Inventors

I recently discovered an interesting database called Espacenet. It is an online service for searching patents and patent applications. According to their website, “Espacenet offers free access to information about inventions and technical developments from 1782 to today.” I typed in “Casbon” to see what would happen. Lo and behold—several patents showed up! So, today’s post will recognize two inventors in the family.

The earliest patent dates from 1908 and is titled “Improvements in Safety Labels or Tags or Tag Attachments for Game, Parcels, or Horticultural or the like uses.” The applicant was “Charles Casbon of 5 Rathcole Gardens Hornsey in the County of Middlesex Gentleman.”[1]

In his application, Mr. Casbon explains that, previous to his design, “much labour and material has been expended in order to produce a safety tag which could not be torn from the article to which it was fastened and at the same time would bear the impress or imprint of the name or destination or description of the article.”[2] His improved tag is cut or stamped from a single piece sheet metal, consisting of a tag, a strap, and slots for securing the strap.

Charles Casbon’s design for a safety tag; Espacenet.com

I have written about Charles Casbon before. He was the son of Thomas Casbon (1840–1889) and Emily Cantrill (1846–1891) and was born at Peterborough, Northamptonshire
18 June 1866.[3] Thomas and Emily were legally separated in 1868 and Charles was raised by his mother. He became a professional photographer. Charles died in France, 6 August 1930.[4]

I don’t know what led Charles to design a new and improved method of producing safety tags. Perhaps it somehow related to his photography work. I also don’t know whether he profited from his invention in any way

The second inventor was William Casbon. His name appears on several patents dealing with gas an electric lights and heaters. The earliest of these was titled “Improvements in Incandescent Gas Burners” and was applied for in December 1915.[5] This was followed by applications for “An Appliance for Attaching Shades to the Holders of Electric Light Fittings,”[6] “Improvements in Inverted Incandescent Gas Burners,”[7] “Improvements in Atmospheric Gas Burners for Heating Purposes,”[8] and “Improvements in Incandescent Gas Burners,”[9] (apparently an improvement on the earlier patent of the same title). I also found a U.S. patent granted to Yagerphone Ltd. in 1929, listing William as the inventor of a tone arm for gramophones.[10]

William Casbon’s and Arthur James Dunkinson’s design for improvements in inverted incandescent gas burners; Espacenet.com
William Casbon’s design for a gramophone tone arm; Espacenet.com

Most of these patents gave the names of William Casbon and Arthur James Dunkinson as co-inventors. William described himself as a “gentleman.” Dunkinson’s occupation is written in one application as “General Foremen, Architects Department” for His Majesty’s Office of Works.[11]

Who was William Casbon? Although there were two adult men of that name living at the time of the patent applications, only one is the likely candidate for our inventor. He had a most interesting life. He was born at Meldreth in 1860, the son of William Casbon and Sarah West.[12] Based on census listings, his occupations included “railway signalman” (1881),[13] “baker” (1891),[14] “golf club manager” (1901),[15] and finally, in 1911, “catering.”[16] The latter occupation is understated, as William was serving as Superintendent of the Refreshments Department of the House of Lords. I believe William was also the man who sought a position as a footman in 1884.

I’m confident about William’s identity because of his relationship to his co-inventor, Arthur James Dunkinson. It turns out that Mr. Dunkinson was married to William’s niece, Emily Casbon, daughter of William’s brother, Walter. Emily was listed as a member of William’s household in the 1901 census, so she must have had a close relationship with her uncle.

I don’t know what William did for a living after retiring from the House of Lords position; I have found him listed is residential directories for both Hitchin, Hertfordshire—the location given in the patent applications—and in London. Perhaps he had residences in both locations. Nor do I know how he came to be interested in gas fixtures, electric lights and gramophones. He must have been a man of many interests and an active mind. He died in London 8 September 1939.[17]

It’s interesting that both Charles and William described themselves as gentlemen. In earlier times, the term gentleman referred to a particular social class, associated with the aristocracy, the right to bear arms, and perhaps with independent means. It was understood that manual laborers and tradesmen could not describe themselves as gentlemen. This meaning of the word seems to have become obsolete by the end of the 19th century, and anyone with sufficient means and good manners might be considered a gentleman.[18] Still, it seems odd that Charles and William chose to use the term rather than their professions as photographer and caterer. Perhaps they felt that it would give their patent applications greater standing.


[1] C. Casbon, patent certificate no. GB190803244A (27 Aug 1908); text and images, European Patent Office, database (http://ep.espacenet.com: accessed 8 Nov 2020).
[2] C. Casbon, patent certificate no. GB190803244A.
[3] Emily Casbon, Petition for judicial separation, 9 May 1868; image included in “England & Wales, Civil Divorce Records, 1858-1918,” Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/search/collections/2465/ : accessed 1 Dec 20) >1868 >00781-00790 >00787: Casbon >images 7-8 of 9; citingThe National Archives; Kew, Surrey, England; Court for Divorce and Matrimonial Causes, later Supreme Court of Judicature: Divorce and Matrimonial Causes Files; Class: J 77; Piece: 84; Item: 787.
[4] Commune de Levallois-Perret, Saint-Denis, Seine, France, Extract du Registre des Acts de Décés pour l’année 1930 (death on 6-8-30 at Levallois-Perret of Chares Wheeley Cas[b]on); imaged at “UK, Foreign and Overseas Registers of British Subjects, 1628-1969,” Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/search/collections/1993/ : accessed 1 Dec 20) >RG 32: Miscellaneous Foreign Returns, 1831-1969 >Piece 16: Miscellaneous Foreign Returns, 1927-1931 >image 209 of 716; citing The National Archives, RG 32/16.
[5] W. Casbon, A.J. Dunkinson, patent certificate no. GB191517089A (30 Nov 1916); text and images, European Patent Office, database (http://ep.espacenet.com: accessed 8 Nov 2020).
[6] J. Doble and W. Casbon, patent certificate no. GB109706A (27 Sep 1917); European Patent Office, database (http://ep.espacenet.com: accessed 8 Nov 2020).
[7] W. Casbon and A.J. Dunkinson, patent certificate no. GB107359A (28 Jun 1917); European Patent Office, database (http://ep.espacenet.com: accessed 8 Nov 2020).
[8] W. Casbon and A.J. Dunkinson, patent certificate no. GB126818A (22 May 1919); European Patent Office, database (http://ep.espacenet.com: accessed 8 Nov 2020).
[9] W. Casbon and A.J. Dunkinson, patent certificate no. GB151393A (30 Sep 1920); European Patent Office, database (http://ep.espacenet.com: accessed 8 Nov 2020).
[10] W. Casbon, assignor to Yagerphone Ltd., patent certificate no. 1,713,419 (U.S.A., 1929); European Patent Office, database (http://ep.espacenet.com: accessed 8 Nov 2020).
[11] W. Casbon, A.J. Dunkinson, patent certificate no. GB191517089A.
[12] Transcript of birth registration, William Casbon, mother’s maiden name West, GRO reference 1860 S[eptember] Quarter, Royston, vol. 3A/205; found at “Search the GRO Online Index,” database, HM Passport Office (https://www.gro.gov.uk/gro/content/certificates/indexes_search.asp : accessed 1 Dec 20).
[13] 1881 England census, Derbyshire, Breadsall, p. 2, schedule 9, William Caskan in household of Joyce Bailey; imaged as “1881 England Census,” Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/search/collections/7572/ : accessed 1 Dec 20) > Derbyshire >Breadsall >ALL >District 11 >image 3 of 24; citing The National Archives, RG 11/3393/67.
[14] 1891 England census, London, St. George Hanover Square, Mayfair, ED 14, p. 20, schedule 56, William Caston in household of William Bryceson; imaged as “1891 England Census,” Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/search/collections/6598/ : accessed 1 Dec 20) > London >St George Hanover Square >Mayfair >District 14 >image 13 of 42; citing The National Archives, RG 12/69.
[15] 1901 England census, Hertfordshire, Chorleywood, ED 11, p. 19, schedule 136; imaged as “1901 England Census,” Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/search/collections/7814 : accessed 1 Dec 20) >Hertfordshire >Chorleywood >ALL >District 11 >image 20 of 24; citing The National Archives, RG 13/1322.
[16] 1911 England census, Westminster, St. Margaret & St. John, ED 24, schedule 10; imaged as “1911 England Census,” Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=2352 : accessed 1 Dec 20) > London >St Margaret and St John >St Margaret and St John >24 >image 76 of 227; citing The National Archives, RG 14/489.
[17] “England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1858-1995,” database with images, Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=1904 : accessed 1 Dec 20) > 1944 >Cable-Dziegielewski >image 36 of 395; Wills and Administrations, 1944, p. 70, entry for William Casbon.
[18] Encyclopaedia Britannica, 11th Edition, “Gassendi, Pierre” to “Geocentric,” Vol. 11, Slice 5, “Gentleman”; downloaded as EPUB, Project Gutenberg (http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/37282 : accessed 1 Dec 20).

