Iowa Airplane Tragedy

Sunday, June 8, 1941 was a beautiful day for a picnic at the farm rented and occupied by Claude Eldridge a few miles northeast of Waterloo, Iowa. Claude’s wife, Emma (Casbon), was a good cook and people tended to gather at their place on Sundays. This was going to be a special Sunday gathering, as Claude’s oldest brother, Clarence, was getting ready to move to Washington State. Many of Claude and Emma’s siblings were in attendance.

Among the guests were Emma’s sisters, Josephine (“Jo”) and Genevieve (“Gen”). Jo had been married to Christopher Kraft for three years. Their daughter, Dixie, was born in 1939. The young family was living at Claude and Emma’s house while Christopher worked on local farms. Gen was engaged to 28-year-old Walter Fox, who owned a radio repair shop in Waterloo.

Fox was eager to show off the new airplane he had purchased in partnership with another man just one week earlier. The plane was a 1938 Taylorcraft two-seater. Fox had obtained a student pilot’s license two years earlier and had done some solo flying. He flew the plane to a hayfield on the Harry Northey farm, just across from the Eldridge farm.

Detail from map of Black Hawk County, Iowa, with exploded view showing location of the Harry Northey farm in Bennington Township; source: Plat book of Black Hawk County, Iowa (Rockford, Illinois: W.W. Hixcon & Co., 1930); imaged at “Iowa Digital Library,” Iowa University Libraries ( (Click on image to enlarge)

Walter took his fiancée for a ride shortly before noon. About 1:45 p.m., presumably after a picnic lunch, he took Christopher Kraft for a ride. While the families and guests watched, Walter performed loops over the nearby field. He was said to be coming in for a landing when something went wrong about 200 feet above the field. The plane plummeted down, hitting nose first before settling back down into a normal upright position. The Waterloo Daily Courier reported that “the impact broke the engine loose from its mountings; crumbled up the seating compartment, crushing the two occupants fatally.”[1]

The cheerful family gathering instantly became a scene of shock and grief.

Source: Waterloo (Iowa) Daily Courier, 9 Jun 1941, p. 1 (Newspaper Archive) (Click on image to enlarge)

Federal investigators were dispatched to the crash site. Their preliminary findings, reported three days after the crash, were critical of Walter Fox. He was said to have violated nine federal aviation regulations, including: flying without a pilot’s license (his student license had expired one year previously), flying with a passenger without the required license rating, flying acrobatically over an assembly of people, flying acrobatically with a passenger, and flying acrobatically below the minimum altitude.[2]

Eyewitnesses reported that Fox was “looping … at an altitude of less than 500 feet when he apparently lost control of the machine.”[3] Federal regulations prohibited acrobatic maneuvers at an altitude less than 1,500 feet and prohibited stunting with any passenger except a licensed flight instructor. The investigator stated that “not even a highly skilled pilot would have assumed he could loop safely with that type of plane at an altitude of 500 feet.”[4]

The report did not state whether these violations caused the crash. This would be determined later by Civil Aviation Board officials in Washington. (The report can probably be found in the National Archives, but is not available online and I haven’t investigated it further.)

Jo and her daughter Dixie continued to live in the Eldridge home until she bought a house in Waterloo. She got a job with the Rath meat packing plant and continued to work there for 30 years.[5] She married Owen Gray in 1945. They raised Dixie together and had another daughter. Jo died 5 August 2005 at the age of 95.[6] Gen also worked at the Rath packing plant and lived with Jo in Waterloo for some time. She married Robert L. Burman, a local farmer, at Waterloo on 26 August 1951.[7] Gen died on 28 January 2004.[8] She was 86 years old.

Most of the facts for this story were obtained from the articles in the Waterloo Daily Courier of 9–11 June 1941. I’m also indebted to Claudia Vokoun, daughter of Claude and Emma (Casbon) Eldridge, for additional details.

[1] “Plane Crash Probe Delayed: Two Killed as Ship Dives into Ground,” Waterloo (Iowa) Daily Courier, 9 Jun 1941, p. 1, col. 1; online image, Newspaper Archive (accessed through participating libraries: 10 July 2017).
[2] “Two-Death Crash Pilot Declared Breaking 9 Rules,” Waterloo Daily Courier, 11 Jun 1941, p. 6, col. 1; online image, Newspaper Archive (accessed 10 Dec 20).
[3] “Two-Death Crash Pilot Declared Breaking 9 Rules.”
[4] “Two-Death Crash Pilot Declared Breaking 9 Rules.”
[5] “Josephine ‘Jo’ E. Gray (1915-2010),” obituary, The (Waterloo, Cedar Falls, Iowa) Courier, 8 Aug 2010; html edition, ( : accessed 4 May 2019).
[6] “Josephine ‘Jo’ E. Gray (1915-2010).”
[7] “Repeat Vows,” Waterloo Daily Courier, 27 Aug 1951, p. 8, col. 5; image, Newspaper Archive (accessed through participating libraries: 4 May 2019).
[8] “Genevieive [sic] Burman Obituary”, Kaiser Corson Funeral Homes, Inc ( : accessed 17 March 2019).

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 ( (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” ( 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 ( (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 ( : 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 ( : 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 ( : 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 ( : accessed 11 Nov 2016).
[6] “England Births and Christenings, 1538-1975,” database, FamilySearch ( : 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 (( : 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 (, 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 (
[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 ( :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 ( : 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 ( : accessed 23 Aug 20) >Cambridgeshire >Barrington >ALL >2 >image 15 of 31.
[17] “England and Wales Marriage Registration Index, 1837–2005”, FamilySearch ( 13 December 2014).
[18] “England and Wales Death Registration Index 1837–2007,” FamilySearch ( : 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 ( : 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 ( : 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 ( : accessed 26 September 2015), George Casbon, 1881; from “England & Wales Marriages, 1837-2005,” database, findmypast ( : 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 ( : 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 ( : 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 ( : accessed 24 Aug 20) >Cambridgeshire >Meldreth >ALL >15 >image 7 of 32.
[27] “England and Wales Marriage Registration Index, 1837–2005”, FamilySearch ( : 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 ( : 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 ( : 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,” ( : 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.

Amos in Iowa?

This is my sixth post in the Guild of One-Name Studies (GOONS) blog challenge 2020. The challenge is to post 10 blogs in the first 12 weeks of the year.

Amos Casbon is not a new character in my blog. He can be considered the patriarch of what may be the largest branch of Casbons living in America. He was the son of James and Mary (Jackson) Casbon and the brother (or half-brother?) of Margaret “Maggie” Casbon, about whom I wrote in the fourth post of the GOONS challenge. Amos was born 6 July 1869 at Cottenham, Cambridgeshire, England.[1] He was only a toddler when his family emigrated to Porter County, Indiana, USA, in late 1870. He was probably only 4 or 5 years old when his mother died. His father remarried in 1876.[2] James was murdered in an unprovoked attack in August 1884, when Amos was 15 years old.[3]

After his father’s death, there is little solid information about Amos until his marriage to Carrie Belle Aylesworth in 1900. He was probably forced to grow up fast, without the support of a close loving family. Family tradition has it that Amos and his stepmother did not get along and that he was estranged from his sister Margaret, who seemed to have strayed from the “straight path.” He might have lived with and worked for local farmers. He was said to have lived for some time with his older cousin, Jesse Casbon, who also lived in Porter County. My impression is that this was an unsettled time in Amos’s life.

Portrait of a young Amos Casbon; undated, courtesy of Ron Casbon

We know that he worked as a grip for a Chicago streetcar company for four years in the late 1890s.[4]

Amos’s entry in The Lakeside Annual Directory of the City of Chicago
(Chicago: The Chicago Directory Co., 1896), p. 391;

In addition, a 25 January 1900 news announcement tells us that Amos, then living in Chicago, was job hunting in the Boone Grove (Porter County, Indiana) area.[5]

Last May, when I spent time at the Valparaiso Public Library, I discovered that Amos had also spent some time in his late teens and perhaps early twenties living and working in Iowa. The discovery was made when I found this news item on microfilm.

Untitled Article, The Porter County Vidette, 11 July 1889

Why is this important? For one thing, it puts another data point on the timeline of Amos’s life, during a time about which we have little other information. The timeline is probably only important to me and to those descendants of Amos who share in interest in their family history (of whom there are several).

The second reason is that Amos’s presence in Iowa connects him to another branch of the family, specifically the branch living in Iowa that consisted Emma (Casbon) and Robert Rigg, and their nephew George Washington Casbon (see “Introducing the Iowa Casbons! Part 1”). Emma, although 22 years older, was Amos’s first cousin, the daughter of his uncle Thomas Casbon (1803–1888). George, who was five years younger than Amos, was his second cousin, the son of Emma’s brother Sylvester Casbon. Emma, Robert, and George lived on a farm in Tama County, Iowa, about six miles away from LaPorte City, where Amos was reported to be living in 1889.

