Grandpa’s Reader

This was my grandfather Leslie Casbon’s (1894–1990) Third Reader.

reader cover and title Cover and title pages of Indiana State Series, Revised Third Reader, 1899.[1]

I know it was his book, because he wrote his name inside the front cover. It must also have been used by his brother, Lynnet (1899–1983), whose name is written inside the back cover.

Inside front and back covers. (Click on image to enlarge)

Since Leslie was the oldest child of Lawrence (1865–1950) and Kate (Marquart, 1868–1959) Casbon, and Lynnet was the youngest, it’s likely that the middle son, Loring (1896–1970) also used the Reader, although he failed to leave his mark in the book.

Lawrence Kate 3 boys and horse abt 1898 Photo of Lawrence & Kate Casbon with sons Lynnet, Loring, and Leslie, ca. 1898, near Hebron, Indiana.
Names of horse & dog unknown. (Click on image to enlarge)

Up until I started writing this post, I assumed that this book was part of the famous McGuffey Reader series, named for the original author, William Holmes McGuffey. The McGuffey Readers dominated American Education throughout the 19th century.[2] Generations of school children were raised on them.

Upon closer inspection, however, although the book is very similar in appearance to the McGuffey books, they are not the same. The cover indicates that this book is part of the Indiana Educational Series. Nowhere is the word McGuffey mentioned.

In the McGuffey series, the Third Reader was written at a level equivalent to today’s 5th or 6th grade.[3] Since most rural students, including my grandfather, were taught in one-room schoolhouses, the modern concept of grades was not in use. I suspect the same applies to this book. It might be that the book was intended to cover several grades, since the readings become progressively longer, with more complex concepts and vocabulary. There were also fourth and fifth readers, which probably would have gone up to about the eighth-grade level.

The Indiana Educational Series of readers, which included this book, was selected by the State Board of School Commissioners “to be used in the public schools of Indiana for the next five years,” beginning in the summer of 1899.[4] This ensured that a standardized curriculum for reading would be used throughout the state.

In the Introduction to the Third Reader, the author writes,

In choosing material for reading books to be used by pupils who have already acquired some facility in recognizing word forms, the purposes of the reading lesson must be clearly apprehended. These seem to be three: first, to inculcate a love for what is best and highest in literature; second, to train the child in correct habits of thought getting from the printed page; and, third, to train him in vocal expression.”[5]

The contents include poetry, literary excerpts and historical writings. Some of the readings contain moral lessons, such as the poem “They Didn’t Think,” by Phoebe Cary. Here is the final stanza:

Now, my little children,
You who read this song,
Don’t you see what trouble
Comes of thinking wrong?
And can’t you take a warning
From their dreadful fate
Who began their thinking
When it was too late?
Don’t think there’s always safety
Where no danger shows;
Don’t suppose you know more
Than anybody knows;
But when you’re warned of ruin,
Pause upon the brink,
And don’t go under headlong
‘Cause you didn’t think.[6]

Some of the better-known readings in the book include Clement Moore’s “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” “The Owl and the Pussycat,” by Edward Lear, an excerpt from Black Beauty, by Anna Sewell, and “The Ugly Duckling” by Hans Christian Andersen.

Grandpa Les would have probably started using this book around 1903-1905, when the family was still living near Hebron, in southern Porter County. By the time it was Lynnet’s turn, they had probably already moved to their new farm in Morgan township, just south of Valparaiso.

This photograph was taken about 1905 – maybe Leslie was using the Third Reader then.

L to R: back row – Lawrence, Lynnet, Kate; front row – Leslie (I think), Loring. (Click on image to enlarge)

The Reader must have served the boys well. All went on to graduate from high school and complete some higher education.

[1] Indiana State Series, Third Reader, revised by S.H. Clark and H.S. Fiske (Indianapolis: Indiana School Book Co., 1899).
[2] Susan Walton, “(Re)Turning To W.H. McGuffey’s Frontier Virtues,” 2 Feb 1918; online newsletter, Education Week ( : accessed 7 November 2018).
[3] National Park Service, Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, “William Holmes McGuffey and His Readers,” The Museum Gazette, leaflet [undated]; PDF Download, National Park Service ( : accessed 7 November 2018).
[4] Indiana School Journal and Teacher, Volume 44, no. 7 (July 1899), p. 446; online image, Google Books ( : accessed 7 November 2018).
[5] Indiana State Series, Third Reader, p. 3.
[6] Ibid., pp. 16-17.


