A Minor Mystery Solved

A more appropriate title for this post might have been “The Many Wives of James Casbon.” However, I’ll stick with the current title because it was finding the answer to the “minor mystery” that prompted me to write the post.

This is a cautionary tale. The caution is that one should be very careful about trusting “facts” that are listed in online family trees unless the evidence supporting those facts is documented and credible. In this case, the facts in question are the identities of the women who were married to James Casbon (~1813–1884).

When I did a search on Ancestry for James, listing his parents as Isaac and Susannah (Howes) Casbon, I found that he was included in 66 family trees. Six different women were named as his wives in these trees. Some trees only listed one of them while others listed up to five. A few of the trees simply said “unknown spouse”—a safe and reasonable approach. Several of the trees were private, meaning the names of James’s wives could not be viewed. Here are the names of the women, in order of frequency, in those trees I was able to view.

Elizabeth Waller             26 trees
Mary Cooper                   17 trees
Mary Payne                       7 trees
Mary Harper                     5 trees
Mary Jackson                    5 trees
Ann Mitch                         5 trees

How many of these women did James actually marry and which ones? I can say with confidence that only three marriages have been documented. I have copies or extracts of the marriage records of James to Elizabeth Waller in 1835,[1] Mary Jackson in 1866,[2] and Mary Payne in 1876.[3] There is no evidence that James married Mary Cooper, Mary Harper, or Ann Mitch. In the family trees where they are listed, no sources are provided other than other family trees. One could posit that James married another woman in the interval between Elizabeth’s death in 1852 and his marriage to Mary Jackson in 1866, but there are no records to support this (and no children born during this time listing James as the father).

Census and birth/baptism records show that all of James’s children were born to either Elizabeth Waller or Mary Jackson. (Alice Casbon’s birth in 1871 is not registered but given that it occurred just one month after the arrival of James and Mary in America, there is no reason to believe that anyone besides Mary Jackson was her mother.)

The marriage of record of James Casbon to Elizabeth Waller at Meldreth, Cambridgeshire, 25 July 1835; Meldreth parish records (Click on image to enlarge)
The marriage record of James Casbon and Mary Payne, Porter County, Indiana, 15 January 1876; Porter County Public Library (Click on image to enlarge)

So how did these other women come to be listed as James’s wives? There are several possible reasons. In the case of Ann Mitch, it is a matter of mistaken identity. There were two men named James Casbon in the early 1800s, both born in Meldreth, Cambridgeshire. One was born 7 September 1806.[4] He was the first cousin of the James of this post. The elder James married Ann Hitch (whose name has been incorrectly transcribed as Mitch in both Ancestry and FamilySearch) at Steeple Morden, Cambridgeshire on 15 December
1827.[5] Ann died in 1833 after bearing James one child (Alfred Hitch Casbon). It can be easy to make mistakes in family trees when two people have the same name. Although the younger James would have been only about 14 years old when the marriage to Ann Hitch occurred, some family historians have gotten around this discrepancy by assuming that there was only one man named James. However, this is not supported by later census records.

The case of Mary Cooper is harder to explain. James’s older brother William married a woman named Mary Cooper in 1829.[6] My best guess is that the name of William’s wife was incorrectly attached to James in a family tree and the incorrect information was passed on to others.

That brings me to Mary Harper. Where did the name come from? This was the minor mystery I learned the answer to this week.

I was updating some of my documentation and came upon the marriage license application of James’s and Mary (Jackson’s) daughter Alice Hannah Casbon to her second husband, Charles Hicks. Alice and Charles applied for the license at Starke County, Indiana on 4 March 1936 and were married the same day.[7] The application requests the names of the bride and groom’s parents. Alice wrote “Mary Harper” as her mother’s maiden name.

The marriage license application of Alice (Casbon) Edwards to Charles Hicks, 4 March 1936, Starke County, Indiana; FamilySearch (Click on image to enlarge)

This naturally raises the question: Wouldn’t Alice know her own mother’s name? In fact, there is good reason for her not to. Her mother died before Alice was 5 years old, and probably much earlier than that. (The date of Mary (Jackson’s) death is not recorded). Her father, James, died when Alice was 13. Mary Payne, her stepmother, might not have known the correct maiden name. Alice might have been told incorrectly that her mother’s surname was Harper or she might have misremembered what she was told.

At any rate, it appears that Alice herself was the source of the misinformation that was included later in family trees.

As I said earlier, one must be very careful about accepting genealogical “facts” at face value. Once incorrect information is made available in an online family tree, others might copy it to their own tree and it takes on a life of its own. A useful rule of thumb is to carefully review the source attributed to any “fact” in an online tree. If there are no sources attached or the only source is another family tree, one should not accept the fact as proven unless more reliable sources can be found.

Unfortunately, I must confess that I am one of the guilty parties here. I saw the names of Mary Cooper and Mary Harper in family trees many years ago and included them in my own tree. I even included them as possible wives in my first blog post about James in 2016. When I posted my tree to Ancestry I was still a relative beginner at genealogy and did not yet understand the need for careful source documentation or how easily misinformation could be spread. I kept the names in my tree for much longer than I should have after realizing that I had no evidence to support them. It’s likely that others copied the information from my tree and perpetuated the misinformation. I am much more diligent now.


[1] Cambridgeshire, England, Meldreth Parish, Register of marriages (1813–1867), p. 34, no. 100, 25 Jul 1835; accessed as “Parish registers for Meldreth, 1681-1877,” browsable images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/search/film/007567609?cat=210742 : accessed 29 August 2017), image 363 of 699; citing FHL microfilm 1,040,542, item 8.
[2] “Stretham Marriages 1558 – 1952,” PDF extract, Cambridge Family History Society (https://www.cfhs.org.uk/tokens/tokpub.cfm : downloaded 2 September 2017), >Casben >Stretham >Stretham Marriages 1558 – 1952, 3 Nov 1866; citing Stretham (Cambridgeshire) parish records.
[3] Indiana, Porter County, Marriage Record, vol. 4 [Sep 1871-Jan 1875], p. 348, 8 Jan 1876; browsable images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/search/film/005014495?cat=608739 : accessed 8 Apr 2020) > Film # 005014494 >image 693 of 928.
[4] Cambridgeshire, England, Meldreth Parish, Register of baptisms (1806–1812), baptisms 1807; accessed as “Parish registers for Meldreth, 1681-1877,” browsable images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/search/film/007567609?cat=210742 : accessed 28 April 2017), image 137; citing FHL microfilm 1,040,542, item 3.
[5] “England Marriages, 1538–1973 ,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:N2QC-7QV : accessed 19 October 2015), James Casbon and Ann Mitch, 15 Dec 1827; citing FHL microfilm 990,377.
[6] Cambridgeshire, England Melbourne Parish, Bishop’s transcripts for Melbourne, 1599-1847, (marriages beginning 1814) unnumbered page, no. 160, Wm Casbon & Mary Cooper, 14 Mar 1829; browsable images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/search/film/007672882?cat=1109075 : accessed 12 Jul 2016) >image 529 of 682; citing FHL microfilm 2,358,010, item 2.
[7] Indiana, Starke County, marriage records, v. 10 (June 1934-January 1937), pp. 392–3, marriage license application; imaged in ” Marriage records, 1850-1957″, browsable images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/search/film/007742312?cat=574765 : accessed 27 Mar 19) > image 392 of 716; citing FHL film 2447544, item 3.

The Casbon Family Reunion, October 1901, Valparaiso, Indiana

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Alice Hannah Casbon (1871–1950)

Alice Hannah Casbon was the last child born to James (~1813–1884) and Mary (Jackson, ~1833–187_?) Casbon. There is a family tradition that Alice was born at sea while the family was making the crossing from Liverpool to New York aboard the ship Great Western. Although there is no evidence to support the claim, it is easy to see how the story came about. The Great Western arrived at New York on Christmas Day, 1870.[1] Alice does not appear on the ship’s passenger manifest. Her birth date is recorded as 25 January 1871, just one month after the family’s arrival in New York.[2] Thus, if the family had sailed one month later, or if her mother had gone into premature labor, Alice would have been born at sea!