It is unlikely to be a coincidence that that Amos was living and working so close to his Iowa relatives. It is a little surprising, though, since the Rigg family had moved to Iowa in 1876, when Amos was only 7 years old. Considering the difference in their ages, he was hardly old enough to have formed a close personal friendship with Emma, or with George, who was only 2 years old when he moved to Iowa.

We can infer from this that family ties between all the branches of the family—Amos, his stepmother and sisters, Emma’s family in Iowa, and her siblings in Indiana—were still very close. There had probably been occasional family visits between Iowa and Indiana, and letters were probably frequently exchanged. Even though Amos might not have had a close relationship to Emma and George, he was a member of the larger family. That bond was strong enough to bring him to Iowa as a young man.

Ties between the Iowa and Indiana Casbons remained strong for a generation or two. We know this from photographs and other items documenting visits between the Iowa and Indiana families. There is even a news item from 1931 reporting that Amos and his family had returned “from a trip to points in Iowa visiting friends and relatives.”[6]

By my generation, the ties between the Iowa and Indiana clans were virtually forgotten. For that matter, the ties between my branch and the descendants of Amos were very weak. Even though their families continued to live in the same county in Indiana, I never met or knew any of these cousins until recent years. I don’t believe this was the result of any kind of hostility; it was just a natural process that happened as each generation grew in size and the degrees of separation increased. Thankfully, as a result of efforts by members of all three branches to reconnect with our common heritage, not to mention modern conveniences such as Facebook and email, we are communicating and sharing stories with each other again.

[1] England, birth registration (PDF copy) for Amos James Casburn, born 6 Jul 1869; registered September quarter 1869, Chesterton District 3b/452, Willingham Sub-district,  no 45; General Registry Office, Southport.
[2] “Indiana Marriages, 1811-2007,” FamilySearch ( : accessed 24 October 2015) >Porter >1871-1875 Volume 4 > image 242 of 246; Indiana Commission on Public Records, Indianapolis.
[3] “Murder! That is About what is Made out of the Case of Old Man Casbon,” Porter County (Indiana) Vidette, 28 Aug 1884, p. 1, col. 2.
[4] “Boone Grove Couple Will Observe 50th Anniversary,” The (Valparaiso, Indiana) Vidette-Messenger, 21 Nov 1950, p. 1, col. 6.
[5] “Boone Grove Items,” The Porter County Vidette, 25 January 1900.
[6]“Aylesworth,” The Vidette-Messenger, 27 Nov 1931, p. 6, col. 1.

The Deaths of Thomas and Hannah Casbon

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

One of my favorite sources of information about the Casbons who left England and eventually settled in Porter County, Indiana, USA, is The (Valparaiso, Indiana) Vidette-Messenger, or The Vidette, for short. For most of the twentieth century The Vidette was the main newspaper for Porter County. Thanks to my local public library, I have free access from my home computer to the digital archives of The Vidette from 1927 to 1977. That’s because my library subscribes to the Newspaper Archive web service. (Hint: see if your local library subscribes to Newspaper Archive—it’s a great resource.). The Vidette archives are also available up to 1995 with a paid subscription.

Although I love The Vidette archives, they fall short because they don’t cover the first six decades of the Casbon family’s presence in Porter County. Many of the earlier Porter County newspapers are available on microfilm at the Valparaiso, Indiana, Public Library. Unfortunately, I live almost a thousand miles from Valparaiso, so I don’t have ready access. Therefore, it was a real treat for me to spend several hours in Valparaiso planted in front of the microfilm reader last May. I collected many articles about my early Casbon relatives and plan to feature many of these in upcoming posts.

In this post, I am highlighting three articles printed about the death of my third great-grandfather Thomas Casbon and his second wife, Hannah.

The brief announcement of Thomas Casbon’s death appeared in The Valparaiso Messenger on 9 February 1888. Thomas died on 7 February.

“Local News,” The Valparaiso Messenger, 9 Feb 1888

I haven’t found other contemporary accounts that describe Thomas. The statement that he was “an old and highly respected citizens [sic]” tells us very little about him but reflects that he was regarded in a positive light.

The following article was printed in the 16 February 1888 Porter County Vidette. It includes a poem written by Thomas’s daughter, Emma.

“In Memorium,” The Porter County Vidette, 16 Feb 1888

Emma’s poem is sweet and sentimental. Her words, “Now our mother and brother, will lead you in a better land” refer to the deaths of Thomas’s first wife, Emma (Scruby), who died in in 1870, and their first son, Sell, who died in infancy while the family was still living in England. Emma—the daughter—was living in Iowa at the time of Thomas’s death, but it’s quite likely that she returned to Valparaiso during his final days or shortly after his death.

Hannah’s obituary appeared in The Porter County Vidette on 5 April 1888. She died in late March, six weeks after Thomas’s death.

“Mrs. Hannah Casbon,” The Porter County Vidette, 5 April 1888

It’s interesting that Hannah’s obituary contains so much more information than the brief paragraphs announcing Thomas’s death. It includes a rather nice biography as well as a testimony to her Christian faith.

Thomas and Hannah died before death registration was required in Indiana. Consequently, we don’t know anything about the circumstances or causes of their deaths. Thomas was buried in Merriman Cemetery with his first wife, Emma. As far as I know, he died intestate, and I haven’t located any probate papers.

I haven’t been able to locate Hannah’s grave. It is not listed on under any of her surnames and does not appear with her first husband’s FindAGrave entry. Her will was signed 3 August 1887 and was probated in the Porter County Circuit Court on 4 April 1888. She bequeathed ten dollars each to a granddaughter and grandson and the rest of her estate to her two daughters by her first marriage. It isn’t surprising that Thomas’s four children were not mentioned, as they were all adults when Thomas married Hannah, and she was not involved in raising them.

As I was writing this post I realized that I have not written a single post summarizing Thomas’s life. However, many details of his life are described in the following posts: “A Christmas Baptism”; “From England to Indiana” Parts 2, 3, and 4; “Why Indiana?”; “From Labourer to Landowner”; “Pursuing the Parkfield”; “Was my Third Great Grandfather a Convicted Thief?”; “A Practical Guide for Emigrants”; and “The Appeal.” I guess there is too much information to contain in a single post!

The White Plague

The arrival of two death certificates from the General Register Office in England has helped to fill gaps in the life stories of two Casbon ancestors and also serves to highlight a topic I’ve touched on before—tuberculosis.

The certificates are for two sisters-in-law, Lydia (Burgess) and Elizabeth (Waller) Casbon. Lydia was married to Joseph Casbon (~1811–1847). She was born about 1812 and died in 1851.[1] Elizabeth was the first wife of Joseph’s brother, James Casbon (~1813–1884). She was born in 1815 and died in 1852.[2]

Here are the death “certificates” (copies of the official death registrations).

Death registration of Elizabeth Casbon. (Click on image to enlarge)

Death registration of Lydia Casbon. (Click on image to enlarge)

Starting with Lydia, we can see that she died 8 June 1851 at Meldreth (Cambridgeshire, England). She was said to be thirty-five years old and the “Relict [widow] of Joseph Casbourn, Labourer.” The cause of death is a most interesting word—Phthisis. Sarah Worland, the informant, was also the informant for the death registration of Lydia’s husband, Joseph, who died in 1847.

Phthisis is an old medical term that generally refers to the wasting away of the body from any cause, but during this period of time referred to pulmonary consumption, i.e., tuberculosis.[3] This diagnosis confirmed my earlier suspicions that Lydia, and probably her children too, had perished from tuberculosis. More recently, I wrote that her husband Joseph also died from a form of the same disease.

Now looking at Elizabeth, she died 16 August 1852 at Melbourn (Cambridgeshire). She was thirty-six years old, the wife of “James Casbon, Labourer.” She died of “Consumption
1 year,” i.e., she also died of tuberculosis.

It’s hard today to imagine the impact that tuberculosis (TB) had in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century England. The disease had been around for millennia, but by the early 1800s had become epidemic.[4] Death rates in London and other major European cities were as high as 800 to 1,000 per 100,000 per year, meaning that up to one percent of the population died from the disease every year.[5] Young adults were hardest hit: in the late nineteenth-century England and Wales, almost half of the deaths in twenty to twenty-four-year-olds were caused by TB.[6]

TB has been referred to as the white plague or white death, perhaps because of the extreme pallor of those afflicted with the disease.[7] Unlike many epidemic diseases, its course was slow and progressive, sometimes taking many years to claim its victims. Charles Dickens described it in Nicholas Nickleby:

There is a dread disease which so prepares its victim, as it were, for death; which so refines it of its grosser aspect, and throws around familiar looks unearthly indications of the coming change; a dread disease, in which the struggle between soul and body is so gradual, quiet, and solemn, and the result so sure, that day by day, and grain by grain, the mortal part wastes and withers away, so that the spirit grows light and sanguine with its lightening load, and, feeling immortality at hand, deems it but a new term of mortal life; a disease in which death and life are so strangely blended, that death takes the glow and hue of life, and life the gaunt and grisly form of death; a disease which medicine never cured, wealth never warded off, or poverty could boast exemption from; which sometimes moves in giant strides, and sometimes at a tardy sluggish pace, but, slow or quick, is ever sure and certain.[8]

Although TB occurred in all social classes, “it was a disease above all spread by overcrowded homes, unhealthy working conditions and poor nutrition; it was in other words … a disease of the poor.”[9] Which brings me back to Lydia and Elizabeth.

