In Memoriam: David Lawrence Casbon (1940–2021)

I was saddened this past weekend to learn of Dave Casbon’s passing. He was my first cousin, once removed, one of my father’s only three first cousins.

Dave and I corresponded a fair amount over many years because of our shared interest in Casbon family history. We had some good conversations about our history and Dave filled in some details that I didn’t have.

I have happy recollections of Dave from my infrequent childhood visits to Valparaiso and the Casbon Electric store there. In recent years, when I travelled to “Valpo” to do research, I would usually meet Dave for breakfast or lunch.

Dave liked to post on Facebook. He had an avid interest in Porter County History. He was also a talented cartoon artist. Most of all, he loved his family and he loved University of Michigan sports.

(Left) “The Arrows” in concert; Dave is playing sax on the right; (Right) Dave (right) and friends at Casbon Electric Company; images are from Dave’s Facebook page

(Left) Dave and Harden; they were married 17 October 1961; (Right) One of Dave’s cartoons; images are from Dave’s Facebook page

I’ve been given permission to share this obituary, written by his daughter Carissa. We will miss you Dave.

David L. Casbon, 80, of Valparaiso, Indiana passed away peacefully on Saturday, April 10th at his home, surrounded by his family. Dave was born May 21, 1940 in Valparaiso, IN, to Lynnet M. Casbon and Alice B. Casbon. Dave is preceded in death by his parents, his beloved wife Harden, and his sister Mary Benninghoff. He is survived by his four daughters: Tacy (Peter) Borgman, Wendy Casbon, Carissa Casbon (Larry LaTourette) and Erin (Christopher) Sachse; his grandchildren: Stephanie (Caylin) Younger, Elizabeth Borgman, Samuel LaTourette, Lillian LaTourette, Alexander Sachse, and Kate Sachse. He is also survived by his niece, Julie Trager, nephew, Steven Benninghoff and many wonderful friends and extended family members.

Dave was born and raised in Valpo and graduated from Valparaiso High School in 1958. While in high school, he played saxophone in the rock band Leroy Bowman and the Arrows. The band recorded two singles, “Graveyard” and “Uh huh,” both of which are still available on major streaming services.

Dave attended the University of Michigan, where he became a member of Delta Upsilon Fraternity and served on the Michigan Student Government Board. He earned his degree in Business Administration from U of M in 1962, but remained a lifelong Wolverine fan. During his senior year at Michigan, he married the love of his life, Harden Walton Freeman.

He and Harden returned to Valparaiso after college, where he worked at his family’s business, Casbon Electric Company. Under his direction, Casbon’s became a pioneer in technology, becoming the first store in Northern Indiana to sell VCRs. Dave trained and taught himself about personal computers, helping Portage Schools become computerized. He was also instrumental in helping the Porter County Sheriff’s Department create one of the first server-based PC networks in county government.

Dave was a pillar of the community, serving in leadership roles in a multitude of community organizations. He served as the President of the United Way, President of the Better Business Bureau of Northwest Indiana, President of the Valparaiso Merchants Association, and Director of the Greater Valparaiso Chamber of Commerce. He was named to the Action Council of the National Federation of Independent Businesses representing the needs of small businesses across the country. He was a Paul Harris Fellow of the Valparaiso Rotary Club, an arbitrator, a Scottish Rite Master of the Order of Demolay, a member of the Saturday Evening Club, and an enthusiastic contributor to the Porter County Historical Museum.

Dave was one of the founding members of the Kankakee Valley Job Training Program that has positively impacted the lives of thousands and eventually became the Indiana Center of Workforce Innovations, on whose board he served until a few months ago. In his capacity as Chair of the Kankakee Valley Job Training Program (a private industry council), he also served as Chair of the State Association of Private Industry Council Chairs. The Kankakee Valley Job Training Program was so extraordinary, it was one of 10 private industry councils in the nation selected for a United States Department of Labor study on exemplary Private Industry Councils in 1991.

Dave won several awards for his public service contributions, including the Outstanding Director Award from the Northwest Indiana Better Business Bureau and the Dorothy M. Porter Award in recognition of “his unique commitment to the principles of volunteerism and service above self-service.”

By far though, Dave’s proudest achievement was his four girls, Tacy, Wendy, Carissa and Erin, their husbands, Peter, Larry, and Christopher, and his six grandchildren, Stephanie, Elizabeth, Samuel, Lillian, Alexander and Kate. In fact, one time, when the family traveled to Washington, D.C. so Dave could speak with lawmakers about the Kankakee Valley Private Industry Council, he blew off a small audience with President Ronald Reagan so he could sightsee with his family. Dave attended every single play, concert, event and game in which any of his four girls participated. His girls will miss his advice, his love, and his wicked sense of humor.

Visitation is Thursday, April 15th from 4:00-7:00 PM at Bartholomew Funeral Home, 102 Monroe Street, Valparaiso, IN 46383, Funeral services are Friday, April 16th at 12:00 PM at the First Christian Church, 1507 E. Glendale Boulevard, Valparaiso, IN 46383. There will be an interment service immediately following the funeral at Graceland Cemetery, Valparaiso. Per the family’s request, masking and social distancing protocols will be observed at these events. Masks will be provided, should you need one. Donations in lieu of flowers can be made to the United Way of Porter County, Indiana.