Imagine how uncomfortable the voyage in the steerage of a sailing vessel must have been for Alice’s mother, being so far advanced in her pregnancy.

Despite the family tradition, all the available evidence supports the birth date given above. There is no official birth certificate, as these were not required at the time. However, every available census gives her birthplace as Indiana; and the 1900 census gives the month and year as January 1871.[3] The date of 25 January 1871 is recorded on her death certificate and in her obituary.[4]

Nothing is known of Alice’s childhood, but we can conclude that it would not have been easy. Alice was no more than 5 years old, and possibly much younger, when her mother died. James remarried in 1876 and died in 1884, when Alice was 13. Whatever was left of her childhood was spent with her stepmother, Mary (Payne). Unfortunately, there are no documents that I know of that describe this period of her life.

According to the 1940 U.S. census, Alice’s highest level of education was the fourth grade.[5] Although this was common for girls at the time, it seems likely that Alice went to work at an early age, either at the home or elsewhere, given what we know about her circumstances.

On 24 January 1891, a day before her twentieth birthday, Alice married a two-time widower named Benjamin Edwards.[6] He was 20 years older than Alice and, according to his obituary, had 13 children from his first marriage.[7] At least five of these children were 10 years old or younger, so Alice was immediately placed into the role of stepmother.

The couple had another eight children together: Elsie, born 1892, Grace (1894), Bertha (1895), Mary Alice (1897), Howard (1899), Pearl (1901), Hazel (1903), and Florence (1906). All except Pearl, a son, survived into adulthood.

Detail from an Edwards family photo (undated); left to right, back row: Elsie, Grace, Benjamin, Alice (Casbon), Bertha, Hazel; front row: Howard, Florence, and unidentified; courtesy of Ron Casbon (Click on image to enlarge)

In the 1900 census, Ben, Alice, and their family were residing in Porter Township, Porter County, Indiana.[8] In 1910 and 1920, they were living in Union Township, Porter County.[9] By 1930, Ben, now retired, and Alice lived at 960 West Street in Valparaiso, the Porter County seat.[10] This house is still standing.

Benjamin Edwards died in 1934 at the age of 83.[11] Two years later, Alice married Charles Hicks, a roofing contractor and former city councilman.[12] This marriage was short-lived due to Charles’s premature death following a traffic accident. The story received extensive coverage in the Valparaiso Vidette-Messenger. Both Charles and Alice suffered fractured knee caps along with cuts and bruises, as a result of a head-on collision on 4 February 1938. They were both hospitalized at Fairview hospital in LaPorte, Indiana, “where it was stated their condition is not critical.”[13] On 25 February it was reported that both had undergone surgery for the fractured kneecaps. “Mrs. Hicks is recovering nicely, but Mr. Hicks’ condition is not so good.”[14] Two days later, Charles was dead.[15]

In her later years, Alice seems to have divided her time between at least two of her daughters. In the 1940 census, she was staying with her daughter Grace and her husband, Jay Blachly, in Valparaiso.[16] In early 1948 she was said to be residing with her daughter Hazel and her husband, Arthur Simpson, in Three Oaks, Michigan.[17] However, in July of that year, she was again residing with Grace, when she had a heart attack and was said to be making a “rapid recovery.”[18] She was once again living with Hazel in Michigan when she passed away 15 March 1950 from “a lingering illness.”[19] The nature of her illness is unknown to me. Alice was 79 years old when she died.

Undated photo of Alice in her later years; courtesy of Ron Casbon

One of Alice’s daughters is said to have done a great deal of Casbon genealogy research. I have copies of some of these records, but they came to me indirectly and I don’t know who the daughter was.


[1] “Marine Intelligence,” The New York Times, 26 Dec 1870, p. 8, col. 5; online images (https://timesmachine.nytimes.com/timesmachine/1870/12/26/issue.html : accessed 17 January 2017).
[2] “Michigan Death Certificates, 1921-1952,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:KF41-L5D : accessed 21 February 2017); citing Three Oaks, Berrien, Michigan, Division for Vital Records and Health Statistics, Lansing; FHL microfilm 1,973,189.
[3] 1900 U.S. census, Porter County, Indiana, Porter Township, ED 91, sheet 4B, dwelling & family 75 (Benjamin Edwards); imaged as “United States Census, 1900,” FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HY-6QNS-7WT?i=7 : accessed 20 Jan 2015) >Indiana > Porter > ED 91 Porter Township > image 8 of 22; citing NARA microfilm publication T623.
[4] “Michigan Death Certificates, 1921-1952.” “Mrs Alice Hicks Dies Following Lingering Illness,” The (Valparaiso, Indiana) Vidette-Messenger, 16 Mar 1950, p. 6; image copy, Newspaper Archive (accessed through participating libraries: 16 Aug 2016).
[5] 1940 U.S. census, Porter County, Indiana, Valparaiso, Ward 3, ED 64-6, sheet 4-B, family 89 (Blachley—transcribed as “Blackley”—Jay); imaged as “United States Census, 1940,” FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QSQ-G9MB-N9LX?i=7&cc=2000219 : accessed 6 July 2017); citing NARA digital publication T627.
[6] Porter County, Indiana, marriage records, vol. 9 (1889–1892), no. 282; imaged as “Indiana Marriages, 1811-2007,” FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/search/collection/1410397 : accessed 22 Mar 2019) > >Porter >1889-1892 Volume 9 >image 179 of 361; citing Indiana Commission on Public Records, Indianapolis.
[7] “Benj. Edwards, Local Pioneer, Death Victim,” The Vidette-Messenger, 19 Mar 1934, p. 4, col. 4; online image, Newspaper Archive (accessed 15 April 2018).
[8] 1900 U.S. census, Porter County, Indiana, ED 91, Sheet 4B.
[9] 1910 U.S. census, Porter County, Indiana, ED 150, sheet 8A, dwelling 151, family 153; imaged as “United States Census, 1910,” FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33SQ-GRJJ-FWS?i=14 : accessed 29 Oct 2015); citing NARA microfilm publication T624. 1920 U.S. census, Porter County, Indiana, ED 154, sheet 9B, dwelling 187, family 197; “United States Census, 1920,” FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33SQ-GR67-31W?i=18 : accessed 14 Dec 2015); citing NARA microfilm publication T625.
[10] 1930 U.S. census, Porter County, Center Township, ED 64-7, sheet 7B; imaged as “United States Census, 1930,” FamilySearch images, (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33SQ-GRH7-J26?i=13 : accessed 23 Mar 2019); citing NARA microfilm publication T626.
[11] “Benj. Edwards, Local Pioneer, Death Victim,” The Vidette-Messenger.
[12] “Indiana, Marriage Index, 1800-1941”, database, (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=5059 : accessed 23 Mar 2019), Charles Hicks & Alice Edwards, 4 Mar 1936; citing Starke County, Indiana, Index to Marriage Record 1896 – 1938, Inc. Letters, W. P. A.; original Record Located: County Clerk’s O; Book: H-21; Page: 20.
[13] “Charles Hicks and Wife Hurt in Auto Crash,” The Vidette-Messenger, 4 Feb 1938, p. 1, col. 7; Newspaper Archive (accessed 23 Mar 2019).
[14] “Condition of Charles Hicks Not Favorable,” The Vidette-Messenger, 25 February 1938, p. 1, col. 6; image copy, Newspaper Archive (accessed 23 March 2019).
[15] “C.S. Hicks Fails to Survive Crash Injuries,” The Vidette-Messenger, 28 Feb 1938, pp. 1-2; Newspaper Archive (accessed 23 March 2019).
[16] 1940 U.S. census, Porter County, Indiana, Valparaiso, Ward 3, ED 64-6, sheet 4-B.
[17] “Local Brevities,” The Vidette-Messenger, 3 Apr 1948, p. 2, col. 1; Newspaper Archive (accessed 12 Jul 2020).
[18] “Local Brevities,” The Vidette-Messenger, 13 Jul 1948, p. 2, col. 1; Newspaper Archive (accessed 12 Jul 2020).
[19] “Mrs Alice Hicks Dies Following Lingering Illness,” The Vidette-Messenger, 16 Mar 1950, p. 6; image copy, Newspaper Archive (accessed 16 Aug 2016).

