Anna Mae (Casbon) (Kitchel) (Fleming) was the second of four daughters born to Jesse and Emily (Price) Casbon. She was born at Porter County, Indiana, 22 December 1876 and died at Orlando, Florida, 16 December 1957.
Thanks to Anna’s great-granddaughter, Jan Hoffman, I have some new material to share with my readers.
Jan has been going through her mother’s (daughter of Anna’s son, Jesse II) papers and other possessions and has found several items that were passed down from Anna. One of those items is this cookbook.
We know this was Anna’s because of what is written inside.
Anna Mea [sic]Casbon Valparaiso, Porter Co., Indiana Box 924 Age 20 years 3 days Dec 25 1896 to Dec 25 1955 = 59 years old
The book must have been given to Anna as a Christmas, or perhaps a combined birthday and Christmas, present. She was still unmarried at the time. (She married Newton Kitchel in July 1898.) It’s interesting that she added the age of the book in 1955. I wonder if she presented it to her granddaughter as a Christmas present at that time.
Marion Harland is the penname of Mary Virginia Terhune (1830–1922). She was a prolific author of both fiction and non-fiction. She achieved success with a genre known as “plantation fiction.” She later expanded her writing to include domestic matters, such as household management and cookbooks. Those interested in learning more can read a Wikipedia article about her here.
Christing Terhune Herrick (1859–1944) was Marion’s eldest daughter. She followed in her mother’s footsteps as the successful author of many cookbooks and other domestic guides. You can read more about her here.
Anna’s cookbook contained additional surprises. One was this handwritten recipe for “Chilli Sauce.”
Jan says she is going to give the recipe a try. I’m looking forward to her report.
As you can see in the recipe, spelling was not Anna’s strong point. I’ve noted poor spelling in several things written by her. She even misspelled her middle name in the inscription. I don’t know if this reflects an interrupted education or some form of learning disability. I’m glad it did not stop her from writing.
Another item found inside the cookbook was this list of expenses.
This appears to be a list of expenses for rent, food, supplies, and other services rendered to an unknown party. It references “carring [sic] them around,” “trip West Point,” “hauling their goods from Clay Bank,” “Rig to get there [sic] company at Hartleys Warf [sic].” I’ve identified some of these places as being in the Tidewater Region of Virginia. Because of this, I suspect that the list was written when Anna and her family were living at Newport News, Virginia (under the surname “Fleming”—Anna’s second husband), in the late nineteen-teens to early 1920s.
Family items such as Anna’s cookbook and the handwritten notes inside it help to connect us to the lives of our deceased ancestors. Thanks again to Jan for sharing these. I’m looking forward to more goodies from her!
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. 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. Anna and her husband were divorced sometime before 1905. In 1911, she married a Michigan farmer and widower named James Fleming. For reasons unknown, James, Anna, and the two boys moved to Newport News, Virginia, where they appear in the 1920 census.
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
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.
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. This was at least twelve years later than expected, based on Anna’s status in the Baltimore directory.
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. His first wife’s name was Myrtie (Newcomb). He had two sons from his first marriage: Norman W and Marley. 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.
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.
 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 (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HY-6X19-MYQ?i=9&cc=1325221 : 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 (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33S7-9R15-4M4?i=253&cc=1410397 : accessed 18 June 2017), Porter > 1895-1899 Volume 11 > image 254 of 286; citing Porter County Clerk, Valparaiso.  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 (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=60716 : accessed 10 July 2018), Certificate >1902 >10 >image 1020 of 2753; citing Indiana Archives and Records Administration, Indianapolis.  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 (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=9093 : 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.  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 (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33SQ-GRN2-CNJ?cc=1488411 : 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.  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 (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33S7-9R4J-W2C?i=8&cc=1810731 : 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. 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 (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=2469 : accessed 28 June 2018), Maryland >Baltimore >1922 >Baltimore, Maryland, City Directory, 1922 >image 380 of 1156.  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 (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=60872 : 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.  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 (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HY-DTBS-FYV?i=1&cc=1325221 : accessed 5 July 2018), Michigan > Gratiot > ED 59 Seville township > image 2 of 29; citing NARA microfilm publication T623, roll 713.  Marriage register, Missaukee County, MIchigan, no. 188, 2 Dec 1891, James H Fleming & Myrtie Newcomb; imaged as “Michigan Marriages, 1868-1925,” FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HT-D8QQ-7Z?i=281&cc=1452395 : accessed 5 July 2018), 004208240 > image 282 of 646; citing Department of Vital Records, Lansing.  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 (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33SQ-GRVJ-1J6?i=2&cc=1727033 : accessed 5 Jul 2018), Michigan > Oceana > Greenwood > ED 127 > image 3 of 16; citing NARA microfilm publication T624, roll 669.  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 (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33S7-9RHS-9SQ?i=20&cc=1810731 : accessed 5 July 2018), Michigan > Gratiot > Newark > ED 18 > image 21 of 24; citing NARA microfilm publication T626, roll 989.