We know that Lydia was poor. She was listed as a “pauper” in the 1851 census.[10] By that time she had lost her husband and two of her four daughters.[11] (A third survived her by less than a year.) Her death registration says she suffered from Phthisis for three years. In other words, she had been visibly wasting away for at least three years; but she likely contracted the disease several years before it became apparent. Life must have been difficult even before her husband died, and unbearable afterwards. We don’t know anything about the family’s home or living conditions but can guess that they were far from ideal. Lydia almost certainly received some poor relief from the parish, but not enough to lift her from extreme poverty.

We can also surmise that the family of James and Elizabeth Casbon was poor. James was a laborer his entire life, near the bottom of the social ladder. In the seventeen years of their marriage, Elizabeth had born eight children, the youngest only a year before her death. The ten of them were probably squeezed into only a couple of rooms. In the 1851 census, only the oldest son, William, was earning additional income as a laborer.[12] There were many mouths to feed on meager wages. Elizabeth probably already had symptoms of TB when her daughter, Emma, was born in 1851. (Emma was baptized just three days before Elizabeth’s death – was this done because she was dying?[13]) Young Emma died in November 1853 at the Royston Union Workhouse, located in Bassingbourn (a few miles from Meldreth).[14] The location of her death is another indication of the family’s poverty. Considering the circumstances, it’s amazing that the remainder of James and Elizabeth’s children, as far as I’ve been able to trace them, lived normal lifespans.

I’ll try to end on a more positive note. As sad as these stories are, they are a testament to the fortitude of our ancestors. It may be a bit of a cliché, but comparing their lives with ours today, we can look back on their endurance and survival with both gratitude and awe.

[1] 1851 England census, Cambridgeshire, Melbourn, p. 29, enumeration district 11c, schedule 114, Lydia Casbourn; image, Ancestry ( : accessed 22 February 2019), Cambridgeshire >Melbourn >11c >image 30 of 36; citing The National Archives, HO 107/1708/206. England, death registration (unofficial copy) for Lydia Casbourn, died 8 Jun 1851; registered June quarter 1851, Royston & Buntingford District, vol. 6/405, Melbourn Sub-district, no. 410; General Register Office (GRO), Southport.
[2] Parish of Meldreth (Cambridgeshire, England), Register of Baptisms, 1813-67, p. 8, no. 57, , Elizabeth Waller, b. 11 Sep 1815, baptized 15 Oct 1815; imaged as “Parish registers for Meldreth, 1681-1877,” FamilySearch ( : accessed 28 April 2017), image 201; citing Family History Library microfilm 1,040,542, item 5. England, GRO, death registration (unofficial copy) for Elizabeth Casbon, died 16 Aug 1852; registered Sep. qtr 1852, Royston & Buntingford Dist, vol. 3A/134, Melbourn sub-dist., no. 117; GRO, Southport.
[3] Robert Hooper, M.D., Lexicon Medicum; or, Medical Dictionary: Containing an Explanation of the Terms  … on All These Subjects , rev. 8th ed., Klein Grant, M.D., editor (London: Longman, 1838),  p. 1026, “Phthisis”; image copy, Hathi Trust Digital Library ( : accessed 6 February 2019).
[4] Thomas M. Daniel, “The history of tuberculosis,” Respiratory Medicine, Nov 2006, vol. 100, no. 11, pp. 1862–70; html edition ( : accessed 22 February 2019).
[5] Ibid.
[6] Richard Evans, “The White Plague,” transcript of lecture given at The Museum of London, 27 Nov 12; MS Word transcript, Gresham College ( : accessed 22 February 2019).
[7] John Frith, “History of Tuberculosis. Part 1 – Phthisis, consumption and the White Plague,” Journal of Military and Veteran’s Health, 22/2; online archive ( : accessed 22 February 2018).
[8] Charles Dickens, Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby, reprint of 1st ed. (London: MacMillan & Co., 1916); html edition, Project Gutenberg ( : accessed 22 February 2019).
[9] Evans, “The White Plague.”
[10] 1851 England census, Cambridgeshire, Melbourn, p. 29, Lydia Casbourn.
[11] Jon Casbon, “Joseph and Lydia (Burgess) Casbon, Our Casbon Journey, 2 Mar 2017 ( : accessed 22 February 2019).
[12] 1851 England census, Cambridgeshire, Meldreth, p. 32, James Casbon.
[13] Meldreth Parish, Baptisms, 1813–1867, p. 75, no. 599, Emma Casbon; accessed as “Parish registers for Meldreth, 1681-1877,” browsable images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 29 August 2017); citing Family History Library microfilm 1,040,542, item 5, image 234.
[14] England, death registration (unofficial copy) for Emma Casbon, died 4 Nov 1853; registered Dec. qtr. 1853, Royston & Buntingford Dist., vol. 3A/107, Melbourn Sub-dist., no. 319.

Going, Going …

The sister villages of Meldreth and Melbourn in Cambridgeshire are my ancestral homeland. Records of Casbon ancestors in these villages go back to the mid-sixteenth century. Families occasionally moved from one village to another, or to other nearby villages, but there was little reason or incentive to go further. The situation remained stable for over 250 years, but in the 1840s, things began to change.

Slowly at first, and then with increasing speed, the number of Casbons in Meldreth and Melbourn began to dwindle. In the 1841 census, there were 7 households with 30 people; in 1851, 7 households with 27 people; 1861 – 4 households/14 people; 1871 – 5 households/12 people; 1881 – 2 households/4 people; 1891 – 2 households/5 people; 1901 & 1911 – 1 household/2 people.[1] (1911 is the last year census records have been made available to the public.) The 1939 register (a census-like record taken before World War 2) shows only one Casbon living in Meldreth.

Chart showing decline in Casbon households and family members in Meldreth and Melbourn from 1841 to 1939. (Click on image to enlarge)

What happened? Where did they go and why did they leave? The reasons are varied, but for the most part revolve around the “three Fs”: finance, family, friends. In the mid-1800s, the growth of cities and improvements in transportation created new job opportunities. The exodus from Meldreth took off after the arrival of the railroad in 1851.[2]

Casbon households in Meldreth, 1841 England Census

The first to leave was my third great grandfather, Thomas (1803–1888), and his family, when they emigrated to the United States in 1846. I’ve written extensively about Thomas and his journey, so will not elaborate further here.

Casbon households in Meldreth & Melbourn, 1851 England Census

The next to go was James Casbon (1806–1871), who moved to the village of Barley in Hertfordshire with his family, probably in the early 1850s.[3] Barley is located about five miles south of Meldreth.

Detail map showing Cambridge, Meldreth, Melbourn, and Barley.[4] (Click on image to enlarge)
James was a landowner, which put him in a different class than his poorer Casbon relatives. He also had a business as a carrier, hauling freight (and perhaps passengers) to and from London. His reasons for moving to Barley are unknown. His sons remained in Barley and established their own families there. Thus, Barley became a new population center for the Casbon surname.

Between 1851 and 1861 the number of Casbon households was further reduced due to deaths, employment, and unknown other reasons. Lydia (Burgess) Casbon, widow of Joseph (abt. 1811–1847), died in 1851.[5] Two daughters, Hannah and Harriet Ann, preceded her in death in 1848 and 1850, respectively, and a third daughter, Emma, died in 1852.[6] Lydia’s surviving daughter, Mary, emigrated to the United States, where she joined her uncle Thomas Casbon, in 1856.[7] “Patty” Barns (née Martha Wagstaff), widow of John Casbon (abt. 1779–1813), died in 1855.[8] After losing his wife, Elizabeth, in 1852, James Casbon (b. abt. 1813) and his family disappeared from view until he emigrated to Indiana in 1870.[9] Mary Ann Casbon (b. 1831, daughter of William, b. 1805), who had been working as a servant in Melbourn in 1851, was employed as a cook in a London public house by 1861.[10]

Casbon households in Meldreth, 1861 England Census

Although the numbers remained relatively stable between 1861 and 1871, some important moves still took place. Three more of William’s (b. 1805) children left for the environs of London: John (b. abt. 1842), Reuben (b. 1847) and Martha (b. abt. 1855). John was working as a Labourer when he was married in Lambeth (now a borough of London) in 1866.[11] Reuben must have moved to the London area in the same time frame, since he and his sister Mary Ann are listed as witnesses on the marriage record. Martha, perhaps following in her brothers’ footsteps, is listed as a sixteen-year-old “domestic servant housemaid” for a suburban London household in the 1871 census.[12]

Casbon households in Meldreth & Melbourn, 1871 England Census

The numbers plunged after 1871, as the “old-timers” – Jane (1803–1872), William (1805-1877) and William (1806–1875) died and their remaining children moved away. Samuel Clark Casbon (b. 1851) moved to Croydon, Surrey.[13] His sister, Jane, married John Camp in 1881.[14] Only the younger William (b. 1835), and John Casbon (b. 1849) remained. William’s three children, Walter (b. 1856), William (b. 1860), and Priscilla (b. 1862), all left home for jobs in domestic service or the railroads.