Going, Going …

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

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

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

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

Casbon households in Meldreth, 1841 England Census.

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

1851 Casbon households in Meldreth & Melbourn, 1851 England Census.

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

Barley map
Detail map showing Cambridge, Meldreth, Melbourn, and Barley.[4] (Click on image to enlarge)

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

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

1861 Casbon households in Meldreth, 1861 England Census.

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

1871 Casbon households in Meldreth & Melbourn, 1871 England Census.

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

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

Wm C b1835 grave marker 1896
The memorial stone of William (1835–1896) and Sarah (West, abt 1823–1905) Casbon, Holy Trinity Churchyard, Meldreth. “In/ Memory of/ WILLIAM CASBON/ who died March 7th 1896/aged 61 years/”We hope to meet again at/ The Resurrection of the just/A light is from the household gone/ A voice we loved is stilled/ A place is vacant in our home/ Which never can be filled”./ Also of /SARAH, wife of the above/who departed this life/ December 22nd 1905/ aged 83 years./She hath done what she could/ Her end was peace./”
Photograph by Malcolm Woods; Meldreth History website (
(Click on image to enlarge)

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

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

Was my Third Great Grandfather a Convicted Thief?

Sometimes there are long gaps in records, especially for people who lived before censuses were taken. You might only have records for birth (or baptism), marriage, and death (or burial)—commonly referred to as “BMD” records, with no information about what happened in the intervals between these major life events.

Such is the case with my third great grandfather, Thomas Casbon. Thomas was born November 3, 1803 in Meldreth, Cambridgeshire. He married Emma Scruby October 9, 1830 in nearby Melbourn. The 27-year gap between his birth and marriage is a silent period in Thomas’ life.

Or at least it was.

Here’s an interesting record I found on the Findmypast website:[1]

Court proceeding 1822 marked

(Click on image to enlarge)
This is a register of criminal court proceedings for Cambridgeshire held in the year 1822. I’ve marked the pertinent items. Thomas Casborn was tried during the October Sessions, convicted of larceny, and sentenced to seven years’ transportation. Sessions were courts that met quarterly to try a variety of civil and criminal offenses.[2] They were generally held in the county seat – in this case, Cambridge.

The sessions were also reported in the local newspaper:[3]

Thomas Casburn convicted Camb Oct Sessions 1822 Camb Chronicle 25Oct1822 marked

Cambridge Chronicle, 25 Oct 1822. (Click on image to enlarge)
I’ve included the entire article, as I think readers might find it interesting, but here is the paragraph in question.

Thomas paragraph

(Click on image to enlarge)
There are a couple of interesting terms in this report: harvest home – a festival traditionally celebrated on the Sunday nearest the harvest moon in late September or early October;[4] haulm – “the stems or tops of crop plants (such as peas or potatoes) especially after the crop has been gathered.”[5]

You can see that Thomas’ surname was spelled Casburn in this report. Was he my ancestor? Spelling of surnames was still highly fluid at that time, so minor variations do not rule out anyone with a similar name. The fact that the stolen watch was located in Bassingbourn possibly points to “my” Thomas, because Bassingbourn is quite close to Meldreth. (Thomas’ father Isaac and mother Susanna (Howes) were married in Bassingbourn in 1800.[6]) But this is weak evidence at best.

To complicate matters further, there were quite a few men named Thomas, with similar surnames, living in Cambridgeshire at the time. These included the names Casborn, Casbourn, and Casburn. As a matter of fact, if you read the entire Cambridge Chronicle article, you will see that another man named Thomas Casburn was charged with disturbing the peace in the parish of Burwell. (The Casburn spelling is strongly associated with Burwell.) How can we tell if the man convicted of larceny was my ancestor?

Fortunately, there are other records that help to narrow down the field.

Leviathan prisoner register National Archives

(Click on image to enlarge)
This is a partial page from a register of prisoners on the convict hulk Leviathan.[7] A hulk was a decommissioned ship used as a floating prison.[8] Masts, rigging, and other components necessary for sailing were removed, rendering the ships unseaworthy, but still able to float.[9] They were used to house prisoners in England from 1776 until 1857, when the practice was finally banned.[10] Many convicts were placed on hulks temporarily, while awaiting transport on convict ships to Australia and other Commonwealth lands. But a few served their entire sentence aboard the hulk.