Jess and Steve’s excellent adventure began on June 8, 1921, when they signed on as crew members aboard the S.S. Western Comet in Baltimore, Maryland.
“J” Casbon on the ship’s manifest is Jesse John Casbon, and “SF” Casbon is his younger brother Steven. Jesse and Steven were close. They were born less than two years apart in Wisconsin, Jesse in December 1898 and Steven in August 1900, the offspring of John Newton (1875–1945) and Anna Mae (Casbon, 1876–1957) Kitchel.
Their early lives were tumultuous. By 1905 the parents were separated, their father remaining in Wisconsin, and Anna and the two boys living in Minnesota (see “1905, Red Lake County, Minnesota” [link]). By 1910, John and Anna were divorced. Anna and the two boys were staying with her father, Jesse Casbon, on his farm in Porter County, Indiana.
The boys acquired a step-father in 1911 when Anna married a Michigan farmer named James H Fleming. The available records are silent on their whereabouts during most of their teen years. Jesse enlisted in the Army in October, 1916 and served for the duration of the first World War, returning from Brest, France, in early 1919. Upon his return, he moved back in with his family, who were now living in Newport News, Virginia.
In the 1920 census, we find James Fleming, the stepfather, employed as a watchman at a shipyard. Jesse is working as a clerk and checker at a warehouse, and Steven is listed as a steam engineer at a shipyard.
It must have been during this time that they hatched the idea of the adventure. Maybe Steven’s work in the shipyard inspired them; or maybe Jesse wanted to return to France in peacetime with his little brother. At any rate, they joined the crew of Western Comet where they were listed as ordinary seamen (“OS” in column 2 of the ship’s manifest).
The Western Comet was built in 1918 by the Northwest Steel Company in Portland, Oregon. Originally built under contract to the French government, the ship was transferred to the U.S. Navy after the United States entered World War I. Following the war, the ship was transferred to the U.S. Shipping Board for use in commercial operations.
Signing up as fledgling sailors on a cargo ship bound for France was an adventure in itself. However, the boys were in for more than they expected. Contemporary newspapers recount the various mishaps that befell the ship, even before departing the port at Baltimore.
On June 13, five days after joining the crew, the ship was “badly disabled” while still in port, the damage being attributed to striking marine workers. The nation was in the midst of a seamen’s strike involving 140,000 marine workers at all major ports. This raises another possible reason why the two brothers decided to become sailors that summer: they might have been filling vacancies left by striking sailors.
Apparently, the damage to the ship was repaired quickly, as The New York Herald reported on June 19th that Western Comet had departed Baltimore on Friday, June 17. However, on the same day the New York Tribune reported, “while outward bound Friday evening with coal for St Nazaire the str [steamer] Western Comet went aground off Hawkins Point and remained here today. Defective steerng [sic] gear is attributed as the cause of the accident.” Hawkins Point lies at the southern tip of Baltimore, where the outlet of the harbor begins to merge with the Chesapeake Bay. The ship was barely out of port and already in trouble!
Again, there did not appear to be any serious damage, but the cargo had to be unloaded in order to refloat the ship. Five days after its original departure, The New York Herald reported “Str Western Comet, hence for St. Nazaire, before reported aground at Hawkins Point, floated and is reloading cargo.” Two days later The Herald reported “Cape Henry, Va … Passed out … 23d, 9 AM, str Western Comet, … (from Baltimore) for St Nazaire,” meaning the ship had passed Cape Henry, Virginia, the outlet of the Chesapeake Bay and entrance to the Atlantic Ocean.
The voyage across the Atlantic was unremarkable. All was going well until …
A similar report appeared in the New York Tribune on June 10.
On Jun 25, more than two weeks after the mishap, The New York Herald reported that Western Comet was once again afloat, and “proceeded to St Nazaire, where she is expected to go into dry dock.” The Bulletin of the American Bureau of Shipping gave a more detailed report:
“BORDEAUX, August 1, 1921.— The S.S. Western Comet. after being hard aground off St Nazaire, has been salvaged and dry docked in the same port. It is estimated that repairs will cost about $200,000. All French repair films along the coast are to bid on the work, and the job may be done in La Palice.”
I haven’t been able to determine where the repair work was done. The next reports tell us that Western Comet departed St. Nazaire for New York on September 16, more than two months after foundering off the French coast. The ship finally arrived in New York on October 8. There are reports that Western Comet was being towed, at least part way across the Atlantic, by another ship. Apparently whatever repairs were done in France were not sufficient. Once in port in New York, the ship was immediately taken to dry dock for more work.
The adventure was over, and apparently so were Jesse and Steven’s careers as sailors. In 1922, we find the brothers living together in Baltimore (with their mother), now running their own confectionary business.
The story of the brothers’ voyage on the Western Comet as I’ve told it is based entirely on contemporary records. It leaves many questions unanswered. Why did they sign up? What did they do while the ship was awaiting repairs in St. Nazaire? Was this the vacation of a lifetime or were they stuck on board ship? It was a small but memorable episode in their lives. I wonder if any tales have been handed down to later generations? If so, I would love to hear more of the story.