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.

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.

“Short a hand”

This is my 10th post for the Guild of One-Name Studies blog challenge 2020. The challenge was to write ten blog posts in the first twelve weeks of the year.

Today’s post features two newspaper articles about an unfortunate incident that occurred in 1889 in rural Porter County, Indiana.

Source: The Porter County Vidette, 18 Jul 1889

The boy who lost his hand was Lawrence J. Casbon, who was born in Porter County
26 August 1875. Another article provides more details about the incident.

News clipping from unknown paper, courtesy of Ilaine Church

Young Lawrence was lucky to escape with his life. I have a hard time believing that he reacted as “cooly” as the first article states. It was quite literally a traumatic experience. Imagine what it must have been like—the horses getting spooked by the noise of the mower and then and then bolting, young Lawrence hanging on for dear life until he could hold on no longer; then being dragged and losing a hand in the blink of an eye. It must have seemed surreal. Life on the farm could be dangerous.

The mower in question was probably a sickle-arm machine in which a set of reciprocating blades would be lowered to the side to cut a swath of grass. The operator was seated above the axle and a horse team was hitched in front. For a short video demonstrating how the mower worked, click here. Now imagine the horses panicking while you are trying to ride the mower!

“Oliver Mower – Eureka, MT – Old Agricultural Equipment” on Waymarking.com

We know from later reports (see “Lawrence J Goes Transcontinental”) that Lawrence recovered from his injury and was able to adapt to being one-handed. He became a successful entrepreneur and businessman. I believe he was the first of the Indiana Casbons to enter into a non-agricultural career field.

Portrait of Lawrence and his wife Lydia May (Pauter); courtesy of Ron Casbon

For those familiar with Porter County, here is a map showing the location of Charles Casbon’s farm, just south of Division Road and just west of Sager Rd, in Morgan Township.

Detail map showing location of Charles Casbon’s farm; Lee and Lee’s atlas of Porter County, Indiana : Illustrated, (Chicago: Lee & Lee, 1895); Library of Congress (https://www.loc.gov/) (Click on image to enlarge)

The Photographer

This is my ninth post in the Guild of One-name Studies (GOONS) blog challenge 2020.

A post by fellow GOONS member Vivienne Dunstan was the inspiration for today’s post. She reported on a photograph she found on eBay that showed someone with her surname of interest. I was curious whether I could do the same so I logged into eBay and typed in “Casbon.” The search mainly turned up a few books (not mine!) and marketing items such as t-shirts with “Casbon” printed on them. However, one item of particular interest turned up—a photograph taken by Charles Casbon of Hornsey, London, England. The owner of the photograph was kind enough to let me use the images.

Carte de visité (front and back), portrait of two young girls, taken by “Chas. Casbon,” undated
(courtesy of Helen Flavin, Black Cat Books & Ephemera, Wiltshire, United Kingdom)

The little girls are cute, but I was interested in the photographer, not his subjects. We see that Chas. Casbon was a professional photographer with a studio located at 6 Alexandra Road, Hornsey. The picture on the back of the card depicts a camera on a stand in front of a screen. The information given about the photograph on the eBay site says that the original size is 4 by 2.5 inches.

A website dedicated to London photographers says that Charles Casbon had his studio on Alexandra Road from 1888 to 1892,[1] while another source says he was located there until 1896.[2] Thus we can date the photograph to this range of dates.

This kind of photograph is known as a carte de visité. They consisted of small photographs mounted on card stock measuring about 4 by 2.5 inches, and usually containing printed information about the photographers on the back. Cartes de visité were immensely popular in the late 1800s and early 20th century. People collected and kept them in albums.[3]

Charles Wheeley Casbon received brief mention in an earlier blog post about his father, Thomas, who was suspected of jumping into the Thames in an unsuccessful suicide attempt. (See also “Lost Man, Found”) Charles was descended from the “Peterborough Casbons,” a family that settled in the vicinity of Peterborough, Northamptonshire, in the mid 1800s. I have never been able to connect this family to my own. The earlier generations, including Charles’s father, were all gardeners (see “How doth your garden grow?“). Charles was probably the namesake for the “Charley Casbon” flower I discovered in an 1871 Washington, D.C., gardening catalog a few years ago.

Advertisement for “Charley Casbon”; John Saul, Descriptive catalogue of new, rare and beautiful plants, dahlias, chrysanthemums, geraniums, fuchsias, carnations, verbenas, phloxes, &c. for spring, 1871 (Philadelphia: Horticultural Book & Job Print, 1871), p. 30; Internet Archive

Charles was born in Peterborough on 18 June 1866.[4] His given name on the Peterborough St. Mary’s parish baptismal register was Charles Thomas Casbon.[5]

Detail from Peterborough St. Mary’s parish register, 1866; note the father’s occupation: “Nurseryman”

His mother, Emily (Cantrill) filed for divorce when Charles was 2 years old, and it appears that he lived with her after the divorce. Her dislike of her former husband must have been intense, because at some point Charles’s middle name was changed from Thomas to Wheeley, the middle name of Emily’s father, Samuel W. Cantrill.

Charles, his mother, and his sister were enumerated at Samuel’s residence for the 1871 and 1881 censuses. In the 1891 census, we find Charles as the head of household, residing at
6 Alexandra Rd. in Hornsey, a district in North London. This is the same address as that given for his studio. His occupation is recorded as “photographic artist.” His mother and sister are also in the household, along with a visitor, a boarder, and one servant.[6]

Detail from 1891 England census for Hornsey, Middlesex; Ancestry (Click on image to enlarge)

In the 1901 census, he is listed as a visitor in a different Hornsey household; his occupation is given as “photographer’s draughtsman.” This seems like a step down from having his own studio.

I haven’t found Charles in the 1911 census, but he does appear in 1910 and 1912 London city directories, still living in Hornsey, but now living at Rathcoole Gardens (road). It is unknown whether he was still in the photography business at the time. The only other record I have is a copy of a French death certificate from Levallois-Perret, a suburb of Paris, showing that Charles had been residing in Paris. He died at the age of 63 on 6 August 1930.[7] The death certificate includes the word “artiste,” so this probably explains what he was doing in France.

There is no record of a marriage or of children being fathered by Charles; therefore no descendants to preserve his memory.

[1] PhotoLondon website (https://www.photolondon.org.uk/).
[2] Photographers of Great Britain & Ireland website (http://www.victorianphotographers.co.uk/).
[3] Richard Davies, “The First Great Photography Craze: Cartes de Visites,” 14 Mar 2019, PetaPixel (https://petapixel.com/2019/03/14/the-first-great-photography-craze-cartes-de-visites/ : accessed 4 Feb 2020).
[4] “Casbon vs. Casbon,” Court Minutes, Her Majesty’s Court for Divorce and Matrimonial Causes, no. 787 JS; image copy, “England & Wales., Civil Divorce Records, 1858-1915”, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/search/collections/2465/ : accessed 19 Feb 2017); citing The National Archives; Court for Divorce and Matrimonial Causes, later Supreme Court of Judicature: Divorce and Matrimonial Causes Files; Class: J 77; Piece: 84; Item: 787.
[5] Peterborough (Northamptonshire) parish register, baptisms 1866, no. 494; image copy, “Northamptonshire, England, Church of England Baptisms, 1813-1912”, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/search/collections/9200/).
[6] 1891 England census, Hornsey, Edmonton, Middlesex; image copy, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/search/collections/6598/); citing The National Archives, RG 12, piece 1059, folio 130, p. 51.
[7] “UK, Foreign and Overseas Registers of British Subjects, 1628-1969,” image copy, Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=1993 : accessed 18 September 2018) ; citing The National Archives, RG 32/16.