Five Families, Eleven Weddings

Slocum … I’ve heard that name before; I wonder if she’s related?

Today’s post is an outgrowth of the two previous posts, in which I explored the connections between the Casbon and Aylesworth family trees. While conducting my Aylesworth research, I came upon the name of Martha Slocum, who married Philip Aylesworth, a member of the fourth generation of his family in America and a direct ancestor of many living Casbons.

The name Slocum was not new to me. William Wallace Slocum married Mary Casbon in Ohio, 1862.[1] After Mary died, he married Emma Payne in 1865 (see “From England to America, Part 8”).[2] Mary Casbon was the niece of Thomas Casbon, the original immigrant from England, and Emma Payne was the niece of Thomas’s wife, Emma Scruby. Emma Payne’s mother, Sarah Scruby, was married to James Payne of Meldreth, Cambridgeshire, England.

A little digging showed that Martha and William Wallace Slocum were distantly related. They were both descended from Giles Slocum ( ? –1682), who immigrated from England to Rhode Island before 1648.[3] Martha was descended from Giles’s son Samuel and William Wallace from Giles’s son Eleazar. Martha was in the fifth generation of descendants and William Wallace in the seventh.

So now I knew that the Slocum, Aylesworth, and Casbon families were all related to one another.

Furthermore, with William Wallace Slocum’s marriage to Emma Payne, the Slocums became connected to the Scruby family, who were already related to the Casbons through the marriage of Emma Scruby to Thomas Casbon and later through the marriage of Mary Payne (Emma Payne’s sister) to James Casbon.

Are you confused yet?

I decided to plot out all the ways that the Slocum, Aylesworth, Scruby (including Payne), and Casbon families were related. I added a fifth family, Priest, because I was aware of multiple connections on their part as well. Here is the result of my efforts.

Diagram depicting interconnected family trees of the Slocum (green), Aylesworth (orange), Scruby (pink), Casbon (blue) and Priest (yellow) families. Superscript numbers denote generations, with “1” depicting either the original immigrant (Slocum and Aylesworth) or the common ancestor (Scruby, Casbon, and Priest); colored lines indicate parent-child relationships and arrows depict direct descent through multiple generations; marriages are connected by black lines (Click on image to enlarge)

You’ll need to enlarge the diagram to see details.

As the title suggests, these five families are connected to each other through eleven marriages. Here is a summary of the connections for each family:

  • Slocum:
    – Connected to Aylesworth through the marriage of Martha5 Slocum to Philip4 Aylesworth, 1762[4]
    – Connected to Casbon through the marriage of William Wallace7 Slocum to Mary3 Casbon, 1862
    – Connected to Scruby through the marriage of William Wallace7 Slocum to Emma3 Payne, 1865
  • Aylesworth:
    – Connected to Slocum through the marriage of Philip4 Aylesworth to Martha5 Slocum, as above
    – Connected to Casbon through the marriages of Mary Adaline7 Aylesworth to Sylvester3 Casbon, 1860,[5] and Carrie Belle9 Aylesworth to Amos3 Casbon, 1900[6]
    – Connected to Scruby through the marriage of Louisa8 Aylesworth to George3 Scruby, 1872[7]
    – Connected to Priest through the marriage of Elliot7 Aylesworth to Caroline2 Priest, 1848[8]
  • Scruby:
    – Connected to Slocum through the marriage of Emma3 Payne to William Wallace7 Slocum, as above
    – Connected to Aylesworth through the marriage of George3 Scruby to Louisa8 Aylesworth, as above
    – Connected to Casbon through the marriages of Emma2 Scruby to Thomas2 Casbon, 1830,[9] and Mary3 Payne to James2 Casbon, 1876[10]
    – Connected to Priest through the marriage of James2 Scruby to Phebe2 Priest, 1824[11]
  • Casbon:
    – Connected to Slocum through the marriage of Mary3 Casbon to William Wallace7 Slocum, as above
    – Connected to Aylesworth through the marriages of Sylvester3 Casbon to Mary Adaline7 Aylesworth and Amos3 Casbon to Carrie Belle9 Aylesworth, as above
    – Connected to Scruby through the marriages of Thomas2 Casbon to Emma2 Scruby and James2 Casbon to Mary3 Payne, as above
    – Connected to Priest through the marriage of Mary Ann3 Casbon to Elijah2 Priest, 1853[12]
  • Priest:
    – Connected to Aylesworth through the marriage of Caroline2 Priest to Elliot7 Aylesworth, as above
    – Connected to Scruby through the marriage of Phebe2 Priest to James2 Scruby
    – Connected to Casbon through the marriage of Elijah2 Priest to Mary Ann3 Casbon, as above

Three of the families—Aylesworth, Scruby, and Casbon—are connected by marriage to all four of the remaining families. The remaining two families—Slocum and Priest—are connected to three of the other four families. Of the marriages, one took place in England, one in Rhode Island, six in Ohio, and three in Indiana.

The chart shows how entangled family trees can become. I’m going to coin a new term for this. Instead of a family tree, this is a family hedge! It’s an accurate description of what we see, with branches from several families intermingling and creating complex relationships.

I suspect this occurs more often than we might realize, but we might not see it because we’re not looking for it. Have you discovered any hedges in your family history?

[1] Ohio, Huron County, Marriage Records, vol. 1 [1855–1866], p. 350; imaged as “Ohio, County Marriages, 1789–2013,” FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:XZ65-99 : accessed 21 Jul 2016) >Huron >Marriage Records 1855–1866 vol 1 >image 220 of 306.
[2] Ohio, Huron County, Marriage Records, vol. 1 [1855–1866], p. 465, no. 2779; imaged as “Ohio, County Marriages, 1789–2013,” FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:XZ65-99 : accessed 22 May 2018) >Huron >Marriage Records 1855–1866 vol 1 >image 277 of 306.
[3] “Giles Slocum (abt. 1623 – aft. 1683),” article, WikiTree (https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Slocum-10 : accessed 9 Apr 2020).
[4] James Newell Arnold, Rhode Island Vital Extracts, 1636–1850, volume 1 (Providence, R.I.: Narragansett Historical Publishing Company, 1891), p. 4; imaged at Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/search/collections/3897/ : accessed 2 Apr 2020) >Vol· 01: Kent County: Births, Marriages, Deaths >image 432 of 637.
[5] Indiana, Porter County, Marriage Record Book 2 [Dec. 1850–Jun. 186], p. 458; Valparaiso (Indiana) Public Library.
[6] Indiana, Porter County, Marriage Record, vol. 12 [Nov. 1898–Oct. 1901], p. 326; browsable images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/search/film/005014498?cat=608739 : accessed 8 Apr 2020) > Film # 005014497 >image 548 of 922.
[7] Ohio, Holmes County, Marriage Record, vol. 5 [1868–1877], p. 217; browsable images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/search/film/004024929?cat=229343 : accessed 8 Apr 2020) > Ohio, County Marriages, 1789-2013 >Holmes >Marriage records 1868-1877 vol 5 >image 491 of 649.
[8] Ohio, Wayne County, Marriage Record, vol. 4B [1843–1851], p. 377; browsable images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/search/film/004260649?cat=335541 : accessed 26 Aug 2016) >Film # 004260649 >image 550 of 644.
[9] Church of England, Melbourn (Cambridgeshire), Marriages, 1813–1837, p. 59, no. 175; browsable images, ” FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/search/film/007549343?cat=210722 : accessed 5 Feb. 2019) >image 318 of 710.
[10] Indiana, Porter County, Marriage Record, vol. 4 [Sep. 1871–Jan. 1875], p. 348; browsable images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/search/film/005014495?cat=608739 : accessed 8 Apr 2020) > Film # 005014494 >image 693 of 928.
[11] Ohio, Wayne County, Marriage Record, vol. 4A [1835–1843], p. 91; browsable images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/search/film/004260649?cat=335541 : accessed 8 Apr 2020) >Film # 004260649 >image 77 of 644.
[12] Ohio, Wayne County, Marriage Record, vol. 4 (1-2) [1844–1856], p. 140; FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/search/film/004260672?cat=335541 : accessed 8 Apr 2020) > Film # 004260672 >image 97 of 720.