William (b. 1835) died in 1896. After his death, his wife, Sarah (West, b. abt 1823) moved to Hitchin, Hertfordshire, where she lived with her son, Walter, until her death in 1905.[15] John (b. 1849) died in 1935, followed by his wife Sarah (Pepper, b. abt 1850) in 1938.[16] John and Sarah were the only two Casbons on the 1901 and 1911 censuses for Meldreth.

The memorial stone of William and Sarah (West) Casbon, Holy Trinity Churchyard, Meldreth;
“In/ Memory of/ WILLIAM CASBON/ who died March 7th 1896/aged 61 years/”We hope to meet again at/ The Resurrection of the just/A light is from the household gone/ A voice we loved is stilled/ A place is vacant in our home/ Which never can be filled”./ Also of /SARAH, wife of the above/who departed this life/ December 22nd 1905/ aged 83 years./She hath done what she could/ Her end was peace./”
Photograph by Malcolm Woods; Meldreth History website (
(Click on image to enlarge)

Martha Casbon (b. abt. 1855), who spent most of her adult life in domestic service, returned to Meldreth in her later years, and is the sole Casbon listed on the 1939 register.[17] With her death in 1947, the Casbon name became extinct in Meldreth.[18]

[1] Data extracted from England censuses by Jon Casbon.
[2] Happy Birthday, Meldreth Station (no publication details available), leaflet; PDF download ( : accessed 1 November 2018).
[3] Jon Casbon, “James Casbon, Farmer and Carrier, 1806-1871, Part 1,” 23 Jan 17, Our Casbon Journey ( : accessed 1 November 2018).
[4] Ordnance Survey of England and Wales (Southampton: Director General at the Ordnance Survey Office, 1903), Sheet 16; online image, A Vision of Britain Through Time ( : accessed 1 November 2018).
[5] England and Wales, “Search the GRO [General Register Office] Online Index,” database, HM Passport Office ( : accessed 1 November 2018), Lydia Casbon, 2d qtr, 1851, Royston & Buntingford, vol. 6:405.
[6] Ibid., Hannah Casbon (age 5), 2d qtr, 1848, Royston & Buntingford, vol. 6/433. Ibid., Harriet Ann Casbon (age 11), 3d qtr, 1852, Royston & Buntingford, vol. 6/366. Ibid., Emma Casbon (age 7), 2d qtr, 1852, Royston & Buntingford, vol. 3A/131.
[7] Jon Casbon, “From England to Indiana, Part 8,” 18 Nov 2016, Our Casbon Journey ( : accessed 1 November 2018).
[8] England and Wales, “Search the GRO [General Register Office] Online Index,” (cited previously), Martha Barnes, 4th qtr, 1855, Royston, vol. 3A: 128.
[9] Jon Casbon, “James Casbon of Meldreth, England and Porter County, Indiana,” 29 Nov 2016, Our Casbon Journey ( : accessed 1 November 2018).
[10] 1861 England Census, Middlesex, Islington, population schedule, district 36, Johnston parish, p. 55 (stamped), schedule 153, Mary Ann Cusbin in household of Richd Munford; imaged on Ancestry ( : accessed 1 November 2018), Middlesex >Islington >Islington East >District 36 >image 28 of 84; citing The National Archives, RG 9, piece 146, folio 55, p. 27.
[11] “London, England, Church of England Marriages and Banns, 1754-1921,” Ancestry ( : accessed 22 March 2017), Lambeth >St. Mary, Lambeth >1761-1896 >image 337 of 540; citing London Metropolitan Archives, ref. no. p85/mry1/541.
[12] 1871 England Census, Kent, Lewisham, population schedule, enumeration district 4, schedule 214, Martha Casbon (indexed as “Carbor”} in household of John H Greeno; imaged on Ancestry ( : accessed 19 March 2018), Kent >Lewisham >Lee >District 4 >image 62 of 80; citing The National Archives, RG 10, piece 763, folio 89, p. 61.
[13] 1881 England Census, Surrey, Croydon, population schedule, enumeration district 35, schedule 256, Samuel Casban; image on Ancestry ( : accessed 1 November 2018), Surrey >Croydon >District 35 >image 49 of 66; citing The National Archives, RG 11, piece 816, folio 60, p. 47.
[14] “England and Wales Marriage Registration Index, 1837-2005”, database, FamilySearch ( : accessed 1 November 2018), Jane Casbon, 1st qtr, 1881, Royston, vol. 3A/323.
[15] Kathryn Betts, “Holy Trinity Churchyard: Monumental Inscriptions.” Meldreth History ( : accessed 1 November 2018).
[16] “England and Wales Death Registration Index 1837-2007”, FamilySearch ( : accessed 1 November 2018), John J Casbon, 1st qtr, 1935, Cambridge, vol. 3B/564. Same source ( : accessed 1 November 2018), Sarah Casbon, 1st qtr, 1938, Cambridge, vol. 3B/553.
[17] 1939 Register, South Cambridgeshire R.D., enumeration district TBKV, schedule 34, Martha Casbon; imaged on findmypast ( : accessed 19 November 2016); citing The National Archives, R39/6326/6326I/005/05.
[18] “England and Wales Death Registration Index 1837-2007”, FamilySearch ( : accessed 2 August 2016), Martha Casbon, 1st qtr, 1947, Cambridge, vol. 4A/257.

Anna Mae (Casbon) Fleming – Widow?

As I researched my previous post about Jesse and Steven Casbon, I uncovered additional bits of information about this branch of the family, and I received a welcome flood of new materials from some of Jesse’s descendants. I’ll be writing about some of the new information in this and subsequent posts.

Sometimes records can be deceiving and lead one to make incorrect conclusions. Such was the case with Anna Mae (Casbon) Fleming, the mother of Jesse and Steven. Specifically, based on census and other records, I made incorrect assumptions about Anna’s marital status and the fate of her husband James H Fleming.

As background, Anna Mae was the second daughter of Jesse (1843–1934) and Emily (Price, 1856–1893) Casbon. Born in Porter County, Indiana, in December 1876, she married John Newton Kitchel there in 1898.[1] They moved to Wisconsin, where Jesse was born in 1898 and Steven in 1890. A daughter, Emma, was born in 1902, but died of pneumonia when she was two months old.[2] Anna and her husband were divorced sometime before 1905. In 1911, she married a Michigan farmer and widower named James Fleming.[3] For reasons unknown, James, Anna, and the two boys moved to Newport News, Virginia, where they appear in the 1920 census.[4]

This is the point where I allowed the records to lead me astray. Specifically, when I found Anna in the 1930 census, she was now living in Baltimore, Maryland, and listed as a

Detail/composite image from 1930 Census, Baltimore; Anna’s marital status is “Wd” for widowed; she is the proprieties of a boarding house (Click on image to enlarge)

Based on this census, I had assumed that Anna’s husband, James, died sometime between the 1920 and 1930 censuses. This belief was reinforced by an entry I later found for Anna in the 1922 Baltimore City Directory.[6]

Detail from Polk’s Baltimore City Directory of 1922; Anna is listed as “wid J H”

This allowed me to narrow the date of James’ death to sometime between 1920 and 1922. However, I was unable to find a death record for James in either Virginia or Maryland within this time frame. This did not trouble me greatly, since not all records can be found online and he was not the focus of my research efforts.

I don’t remember what prompted me, but I decided to try once again to find James’ death record. This time I did not specify a location or narrow time frame in my online search. The search turned up a surprising result: a death certificate for James Harvey Fleming, who was born March 3, 1863 and died November 12, 1934 in Alma, Gratiot County, Michigan.[7] This was at least twelve years later than expected, based on Anna’s status in the Baltimore directory.

Death certificate of James Harvey Fleming (Click on image to enlarge)

Was this the right James? As I compared what I knew about Anna’s husband and the man named in the death certificate, many of the facts lined up. I knew from an earlier census that Anna’s husband was born in March 1863 and that he had lived in Gratiot County, Michigan.[8] His first wife’s name was Myrtie (Newcomb).[9] He had two sons from his first marriage: Norman W and Marley.[10] Note that Norman was listed as the informant for the death certificate. To confirm my suspicions, I compared two marriage records: James Fleming to Myrtie Newcomb, and James Fleming to Anna Casbon. Both records gave the names of James’ parents as Robert F Fleming and Eliza Rice. There was no doubt: Anna’s husband was the man who died in 1934.