Sunday School

This is my eighth post in the Guild of One-Name Studies blog challenge 2020.

Many genealogy researchers have learned that old books can be a valuable source of information about their ancestors. Many books that are no longer protected by copyright have been digitized and are available online. The three book sources that I use most often are Internet Archive, Hathi Trust Digital Library, and Google Books. You can go to any of these sites and type in a search term, such as a surname, and then get a list of books containing that search term. A regular Google search will also find these references, although they may be scattered throughout the search results.

A recent search turned up a source, titled The Sunday Schools of Lake: An Account of the Commencement and Growth of the Sunday Schools of Lake County, Indiana, from about 1840 to 1890.[1] The book was written to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Lake County Sunday-school Convention, an interdenominational annual meeting of many of the county’s churches, as well as “the 50th Anniversary of Sunday-school work in Lake County.”[2]

In addition to giving a detailed history of Sunday schools in the county, the book provides a listing of students enrolled in the Convention’s Sunday schools in 1890. A few Casbon names turned up in this list.

Detail from pages 161-2 of The Sunday Schools of Lake, showing students enrolled at the Deep River Union School in 1890; (note: “1888” next to the name of the school is the year the school was organized)
(Click on image to enlarge)

The three names on page 161, Charles, Lawrence and T. (Thomas) Casbon, are all known to me. They are the sons of my second great-grandfather, Sylvester Casbon. Sylvester had moved to Deep River from Porter County in about 1865. Lawrence was born in 1865 to Sylvester’s first wife, Mary Adaline (Aylesworth), who died in 1868. Thomas and Charles were born in 1870 and 1872, respectively, to Sylvester’s second wife, Emilene Harriet (Perry), who died in 1874. In 1890, Lawrence, Thomas, and Charles would have been about 25, 20, and 18 years old, respectively. All three were still unmarried.

I must admit that I am completely baffled by the name on page 162—Stella Casbon. There is no other record of a child with that name. She does not appear in vital records, census reports, family histories, newspaper articles, or photographs. The fact that she was enrolled in the Boys’ and Girls’ class tells us that she would have been younger than the three Casbon sons. But there are no records of a younger daughter being born to Sylvester. Nor was a child of that name born to any of Sylvester’s siblings. There is no record that Sylvester’s third wife, Mary (Mereness) had any children. There were no other Casbon families living in Lake County at the time. So, who was Stella? I just don’t know.

The fact that the Casbon name appears in this book led me to reflect upon the religious beliefs and practices of the early Indiana Casbons. I’ll say at the outset that there is insufficient information to draw any firm conclusions. The Indiana Casbons are all descended from Isaac Casbon of Meldreth, Cambridgeshire, England, who lived from about 1773 to 1825. The baptisms, marriages, and burials of Isaac’s family were recorded in the parish registers (i.e., Church of England) of Meldreth and nearby parishes. Since this was the near universal practice of the time, it tells us nothing about the family’s religious beliefs or practices. The baptisms of two of Isaac’s children, Joseph and James, were not recorded, which suggests that the sacrament was not a high priority. As a poor agricultural laborer, Isaac was at the lower end of the social order. Putting bread on the table was probably a higher priority than religious practices.

Of Isaac’s son Thomas, my third great-grandfather, nothing is written about his religious beliefs. The few biographical references I have seen do not mention religion. If he is mentioned in church records in the U.S., I am not aware of them.

However, I do have a little information about Thomas’s sons. An 1882 biographical sketch of Sylvester Casbon, the father of the three sons mentioned above, states that “he is liberal in politics, attends church, and is much esteemed by his neighbors.”[3] The 1912 History of Porter County Indiana includes sketches about Sylvester and his brother Charles. Of Sylvester, the book says “he and his wife are members and liberal supporters of the Christian church [of Valparaiso, Indiana], with Rev. Hill as their pastor.”[4] Charles and his wife, Mary (Marrell) were also said to be liberal supporters of the same church.[5] Sylvester’s obituary also mentions his membership in the Christian church.[6] The fact that Sylvester and his brother were members of this church tells us that they considered themselves to be Christians, like the majority of Americans at the time. However, it tells us nothing about how important their Christian beliefs were to them.

The Christian church referred to above is now known as First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and was founded at Valparaiso, Indiana, in 1837.[7] A modern source describes the denomination in these terms: “the Disciples of Christ, also known as the Christian Church, has no creed and gives its congregations complete autonomy in their doctrine. As a result, beliefs vary widely from individual church to church, and even among members of a church.”[8] Thus, it is hard to tell exactly what the members of The Christian Church in Valparaiso believed.

First Christian Church, Valparaiso, Indiana, 1950 (https://www.fccvalpo.org/our-building-over-time)

Going back to the Sunday school roster of 1890, The Sunday Schools of Lake tells us that the Deep River Union School was organized “in August, 1888, by the evangelist ‘Christian’ minister of this district, Rev. Ellis B. Cross.”[9] I haven’t been able to find out anything more about the school or its founder. Were the three Casbon sons there because of their Christian beliefs or was it more of an acceptable social outlet—something young men in Deep River were expected to do (especially since there was also a young ladies’ class!)?  How was their Sunday school experience reflected in their later lives?

I was always under the impression from conversations with my father that his family in Indiana wasn’t very religious. His grandfather was Lawrence Casbon—the one listed on the Sunday school roster above. Lawrence’s obituary mentions his membership in the local Masonic Lodge but says nothing about church membership.[10] Likewise, the obituaries of his three sons, Leslie, Loring, and Lynnet, mention their memberships in the Masons, Scottish Rite, American Legion, and similar organizations, but say nothing about church membership. Perhaps these social organizations became their surrogates for participation in an organized church. [Update: see comment from Dave Casbon, below.]

Of Lawrence’s two brothers, Thomas’s obituary describes him as a member of the same Christian church as his father.[11] Charles’s obituary says that he belonged to the Elks lodge but does not mention a church affiliation.[12]

As I said earlier, there isn’t enough information to draw firm conclusions. The Indiana Casbons described above were all respected members of their communities. They fit in with the norms and expectations of their fellow citizens. Church membership and Sunday school attendance was probably one of those expectations in the late 1800s.

I will be eager to hear from any of their descendants whether they have different recollections or opinions.

[1] T.H. Ball (Crown Point, Indiana: T.H. Ball, 1891); Google Books (https://books.google.com/books?id=g5A_1QM4wVAC : accessed 21 Jan 2020)
[2] The Sunday Schools of Lake, p. 5.
[3] Weston A. Goodspeed, Charles Blanchard, Counties of Porter and Lake Indiana: Historical and Biographical, Illustrated (Chicago: F.A. Battey & Co., 1882), p. 707; Hathi Trust Digital Library.
[4] History of Porter County Indiana: A Narrative Account of its Historical Progress, its People and its Principal Interests (Chicago: The Lewis Publishing Co., 1912), p. 484; Hathi Trust Digital Library.
[5] History of Porter County Indiana, p. 461.
[6] “Death Calls S.V. Casbon; Reached 90,” The (Valparaiso, Indiana) Vidette-Messenger, 10 Dec 1927, p. 1, col. 1; Newspaper Archive (accessed through participating libraries).
[7] “Our Story,” First Christian Church (https://www.fccvalpo.org/our-story).
[8] Jack Zavada, “Disciples of Christ Beliefs and Practices,” Learn Religions (https://www.learnreligions.com/disciples-of-christ-beliefs-and-practices-700019).
[9] The Sunday Schools of Lake, p. 86.
[10] “85-Year-Old Resident of County Dies.” The Vidette-Messenger, 16 Jun 1950, p. 1, col. 5; Newspaper Archive.
[11] “Deaths … Thomas S. Casbon,” The Vidette-Messenger, 16 Mar 1955, p. 6, col. 3; Newspaper Archive.
[12] “Death Takes C.P. Casbon,” The Vidette-Messenger, 1 Feb 1949, p. 1, col. 1; Newspaper Archive.