William Scruby … or, “Aha,” Continued

In my last post I presented this news item from the Porter County (Indiana) Vidette of
27 August 1891.

Untitled news item, Porter County Vidette, 27 August 1891

I explained how finding this article had been an “aha” moment for me because it proved that Mary (Payne) Casbon and Emma/Rachel (Payne) Slocum were sisters. With this post I want to show how the article confirmed my belief that William Scruby was the son of James Scruby of Wooster, Ohio and the cousin of Mary and Emma/Rachel.

I need to step back 45 years earlier, to 1846, when Thomas Casbon and his family arrived in Ohio after leaving England. They chose to come to Wayne County, Ohio, because that is where James Scruby, the brother of Thomas’s wife, Emma, lived with his family.

James Scruby also had another sister, Sarah, who had married James Payne in England. Mary (i.e., “Mrs. James”) Casbon and Emma/Rachel Slocum were Sarah’s daughters. Therefore, the two sisters were first cousins to both James Scruby’s and Thomas Casbon’s children. This explains how William Scruby was related to the two sisters in the news item. However, before finding this news item, I had not been able to positively link William to Porter County, Indiana.

James Scruby, who was born about 1807, came to America in 1832. He appears in a document I call the “Isaac Manuscript,” because it is a handwritten family history that begins with Thomas Casbon’s father, Isaac.

Detail from an untitled manuscript, author unknown, ca. 1890-92, describing Isaac Casbon and the descendants of his son Thomas

James Scruby came to United States of
America settled in Wayne Co Ohio
Married Pheobe [sic] Priest to them was
born seven children
Joab William Charles Sam George
are all dead excep [sic] two first named
no heirs left but George’s two boys
Bennett and Olen

James, a farmer, appears in the 1850 U.S. census with his wife Phoebe (or Phebe) and the five sons mentioned in the manuscript.[1] (They also had a daughter who died in infancy. I haven’t been able to find evidence of a seventh child.)

Detail from 1850 U.S. census. Plain Township, Wayne County, Ohio (FamilySearch) (Click on image to enlarge)

Phoebe died in November 1851 and James died 11 months later, leaving the boys orphans ranging in age from 4 to 17 years old. Guardians were appointed for the boys, and Thomas Casbon was appointed as the guardian for William Scruby. The guardianship was required until William reached the age of 21, in about 1858. Thus, it’s possible that William lived in Thomas’s household until that time.

William’s brother Charles died from diptheria in 1863 while serving in the Union Army during the American Civil War. Samuel also served in the Union Army. He died of an unknown cause just one month after mustering out in June 1865. Brother George, who became a farmer in Wayne County, died in 1882. These deaths account for the statement “all dead excep two first named” in the Isaac Manuscript, above.

Joab Scruby, the oldest brother, became a teacher. He remained in Wayne County for many years, but eventually moved to Des Moines, Iowa, where he died in 1901. Contrary to what is said in the Isaac Manuscript, Joab had four sons, thus there were six heirs, including George’s two sons.

Returning to William, we find him listed in the 1860 census, in Wayne County, where he is reported as living alone in Plain Township, with the occupation of “Shoe Maker.”[2] In 1863 he registered for the draft in Wayne County.[3] However, there is no evidence that he ever served during the Civil War.

In the 1870 census, William Scruby, age 29, occupation “laborer,” and born in Ohio, was living in Boone Township, Porter County, Indiana.[4] Was this the same William? The reported age is about four years too young for our William. Before finding the news item above, I could not be sure he was the same man. However, with that new piece of information, I had proof, or at least strong circumstantial evidence that William Scruby—the son of James Scruby of Ohio—was living in Porter County in 1891. Therefore, I think it is likely that he was also the man reported on the 1870 census. Unfortunately, I have never found a listing for him in the 1880 census and the 1890 census was lost in a fire.

Assuming that William was living in Porter County, Indiana, in 1870, it is certainly possible that he arrived there at about the same time as Thomas Casbon, who moved there from Ohio in 1865. The fact that William came to Porter County at all suggests that he maintained a close relationship with Thomas and Emma Casbon. Perhaps the fact that Thomas had been his guardian created a strong and lasting bond.

William died on 9 May 1900.[5] His death was noted in the Porter County Vidette.

“Here and There … Death of Wm. Scobey,” Porter County Vidette, 17 May 1900, p. 2, col. 1; microfilm image, Valparaiso Public Library; William’s age is misstated—he was actually 67 years old

The strength of his relationship with his two female cousins is evidenced by the terms of his Will, in which he bequeathed 500 dollars to Mary and 250 dollars to Emma.

“Will of William Scruby,” Porter County Vidette, 24 May 1900, p. 1, col. 2; microfilm image, Porter County Public Library

William’s death ended a chapter of the story that began when his father, James Scruby, came to America in 1832, followed by Thomas Casbon and Emma/Rachel Payne in 1846, Mary Payne in 1856, and James Casbon in 1870. The story shows how family ties formed a bridge between continents, how those ties played an important role in the immigration to America, and how they continued to influence lives over the course of several decades.

[1] 1850 U.S. census, Wayne County, Ohio, Plain Township, p. 382 (stamped), dwelling 397, family 407 (surname indexed as “Lemly”; FamilySearch.org.
[2] 1860 U.S. census, Wayne County, Ohio, Plain Township, p. 52, dwelling 401, family 400; FamilySearch.org.
[3] Records of the Provost Marshall General’s Bureau, Enrollment Lists and Corrections, 1863-1865, Ohio, 14th Congressional District, Class 1, (L-Z), p. 431; contained in “Civil War Draft Registrations Records, 1863-1865,” database with images, Ancestry.com > Ohio >14th > Vol 2 of 3 >image 318 of 549; citing NARA, RG 110.
[4] 1870 U.S. census, Porter County, Indiana, Boone Twp., page 17, dwelling & family 137, William Scruby (indexed as “Sernby”) in household of Henry Smity; FamilySearch.org.
[5] Indiana, State Board of Health, Certificate of Death, no. 189, Porter County, Boone Township, 9 May 1900, William Scruby; imaged as “Indiana, Death Certificates, 1899-2011,” Ancestry.com >Certificate >1899 – 1900 >15 >image 24 of 3028.

A Visit to Ohio

aha moment
noun informal.
1. a point in time, event, or experience when one has a sudden insight or realization.[1]

Most of the time, genealogy research is fairly routine. You ask a question—“when was so-and-so born?”—and look for records that might answer the question. You either find the answer or you don’t, and then you move on. What can make it fun is when you have that “aha” moment—when the answer to a question pops up quite unexpectedly. Has this ever happened to you?

