as did Alfred’s two sons. It’s interesting that they were located in different cities for every census. James’s son John (1835) followed him in the farming and carrier tradition, while his son George (1836) became established in Barley as a wheelwright.

Two of his female descendants, Margaret (1873) and Julia (1866), became domestic servants. Two other female descendants, daughter Fanny (1846) and granddaughter Lavinia (1870) broke the domestic service tradition, with Fanny becoming the “superintendent” (perhaps housemistress) of a large apartment complex and Lavinia becoming a bookseller. Both later moved to Folkestone, where Fanny became the owner of a boarding house/vacation hotel [link]). Charlotte (Haines), the wife of Alfred H. (1828), must have supplemented the family income with her occupation as a straw bonnet cleaner.

Meldreth Group 3

(Click on image to enlarge) Extracted census data for three generations of Meldreth Group 3

This is my own ancestral group, consisting of three brothers, Thomas (1803), William (1806), and James (1813). A fourth brother, Joseph (born about 1811), died without male heirs. Thomas emigrated to the United States in 1846, so is only captured in the 1841 census as an agricultural labourer.

His brother William (1806) and William’s son William (1835) worked in Meldreth as agricultural labourers their entire lives, except that William junior seems to have “moved up” as a market gardener in 1891. William’s (1806) two grandsons left Meldreth. Walter (1856) eventually became a railway wagon examiner and William (1860) lived in various places with diverse jobs. Although listed as a baker in 1891, he later became the Superintendent of Catering for the House of Lords. William’s (1806) granddaughter, Priscilla (1862), was a domestic servant in 1881 and was living in Meldreth with no occupation listed in 1891.

James (1813) and his descendants in England were never able to rise above the class of (mostly agricultural) labourers, although George (1846), and possibly William (1836), served time as soldiers. Like his brother Thomas, James (1813) emigrated to the United States in 1870, leaving his adult children behind.

Chatteris Group

(Click on image to enlarge) Extracted census data for two generations of Chatteris Casbons

The two brothers in this group, Lester (1841) and John (1846), were agricultural labourers. Unusually, John’s daughter Rose (1868) was also listed as an agricultural labourer. The other two daughters, Lizzie (1872) and Harriet (1874) followed the traditional route for working-class women as domestic servants. Only Charles (1873) seems to have advanced a little in social standing as a saddler. The most unique occupation in this group was Sarah “Kate” (1844) who was listed as a “gay girl,” i.e., a prostitute.

General Observations

I have consolidated the occupational data for all of these family groups into a single chart.

(Click on image to enlarge) Consolidated occupational data from the 1841–1891 censuses for the Casbon family groups

During the study period four generations of the Peterborough group, three generations of the Meldreth subgroups, and two generations of the Chatteris group—a total of 55 individuals—had occupations recorded on the 1841–1891 censuses.

In general, there was very little upward social mobility. Descendants of working-class families tended to continue in working-class occupations, although in different categories (agriculture/industry/transportation for men and domestic service for women) and different locations. The Peterborough group and Meldreth Group 2 started out in a higher social class as gardeners and farmers (i.e., land owners), but their descendants tended to stay in about the same social class as tradesmen (tailor, wheelwright, grocer) of different kinds.

This lack of upward mobility is probably a reflection of the rigid class structure that persisted in England throughout the 19th and into the early 20th century. I’m a little surprised that more of the working-class descendants weren’t able to move up to what I would call lower-middle class occupations.

That said, the later generations were probably better off economically and materially than their predecessors. Overall, the economy improved throughout the century. Food was probably more plentiful, and furnishings less primitive compared to the lives of agricultural labourers in the early 19th century.

The growth of transportation and urbanization created new job opportunities and drove later generations into the cities. By 1891 there is a much greater diversity in occupations, especially for the men. This trend was most pronounced for the Meldreth group, many of whom ended up in or near London. As they migrated to the cities, their numbers dwindled in the home village. By 1891, only two households—William (1835) and John (1849)—were recorded in Meldreth or it’s sister village or Melbourn.

For working-class women, domestic service was one of the few sources of employment. Girls usually began working “in service” in their teens and continued until they were married. A few never married and continued in service their entire working lives. Even the daughters of a farmer/landowner and a tradesman, Margaret (1873) and Julia (1866), respectively, found employment in domestic service. There were three notable exceptions: Fanny (1846), Lavinia (1870), and Sarah “Kate” (1844). The first two of these became financially independent, while Kate’s fate is unknown.

It would be interesting to compare the occupations of the 19th century with those of the 20th. Many of the social barriers were greatly reduced or broken down altogether. The two world wars created tremendous social and economic disruptions. I’m certain we would see a great deal more diversity and upward mobility in occupations for men and women. Unfortunately, census data is only available for 1901 through 1921 in England, along with a census-like instrument known as the 1939 register. Such a study will have to wait, for now.