“Wedding Bells”

This is my seventh post in the Guild of One-Name Studies blog challenge.

My last post was about the period in Amos Casbon’s life before his marriage. Today we read about his wedding to Carrie Belle Aylesworth on 28 November 1900. This is another newspaper discovery from my visit to the Valparaiso (Porter County, Indiana) public library in May 2019.

Here is the article from The Porter County Vidette of 6 December 1900.[1]

(Click on image to enlarge)

Wedding Bells
The Marriage of Amos J. Casbon
and Miss Carrie Aylesworth

Mr. Amos J. Casbon and Miss Carrie B. Aylesworth were united in marriage Wednesday evening, Nov. 28, at the bride’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. John Aylesworth, of Boone Grove. The bride was very tastefully attired in a beautiful cream cashmere, richly trimmed in silk lace.
The young couple were attended by Mr. Clyde Aylesworth, a brother of the bride, and Miss Sadie Breyfogle.
About seventy-five of their friends and relatives were present to witness the ceremony which was performed at 8 o’clock by Rev. Miller, of Indianapolis. After congratulations were extended a bountiful repast was served.
Mr. and Mrs. Casbon expect to go to housekeeping in about six weeks and will reside on Mr. Casbon’s farm, two miles west of Boone Grove.
They were the recipients of many useful and valuable presents, viz: Dinner set, Mr. and Mrs. John Aylesworth; clock, Clyde Aylesworth and Sadie Breyfogle; coffemill [sic], Mr. and Mrs. Edgar Aylesworth and family; butter knife and sugar shell, Glenn Aylesworth; set silver teaspoons, Wm. Sawyer and family; silver cracker jar, Misses Sina, Lillian and Maud Casbon; salad dish, Floyd Aylesworth and Jettty [sic] Carson; silver sugar shell, Mr. and Mrs. Clinton Aylesworth and family; silver gravy ladle, Mr. and Mrs. L.H. Coplin; glass salt and pepper box, Bessie Shreve; half dozen napkins and bed spread, Emery Wickham; one pair linen towels, Mrs. J.W. Aylesworth; rug, Mr. and Mrs. [i.e., Cora Casbon] John Sams and Elmer Stulz; bed spread, Mr. and Mrs. Jerome Massey; silver gravy ladle, Mr. and Mrs. Eugene Skinkle; silver jelly spoon, Mr. and Mrs. L.L. Casbon and family; set silver teaspoons, Jesse Casbon; silver berry spoon, Mrs. Belle Aylesworth and daughter; bed spread, Mr. and Mrs. Wm. Shreve; broom, Mr. and Mrs. Guy Aylesworth; pair linen towels, Mr. and Mrs. [i.e., Lodema Casbon] Hiram Church; glass salt and pepper boxes, Anna Aylesworth; glass vase, Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Massey; silver gravy ladle, Mr. and Mrs. Charles Casbon; one dozen water glasses, Mr. and Mrs. H.B. Kenney; silver pickle castor, Mr. and Mrs. S.V. Casbon; glass tea set, Giles Aylesworth and family; cream ladle, Mr. and Mrs. W.E. Black and daughter; chamber set, Mr. and Mrs. Wallace, Mr. and Mrs. Charles Leeka, Mr. and Mrs. Guy Aylesworth and Mr. and Mrs. Clarence Aylesworth; pair white leghorn chickens, Mr. C. Wallace. The house was a piece of Mr. Wallace’s own work and showed his skill as a workman.

The article is full of interesting details, from the description of Carrie’s dress to the itemized list of wedding gifts.

Wedding portrait of Amos and Carrie (Aylesworth) Casbon;
courtesy of Ron Casbon (click on image to enlarge)

I suspect this wedding was a bigger affair than many in the local community. Carrie’s father, John Aylesworth, was a prominent farmer. Members of the Aylesworth family first settled in Porter County in 1842. Their descendants owned several hundred acres of land in Boone Township.

Carrie Belle was not the first Aylesworth to marry a Casbon. Sylvester (“S.V.” in the article) Casbon’s  first wife was Mary Adaline Aylesworth, who died in 1868. Consequently, the Aylesworth and Casbon families have always had close ties, and Casbons have been invited to the annual Aylesworth family reunions up to the present day.

I think it’s very interesting that the minister, Rev. Miller, was said to be from Indianapolis, which is about 140 miles away from Boone Grove. A search on FamilySearch.org shows that Rev. Melnotte Miller was the officiating minister for many weddings in various Indiana locales, although Indianapolis is not among them. He officiated at many Porter County weddings in 1899 and 1900, so perhaps he was temporarily assigned to the county at that time.

The list of gifts reveals a mix of practical items and valuable silverware. Have you ever heard of a pickle castor? I had not. This was apparently an ornate container for serving pickled condiments.

Pickle castors (www.carolsantiqueshop.com)

I especially like the gift of two leghorn chickens, apparently with their own henhouse, custom built by Mr. Wallace.

I wonder if any of these gifts have been handed down in the family?

From the standpoint of my one-name study, the guest list is chock full of Casbons, indicated in bold font in the transcript. This is not surprising, given that Porter County was ground zero for all the Casbons of English descent. Notably absent, however are any of Amos’s immediate family, which then consisted of his stepmother, Mary, and his sisters Margaret “Maggie,” and Alice. He was said to have been estranged from Mary and Maggie, but I don’t know why Alice wasn’t there. Or, perhaps they were in attendance, but just not listed as the givers of gifts.

There is one other item of interest in the article: the statement that the couple would “go to housekeeping in about six weeks and will reside on Mr. Casbon’s farm, two miles west of Boone Grove.” The location doesn’t make sense to me. In the previous post, I mentioned a January 1900 news item stating that Amos, then living in Chicago, was job hunting in the Boone Grove area.[2] He apparently found a job, since we find him in the 1900 U.S. census, residing in Porter Township.

Detail from the 1900 U.S. census, Porter Township, Porter County, Indiana
(FamilySearch.org) (click on image to enlarge)

Amos is listed as a boarder on the farm of William Shreves. (Note that Mr. and Mrs. Wm. Shreve and their daughter Bessie were present at the wedding). Amos’s occupation is not given in the census listing, but presumably he was engaged in farming. The Shreve farm was located about 1 ½ miles west of Boone Grove, so perhaps that is the location referred to in the article. However, if that is the case, it could not be rightfully described as “Mr. Casbon’s farm.” Also, I doubt that Amos’s lodgings on the Shreve farm would have been suitable for a young newlywed couple.

The statement that Amos and Carrie would start housekeeping “in about six weeks” brings another explanation to mind. I have reviewed the Porter County deed records and note that Amos’s first land purchase closed on 14 January 1901, almost six weeks exactly after the wedding. On that date, Amos purchased 65 acres from Hattie Dye for the price of $3,250.[3] That land is located about one-half mile southwest of Boone Grove. Although the location does not match what is written in the article, the timing and the description as “Mr. Casbon’s farm” make this the likely place.

Detail of 1895 plat maps of Porter and Boone Townships, Porter County, Indiana, showing John Aylesworth’s farm, Amos’s residence in the 1900 U.S. census, and Amos’s first land purchase in 1901. (Porter County Indiana: A Part of the InGenWeb Project, http://www.inportercounty.org/)(Click on image to enlarge)

At any rate, this is where Amos and Carrie spent their lives together. Over many subsequent years, Amos bought adjoining plots of land to increase his holdings and the value of his property. This land remains in the family today.

[1]“Wedding Bells,” The Porter County (Indiana) Vidette, 6 December 1900.
[2]“Boone Grove Items,” The Porter County Vidette, 25 January 1900.
[3]Indiana, Porter County, Deed Records, vol. 59, 1899–1901.