There are minor discrepancies on the death certificate. His marital status is listed as “Widowed” and his wife’s name is given as Myrtie Fleming. While technically correct – he had been previously widowed – it does not reflect the fact that he had been more recently married to Anna. James’ father’s name is incorrectly given as “Jessie” instead of Robert F Fleming. Robert died before the informant, Norman, was born, so it’s possible that Norman conflated the name of his grandfather with that of Jesse Casbon, Anna’s father. These are minor discrepancies and don’t alter my conclusions about James Fleming’s identity.

The death certificate proves that my earlier assumptions about James’ death were wrong, but it doesn’t explain what happened to the marriage or why Anna was listed as a widow while James was still living. Since James was still alive in 1930, I decided to look for him in the U.S. census of that year. He was easily found, listed as an employee (“servant”) at the Gratiot County (Michigan) Infirmary.[11]

Detail from 1930 Census, Gratiot County, Michigan (Click on image to enlarge)

James marital status is listed as “D” for divorced. So, Anna’s status on the 1930 census and 1922 Baltimore directory was clearly incorrect. This false information was presumably given by her. Why would she do that?

It turns out that this was probably a fairly common occurrence. In the early twentieth century, being divorced was less socially acceptable that it is today. The death of a spouse would have been considered a much more acceptable way for a marriage to end. By stating that she was a widow (while conveniently moving to a new city – Baltimore – where people didn’t know her), Anna could avoid the stigma of divorce and the questions of nosy neighbors.

Another possibility is that she was neither widowed nor divorced. James and Anna might have separated without a formal divorce, or James might have abandoned her. Without a divorce record, we can’t know for sure. I’ve looked for a record online but haven’t found one. Many such records have not been digitized and are only available in local court houses.

At any rate, we now have a more accurate picture of what happened. Sometime between 1920, when James and Anna were recorded together on the U.S. Census, and 1922, when Anna was listed as a widow in the Baltimore directory, their marriage ended. Whether this occurred before or after Anna moved to Baltimore is unknown. At some point, James moved back to his home county in Michigan, where he died in 1934.

Finally, Anna really was a widow, and remained so until her death in 1957.

[1] 1900 U.S. Census, Forest County, Wisconsin, population schedule, Cavour Town, enumeration district 39, sheet 5B, dwelling 87, family 90, Anna Kitchel in household of Newton Kitchel; imaged as “United States Census, 1900,” FamilySearch ( : accessed 25 July 2017), Wisconsin > Forest > ED 39 Cavour town > image 10 of 16; citing NARA microfilm publication T62, roll 1789. Porter County, Indiana, Marriage Record Book 11, Sept 1895–Jan 1899, p. 430 (stamped), Newton Kitchel and Anna Casbon, 9 Jul 1898; imaged as “Indiana Marriages, 1811-2007,” FamilySearch ( : accessed 18 June 2017), Porter > 1895-1899 Volume 11 > image 254 of 286; citing Porter County Clerk, Valparaiso.
[2] Indiana, State Board of Health, Certificate of Death, Center Township, Porter County, no. 118, Emma E Margreete Kitchel, 6 Apr 1902 (age 2 mo, 7 d); imaged as “Indiana, Death Certificates, 1899-2011,” Ancestry ( : accessed 10 July 2018), Certificate >1902 >10 >image 1020 of 2753; citing Indiana Archives and Records Administration, Indianapolis.
[3] Oceana County, Michigan, Marriage Register, vol. 4, 1911, p. 205 (penned), record 3515, James H Fleming & Anna Casbon Kitchel, 16 Jun 1911, imaged as “Michigan, Marriage Records, 1867-1952,” Ancestry  ( : accessed 25 June 2018), Registers, 1887 – 1925 >1911 – 1915 >1911 Manistee – Washtenaw >image 294 of 703; citing Michigan Department of Community Health, Division for Vital Records and Health Statistics.
[4] 1920 U.S. Census, Warwick County, Virginia, population schedule, Newport News, enumeration district 86, sheet 5A, p. 5 (stamped), family 74, James H Flemming; imaged as “United States Census, 1920,” FamilySearch ( : accessed 25 July 2017), Virginia > Newport News (Independent City) > Newport News Ward 1 > ED 86 > image 18 of 21; citing NARA microfilm publication T625, roll 1899. FHL microfilm 1,821,899.
[5] 1930 U.S. Census, Baltimore City, Maryland, population schedule, enumeration district 4-583, sheet 5A, p. 173 (stamped), 602 North Ave., dwelling 85, family 104, Anna Fleming; imaged as “United States Census, 1930,” FamilySearch ( : accessed 26 July 2017), Maryland > Baltimore (Independent City) > Baltimore (Districts 501-673) > ED 583 > image 9 of 18; citing NARA microfilm publication T626, roll 856.
[6] Polk’s Baltimore City Directory 1922 (Baltimore: R.L. Polk & Co., 1922), p. 743, Fleming, Anna (“wid JH”), imaged as “U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995,” Ancestry ( : accessed 28 June 2018), Maryland >Baltimore >1922 >Baltimore, Maryland, City Directory, 1922 >image 380 of 1156.
[7] Death certificate, Alma, Gratiot County, Michigan, register no. 118, state office no. 129 1397, James Harvey Fleming, 12 Nov 1934; imaged as “Michigan, Death Records, 1867-1950,” Ancestry ( : accessed 5 July 2018), Certificates 1921-1942 >103: Gratiot-Alma, 1921-1935 >image1413 of 1516; citing Michigan Department of Community Health, Division of Vital Records and Health Statistics, Lansing.
[8] 1900 U.S. Census, Gratiot County, Michigan, population schedule, Seville Township, enumeration district 59, sheet 1B, dwelling & family 19, James H Flenny; imaged as “United States Census, 1900,” FamilySearch ( : accessed 5 July 2018), Michigan > Gratiot > ED 59 Seville township > image 2 of 29; citing NARA microfilm publication T623, roll 713.
[9] Marriage register, Missaukee County, MIchigan, no. 188, 2 Dec 1891, James H Fleming & Myrtie Newcomb; imaged as “Michigan Marriages, 1868-1925,” FamilySearch ( : accessed 5 July 2018), 004208240 > image 282 of 646; citing Department of Vital Records, Lansing.
[10] 1910 U.S. Census, Oceana County, Michigan, population schedule, enumeration district 127, sheet 2A, p. 94 (stamped), James H Fleming; imaged as “United States Census, 1910,” FamilySearch ( : accessed 5 Jul 2018), Michigan > Oceana > Greenwood > ED 127 > image 3 of 16; citing NARA microfilm publication T624, roll 669.
[11] 1930 U.S. Census, Gratiot County, Michigan, population schedule, Newark Township, Gratiot County Infirmary, enumeration district 29-18, sheet 11A, p. 193 (stamped), line 6, James Fleming in household of Lee Raycraft; imaged as “United States Census, 1930,” FamilySearch ( : accessed 5 July 2018), Michigan > Gratiot > Newark > ED 18 > image 21 of 24; citing NARA microfilm publication T626, roll 989.

Introducing the Iowa Casbons! Part 2

Part 1 of this series brought us through the early years of George and Maud (Carpenter) Casbon’s marriage, and culminated with two major events: a fire that destroyed their home, and the death of George’s aunt, Emma (Casbon) Rigg.[1] Through the inheritance of Emma’s estate, George now owned his own farm in Geneseo Township, Tama County, Iowa.

The next decade in their lives saw the continued growth of their family and the rebuilding of their home. The children were born in this order: Robert Newell, August 16, 1911; Vilah, July 29, 1913; Josephine Esther (“Jo”), July 11, 1915; Genevieve Ruth (“Jen”), October 15, 1917; and their last child, Catherine Cleo (“Kate”), September 12, 1920.[2],[3],[4],[5],[6] With the three older children, Sylvester, Ira Raymond (“Buddy”) and Emma Elizabeth, there were eight children, ranging in age from newborn to fourteen years old.

George with children, left to right: Sylvester, Emma, Robert, Buddy; photo was probably taken summer 1912; this must be the temporary home George built after Emma (Casbon) Rigg’s home burned down January 1, 2010; courtesy of Claudia Vokoun

As to the new home, this article appeared in the Waterloo Evening Courier of November 11, 1915.[7]

(Click on image to enlarge)

George’s aunt Emma (Casbon) Riggs had a lot to say about how the new house should be built before she died in 1910. I might have more to say about this in a future post. The house is still standing. Here are current views of the house, from the Tama County Assessor’s office.[8]

(Click on photo to enlarge)

And here is a photograph of George, Maud and family, in front of the house, probably taken in the summer of 1918.

L to R: Sylvester, George, Robert, Emma, Genevieve, Maud, Vilah, Josephine; courtesy of Claudia Vokoun

Absent from the photo is their second son, Ira Raymond (“Buddy”). Buddy died in December, 1918. He had a congenital heart condition, and succumbed to influenza, most likely the deadly flu pandemic that ravaged the world in 1918.[9] Given that he died in December, I can’t explain his absence from the photo; but I’m pretty sure I’ve dated the photo correctly based on the apparent age of the youngest child (Genevieve).