I had such a moment last year when I was browsing through old newspaper articles on microfilm in the Valparaiso (Porter County , Indiana) Public Library. I found this in the Porter County Vidette of 27 August 1891.

Untitled news item, Porter County Vidette, 27 August 1891

This single sentence answered not one but two questions that I had all but given up on finding the answers to. The questions were:

  1. Was Mary Payne, who married James Casbon in 1876, the same Mary Payne who arrived in Ohio from England with Mary Casbon in 1856?
  2. Was William Scruby who lived in Porter County, Indiana in the late 1800s, the son of James Scruby of Wooster, Ohio?

After finding this article, it was clear to me that the answer to both questions was yes!

Some background information will help you see how I came to these conclusions. Accordingly, let me introduce a brief cast of characters:

Emma Scruby (1811–1870): the wife of Thomas Casbon (1803–1888)

Emma or Rachel Payne (b. 1830): a niece of Emma (Scruby) Casbon; daughter of Emma’s sister Sarah (Scruby) Payne

Mary Payne (b. 1832 or 33): another niece of Emma (Scruby) Casbon; sister of Emma/Rachel Payne

William Scruby (b. abt. 1837): a nephew of Emma (Scruby) Casbon; son of Emma’s brother, James Scruby; also a first cousin of Emma/Rachel and Mary Payne

James Casbon (1813–1884), the brother of Thomas Casbon

The Scruby family plays an important role in the story of the Casbon family in the United States. When Thomas and Emma (Scruby) Casbon migrated from England to Ohio in 1846, they were greeted by Emma’s older brother James Scruby, who left England in 1832 and settled near Wooster, Wayne County, Ohio. Thomas and Emma lived and raised their family in Ohio, initially in Wayne County, and later, a few miles south in Holmes County. James undoubtedly influenced their decision to emigrate and helped them to get settled.

In addition to their own family, Thomas and Emma brought Emma’s niece “Rachell [sic] or Emma Payne” with them from England. Two names are given for this niece because she is referred to in various records by either of these names and is also recorded as “Emma R. Payne.”

Ten years after the arrival of Thomas and Emma Casbon, Emma/Rachel’s sister, Mary Payne migrated from England to Ohio, along with Thomas Casbon’s niece, Mary Casbon, who was the daughter of Thomas’s deceased brother, Joseph. This story is told in a handwritten family history.

Detail from an untitled manuscript, author unknown, ca. 1890-92, describing Isaac Casbon and the descendants of his son Thomas; note the term “Rachell or Emma Payne”

Mary Payne & Rachell or Emma Payne
came to America & They were the
daughters of Sarah Scruby sister to
Emma wife of Thomas Casbon
Mary Payne came to America in
the year 1856 Mary Casbon daughter of
Joseph Casbon who was a brother of
Thomas Casbon came to America with
Mary Payne Emma came with the
Family of Thomas Casbon to America

The story gets convoluted at this point. Mary Casbon, Thomas’s niece, married William Wallace Slocum in 1862.[2] Mary evidently died within a few years. Mr. Slocum next married Emma R. Payne on 23 March 1865.[3] In addition to the official marriage records, we find this part of the story published in a history of the Slocum family.

Detail from Charles Elihu Slocum, M.D., Ph.D., LL.D., History of the Slocums, Slocumbs and Slocombs of America (Defiance, Ohio: privately published, 1908), vol. 2:129; the peculiar spelling is due to the fact that the author was an adherent of a movement to simplify spellings in the English language.

We know from the description of her birthplace and voyage to America that Mr. Slocum’s third wife was same woman who emigrated to America with Thomas and Emma Casbon.

Through her marriage Emma/Rachel became the “Mrs. Rachel Slocum” referred to in the 1891 news brief. We can place Emma/Rachel in Shiloh, Ohio, because that is where her husband died in 1888.

But what of her sister Mary? Although she arrived in Ohio in 1856, Mary does not appear in the 1860 or 1870 censuses and I haven’t been able to find any trace of her during this time frame.

Enter, stage left, James Casbon. In 1870, James emigrated from England to Indiana, where his brother Thomas had been living since 1865. James married a woman named Mary Payne at Porter County, Indiana, in 1876, following the death of his wife Mary neé Jackson.

The marriage record of James Casbon and Mary Payne, Porter County, Indiana, 15 January 1876; “Indiana Marriages, 1811–2007” (FamilySearch); citing Porter County Marriage Records, vol. 4:348 (Click on image to enlarge)

Was James Casbon’s wife the sister of Emma/Rachel Slocum? I thought she might be but did not have enough evidence to prove the relationship. James and Mary appear together in the 1880 U.S. census in Porter County. Her age was reported as 53, which would give her a birth year of about 1827—about five years earlier than expected for Emma/Rachel’s sister. Her birthplace was reported as England, so at least that fact fit the theory.

The question remained unresolved for several years until my “aha” moment arrived last year. “Mrs. James Casborn [sic]” was going to visit her sister, “Mrs. Rachel Slocum,” in Shilo [sic] O[hio]. Quod Erat Demonstrandum! The missing link was found!

There is still a lot of missing information. Where was Mary Payne between 1856 and 1876? When did she move to Indiana? What circumstances led to her marriage to James Casbon? My guess is that she either followed her aunt Emma and uncle Thomas Casbon to Indiana, or that she came with William Scruby, who was her cousin. Although it is common for relatives to remain in proximity to one another, it is still intriguing to me that the paths of Emma and Thomas Casbon, James Casbon, William Scruby, and Mary Payne intersected in so many places and points in time.

But what of William Scruby? He has had only had a minor role in today’s story. His story will be next.

[1] “aha moment,” Dictionary.com (https://www.dictionary.com/browse/aha-moment )
[2] “Ohio, County Marriages, 1789-2013 ” (FamilySearch) )>Huron >Marriage Records 1855-1866 vol 1 >image 220 of 306; citing Huron County.
[3] “Ohio, County Marriages, 1789-2013 ” (FamilySearch) )>Huron >Marriage Records 1855-1866 vol 1 >image 277 of 306; citing Huron County.

The Obituary of Mrs. William Biederstadt

I rely on the internet so much that it’s easy to forget that there are other ways to get information. Sometimes all it takes is a phone call. Do you remember when we used to look up numbers in the phone book?

In this case, I happened to be browsing the web site of the Michigan City Public Library. Michigan City is in La Porte County, Indiana, right next to Porter County, my ancestral home. When I opened the “Genealogy” link on the web site, I saw that they have an obituary search index and decided to give it a try. I recalled that Margaret “Maggie” Casbon had married William Biederstadt and died in Michigan City. Maggie has always been somewhat of a mystery to me, so I’m always happy to find something new about her. I typed in her information and, lo and behold, this is what popped up.

Detail from Michigan City Public Library search. https://www.mclib.org/

The library had a copy of Maggie’s obituary on file!

I noticed that for five dollars I could get a copy of the obituary, and the phone number was right there, so I dialed the number and was almost immediately connected to the reference librarian. She took the information and promised she would get to it right away. A short time later an email arrived with the obituary. How easy was that?

The Michigan City Dispatch, 7 May 1903, page 8, column 6.

I really enjoy finding obituaries because they often contain a lot of information about the deceased and their families. In this case, we get a capsule summary of Maggie’s life. I’m not sure any of the information is new, but it is still interesting and is revealing for what is said and for what is left unsaid.

Although the date is not given, Maggie died on Thursday, April 30, 1903.[1] I already knew that she died of cancer of the uterus—such a shame for a relatively young woman (thirty-nine). It’s interesting that the obituary says she died “at the home of her husband.” Why doesn’t it say “at her home” or “at the home she shared with her husband”? It probably doesn’t signify anything, but still makes me wonder. Contrary to what is written, she came to the United States from England when she was six years old. Little mistakes like these are common—she wasn’t the one giving the information to the newspaper, after all. The statement that Maggie came to Michigan City “five or six years ago” is also interesting.  It has a certain amount of vagueness to it that matches my overall impression of Maggie. She has been hard to pin down. She had been married to William Biederstadt for less than four years. Why was she in Michigan City before that? We really don’t know.