The Death Certificate of Mary (Payne) Casbon (~1832–1903)

Death certificates can be a valuable source of information, especially when other sources about a given person are limited or cannot be found. However, the accuracy of the information is often questionable, depending on how and by whom the information was obtained. Both of these statements apply to the death certificate of Mary (Payne) Casbon, third wife and widow of James Casbon (~1813–1884).[1]

(Click on image to enlarge)

I just found this death certificate on Ancestry last week. It did not come up on earlier searches because her last name was transcribed as Carbon instead of Casbon. Before finding this, the only sources I had concerning Mary were her 1876 marriage registration, 1880 and 1900 U.S. censuses, and an entry on FindAGrave.com. Let’s take a closer look at her death certificate to see what it can tell us.

(Click on image to enlarge)

The top section of the certificate gives Mary’s name as “Mary P. Casbon.” The “P” probably stands for Payne, her maiden name. Although the “s” in her surname does look somewhat like an “r,” it is distinctly different than the “r” in her first name. The certificate gives the place of death as Center Township in Porter County. No town, city or street address is given. If she had died in Valparaiso, the county seat and main population center of the township, I would have expected that to be written. This could simply be a clerical oversight, but it could also mean that she died elsewhere in the township, outside of city limits. I’ll return to this thought in a few paragraphs.

(Click on image to enlarge)

You’ll notice that the “Personal and Statistical Particulars” section of the certificate was completed by Charles Casbon, the informant for the death certificate. This would have been Charles Thomas Casbon (1840–1915), son of Thomas (~1803–1888) and nephew of Mary’s deceased husband, James. It’s interesting to me that Charles was the informant. Mary had two step-children living in Porter County—Amos and Alice—both children of James by his previous wife, Mary (Jackson, ~1833–before 1876). (James’ other daughter Margaret had just died on April 30, 1903, in La Porte County.[2])

Why wasn’t either Amos or Alice the informant? I’ve been told that Mary and her step-children weren’t on the best of terms, but this may not be the reason. They lived several miles further south, in Porter Township. Not only was Charles closer, but it’s even possible that Mary was staying with him at the time of her death.

In the 1900 census, Mary was living in Hebron, in the southern part of the county.[3]

Detail from 1900 U.S. Census, Hebron Town, Boone Township, Porter County, Indiana (image is a composite, placing column headings next to Mary’s entry) (Click on image to enlarge)

Of note is that fact that Mary lived with a “servant,” named Mary E. Lytle, who’s occupation is listed as “Nurse.” This suggests that Mary’s illness had been longstanding. Incidentally, Mary Lytle was almost certainly the widow of Thomas G. Lytle, a wealthy manufacturer and former three-time mayor of Valparaiso.[4] I suspect that, rather than a servant, she was more of a live-in nurse and caregiver.

If Mary’s home was Hebron, why was she in Center Township when she died? Perhaps in her final illness, she could either no longer afford or was too sick to live on her own. It might have been easier to get the medical care she needed in Valparaiso. If so, staying with a relative would have been a practical solution. A 1902 Valparaiso City Directory lists Charles’ address as “Cemetery av[e] (outside City Limits).[5]” Cemetery Avenue is known today as Linwood Avenue, and leads from the city to the western edges of Graceland and Maplewood cemeteries. If Mary had been staying with Charles, this would explain why her place of death was listed as Center Township and not Valparaiso proper.

The fact that Charles was the informant doesn’t mean he could be counted on to provide accurate information for the death certificate. As a step-nephew, it’s unlikely that he had the detailed knowledge to correctly answer questions about Mary’s life.

For example. Charles gives Mary’s birth date as May 4, 1833. We don’t know Mary’s real date of birth, but on the 1900 census, it was given (presumably by her) as October, 1832.[6] Her grave stone shows her age at death as “69 yrs 8 mos & 20 d,” which would give her a birthdate of about August 20, 1833.[7] So, the best we can say about her birthdate is “about 1832 or 1833.”

Charles said that Mary’s father’s name was Samuel Payne and mother’s as “do not know.” It’s possible that Charles was correct, but we can’t rely on this as first-hand information. It’s easy to get names confused unless one knows the individuals in question. Unfortunately, we have to take everything in this section of the certificate with a grain of salt.

The next section of the certificate tells us why Mary died.

(Click on image to enlarge)

This section was completed by a doctor, which means the handwriting can be a challenge. Fortunately, I have a lot of experience reading doctors’ handwriting.

We see the date of death written as May 10, 1903. This is interesting for a couple of reasons. First of all, her grave stone gives the date as May 9. Why the difference? If we read on, the attending physician writes that he last saw Mary alive on May 6th, and that the time of death is documented as twelve o’clock a.m. Did she really die at exactly midnight? I doubt it. What seems more likely to me is that she died sometime on the 9th, then the doctor was called, and he arrived to pronounce her dead sometime around midnight. At any rate, even though the date on the grave stone may be when she actually died, the date on the death certificate is the official date.

Now look closely at the Chief and Immediate causes of death. They are both surprising and sobering. The chief cause of death is listed as Morphinism, and the immediate cause, Starvation. In other words, Mary was addicted to morphine and her addiction had progressed to the point that she was no longer eating, so that she starved to death.

I have a copy of The Principles and Practice of Medicine, written by William Osler, M.D., and published in 1901. Here’s what it has to say about morphinism.

Morphia Habit (Morphinomania; Morphinism). This habit arises from the constant use of morphia—taken at first, as a rule, for the purpose of allaying pain. The craving is gradually engendered, and the habit in this way acquired. … The habit is particularly prevalent among women and physicians who use the hypodermic syringe for the alleviation of pain. … The confirmed opium-eater often presents a very characteristic appearance. There is a sallowness of the complexion which is almost pathognomonic, and he becomes emaciated, gray, and prematurely aged. He is restless, irritable, and unable to remain quiet for any time. … Persons addicted to morphia are inveterate liars, and no reliance whatever can be placed upon their statements. In many instances this is not confined to matters relating to the vice. … Finally a condition of asthenia is induced, in which the victim takes little or no food and dies from the extreme bodily debility.[8]

This last statement appears to be exactly what happened to Mary.

Dr. Osler goes on to say:

The condition is one which has become so common, and is so much on the increase, that physicians should exercise the utmost caution in prescribing morphia … . Under no circumstances should a patient be allowed to use the hypodermic syringe, and it is even safer not to intrust this dangerous instrument to the hands of the nurse.[9]

There is a striking parallel between Mary’s addiction and today’s “opioid crisis.” A recent article in Smithsonian says

By 1895, morphine and opium powders, like OxyContin and other prescription opioids today, had led to an addiction epidemic that affected roughly 1 in 200 Americans. Before 1900, the typical opiate addict in America was an upper-class or middle-class white woman. Today, doctors are re-learning lessons their predecessors learned more than a lifetime ago.[10]

We don’t know how or why Mary became addicted, but there is a decent chance that it was legally prescribed for her at some point. One hundred fifteen years later, our country is still seeking solutions to the problem of opioid addiction.

The attending physician who signed Mary’s death certificate was Otis B. Nesbit, M.D. The 1912 History of Porter County Indiana describes him in these terms: “Possessing an excellent knowledge of the science which he has chosen as a profession, Otis B. Nesbit, M.D., of Valparaiso, has acquired prominence as a physician and built up a most satisfactory patronage in the city and its suburbs.”[11] He received his medical degree in 1902 having previously received a degree as a pharmacist.[12] When Mary died, in 1903, he would have just been building up his practice, and may very well have been the newest physician in town. As such, he might have taken on cases that his colleagues preferred not to deal with, and Mary’s could easily have been such a case.