Anna’s Cookbook

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rural Routes in Porter County, Indiana

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I found this short video about Rural Routes on YouTube.

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

[1] United States Postal Service (USPS), “Rural and Urban Origins of the U.S. Postal Service,” report no. RISC-WP-19-007, p. 6; PDF download, USPS Office of Inspector General ( : accessed 3 Sep 20).
2] “Rural Free Delivery,” Smithsonian National Postal Museum ( : accessed 3 Sep 20).
[3] United States, Post Office Department, ”Map of Porter County, Indiana showing rural delivery service” (1911); imaged at “Indiana State Library Map Collection,” Indiana State Library Digital Collections ( : accessed 1 Sep 20) >Porter.
[4] Bumstead’s Valparaiso City and Porter County Business Directory Including Rural Routes (Chicago: Bumstead & Co., 1911), p. 378; imaged as “U.S. City Directoriies, 1822-1995,” Ancestry ( : accessed 3 Sep 20) >Indiana >Valparaiso >1911 >Valparaiso, Indiana, City Directory, 1911.

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 ( : 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 ( : accessed 17 January 2017).
[2] “Michigan Death Certificates, 1921-1952,” database, FamilySearch ( : 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 ( : 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 ( : 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 ( : 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 ( : 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 ( : 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, ( : 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, ( : 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).

A Letter from Jesse Casbon

(Updated 1 Apr 2020 based on comments made by Carol Cook—see below)

Personal letters can occasionally be a good source of genealogical information, but more often, they simply give us insights into the lives of the people who wrote and received them. If nothing else, they can help us to understand the everyday concerns of those who lived in a different era.

I’m indebted to John N. Casbon, who found this letter in the personal papers of his deceased grandmother, Anna Mae (Casbon) (Kitchel) Fleming.

Letter from Jesse Casbon to Anna; courtesy of John N. Casbon (Click on image to enlarge)

Here is a transcription (I have marked where I believe sentences end):
(updated based on Carol Cook’s comments, below)

march 27
anna this is a good nice
moring no clouds | we had
a bout 6 inches of snow
last week | we are all
well | i think the banks
2 of them are geten beter
and times times will
get work | will be more
wen we ge beer more
work | I am like you i
don’t like it but lots do
so let them have it | thay
get my money | lill don’t
get not much money out
of her store building
and taxes high | if it
was not for me and
that wont last long so
we cant tell | Edna is
doen good | she as a big
teritory to draw from |
so good by Jesse Casbon

This letter was written by Jesse Casbon (1843–1934) to his daughter Anna (1876–1957). It also mentions his daughters Lillian (“lill,” 1880–1967) and Edna (1885–1957). Although we’re given the date of March 27, we don’t know the year. My best guess is that it was written sometime between 1911, when Anna, who was divorced and living with Jesse, remarried and moved to Michigan, and 1934, the year of Jesse’s death (possibly 1933 – see Carol Cook comments, below). Lillian and Edna, who never married, were apparently living nearby. Jesse was living with them during much of this interval. A fourth daughter, Maude, was married and living in Michigan. Jesse’s wife, Emily (Price) had died in 1893 (see “Last Words”—a very touching letter from her).

The fact that Jesse uses no punctuation and makes numerous spelling errors tells us that his education was rudimentary. In the 1850 census of Wayne County, Ohio, we are told that six-year-old Jesse “attended school within the year.”[1] However, by 1860 his education was complete and he was listed as a farmhand.[2] Jesse’s older brothers, Sylvester and Charles, probably had more years of education; Sylvester even worked as a teacher for a few years. Their younger sister, Emma, probably had about the same education as Jesse.

Jesse’s spelling is so bad that it is difficult to make out the meaning of everything he says. Other than the weather, his main concern seems to be the family’s finances. He has apparently been helping Lillian cover expenses for her unnamed business. Edna is doing better financially.

I wish I knew what Lillian and Edna were doing to support themselves when the letter was written. The descriptions in the letter don’t match the information I have about them from various points in time. In 1908 and 1910, they were both working as nurses in Kansas City, Kansas.[3] In the early 1920s, they operated a grocery and delicatessen in Valparaiso, Indiana, together.[4] In the 1930 census, Lillian was living in Valparaiso with Jesse, and Edna was working as a hotel housekeeper in Chicago.[5] They ran a floral business together after 1934, but that was after Jesse’s death.

Why did Anna keep this letter decades after it was written? Did it have special meaning to her or was it casually set aside and then forgotten? (See Carol Cook’s comments, below)

In these days of email, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter (and now, Zoom!), it’s easy to forget that people used to keep in touch by writing letters. Getting a letter in the mail was an emotional experience because it brought news of loved ones. That’s probably the most important thing about this letter. It doesn’t really help to fill in any blanks in what we know about Jesse and his family; it simply tells us that staying connected was important to them.