There are some interesting omissions as well. Yes, her parents were both dead—father James in 1884 and mother Mary (Jackson) sometime before 1876. But her husband was not the only one to survive her. The obituary fails to mention her stepmother, Mary (Payne), who died in Boone Grove less than two weeks after Maggie’s death.[2] There’s an oral tradition that she did not have a good relationship with her stepmother. Nor does it mention her brother Amos or sister Alice, both of whom were married and living in Porter County. Does this signify some distance in their relationships, ignorance on her husband’s part, or simply the editorial decisions of the newspaper?

Maggie never had children, so there are no descendants to honor her memory. She had a tumultuous life and much of it remains a mystery. I would like to think that her almost four-year marriage to William Biederstadt finally brought some peace and stability to her life. But, I’ll never really know.

[1] Indiana, State Board of Health, Certificate of Death, Michigan City, La Porte County, record no. 54, Maggie Biederstedt, 30 Apr 1903; imaged as “Indiana, Death Certificates, 1899-2011,” database with images, Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=60716 : 5 December 2017), Certificate >1903 >06 >image 2083 of 2771; Indiana Archives and Records Administration, Indianapolis.
[2] Indiana, State Board of Health, Certificate of Death, Porter County, no. 39, Mary P Carbon, 10 May 1903; “Indiana, Death Certificates, 1899-2011,” Ancestry (cited previously: accessed 27 April 2018), Certificate >1903 >10, image 339 of 2788.

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.

Margaret Casbon, 1864–1903

The original title for this post was going to be “What Happened to Margaret?” I was going to write about how female ancestors can be more difficult to trace than males. However, in the course of writing, I came upon new (to me) data sources. With the new information, some more puzzle pieces have slid into place. So now, instead of my original purpose, I will use this post to summarize what I know about Margaret Casbon.

Before I had any records, I knew from word of mouth that James Casbon (~1814–1884) brought a daughter named Margaret with him when he came to Indiana from England in 1870. I was later able to confirm this when I found James’ entry in the 1880 U.S. census.[1]

Detail from 1880 U.S. Census, Porter Township, Porter County, Indiana (Click on image to enlarge)

The census lists James, his wife Mary, Margaret, age 16, Amos, age 10, and Alice, age 8. The careful reader will note that the birthplace for all three children is written as “Ind” for Indiana. In fact, only Alice was born in Indiana. Census reports frequently contain errors, and incorrect birth place is a common one.

In addition to the census, in time, I was able to locate the passenger list of the ship that carried James and his family to America.[2] This also showed that he traveled with Mary, Margaret, and Amos.

Detail from passenger manifest of ship Great Western, upon arrival in New York from Liverpool, England, dated December 27, 1870 (Click on image to enlarge)

You can see that their surname was misspelled as “Custon.” This made locating the passenger list especially challenging! You can also see that Margaret’s age is listed as six. This is consistent with the age given 10 years later in the 1880 census. Therefore, I knew that she was probably born within a year or so of 1864.

Unfortunately, when I tried to find a birth or baptismal record for Margaret, my searches kept coming up with no results. At that point in my research, I still did not know when or where James and Mary had been married, nor did I know Mary’s maiden name. Early this year (2017) I acquired transcripts of various parish records from Cambridgeshire. From these records I learned that James Casben married Mary Jackson in Stretham, Cambridgeshire, October 1866.[3]

But wait, that was two years after Margaret’s presumed birth date! Either the estimated birth year was wrong or Margaret was born before James and Mary became man and wife. This offered a possible explanation why I couldn’t find a birth record for Margaret Casbon. I searched again, this time looking for a birth record for Margaret Jackson. This time I was successful. I learned that Margaret’s birth had been recorded in Ely during the second quarter of 1864.[4]

But was this the right Margaret? To find out, I ordered a copy of the birth registration from the General Register Office (as described in two previous posts). Here is the record I received.[5]

Birth registration of Margaret Jackson (Click on image to enlarge)

Margaret was born in Stretham on March 26, 1864 to Mary Jackson. The father’s name is not given, so presumably Margaret was born out of wedlock. The location, date and mother’s name are all consistent with the information I already had about Margaret and her mother, so I’m confident this is the right birth record.

Margaret was about 2 ½ years old when her mother married James Casbon. Was James her father? There isn’t enough evidence to know for sure. Regardless, she became part of the family. Her brother (or half-brother?) Amos was born when Margaret was 5 years old.

What happened to Margaret after she came to America? I’ll try to answer that with the rest of this post.

First, let’s return to the 1880 census. I need to point out that James’ wife Mary in that census was not Margaret’s mother. Mary (Jackson) Casbon died sometime after their arrival in America, date unknown. James remarried, this time to Mary Payne, in 1876.[6] Margaret lost her mother at a fairly early age. What impact did that have on future events?

It also turns out that the census record shown at the beginning of this post is not the only census entry for Margaret that year.

Detail from 1880 U.S. Census, Valparaiso, Porter County, Indiana[7] (Click on image to enlarge)
This entry shows “Maggie” Casbon, age 17, listed as “At School” and a boarder in the household of Lucinda Waub, in Valparaiso, Indiana. Maggie is a common diminutive of Margaret. The entry shows that she and her parents were born in England. The age is not quite correct for our Margaret (17 vs. 16), but all the other facts line up. There is no evidence to suggest there was another person with this name in Indiana at the time. Margaret and “Maggie” must be the same person; she was counted twice in the 1880 census.

How did this happen? It turns out that being counted twice in a census is not that uncommon. There are many possible reasons. Census enumerators were instructed to enter “the name of every person whose ‘usual place of abode’ on the 1st day of June, 1880, was in that family.”[8] This instruction created an opportunity for duplications to occur, especially when a person did not reside full-time with their own family. Margaret might have been boarding with Mrs. Waub, but she probably spent weekends and school vacations with her family. The two censuses were recorded by different enumerators, probably on different days. Whatever the reason, Margaret was reported twice.

It’s interesting to me that Margaret was a student and boarding with someone other than her family.  Why was she still a student at age 16, when most girls had no more than an eighth-grade education? My guess is that Margaret was “catching up” from the lack of formal education in England. I think it’s unlikely that James could afford to pay boarding fees. I suspect that he was getting financial support from his brother Thomas, or one of Thomas’ sons, all of whom were well-settled and better off than James.

The first information I had about Margaret’s whereabouts after the 1880 census was this intriguing snippet extracted from the February 9, 1882 Porter County Vidette: “Married – Joseph Quinn – Viola Beard (Baird penciled in); Mrs J. Meyer of Mo.; Died – Wm Dye; Married – Kimberlin – Vita Pennock; Died – Lena Wulf; Maggie Casbum living with Ben Woodard.”[9] What an interesting thing to print in the newspaper! It seems a bit scandalous. Margaret would have been just under 18 years old at the time. [UPDATE, 16 Jan 2020: “living with” did not mean she had an intimate relationship with Ben Woodward. See “More About Maggie.”]

Apparently, the relationship with Ben Woodard did not last long, as revealed by this marriage record from September of the same year.[10]

Marriage record of Samuel Bastel and Margaret Casbon, 16 September 1882, Porter County, Indiana; note that Margaret’s surname is spelled both as Casbon and Caswell in this record; at the bottom of the page is Samuel Bastel’s sworn statement that he is over 21 years old and that Maggie is (just) over 18 (Click on image to enlarge)

How long this marriage lasted is unknown. There is another marriage record of Samuel Bastel to Eva Sharp in 1887.[11] However, there is evidence that more than one man named Samuel Bastel was living in Porter County at the time, so it is unknown whether Margaret and Eva married the same man.