The final section of the death certificate contains two names of minor historical interest. The place of burial is given as Maple Wood (now Maplewood) cemetery, and the undertaker’s name is F.A. Lepell. A 1902 Valparaiso city directory lists Frank A. LePell as an “undertaker, embalmer and funeral director, also picture frames and mouldings.”[13] Mr. LePell came from a long line of undertakers, originally from Berlin, Germany.[14] His grandfather and father came to Valparaiso in 1842 and “they were the first undertakers and furniture dealers of Porter County.[15]

Under Mr. LePell’s name is the signature of the “Health Officer or Deputy.” Although difficult to make out (doctor’s handwriting again!) this says “A.P. Letherman.” Andrew P. Letherman, M.D. is described as “distinguished not only for his professional knowledge and skill, but as being the longest-established physician in Porter County [in 1912].”[16] Doctor Letherman’s father, also a physician, brought his family to Valparaiso in 1853.[17] His son, A.P., graduated from medical school in 1871, and thence began his own practice in Valparaiso.[18]

As stated in the death certificate, Mary Payne Casbon was buried in Maplewood Cemetery. She has a nice memorial with this inscription: “Sleep on dear Sister and take thy rest/ To call the[e] home God thought it best.”[19] The word Sister has me puzzled. Did Mary have an actual sister living in Valparaiso, or does this simply mean Sister as a term of endearment for a fellow Christian?

(Click on image to enlarge)

[1] Indiana, State Board of Health, Certificate of Death, Porter County, p. 39 (stamped), Mary P Carbon, 10 May 1903; imaged as “Indiana, Death Certificates, 1899-2011,” Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/60716/45232_354312-00338 : accessed 27 April 2018), Certificate >1903 >10, image 339 of 2788; citing Indiana State Board of Health. Death Certificates, 1900–2011, Microfilm, Indiana Archives and Records Administration, Indianapolis.
[2]
Indiana, State Board of Health, Certificate of Death, La Porte County, p. 54 (stamped), Maggie Biederstadt, 30 Apr 1903; imaged as “Indiana, Death Certificates, 1899-2011,” Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/60716/45232_354308-02082 : accessed 1 May 2018), Certificate >1903 >6, image 2083 of 2771; citing Indiana State Board of Health.
[3]
1900 U.S. Census, Porter County, Indiana, population schedule, Boone Township, enumeration district 79, sheet 13A, p. 13 (stamped), dwelling 315, family 316, Casben, Mary; imaged as “United States Census, 1900,” FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HY-6QNS-36R?i=25&cc=1325221 : accessed 27 April 2018),  Indiana > Porter > ED 79 Boone Township Hebron town, image 26 of 29; citing NARA microfilm publication T623, roll 398.
[4]
Weston A. Goodspeed & Charles Blanchard, Counties of Porter and Lake Indiana: Historical and Biographical, Illustrated (Chicago: F.A. Battey & Co., 1882), pp. 257-8; online image, Internet Archive (https://archive.org/stream/countiesofporter00good#page/258/ : accessed 1 May 2018).
[5]
Bumstead’s Valparaiso City and Porter County Business Directory (Chicago: Bumstead & Co., 1902), p. 67; imaged as
“U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995,” Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/2469/11567377#?imageId=11567418  : accessed 1 May 2018), Indiana >Valparaiso >1902 >Valparaiso, Indiana, City Directory, 1902, image 22 of 159.
[6] 1900 U.S. Census, Porter County, Indiana, pop. sched., Boone Township, en. dist. 79, sheet 13A, p. 13, dwell. 315, fam. 316 (stamped), Casben, Mary.
[7] Find A Grave, database with images (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/109800943/mary-casbon : accessed 27 April 2018), memorial page for Mary Payne Casbon (1833-1903), ID no. 109800943, created by Alana Knochel Bauman; citing Maplewood Cemetery, Valparaiso, Indiana.
[8] William Osler, M.D., The Principles and Practice of Medicine: Designed for the Use of Practitioners and Students of Medicine, 3d ed. (New York: D. Appleton & Co., 1901), p. 384.
[9] Ibid.
[10] Erick Trickey, “Inside the Story of America’s 19th-Century Opiate Addiction,” 4 Jan 18, Smithsonian.com (https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/inside-story-americas-19th-century-opiate-addiction-180967673/ : accessed 1 May 2018).
[11] 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), pp. 545-6.; online image, Hathi Trust Digital Library (https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=wu.89067919191;view=1up;seq=203 : accessed 28 April 2018).
[12] Ibid, p. 545.
[13] Bumstead’s Valparaiso City and Porter County Business Directory, p. 106; Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/2469/11567377#?imageId=11567418 : accessed 1 May 2018 ), image 42 of 159.
[14] Pictorial and Biographical Record of La Porte, Porter, Lake and Starke Counties, Indiana (Chicago: Goodspeed Brothers, 1894), p. 505; online image, Internet Archive (https://archive.org/stream/pictorialbiograp00chic#page/504 : accessed 1 May 2018).
[15] Ibid.
[16] History of Porter County, Indiana, vol. 2, p. 445; Internet Archive (https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=wu.89067919191;view=1up;seq=101 : accessed 1 May 2018).
[17] Ibid, p. 446.
[18] Ibid.
[19] Find A Grave, memorial page for Mary Payne Casbon.

An Incident in Greenwich

This piece appeared in The (London) Standard of April 12, 1871.[1]

GREENWICH.

Charges of Attempted Suicide.Thomas Casbon, a young man, describing himself as a nurseryman at Peterborough, was charged with attempting to commit suicide by throwing himself into the River Thames opposite Greenwich Hospital.
From the evidence of Police-serjeant 16 R, it appeared that on Saturday afternoon, between four and five o’clock, he found the prisoner near the Ship Tavern, Greenwich, water running from the leggings of his trousers, he having just been rescued from the river by a waterman, after jumping into it at high water. The prisoner was stupefied and benumbed by cold, and was conveyed to the Greenwich Union, where he was stripped and rubbed with warm cloth, and had remained there until that morning, when he was taken into custody and charged. On recovering consciousness the prisoner said he had looked at the river before plunging in, thinking he could swim across it.
The Prisoner, who appeared in a very weak condition, said, in reply to the charge, that he had no intention whatever of taking his own life. He had come by an excursion train from Peterborough to visit the Crystal Palace on Good Friday, and had there lost a friend who was with him. Owing to broken rest in attending to business previously and excitement occasioned by taking too much drink, he supposed he must have awoke on Saturday morning, wherever he slept, and wandered to Greenwich, not knowing where he was or what he was doing.
Mr. Maude inquired of the prisoner whether he had on any previous occasion become so suddenly bereft of reason, and also whether he had sufficient means to get back to Peterborough.
The Prisoner replied that his mind had never before been so affected. He had not sufficient money to pay his fare to Peterborough, but he had property of value about him sufficient to obtain it, and he was most anxious to get home.
Mr. Maude said he would take the prisoner’s assurance that he had no intention to drown himself, and ordered his discharge, but he advised him in future to abstain from too much intoxicating liquor.

This story obviously describes a disturbing incident in the life of Thomas Casbon. Who was Thomas? The story describes him as a young man and a nurseryman from Peterborough. There were two men named Thomas Casbon who might have fit this description in 1871; one was born in 1840 and the other in 1854. Fortunately, additional records pertaining to this incident exist – the admission and discharge register from the Greenwich Union, where Thomas was taken after being pulled out of the Thames.[2], [3]

Detail from Greenwich Union admission & discharge register, April 1871. (Click on image to enlarge)

  These records tell the same story as the news article, in abbreviated format. We can see that he was admitted on Saturday, April 8th at 4:50 p.m. His age is recorded as 32. He was admitted from G[reenwich] parish. The order to admit him was given by someone named Master. The Cause of Admission is Attempt to Drown Supposed Insane. His religious persuasion is Church [of England]. The remarks state that he was Brought by Police 16R from Dr. Forsyth. The discharge record only tells us that he was discharged on Tuesday, April 11th, one day before the news article appeared.

From the given age of 32 we can tell that this was the Thomas Casbon born in 1840.[4] It’s one year off from the birth year in my records, but there is no one else who could match this description. Thomas was the third child and second son of Thomas Casbon (~1807–1863), and the third generation of gardeners/nurserymen who eventually settled in Peterborough.