HMS Leviathan was first launched as a 74-gun ship of the line in the British Navy in 1790. She fought in the battle of Trafalgar. She was decommissioned and converted to a prison ship in 1816, and anchored in Portsmouth harbor.[11]

Prison hulks Portsmouth Harbour

Prison Hulks in Portsmouth Harbour, oil on canvas, Daniel Turner. © National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London. (Click on image to enlarge)
The register of prisoners shows that Thomas Casborn was the 6,072d prisoner registered on the ship’s book. He was one of four prisoners brought aboard from Cambridge on October 31, 1822. All four were convicted of grand larceny (“G.L.”) and received seven-year sentences. If you look back at the Cambridge Chronicle article, you will find the other three names. All except Thomas were transported to New South Wales (“N.S.W” in the last column) on May 8, 1823. Thomas served his entire sentence aboard the hulk and was discharged October 18, 1829. I believe the reason Thomas was not transported is that this was his first offense.[12] The other three men were repeat offenders.[13]

Most importantly, this register shows that Thomas was nineteen years old at the time of his conviction. This gives him a birth year of about 1803 and helps us to narrow down the list of men who might have been Thomas. I can only find two potential candidates:

  • Thomas Casbon, my third great grandfather, and
  • Thomas Casburn, baptized October 3, 1802 in Burwell, Cambridgeshire.[14]

There were also Thomases baptized in 1792 and 1808, but these are too far outside the margin of error to be listed as nineteen years old in 1822.

So, the list is down to two. But which one was the prisoner on the Leviathan? I needed more information.

With a little research, I learned that the records of the Cambridge Quarter Sessions are maintained at the Cambridgeshire Archives. I emailed the Archives, along with a copy of the news clipping, to see if they could tell me anything more about Thomas Casborn who stole the silver watch. I received this polite reply on October 4th.

I have looked at the Quarter Sessions order book for 1822-1826 (ref QSO/14) and there is indeed an entry for the trial and conviction of Thomas Casborn. There is no personal information about him other than that he was “late of the parish of Melbourn [my emphasis].” This may help you identify whether this is the Casborn you are searching for or not.[15]

He also mentioned that other supporting papers for the October 1822 sessions are located in the archives, but to access these I would have to hire a professional researcher for a fee. These papers might contain additional background information about Thomas Casborn, but they might not. I’m hoping to visit the archives myself in a couple years, so I decided to forego the professional researcher.

Besides, I think the information I received answered my question. Thomas Casborn, the convict, was from the parish of Melbourn. The parishes of Melbourn and Meldreth are next-door neighbors, and my ancestors lived in both at one time or another. As I mentioned already, “my” Thomas was married at Melbourn. There are no records of other men named Thomas with this surname living in or near Melbourn at the time.

Have I proved that “my” Thomas was the man convicted of larceny in 1822? I think the evidence is pretty strong. What do you think?

It might sound like I’m celebrating the fact that I’m related to a thief. Although it does add a bit more color to the family history, I think what I’m really celebrating is that I’ve been able to link my ancestor to these records, and because of that I now have a more complete picture of his life.

What was life like for Thomas on the hulk? Some generalities can be made. Prisoners were required to do hard labor at the dockyards or river banks.[16]

This work was backbreaking, exhausting and very public; convict chain gangs provided a moral spectacle and example for all who saw them. The rations … were inadequate, in that they did not provide the convicts with the energy or nutrition required to perform such arduous work. This was done on purpose – the parliamentary act authorizing the use of hulks stipulated that convicts were to be fed little other than bread, “any coarse or inferior food”, water and small beer.[17]

Discipline was said to be severe and convicts were frequently locked in irons. Mortality rates were high, although this does not seem to be the case on the Leviathan.[18] Of the 444 prisoners brought onto the Leviathan in 1822, only eight died while in captivity.[19]

These would be considered extreme and inhumane conditions by today’s standards. In Thomas’ time, harsh punishments were the norm, although criticism of the hulk system did occur.[20]

hulk diagram

© The British Library Board. (Click on image to enlarge)
I have another set of records from the Leviathan, known as Quarterly Returns. These list the prisoners on board at any given time, and they include entries about prisoners’ “Bodily State” and “Behavior.” Most of Thomas’ entries list his bodily state as “good” and behavior as “very good.” However, in 1827 his behavior was listed as “indifferent.”[21] After five years imprisonment, this would not be surprising. In 1828 and 1829, his behavior was once again “very good.” Perhaps by then he was seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.