Regardless, it is certain that Margaret and Samuel Bastel did not remain married, since there is another marriage record, to William Biederstadt, dated July 22, 1899.[12]

Marriage record of William Biederstadt and Maggie Casbon, 22 July 1899, Porter County, Indiana; note that the certificate of marriage section has not been completed (Click on image to enlarge)

The fact that “Maggie’s” name was given as Casbon and not Bastel makes me think that her previous marriage was short lived. But, there is a gap of almost 17 years between the two marriages, and Margaret’s whereabouts during that time are a mystery. The 1890 census records were lost in a fire, so they cannot be used to locate her. There is a family story that she might have become a “mail-order bride” in Seattle, but I’ve found no evidence to support or deny that.

I should also point out that Margaret’s father (or step-father?), James, was murdered in 1884.[13] So, by the age of 20, she had lost both parents. It’s unknown what kind of relationship she had with her step-mother or with her brother Amos and sister Alice, both of whom were quite a few years younger.

At this point in my research, the information I had about Margaret was clouded in uncertainty. Because of the incomplete marriage certification, it was unclear to me whether Margaret and William Biederstadt had actually been married. My confusion was compounded by the fact that I could not find Margaret in the 1900 census. I found an entry for William Biederstadt in nearby Michigan City, but in that record, he is listed as being single, and living in his parents’ household.[14]

I should add that I also I had a possible death record for Margaret. The record was only a brief extract, showing that Maggie Biederstedt, age 31, died in Michigan City April 30, 1903.[15] The extract did not include the name of her husband or parents. Was this the same Maggie who married William? The age was wrong – Margaret would have been 39 in April 1903. I needed stronger evidence before I could say that Margaret Casbon and this Maggie Biederstedt were the same person.

The breakthrough came when I located the death certificate on Ancestry (when I was well into writing this post).[16]

Image of Maggie Biederstedt’s death certificate, Michigan City, La Porte County, Indiana (Click on image to enlarge)

The certificate confirm’s that Maggie’s Biederstedt’s husband was named William. It gives her date of birth as January 1, 1872. This is significantly different than Margaret Casbon’s confirmed birth year of 1864. However, the birthplace is correctly shown as England. The incorrect birth date is puzzling, but given the fact that her father’s name is given as Casborn (also from England), there can be little doubt that this was Margaret Casbon. Note that William Biederstedt was the informant for the death certificate. “Don’t Know” is written for Margaret’s mother’s name. This isn’t surprising given that her mother had died more than twenty years earlier. The cause of death was “Uterine Carcinoma Duration Indefinite” (I’m not sure about the last word – doctors’ handwriting was no better then than it is now). The disease took her at a young age.

Given the knowledge that Margaret really was married to William Biederstadt, I decided to try to find her in the 1900 census one more time. Reasoning that the surname might have been misspelled or transcribed incorrectly, I searched in FamilySearch [link] for Maggie, no last name, born between 1862 and 1873 in England, residing in Indiana, with husband’s first name William. This search yielded 12 names, one of which caught my eye. It was for Maggie Reedlstead, born January 1873, and living in Michigan City.[17]

Detail from 1900 Census, Michigan City, La Porte County, Indiana (Click on image to enlarge)

If you examine the census entry closely, you can see that the first letter of the surname is really a “B,” with an incomplete bottom loop (compare to “Peters” a few lines above). In addition, the spelling has been mangled pretty badly, looking something like “Beedlstear.” Census enumerators weren’t hired for the spelling ability (or handwriting!), and once that’s understood, it’s fairly easy to see that this is the correct census record for William and Maggie Biederstadt.

There are two discrepancies in Maggie’s entry: her birth date, January 1873, and her year of immigration, 1880. There may be an innocent reason why the birth date is wrong, but the fact that her husband also gave an incorrect birth date on the death certificate makes me wonder if Margaret led him to believe she was younger than her true age. Since the claimed year of birth was later than the actual year she immigrated (1870) to America, it would only make sense to change this date as well.

The census shows that William and Maggie Biederstadt were childless in 1900. I haven’t found any evidence that they had children before Maggie’s death. Nor have I found any records suggesting that Margaret had children while married to Samuel Bastel.

“What Happened to Margaret?” is still a valid question, but unless new records turn up or a distant cousin can help fill in the blanks, this is as close as I can come to an answer.

[1] 1880 U.S. Census, Porter County, Indiana, population schedule, Porter Township, enumeration district 144, p. 545 (stamped), sheet C, dwelling 187, family 191, Casbon, James; imaged as “United States Census, 1880,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33S7-9YYY-9KW6?i=18&cc=1417683 : accessed 4 July 2016); citing NARA microfilm publication T9, roll 305.
[2] Passenger manifest of ship Great Western, unnumbered p. 3, lines 27-30, James Custon (age 57) and family; imaged as “New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1891,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:939V-51S2-X5?i=106&cc=1849782 : accessed 10 November 2016), image 107; citing NARA microfilm publication M237, Roll 338.
[3] “Stretham Marriages 1558 – 1952,” PDF extract, database,  Cambridge 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.
[4] “England and Wales Birth Registration Index, 1837-2008,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:2XM7-VHC : 1 October 2014), Margaret Jackson, 2d qtr, 1864; from “England & Wales Births, 1837-2006,” database, findmypast (http://www.findmypast.com : 2012); citing Birth Registration, Ely, Cambridgeshire, vol. 3B: 551, line 124.
[5] England, birth registration (PDF copy) for Margaret Jackson, born 26 Mar 1864; registered April quarter 1864, Ely district 3B/551, Haddenham Sub-district, Cambridgeshire; General Register Office, Southport.
[6] Porter County, Indiana, Marriage Records, vol. 4: 348, James Casbon/Mary Payne, 15 Jan 1876; image copy, “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.
[7] 1880 U.S. Census, Porter County, Indiana, population schedule, Valparaiso, enumeration district 140, p. 486 (stamped), dwelling 649, family 663, Maggie Casbon in household of Lucinda Waub; imaged as “United States Census, 1880,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33S7-9YYY-92Q6?i=82&cc=1417683 : accessed 1 December 2017); citing NARA microfilm publication T9, roll 305.
[8] “1880 Census Instructions to Enumerators,” United States Census Bureau (https://www.census.gov/programs-surveys/decennial-census/technical-documentation/questionnaires/1880/1880-instructions.html : accessed 5 December 2017).
[9] Kaye Griffiths, compiler, “Genealogical Notes from the Porter Vidette, April 7, 1881 – Sept. 14, 1882,” (typescript, 1983), listed as Volume 5 – 3 parts, no. G977.298; Genealogy Department, Porter County Public Library, Valparaiso.
[10] Porter County, Indiana, “Marriage Record 7, July 1882 – Oct 1885,” p. 39 (stamped), Samuel Bastel/Maggie Coswell ( also spelled “Casbon,” same document), 16 Sep 1882; “Indiana Marriages, 1811-2007,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33S7-9TMB-J83?i=49&cc=1410397 : 21 January 2016), Porter > 1882-1885 Volume 7 > image 50 of 349; County clerk offices, Indiana.
[11] “Indiana Marriages, 1811-2007,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:KDHQ-3K8 : 4 November 2017), Samuel Bastel and Eva Sharp, 08 Jan 1887; citing Porter, Indiana, United States, various county clerk offices, Indiana; FHL microfilm 1,686,210.
[12] Porter County, Indiana, “Marriage Record 12, Nov. 1898 – Oct. 1901,” p. 103 (stamped), William Biederstadt/Maggie Casbon, 22 Jul 1899; “Indiana Marriages, 1811-2007,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33SQ-GR15-W5H?cc=1410397&wc=Q83F-4HT%3A963055701%2C963108501 : 21 January 2016), image 104 of 328; County clerk offices, Indiana.
[13] Jon Casbon, “James Casbon of Meldreth, England and Porter County, Indiana,” blog entry, Our Casbon Journey (https://casbonjourney.wordpress.com/2016/11/29/james-casbon-of-meldreth-england-and-porter-county-indiana/ : accessed 6 December 2017).
[14] “United States Census, 1900,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MM1Y-HRY : accessed 6 December 2017), William Biederstadt in household of John Biederstadt, Michigan Township, LaPorte, Indiana; citing enumeration district (ED) 55, sheet 14A, family 284, NARA microfilm publication T623.
[15] “Indiana Death Index, 1882-1920,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:VZ77-2Y6 : 3 December 2014), Maggie Biederstedt, 30 Apr 1903, Mich City, Indiana; from “Indiana Deaths, 1882-1920,” database, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : 2003); citing Indiana Works Progress Administration, book CSS-2, County Health Office, Laporte.
[16] “Death Certificates, 1899-2011,” database with images, Ancestry Library Edition (accessed through participating libraries : 5 December 2017), certificate image, Maggie Biederstedt, 30 Apr 1903, La Porte County, Indiana, record no. 54; imaged from Indiana Archives and Records Administration, Death Certificates, 1903, roll 06.
[17] 1900 U.S. census, La Porte County, Indiana, population schedule, MIchigan City, enumeration district 65, p. 314 (stamped on preceding page), sheet 4B, 702 York, dwelling 71, family 74, William Reedlstead; imaged as”United States Census, 1900,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HT-D4L3-KG9?i=7&cc=1325221 : 5 August 2014); citing NARA microfilm publication T623, roll 384