Thomas was married to Emily Cantrill, of London, in 1865.[5] They had two children: Charles T, born in 1866, and Edith Emily, born in 1868.[6], [7] Emily filed for divorce. alleging cruelty, in 1868.[8] Thomas was ordered to pay alimony and the judge ordered that the case be tried before a jury. I don’t know if the trial ever took place of if the divorce was finalized, but it is clear that the marriage was over. In the 1871 census, Emily and the two children were living with her parents in London.[9] Could the “broken rest in attending to business,” referred to in the newspaper article, have had something to do with his divorce? Might his “excitement occasioned by taking too much drink” have been the aftermath of an unsuccessful encounter with his estranged wife and children? Obviously, this is speculation on my part, but I think it could explain the events that followed.

Going back to the article, there are interesting tidbits of information that would have been common knowledge to the readers of the newspaper, but might be unfamiliar to us today.

First, we see from the title and other content that Thomas was brought up on charges of attempted suicide. The fact is, suicide was considered a crime in England until 1961.[10] Those who attempted suicide could be prosecuted and imprisoned. Under old English laws, a suicide victim would be buried at a crossroads (not in a church yard), and their property declared forfeited to the crown.[11] However, prosecutions were rare, and juries frequently brought in a verdict of “temporary insanity” as a means of avoiding punishment.[12], [13] Rather than considering him insane, it appears that the judge took Thomas’ word that he had not intended to kill himself.

I thought it was interesting that the police sergeant was referred to by the number “16R.” It turns out that this was his collar number, with the “R” designating the Greenwich police division.[14], [15]

A number of places are mentioned in the article. These include the River Thames, the Greenwich Hospital, the Ship Tavern, and the Greenwich Union. I’ve marked some of these on an old map of London (you’ll need to click on it to see it clearly).[16]

Detail of Ordnance Survey Map Essex LXXIII; Thomas’s approximate path across the Thames and the location where he was found are marked on the far left; the Greenwich Union Workhouse is circled at the upper right; reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland (https://maps.nls.uk/index.html) under Creative Commons license (Click on image to enlarge)

Since the story says Thomas threw “himself into the River Thames opposite Greenwich Hospital,” I’ve marked the north side of the Thames with a star, across from the “Royal Hospital,” shown on the map. The Thames must have been very cold in early April. The Ship Tavern, where the police sergeant found Thomas, is circled, just west of the hospital. The tavern was well known because it was the site of many “whitebait ministerial dinners” held at the end of Parliamentary sessions.[17]

The Greenwich Union, where Thomas was admitted for three days, was a large institution, supported by local taxes, to house the poor, infirm, and elderly.[18] This was located about 8/10ths of a mile east of the Ship Tavern. Thomas was probably admitted to the infirmary, which included wards for the insane.[19]

Thomas related that he had come to London to visit the Crystal Palace. This location would have been well-known to every Londoner. The Crystal Palace was originally built in Hyde Park to house the Great Exhibition of 1851.[20] The structure contained “the greatest area of glass ever seen in a building, and astonished visitors with its clear walls and ceilings that did not require interior lights.”[21] After the exhibition, the Crystal Palace was relocated to Sydenham Hill in South London, where it became a major attraction, featuring fountains, exhibits, entertainment, an amusement park, and sporting events.[22] It was finally destroyed by fire in 1936.[23]

The Crystal Palace in Hyde Park, 1851, from Dickinson’s Comprehensive Pictures of the Great Exhibition of 1851 (London: Dickinson Brothers, 1852); online image, Internet Archive (https://archive.org/details/Dickinsonscompr1 : accessed 24 February 2018) (Click on image to enlarge)

Crystal Palace was located some five miles southwest of where Thomas was found in Greenwich. This makes me wonder how he got from there to the bank of the Thames opposite the Royal Hospital. It seems unlikely that he could have done this in his drunken state, so I suspect that the business he had attended to before he started drinking took place on the north side of the Thames.

What happened to Thomas after this incident? I’m afraid that is a mystery. It turns out that the 1871 newspaper article is the last mention of Thomas being alive that I have been able to locate. His name does not appear in Peterborough directories of 1876 or 1877. He is absent from the 1881 or later censuses (by coincidence, the 1871 census was taken just a few days before his trip to London). His death is not registered.

The only record I have been able to find is the National Calendar of Probates from 1900. This states that Thomas Casbon “of the Cathedral-precincts Peterborough nurseryman died in or since May 1887” (my emphasis), and names his son, Charles Wheeley Casbon, as administrator of the estate. His estate was valued at 67 pounds, 3 shillings – a paltry sum.[24] The fact that an exact date of death is not given and that Thomas’ estate was not probated until 13 years after the presumed year of his death is unusual, and leads me to believe that his whereabouts were known until May 1887; but then he either disappeared without a trace, or his body was not found until a later date. Interestingly, his wife, Emily, is listed as married in the 1881 census, and widowed in 1891.[25], [26]

Maybe one of his descendants, if there are any, knows the rest of the story. I would love to hear it!

[1] “Greenwich,” The (London) Standard, 12 April 1871, p. 7, col. 5; online image, The British Newspaper Archive (https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/viewer/BL/0000183/18710412/053/0007 : accessed 24 September 2016).
[2] “London, England, Workhouse Admission and Discharge Records, 1659-1930,” database with images, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/60391/31537_214606-00154 : accessed 20 February 2018), images 155-6 of 388, Thomas Casbon, admitted 8 Apr 1871, Greenwich Union; citing Board of Guardians records held by the London Metropolitan Archives.
[3] “London, England, Workhouse Admission and Discharge Records, 1659-1930,” (https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/60391/31537_214606-00157 : accessed 20 February 2018), image 158 of 388, Thomas Casbon, discharged 11 Apr 1871, Greenwich Union; citing London Metropolitan Archives.
[4] “England and Wales Birth Registration Index, 1837-2008”, database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:2NS3-95C : accessed 5 August 2016), Thomas Casbon, 1st qtr, 1840, St Ives (Huntingdonshire), vol. 14/211, line 9; citing findmypast (http://www.findmypast.com : 2012); citing General Register Office, Southport.
[5] “England and Wales Marriage Registration Index, 1837-2005,” database, FamilySearch https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:2D7G-RM1 : accessed 22 September 2016), Thomas Casbon, 2d qtr, 1865, Pancras, London. 1865, quarter 2, vol. 1B, p. 11; from “England & Wales Marriages, 1837-2005,” database, findmypast; citing General Register Office.
[6] “England and Wales Birth Registration Index, 1837-2008,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:2X9G-QWX : accessed 24 February 2018), Charles W Casbon, 3d qtr, 1866, Peterborough, Northampton, vol. 3B/211, line 314; from “England & Wales Births, 1837-2006,” database, findmypast; citing General Register Office.
[7] “England and Wales Birth Registration Index, 1837-2008,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:2XQ9-1PP : accessed 24 February 2018), Edith Emily Casbon, 2d qtr, 1868, Pancras, London, vol. 1B/168, line 327; from “England & Wales Births, 1837-2006,” database, findmypast; citing General Register Office.
[8] “England & Wales, Civil Divorce Records, 1858-1916,” database with images, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/2465/40243_612057_1776-00000 : accessed 24 February 2018), wife’s petition, Emily Casbon, 1868; citing The National Archives, J77/84/787, Kew.
[9] “1871 Census of England, Wales & Scotland,” database with images, findmypast (http://search.findmypast.com/record?id=gbc%2f1871%2f0001569724 : accessed 31 March 2017), Emily Casbone (age 25) in household of Samuel W Cantrill, London, St. Pancras Crescent; citing [The National Archives], RG 10, piece 235, folio 15, p. 23.
[10] “Suicide Act 1961,” Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suicide_Act_1961 : accessed 20 February 2018), rev. 11 Feb 18, 12:57.
[11] Ernest Hart, ed., “‘Unsound Mind’ Verdicts on Suicide,” British Medical Journal, 1892, Vol. 2, 22 Oct, pp. 909-10; online image, Google Books (https://books.google.com/books?id=VIpMAQAAMAAJ : accessed 24 February 2018).
[12] Gerry Holt, “When suicide was illegal,” 3 Aug 2011, BBC News (http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-14374296 : accessed 21 February 2018).
[13] Hart, ed., “’Unsound Mind’ Verdicts on Suicide,” British Medical Journal,” 1892; Google Books.
[14] “London Police – Family History Inquiries,” History by the Yard (http://www.historybytheyard.co.uk/family_history.htm : accessed 20 February 2018).
[15] “History of the Metropolitan Police Service,” Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_Metropolitan_Police_Service : accessed 20 February 2018), rev. 18 Feb 18, 17:47.
[16] Map, Essex LXXIII (Southampton: Ordnance Survey Office, 1870-82, six-inch to the mile; online image, National Library of Scotland (http://maps.nls.uk/view/102342032# : accessed 19 February 2018).
[17] “Ship Tavern, River Front, Greenwich, c. 1860,” Ideal Homes:a History of South-East London Suburbs (http://www.ideal-homes.org.uk/greenwich/assets/galleries/central-greenwich/ship-tavern-1860 : accessed 19 February 2018).
[18] “Workhouse,” Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Workhouse : accessed 21 February 2018), rev. 21 Feb 18, 12:15.
[19] “Greenwich, Kent, London,” The Workhouse: The story of an institution (http://www.workhouses.org.uk/Greenwich : accessed 20 February 2018).
[20] “The Crystal Palace,” Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Crystal_Palace#Relocation_and_redesign : accessed 20 February 2018), rev. 18 Feb 2018, 03:11.
[21] “The Crystal Palace,” Wikipedia.
[22] Gary Holland, “Crystal Palace: A History,” 24 Sep 14, BBC Home (http://www.bbc.co.uk/london/content/articles/2004/07/27/history_feature.shtml : accessed 21 February 2018).
[23] “The Crystal Palace,” Wikipedia.
[24] “England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1858-1966”, database with images, Ancestry Library Edition (accessed through participating libraries: accessed 27 September 2016), Casbon, Thomas, 1900, died in or since May 1887; citing Principal Probate Registry, London.
[25] “1881 Census of England, Wales & Scotland,” database with images, findmypast (http://search.findmypast.com/record?id=gbc%2f1881%2f0006540493 : accessed 31 March 2017), E Casbon in household of S W Cantrill, Middlesex, Hornsey, 17 Ravenstone Rd; citing [The National Archives], RG 11, piece 1374, folio 17, p. 28.
[26] “1891 Census of England Wales & Scotland,” database with images, findmypast (http://search.findmypast.com/record?id=gbc%2f1891%2f0008037559 : accessed 31 March 2017), Emily Casbon in household of Charles Casbon, Hornsey, Middlesex, 6 Alexandra Rd; citing [The National Archives], RG 12, piece 1059, folio 130, p. 51.