Tragedy struck the family once more when George and Maud’s third son, Robert Newell (named for George’s uncle Robert Rigg), was killed in a motorcycle accident October 2, 1936. He was on a cross-country motorcycle trip to the west coast when the fatal accident occurred in Nebraska.[10]

According to Claudia Vokoun, the economic depression of the 1930s was hard on the family, and they were forced to leave the farm.[11] By the mid-1930s most of the children were grown and/or married. George retired and sold the farm in 1935.[12]

(Click on image to enlarge)

Although George was reported to have spent the last 10 years of his life in Waterloo (see obituary, below), this is contradicted by the 1940 census, where we find him in Bremer County, Iowa, with Maud and youngest daughter Catherine.[13]

Detail of 1940 U.S. Census, Franklin Township, Bremer County, Iowa (Click on image to enlarge)

The census also says that George was residing at the same place in 1935 (column 17). This must be where they relocated after selling the farm. The “U” in column 24 indicates that he was unable to work. According to the enumerators’ instructions, this code is only supposed to be used “for persons unable to work because of permanent disability, old age, or chronic illness.”[14] George was 65 at this point, so the reason was likely old age. The “H” in this column for Maud and Catherine indicate that they were engaged in housework.[15]

George died on February 24, 1944 in Waterloo, Iowa.[16]

Obituary from the Waterloo Daily Courier, 25 Feb 1944 (Click on image to enlarge)

We learn from the obituary that he died from complications of a fall, and that he had been weakened previously by influenza. We also learn that George and Maud had been living at the home of their married daughter Josephine (Casbon) Kraft, along with daughters Genevieve and Catherine. Was this an indication of fiscal belt-tightening during World War 2?

After Genevieve was married in 1951, Catherine and Maud “became roommates in a little house over by Byrnes Park, Waterloo.”[17] Catherine later bought a small house on the outskirts of Waterloo, where she and Maud lived, and where Maud died on June 3, 1972.[18],[19]

Obituary from the Waterloo Daily Courier, 5 Jun 1972[20] (Click on image to enlarge)

Claudia Vokoun has many fond memories of Maud, and states, “I loved my Grandma. She was the only one that got excited with on Christmas mornings to see what Santa brought me.”[21]

Undated photo (late 1930s or early 1940s) of a family gathering; Maud & George are sitting; standing, left to right: Katie, Josephine, Vilah, Emma, Genevieve, Sylvester; courtesy of Claudia Vokoun

We will hear more about the Iowa Casbons in future posts. Thanks again to Claudia for a wealth of information!

[1] Jon Casbon, “Introducing the Iowa Casbons! Part 1,” 5 Oct 17, Our Casbon Journey ( : accessed 10 October 2017).
[2] “One Killed One Injured: Robert Casbon Meets Death in Motorcycle Accident and Glenn Clark Suffers Crushed Leg Last Friday,” (La Porte City, Iowa) Progress Review, 8 Oct 1936, p. 1, col. 6; online image, Newspaper Archive (accessed through participating libraries: 17 August 2017).
[3] “United States Social Security Death Index,” database, FamilySearch ( : 20 May 2014), Vilah Casbon, 18 Mar 1996; citing U.S. Social Security Administration, Death Master File, National Technical Information Service.
[4] “United States Social Security Death Index,” FamilySearch ( : 19 May 2014), Josephine E Gray, 05 Aug 2010.
[5] “Iowa, County Births, 1880-1935,” database, FamilySearch ( : 20 May 2016), Genevieve Casbon, 15 Oct 1917; citing Geneseo Township, Tama, Iowa, United States; county district courts, Iowa; FHL microfilm 1,763,983.
[6] “Iowa, County Births, 1880-1935,” database, FamilySearch ( : 20 May 2016), Catherine Cleo Casbon, 12 Sep 1920; citing Waterloo, Iowa, United States; county district courts, Iowa; FHL microfilm 1,561,083.
[7] “News and Notes of La Porte City,” Waterloo (Iowa) Evening Courier, 11 Nov 1915, p. 10, col. 1; online archive, Newspaper Archive (accessed through participating libraries: 4 October 2017).
[8] “Parcel no.,” Tama County Assessor ( : accessed 10 October 2017).
[9] Tama County, Iowa, death certificate no. 86-01683, Ira R. Casbon, 18 Dec 1918; imaged as “Iowa, Tama County, death records, 1904-1929,” online images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 10 October 2017), image 2875 of 3354; citing FHL microfilm 102,902,999; citing Iowa, Department of Health, Bureau of Vital Statistics.
[10] “One Killed One Injured: Robert Casbon Meets Death in Motorcycle Accident and Glenn Clark Suffers Crushed Leg Last Friday.”
[11] Claudia Vokoun, “Notes: Bertha Maude Carpenter,” scanned page from a scrapbook compiled by Claudia Vokoun, August 2017; copy privately held by Jon Casbon.
[12] “14 Iowa Farms Change Hands,” Creston (iowa) News Advertiser, 2 Sep 1935, p. 6, col. 1; online image, Newspaper Archive (accessed through participating libraries: 10 October 2017).
[13] 1940 U.S. Census, Bremer County, population schedule, Franklin Township, p. 21 (stamped), enumeration district 9-3, sheet 1-A, household 3, Carbon George; imaged as “United States Census, 1940,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 2 October 2017), image 1 of 19; NARA digital publication T627, RG 29, roll 1142.
[14] U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, Abridged Instructions to Enumerators: Population (U.S. Government Printing Office, 1940); PDF download at “1940 Census Records,” National Archives ( : accessed 12 October 2017).
[15] U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, Abridged Instructions to Enumerators.
[16] “Deaths – George W. Casbon.”
[17] Vokoun, Claudia, “Notes: Bertha Maude Carpenter.”
[18] Vokoun, Claudia, “Notes: Bertha Maude Carpenter.”
[19] “Metropolitan Deaths … Mrs. Maude B. Casbon,” Waterloo (Iowa) Daily Courier, 5 Jun 1972, p. 5, col. 1; online image, Newspaper Archive (accessed through participating newspapers: 16 August 2017).
[20] “Metropolitan Deaths … Mrs. Maude B. Casbon.”
[21] Vokoun, Claudia, “Notes: Bertha Maude Carpenter.”

Introducing the Iowa Casbons! Part 1

I first heard of the Iowa Casbons when I was a teenager. My brother had a friend from Iowa who knew of people named Casbon, and who were living in the Waterloo, Iowa area. Up to that point, as far as I knew, the only Casbons in the world were a small number of grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins, all (with the exception of my immediate family) living in or around Valparaiso, Indiana. I had a vague notion that they had come from someplace else, maybe England; but in my mind, it seemed just as likely that they had sprung up from the Indiana soil. I remember thinking how strange it was to learn of other people with the same name, living in Iowa of all places!

It wasn’t until many years later, when I became interested in tracing the family history, that I learned how the Casbons came to Iowa. I made reference to this in an earlier post, but will give a brief summary here. George Washington Casbon, born August 16, 1874 in Valparaiso, Indiana to Sylvester V (1837–1927) and Harriet (Perry, 1842–1874) Casbon, was given up after his mother’s death to be raised by his uncle Robert N (1845–1924) and aunt Emma (Casbon, 1847–1910) Rigg. Robert and Emma moved to Tama County, Iowa, when George was only about two years old. There he grew up and lived for almost his entire life. All of the Iowa Casbons are descended from George.

I am indebted to Claudia Vokoun, a granddaughter of George, for contributing photographs, documents and personal memories that have vastly increased my understanding of George and his descendants.

Of George’s early years there is little information. I know from a census record that he attended rural school (probably a one-room schoolhouse) and completed the fourth reader.[*],[1] Another census has “8” written in the space for “Extent of Education: Common [school], so this probably means he attended school for eight years.[2] I also know that he was in contact with his Indiana brothers and cousins, as well as his father, Sylvester. I know this because George possessed an autograph book, in which he kept little sayings from his relatives.[3] Claudia Vokoun has sent me copies of some of these autographs.[4]

Handwritten autographs; top: “Dec 27 1886/Deep River Ind./Brother George/May your virtue
ever shine/like blossoms on a pumkin [sic] vine/Yours truly,/Charles P Casbon” (George’s brother);
Bottom: “Dec 27 1886./Boon Grove Ind.,/Cousin Georgie/Remember me when far away/and only
half awake. Remember/me on your wedding day and/send me a slice of cake./Yours truly,/Lodema E Casbon” (George’s cousin); courtesy of Claudia Vokoun

Autograph to George from his father: “Sep 4th AD 1891/Dear son think of [me]/when far away in/Indiana and always/be [a] good boy and favor/me your Father/S.V. Casbon”; courtesy of Claudia Vokoun
According to Claudia, George obtained these on visits to Indiana.[5] Before I had this information, I thought there might have been little or no contact between George and his Indiana relations, but these autographs suggest otherwise. Claudia also sent me copies of photographs showing that George’s brother Charles Parkfield Casbon visited George in Iowa in the 1920s or 30s.