The Amos Casbon Farm, Boone Grove, Indiana

During my Indiana visit, my cousin (third, twice removed) Ron Casbon toured me around the parts of Porter County most closely associated with the descendants of Amos James Casbon (1869–1956). Amos was the only one of James Casbon’s (~1813–1884) sons who came with him to America. As such, he is the patriarch of what is probably the largest branch of the family in the United States.

The highlight of my driving tour was a visit to the farm that originally belonged to Amos, and is still occupied by one of his descendants. Here is a picture of the farm as I saw it.

We’ve encountered Amos in two previous posts: “Cousins” and “Amos Sees Something Amiss.” Likewise, I’ve mentioned his father James in two earlier posts: “James Casbon of Meldreth, England and Porter County, Indiana” and “James Casbon in the 1880 U.S. Census, Porter Township, Porter County, Indiana.” Readers may recall that Amos was only 15 when his father died from complications of a bite wound inflicted during an unprovoked attack.[1]

The historical record is silent about what happened to Amos immediately after his father’s death. Unfortunately, the 1890 census was lost in a fire, so there are no records to cover the twenty-year gap between 1880 and 1900. An article in the Valparaiso Vidette Messenger commemorating his 50th wedding anniversary tells us, “before his marriage he was a gripman on the street car in Chicago for four years. He then came to Porter county and started farming.” Cousin Ron suggests that Amos did not get along well with his step-mother, Mary (Payne), who eventually moved to Valparaiso, where she died in 1903.[2] Perhaps his poor relationship with her motivated him to seek employment in Chicago.

Exactly when he left Chicago and returned to Porter County is unclear, but the 1900 census shows him listed as a boarder in the household of William Shreves, a farmer in Porter Township.[3]

Detail from 1900 U.S. Census, Porter township, Porter County, Indiana (Click on image to enlarge)

The census does not list Amos’ occupation, but the fact that he was boarding with a farmer suggests that he was probably working on Mr. Shreves’ or another nearby farm.

1900 was also noteworthy for the fact that on November 28th of that year, he married Carrie Belle Aylesworth (1873–1958), daughter of John and Eliza Jane (Herring) Aylesworth.[4] The Aylesworths lived in Boone township, just a few miles away from the Shreve farm. Since Amos did not yet have his own farm, where did the newlyweds live? Probably with her parents, but that is only a guess.

Amos began to rectify the living situation quickly. Porter County records show that he made his first land purchase in January, 1901, when he bought 65 acres in Porter Township from Hattie Dye for the sum of $3,250.[5] The land was located in section 32 in Porter Township, just southwest of the small community of Boone Grove. It was on this site that Amos and Carrie started to build their farm.

Which brings me to a wonderful photo, provided by Ron Casbon.

Children of Amos & Carrie Casbon, in front of the family home; undated photo, courtesy of Ron Casbon

Not only were Amos and Carrie building a farm, they were building a family as well. The photo shows their first six children, beginning with Berlyn Clyde (b. 31 May 1901); followed by Ada Lucille (b. 5 November 1902), then Vernon Lloyd (b. 9 August, 1904), Harry James (b. 23 February 1906), Neva Beatrice (b. 6 September 1907), and Herbert Aylesworth (b. 29 August 1910). Given Herbert’s apparent age of 1–2 years, the photo must have been taken in 1911 or 1912. Amos and Carrie would go on to have three more children: Donald Glen (b. 8 February 1913), Doris Bernice (b. 14 April 1914), and Delbert Keith (b. 30 October 1916).

According to Ron, the children in the photograph are standing in front of the original farm house. Quite a cozy little home for a rapidly growing family! If you look to the left of the picture, you can see the “new” house, either still under construction or newly built. Compare to this photo I took during my visit.

By chance I happened to take this picture from roughly the same position as the earlier photo. The “new” house is on the left. Where did the original house go? It’s still there, but it has been moved to the back of the house and greatly modified. It is the garage you see in the background. Here’s a picture taken from the back of the garage, showing what appears to be an original window.

Amos continued to make land purchases up through 1922, eventually totaling more than 220 acres, by my calculations.

Inset map showing Amos Casbon’s property and where it was located in Porter County;[6] much of the land is still owned by his descendants today (Click on image to enlarge)
Amos was industrious and farmed his entire life. In addition to farming, he operated a sawmill on his property for a period of time. He also bought a threshing machine, which was used by many farms in the area.

There are probably many family stories associated with this farm. Unfortunately I don’t know them. Hopefully family members will feel free to share them as comments to this post.

[1] “Murder! That is About what is Made out of the Case of Old Man Casbon,” The Porter County (Indiana) Vidette, 28 Aug 1884, p. 1, col. 2; unnumbered microfilm, Porter County Library, Valparaiso.
[2] Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=109800943 : accessed 4 July 2016), memorial page for Mary Payne Casbon (1833–1903), memorial no. 109800943, created by Alana Knochel Bauman; citing Maplewood Cemetery, Valparaiso, Porter, Indiana.
[3] 1900 U.S. Census, Porter County, Indiana, population schedule, Porter Township, p. 162, enumeration district 91, sheet 10-B, dwelling 201, family 207 (209 lined through), Amos Casborn in household of William Shreves; accessed via “United States Census, 1900,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HY-6QNS-MR8?i=19&cc=1325221 : accessed 12 September 2016); citing NARA microfilm publication T623, roll 398.
[4] Porter County, Indiana, Marriage Record, vol. 12: 326, Amos J Casbon & Carrie B Aylesworth, 28 Nov 1900; image, “Indiana Marriages, 1811-2007,” FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33SQ-GR15-WHT : accessed 19 August 2017), citing Porter County,Clerk of the Circuit Court; Family History Library microfilm 1,686,211.
[5] Porter County, Indiana, Deed Record, vol. 60: 37, Hattie Dye to Amos J Casbon, 14 Jan 1901; Recorder’s Office, Valparaiso.
[6] Map, “Porter County, Indiana (Rockford, Ill.: The Thrift Press, 1928), online image, “Maps,” Porter County, Indiana (http://www.inportercounty.org/maps.html : accessed 19 August 2017) > Valparaiso National Bank and First Trust Company produced map of Porter County.