[1] 1850 U.S. census, Wayne County, Ohio, Clinton Township, dwelling & family 8 (FamilySearch).
[2] 1860 U.S. census, Holmes County, Ohio, Washington Township, dwelling 1534, family 1556 (FamilySearch).
[3] Gould’s Kansas City, Kansas Directory (St. Louis, Missouri: Gould Direcotory Co., 1908), p. 378; and 1910 Kansas City Directory (Kansas City: Gate City Directory Co., 1910), p. 81 of Kansas City, Kansas section; “U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995,” (Ancestry).
[4] Bumstead’s Valparaiso City and Porter County Business Directory Including Rural Routes (Evanston, Ill.: Bumstead & Co., 1921), p. 71 (Ancestry).
[5] 1930 U.S. census, Valparaiso, Porter County, Indiana, enumeration district (ED) 4, sheet 4A, dwelling 89, family 94; and 1930 U.S. census, Chicago, Illinois, ED 1802, sheet 5A, dwelling 22, family 89, line 46 (FamilySearch).


At this moment, most if not all of my readers are practicing some form of “social distancing” because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. I hope you are all staying well and coping with the difficulties associated with this historic situation.

With today’s post, I have a suggestion that will hopefully lift your spirits and alleviate any boredom you might be experiencing. The suggestion comes courtesy of the MyHeritage genealogy website. Back in February (it seems so long ago!), MyHeritage introduced MyHeritage in Color™, a feature that automatically colorizes black and white photographs. As an introductory offer, users could upload and colorize up to ten photos. Once the limit was reached, a user would need a paid subscription to continue using the feature. I tried it out and was impressed with the results. However, I did not opt for the paid subscription.

A few days ago, I was surprised to receive this email message from MyHeritage.

Yes, they are offering “free and unlimited access” to this feature. I took them up on the offer and went through my collection and colorized about 200 photos. More importantly, if you have old photos stashed away, you might want to try it out yourself. It’s a good way to stay active if you’re stuck at home. This shows what a photo looks like before and after colorization.

Sylvester and Mary (Mereness) Casbon, with Sylvester’s descendants; about 1905,
Valparaiso, Indiana; author’s collection

The results are impressive. The process uses artificial intelligence (AI) to decide which colors to use and where to place them. The computer algorithms are very good, but not perfect. If you look carefully at the photo above, you’ll see that the right hand of the girl standing in the front row is still gray. The AI failed to identify it as a body part. You can see a more extreme version of this in this detail from a photograph of Amos and Carrie Casbon’s family.

Detail from photograph of Amos and Carrie (Aylesworth) Casbon’s family and home near Boone Grove, Indiana, about 1911; courtesy of Ron Casbon

The AI has missed two of the children altogether, making them look like clay sculptures.

On the other hand, some of the results are amazing. The AI seems particularly good at producing flesh tones, hair color, and vegetation. In most cases, it seems to do a good job with clothing as well. I would think that better quality scanned images are more likely to fare well, but I’ve had good results with poor quality originals.

Jesse John II and Elizabeth (Ryan) Casbon, Cocoa Beach, Florida; adapted from an iphone photo of the original; courtesy of John N. Casbon

You can also see that the MyHeritage logo gets added to the colorized image—a small price to pay, in my opinion.

Do you have old black and white family photos or snapshots? I encourage you to try this out. Visit, where you’ll need to sign up for a free account. You’ll need to scan your black and white photos to make digital copies so you can upload them to the web page. I suggest you use a scanning resolution of 300 dots per inch or better.

Here are some of the favorites from my collection.

Left: Sylvester and Mary (Mereness) Casbon, courtesy of Ilaine Church; Right: Reuben and Elizabeth (Neyland) Casben, courtesy of Phil Long

Lawrence Kate 3 boys and horse abt 1898-Colorized
Lawrence and Kate (Marquart) Casbon and family; seated on the horse, L to R, are Lynnet, Loring and Leslie; about 1898 near Hebron, Porter County, Indiana; courtesy of Don Casbon (Click on image to enlarge)

Left: James Casbon; Right: Amos and Carrie Belle (Aylesworth) Casbon; both courtesy of Ron Casbon

Left: Donald Glen Casbon (L) and Herbert Aylesworth (R) Casbon, undated; courtesy of Michael J. Casbon; Right: L to R—Herman, Harriet, and Floyd Casbon; courtesy of Claudia Vokoun

Lynnet Casbon and an unidentified man delivering a refrigerator in Valparaiso, Indiana, about 1940; courtesy of Dave Casbon

Margaret (Donovan) Casban (second from left), her daughter Nell (third from left), and others, hops picking in Sussex, England, early 1930s; courtesy of Alice Casban

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,” ( )
[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.

“Short a hand”

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

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

Source: The Porter County Vidette, 18 Jul 1889

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

News clipping from unknown paper, courtesy of Ilaine Church

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday School

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

First Christian Church, Valparaiso, Indiana, 1950 (

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

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

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

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

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

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