On December 26, 1905, George married Bertha Maud Carpenter in St. Hilaire,
Minnesota.[6] Maud, as she was known, was born November 22, 1879 in Benton County, Iowa, to Ira R and Josephine (Keech) Carpenter.[7] In 1895 her family was living in Clark Township, Tama County, Iowa, and in 1900 they were living in nearby Black Hawk County.[8],[9] George grew up in Tama County, almost on the county line with Black Hawk County, so it’s likely that he met Maud during this time, when she was a teenager or in her early 20s. Maud’s family moved to Minnesota in about 1903 (because of her sister’s allergies, according to Claudia), and George followed about a year later (along with his aunt Emma), either already engaged or soon to be so.[10],[11],[12]

George and Maud (Carpenter) Casbon, undated photo; courtesy of Claudia Vokoun

George’s and Maud continued living in Minnesota the first two years of their marriage, during which time George operated a bakery and a farm.[13] Two children were born in Minnesota: Sylvester on February 25, 1906, and Ira Raymond (known as “Buddy”) on December 10, 1907.[14],[15]

Left: George with Sylvester; right: Maud with Ira (“Buddy”); undated photos, courtesy of Claudia Vokoun (Click on images to enlarge)

After a couple years in Minnesota, George and Maud returned to Tama County, Iowa, where they farmed the land (155 acres) that his uncle, Robert Rigg, had sold to his wife Emma for $1.00 as part of a settlement to dismiss her petition for divorce.[16] By the time of the 1910 census, a third child had been born, Emma Elizabeth, on October 10, 1909, named to honor the aunt who had raised George.[17]

Detail from 1910 U.S. Census, Geneseo Township, Tama County, Iowa; the entry for George’s uncle, Robert Rigg, is just above that for George and his family (Click on image to enlarge)

1910 was significant for other reasons. First, on New Year’s Day, 1910, while George was in Chicago selling cattle, a lamp tipped over in his and Maud’s home (owned by Emma Rigg), starting a fire that consumed the home.[18] According to Claudia Vokoun, George built a small “‘cabin’ for a family of 5 and they lived there till five more children were born.”[19]

Left: the house that burned down January 1, 1910; right: the “cabin” that George built for his family after the fire; undated photos, courtesy of Claudia Vokoun (Click on images to enlarge)

The second major event of 1910 was Emma’s death on July 29th.[20] Emma had gone to visit her brother Jesse in Indiana the previous October. While there, her health deteriorated to the point that a return to Iowa was not possible.[21] In her last will and testament, dated November 30, 1909, she bequeathed to George “all the residue and remainder of my estate, real, personal and mixed of every kind and nature, and wherever situated to be his absolute property in fee simple.”[22]

Court filings show that all of the personal property in Emma’s estate was “exhausted in the payment of claims filed and allowed against said estate,” and that the executor of the estate (Jesse Casbon) requested that he be allowed to sell one half of Emma’s land in Iowa in order to settle those claims.[23] I don’t know whether the request was granted, but somehow, George was able to retain all of Emma’s land, as evidenced by later
plat maps.[24]

In my earlier post I observed that George was not mentioned in Emma’s obituary, and wondered if this was a reflection of a poor relationship between them.[25] Now, thanks to the information provided by Claudia, I can say with confidence that they must have had a close relationship. Not only did she make George the chief beneficiary of her estate, but she wrote several letters to George and Maud in her final months, which make it abundantly clear that their relationship was longstanding and affectionate. It is also clear that she doted on George and Maud’s children.

Detail from letter written February 1910 from Emma (Casbon) Rigg to George & Maud Casbon; Emma is addressing her great nephew: “Dear Sylvester Hello how are/you getting along you must help dady/& mama you are now 4 years old pull/Brother Ira in your wagon & help to/to take [care] of sister Emma”[26](Click on image to enlarge)
This seems like a good place to end this part of George and Maud’s story. I’ll pick up where I left off in the next post.

[*] This may well refer to McGuffey Readers, a series of books in widespread use beginning in the mid-1800s. “The fourth Reader was written for the highest levels of ability on the grammar school level.” (“McGuffey Readers,” Wikipedia [ : accessed 4 October 2017]).
[1] 1925 Iowa State Census, Tama County, book 1, population schedule, Geneseo & Otter Creek Townships, unnumbered 4th page, line 34, categories 1-7, Casbon George W; imaged as “Iowa State Census, 1925,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 4 October 2017); citing FHL microfilm 1,429,567, item 1; citing citing Iowa State Historical Department, Des Moines.
[2] 1915 Iowa State Census, Tama County, Card 454, Geo W Casbon; imaged as “Iowa State Census, 1915,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 4 October 2017), image 787 of 5290; citing FHL microfilm 1,462,833; Iowa State Historical Department, Des Moines.
[3] Claudia Vokoun, Kansas City [(E-address for private use),] to Jon Casbon, e-mail, 16 Aug 2017, “Re: Photos etc in the notebook”; privately held by Casbon [(E-address), & street address for private use], Colorado Springs, Colorado, 2017.
[4] Photocopies of autographs to George Casbon, in scrapbook compiled by Claudia Vokoun, Aug 2017; privately held by Jon Casbon [Address for private use], Colorado Springs, Colorado.
[5] Vokoun to Casbon, e-mail, 16 Aug 17.
[6] “Welcome to Minnesota Official Marriage System”, database, MInnesota Official Marriage System ( : accessed 3 October 2017), search term (field – Last Name): “Casbon,” Casbon, G W & Carpenter, Maud, 26 Dec 1905; citing Red Lake County.
[7] “Metropolitan Deaths … Mrs. Maude B. Casbon,” Waterloo (Iowa) Daily Courier, 5 Jun 1972, p. 5, col. 1; online image, Newspaper Archive (accessed through participating newspapers: 16 August 2017).
[8] “Census of Iowa, 1895,” Tama County, Iowa, population schedule, Clark Township, p. 147 (stamped), dwelling 106, family 107, Ira Carpenter; imaged as “Iowa State Census, 1895,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 10 September 2017), image 124 of 905; citing FHL microfilm 1,022,184; citing State Historical Society, Des Moines.
[9] 1900 U.S. Census, Black Hawk County, Iowa, population schedule, Big Creek Township, p. 33 (stamped), enumeraton district 3, sheet 17-B, dwelling 459, family 461, Ira Carpenter; imaged as “United States Census, 1900,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 10 September 2017); citing NARA microfilm publication T623, roll 417.
[10] 1905 Minnesota Census, Red Lake County, population schedule, St. Hilaire, p. 159 (penned), enumeration district 6, sheet 3, line 108, Carpenter, Ira R (age 56); imaged as “Minnesota State Census, 1905”, database with images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 27 September 2017), image 247; citing FHL microfilm 928,810; citing State Library and Records Service, St.Paul.
[11] Claudia Vokoun to Jon Casbon, e-mail, 17 Jan 2017, “Re: Harriet Perry,” privately held by Casbon, 2017.
[12] 1905 Minnesota Census, Red Lake County, population schedule, St. Hilaire, p. 173 (penned), sheet 17, Casbon, G.W., imaged as “Minnesota State Census, 1905,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : 3 August 2017), image 18 of 24; citing FHL microfilm 928,810; citing State Library and Records Service, St.Paul.
[13] “Deaths – George W. Casbon,” Waterloo (Iowa) Daily Courier, 25 Feb 1944, p. 2, col. 5; online archive, Newspaper Archive (accessed through participating libraries: 16 January 2016).
[14] “Minnesota People Records Search”, database, Minnesota Historical Society ( : accessed 4 October 2017), search terms: (First Name) Sylvester, (Last Name) Casbon, Casbon, Sylvester, 25 Feb 1906, Red Lake County, certificate number 1906-20802.
[15] Vokoun to Casbon, personal correspondence.
[16] Tama County, Iowa, District Court, Emma E. Rigg vs. Robert N. Rigg, February term 1902; photostatic copy provided to Jon Casbon by Claudia Vokoun, August 2017.
[17] “Find A Grave Index,” database, FamilySearch ( : accessed 5 October 2017) Emma E. Casbon Eldridge, 1982; Burial, Dunkerton, Black Hawk, Iowa, Fairview-Lester Cemetery; citing record ID 59075462, Find a Grave,
[18] Vokoun to Casbon, e-mail, 17 Jan 17.
[19] Notes about Rigg and Casbon land in Black Hawk & Tama Counties, Iowa, in scrapbook compiled by Claudia Vokoun, Aug 2017; copy privately held by Jon Casbon.
[20] “Indiana, Death Certificates, 1899-2011,” database with images, Ancestry Library Edition (accessed through participating libraries: accessed 29 June 2017), certificate image, Emma Riggs (age 63), 29 Jul 1910, Valparaiso, Porter, no. 493 (stamped); citing Indiana State Board of Health.
[21] “La Porte City Resident Dies,” Waterloo (Iowa) Evening Courier, 5 Aug 1910, p. 5, col. 5; online images, Newspaper Archive (accessed through participating libraries : accessed 29 June 2017).
[22] Last will and testament of Emma E. Rigg, Valparaiso, Porter County, Indiana, 1909, photostatic copy in scrapbook compiled by Claudia Vokoun, Aug 2017; copy privately held by Jon Casbon.
[23] Estate of Emma E. Rigg, Application of Executor to Sell Real Estate Debts, District Court, Tama County, Iowa, May term 1911; photostatic copy in scrapbook compiled by Claudia Vokoun, Aug 2017; copy privately held by Jon Casbon.
[24] “Map of Geneseo Township,” Atlas of Tama County, Iowa (Chicago: The Anderson Publishing Co., 1916), p. 5; online image, The University of Iowa Libraries, Iowa Digital Library ( : accessed 5 October 2016).
[25] Jon Casbon, “Children of Thomas Casbon (1803–1888): Emma,” Our Casbon Journey, 3 Jul 17 ( : accessed 5 October 2017), para. 14.
[26] Emma Rigg to George & Maud Casbon, letter fragment, abt Feb 1910, p. 7; privately held by Jon Casbon. Originally collected by Emma Elizabeth (Casbon) Eldridge, then passed to her daughter Claudia (Eldridge) Vokoun, and then in August 2017 to Jon Casbon.