James Casbon in the 1880 U.S. Census, Porter Township, Porter County, Indiana

James Casbon (abt. 1813—1884) was the subject of an earlier post. He is the common ancestor to many Casbon descendants, both in the United States and United Kingdom. Because of his relatively short time in America, there are few records about his life here. He only appears in one U.S. Census, that of 1880, since he arrived to the U.S. in late 1870 (after the census was completed) and died in 1884.

Page from the 1880 U.S. Census, Porter Township, Porter County, Indiana. Source: 1880 U.S. census, Porter County, Indiana, population schedule, enumeration district 144, p. 545 (stamped), p. 19C (penned), dwelling 187, family 191, James Casbon; database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org : accessed 24 December 2015), Indiana > Porter > Porter > image 19 of 20 (Click on image to enlarge)

What can we learn from this record? First it tells us that James was living in Porter township, one of thirteen townships in Porter County.

1876 Map of Porter County showing townships. Porter township is outlined in red; Source: A.G. Hardesty, Illustrated historical atlas of Porter County, Indiana, Valparaiso, Ind.: A.G. Hardesty, 1876, p. 22; online images, Library of Congress (https://www.loc.gov/item/2007626934/ : accessed 2 March 2016) (Click on image to enlarge)

The census does not tell us exactly where in the township James was living. The other names on the census page show us who his neighbors were, but not where they were located. His brother Thomas Casbon, nephew Charles Casbon, and niece Mary Ann (Casbon) Priest were also living in Porter township, but apparently not in the same general area, based on their being several pages distant in the census record.

The members of James’ family include his wife Mary, daughter Margaret, son Amos, and daughter Alice. His wife was the former Mary Payne, whom he married January, 1876, in Porter County.[1] I’ve speculated that she might be the same Mary Payne who emigrated from England in 1856 with Mary Casbon (see “From England to Indiana, Part 8” [link]). If so, she would have been from James’ home town of Meldreth, Cambridgeshire, the niece of James’ sister in law, Emma (Scruby) Casbon. In favor of this possibility is the fact that Mary’s birthplace (and that of her parents) is recorded as England on the census form. Against it is her recorded age of 53, which would give her a birth year of about 1827. The Mary Payne from Meldreth was born about 1833, based on her ages recorded in the 1841 and 1851 England censuses.[2],[3] Ages in census records are notoriously inaccurate, so this discrepancy is not a big concern. Not only that, but Mary’s age in the 1900 U.S. census is listed as 68, with her month & year of birth listed as October 1832.[4] This jives very well with the data for Mary Payne of Meldreth.

James’ daughter Margaret is recorded as 16 years old. This would give her a birth year of about 1864. This matches her estimated age from the passenger list when she arrived in America in 1870.[5] Her place of birth is incorrectly recorded as Indiana. I haven’t been able to locate birth or baptismal records for Margaret in England. Margaret’s fate is a bit of a mystery: a family story suggests that she became a “mail-order bride” and went to Seattle, Washington.

Son Amos was 10 years old, also born in England. His birthplace is also incorrectly recorded. Of Amos I will have much to say in future posts. Likewise with daughter Alice, who was born in Porter County in 1871.[6]

Note James’ occupation of “Farm Laborer.” This indicates he did not own or farm his own land. As I mentioned in the earlier post about James, every indication is that he was a poor hard-working man. The newspaper articles describing his death indicate he was working as a ditch digger at the time.

Finally, note the marks on the census form under the column “Cannot write.” This is marked for both James and Mary (but not marked for “Cannot read”). This is a reminder of their humble backgrounds and the lack of educational opportunities for people in their class when they were growing up in England.

[1] Porter County, Indiana Marriage Records, vol. 4: 348, James Casbon–Mary Payne, 15 Jan 1876; image, “Indiana Marriages, 1811-2007,” FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33SQ-GTM4-RLH?i=241&cc=1410397 : accessed 24 October 2015); citing Porter County; FHL microfilm 1,686,156.
[2] “1841 England, Scotland and Wales census,” database and images, findmypast (http://www.findmypast.com : accessed 14 August 2016), entry for Mary Pain (age 8), Chiswic End, Meldreth, Cambridgeshire, England; citing The National Archives, PRO HO 107, piece 63, folio 10, p. 15.
[3] “1851 England, Scotland and Wales census,” database and images, findmypast (http://www.findmypast.com : accessed 24 July 2016), entry for Mary Payne (age 18), M in Meldreth, Melbourn, Hertfordshire, England; citing The National Archives, PRO HO 107, piece 1708, folio 209, p. 34.
[4] 1900 U.S. census, Porter County, Indiana, population schedule, enumeration district 79, p. 13B, dwelling 315, family 316, Mary Casben; database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HY-6QNS-36R?i=25&cc=1325221 : accessed 4 July 2016); citing NARA microfilm publication T623; FHL microfilm 1,240,398.
[5] “New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1891,”images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:939V-51S2-X5?i=106&cc=1849782 : accessed 10 November 2016), manifest, Great Western, 27 Dec 1870, n.p., line 29, Margret Custon, age 6, > image 107 of 341; citing NARA microfilm publication M237.
[6] “Michigan Death Certificates, 1921-1952”, database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:KF41-L5D : accessed 21 February 2017), Alice Edwards Hicks, 15 Mar 1950; citing Three Oaks, Berrien, Michigan, United States, Division for Vital Records and Health Statistics, Lansing; FHL microfilm 1,973,189.