Did James Casbon (~1813–1884) Use an Alias in the 1861 Census?

OK, I’ll admit it – it sounds a bit fantastic. But hear me out, it’s not totally crazy.

Why would I think this entry from the 1861 census of England might be James Casbon?

Details from 1861 census, Cottenham, Cambridgeshire[1] (Click on image to enlarge)
For starters, here is a little background. James was my fourth great uncle, the youngest brother of my third great grandfather, Thomas Casbon (1803–1888), who came to the United States in 1846. James was born in about 1813 or 1814, and followed his brother Thomas to Indiana in 1870. He has been the subject of two previous posts: “James Casbon of Meldreth, England and Porter County, Indiana” and “James Casbon in the 1880 U.S. Census, Porter Township, Porter County, Indiana.” Thanks in part to James’ propensity to father children, he is possibly the patriarch of more of today’s living Casbons than anyone else of his generation.

For a long time, I’ve been frustrated by the fact that I haven’t been able to find James or most of his children in the 1861 census. I have him in the 1841 and 1851 censuses. After 1851, he doesn’t appear in a census again until the 1880 United States Census, when he was living in Indiana (he missed both the 1870 U.S. and 1871 U.K. censuses because he emigrated in late 1870). This leaves a huge gap in my knowledge of James’ whereabouts before he came to America.

The time period between 1851 and 1880 isn’t a total blank. I know that his first wife, Elizabeth (Waller) died in August 1852, and their youngest daughter, Emma (b. 1851) died in November 1853.[2],[3] Their deaths left James responsible for seven children ranging from 4 to 17 years old. This must have placed a tremendous burden on him. He was a poor agricultural laborer, without a steady income, on one of the lowest rungs of the social order. His situation could have come from a Dickens novel.

In 1851, James and Elizabeth had seven children. [4] His oldest son, William, age 15, was already working as an agricultural labourer.

Detail from 1851 census, Melbourn, Cambridgeshire (Click on image to enlarge)

After Elizabeth died, it’s likely that some of the older children had to find work, and some might have been placed with other families, or even a public institution (daughter Emma died at the “Royston Workhouse”).[5]

Since I was unable to find James in the 1861 census using traditional search methods, I decided to use a more broad-based approach. Sometimes surnames are so badly misspelled that they yield false negative search results. So, instead of searching by surname, I searched for any males named James born in Meldreth between 1808 and 1818.

This approach yielded 9 results. Of these, the one for James Randle caught my eye. Why? Because he was living in Cottenham.

I knew that James had lived in Cottenham shortly before coming to the United States. Specifically, James’ place of abode was listed as Cottenham when his son Amos James was baptized (in nearby Stretham) in August, 1869.[6] I also know that James married Mary Jackson in Stretham, in 1866, so it’s also possible that he was living in Cottenham then.[7]

Besides the location, other information in the 1861 census entry suggests that James Randle and James Casbon could be the same person. James Randle’s age is listed as 45. James Casbon would have been about 47 in 1861. Age discrepancies are common in census records, and a 2-year difference is minor. (It’s also possible that James Casbon did not know his exact age.) Like James Casbon, James Randle is listed as a widower and an agricultural laborer. And of course, both were from Meldreth.

Who was Thomas Randle? Look again at the 1851 census. James and Elizabeth’s fifth child, and second son, is recorded as “Thos,” age 6. His age is a close match to 15-year old Thomas Randle’s.

The fact that James and Thomas Randle were lodging in a public house during the census is interesting. It suggests they had recently arrived, or perhaps were looking for work.

Is there any evidence that someone named James Randle really was born in Meldreth during the eighteen teens? I’ve searched all the baptism, marriage, and burial records for Meldreth and nearby areas, and there are no entries for Randle or similar names. Nor does he turn up in censuses prior to 1861. Also, I haven’t found any records for a Thomas Randle in or near Meldreth.

Why would James Casbon be going under an assumed name? It would suggest that he did not want to be found – by the law or creditors. We know that he was a poor man, so debt could have been an issue. It’s also possible that he was on the lam for a criminal offense.

What about James’ other children – why aren’t they listed in the census along with James and Thomas? By 1861, the older children were in their late teens and early twenties, so it’s likely they were already employed elsewhere. That still leaves the two younger children, George and John, who would have been 14 and 12, respectively. After an exhaustive search, I haven’t been able to find either one in the 1861 census (although they appear again in later censuses). It’s possible that they were given up to other families after their mother’s death, but this still doesn’t explain their absence from the 1861 census.

Another possibility is that the surname listed on the census is incorrect. What I mean is that it really was James Casbon in Cottenham, but whoever recorded the information made a mistake. How could this happen? The way a census was taken is that a form, known as a schedule, was handed out to each household, to be completed by the head of household.[8] The census enumerator collected the forms on the following day and entered the information from the schedules into the Census Enumerator’s Book (CEB). The original census schedules have not been retained, and it is only the CEB that remains.[9] This is the census record showing James and Thomas Randle, above.

What if the head of household was illiterate? We know from the 1880 U.S. Census that James “cannot write.”[10] So it’s possible that the owner of the public house or someone else completed the census schedule for him. The name could have been written incorrectly; or the enumerator might have transcribed the information incorrectly into the CEB.

Are you convinced? I hope not. All I’ve presented is circumstantial evidence. It’s far from a compelling argument. But I think there’s a decent possibility that I’m right. If I’m wrong, and James Randle was not James Casbon, then who was he?

[1] 1861 census of England, Cambridgeshire, [parish] Cottenham, p. 4, schedule 23, James and Thomas Randle; accessed as “1861 England, Wales & Scotland Census,” image, findmypast ( : accessed 24 February 2017); citing [The National Archives], RG 09, piece 1019, folio 96, p. 4.
[2] “Register of Burials in the Parish of Meldreth in the County of Cambridge,” p. 54, no. 427, Elizabeth Casbon (age 36); FamilySearch ( : accessed 29 August 2017); citing FHL microfilm 1,040,542, item 10, image 470.
[3] “Register of Burials in the Parish of Meldreth in the County of Cambridge,” p. 56, no. 448, Emma Casbon (age 2); accessed as “Parish registers for Meldreth, 1681-1877,” browsable images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 29 August 2017); citing Family History Library (FHL) microfilm 1,040,542, item 10, image 471.
[4] 1851 Census of England, Cambridgeshire, [parish] Melbourn, folio 208 (stamped), schedule 126, entry for James Casbon (age 37); accessed as “1851 England, Wales & Scotland Census,” image, findmypast ( : accessed 1 September 2017); citing [The National Archives], HO 107, piece 1708, folio 208, p. 32.
[5] Register of Burials in the Parish of Meldreth in the County of Cambridge, p. 56, no. 448, Emma Casbon.
[6] “Cambridgeshire Baptisms,” database, findmypast ( : accessed 30 January 2017), Amos James Casben, 3 Aug 1869, Stretham; citing Cambridgeshire parish records (transcribed by Cambridgeshire Family History Society).
[7] “Stretham Marriages 1558 – 1952,” PDF extract, database,  Cambridge Family History Society ( : accessed 2 September 2017), >Casben >Stretham >Stretham Marriages 1558 – 1952, James Casben & Mary Jackson, 3 Nov 1866; citing Stretham (Cambridgeshire) parish records.
[8] “The Census 1841 – 1911,” para. 7, History House ( : accessed 12 September 2017).
[9] “The Census 1841 – 1911,” para. 10.
[10] 1880 U.S. Census, Porter County, Indiana, population schedule, Porter Township, p. 545 (stamped), dwelling 187, family 191, James Casbon; accessed as “United States Census, 1880,” image, FamilySearch ( : accessed 4 July 2016); citing NARA microfilm T9, roll 305.