How does this change how I think of and feel about my third great grandfather? I don’t know if I have an answer. I never knew him, so everything I know about him is based on limited information. Now I know that he committed a criminal act, when he was old enough to know better, and was punished accordingly. Did he “learn his lesson” after serving his sentence? It would seem so. He married Emma Scruby one year after his release from the Leviathan. After another sixteen years he was somehow able to come to the United States, where his family was able to prosper in ways that would have been impossible in his mother country. There is nothing to suggest he was anything but a model citizen after coming to America. The balance sheet seems to be in his favor.

Nothing of this has been passed down in our family history that I know of. Who knew about it? His wife Emma would have surely known. The children, who ranged in age from thirteen to two years old when they emigrated, might have had an inkling. If they did know, it seems that they kept it to themselves.

His conviction and imprisonment on the Leviathan must have influenced his decision to emigrate. By coming to America he was able to put the past behind him and start over with a clean slate.

[1] “England & Wales, Crime, Prisons & Punishment, 1770-1935,” database with images, Findmypast (subscription site) ( : accessed 26 September 2018), entry for Thomas Casborn, October Sessions, 1822, Cambridge; citing The National Archives, HO 27, piece 23.
[2] “England Quarter Session Records,” FamilySearch Wiki ( : accessed 10 October 2018), rev. 26 Dec 15, 02:53.
[3] “Cambridgeshrire Quarter Sessions, October 18 and 19, 1822,” Cambridge Chronicle and Journal, and Huntingdonshire Gazette, 25 Oct 1822, p. 3, col. 4; online image, The British Newspaper Archive ( : accessed 26 September 2018).
[4] “British harvest: how long does the season last, when is harvest day, plus history and traditions,”Countryfile Magazine ( : accessed 11 October 2018), 9 Aug 2018.
[5] “haulm,” Merriam-Webster ( : accessed 11 October 2018).
[6] “England Marriages, 1538–1973 ,” database, FamilySearch ( : accessed 4 November 2015), Isaac Casbill and Susannah Howes, 15 Oct 1800; citing; FHL microfilm 1,040,367.
[7] “HO 9. Convict hulks moored at Portsmouth: Portland, Captivity, Leviathan: Register of prisoners,” p. 213 (stamped); PDF download, The National Archives ( : accessed 10 October 2018). (file HO-9-8_1.pdf).
[8] “List of British prison hulks,” Wikipedia ( : accessed 10 October 2018), rev. 31 Aug 18, 08:44.
[9] Ibid.
[10] Ibid.
[11] Ibid.
[12] “HO 9. Convict hulks moored at Portsmouth: Portland, Captivity, Leviathan: Register of prisoners,” p. 145 (stamped).
[13] Ibid, pp. 154, 163 (stamped).
[14] “England Births and Christenings, 1538-1975,” database, FamilySearch ( : accessed 10 October 2018), Thomas Casburn; citing FHL microfilm 887,403.
[15] Alan Akeroyd (, to Jon Casbon, email, 4 Oct 2018, “Cambs quarter sessions, October 1822”; privately held by Casbon [(e-address for private use)].
[16] “Convict Hulks,” digital panopticon ( : accessed 11 October 2018).
[17] Ibid.
[18] Ibid.
[19] Jon Casbon, review of Leviathan prisoner register, cited above.
[20] “Convict Hulks,” digital panopticon, previously cited.
[21] “England & Wales, Crime, Prisons & Punishment, 1770-1935,” database & images, findmypast ( : accessed 26 September 2018), quarterly returns from Hulk Leviathan, Mar 1827, p. 192 (stamped), no. 6072, Thomas Casborn; citing The National Archives, HO 8, piece 11.

Obituaries: Charles and Mary Casbon

obituary (n.)

“register of deaths,” from Medieval Latin obituarius “a record of the death of a person,” literally “pertaining to death,” from Latin obitus “departure, a going to meet, encounter” (a euphemism for “death”), from stem of obire “go toward, go to meet” (as in mortem obire “meet death”), from ob “toward” (see ob-) + ire “to go”[1]

I like obituaries. They are one of the most valuable resources for genealogical information. Besides giving a date of death, they often contain other important dates, such as birth and marriage. In addition, they often give names of family members. They sometimes provide insight into the life of a person, such as their occupation and their standing in the community.

Since I wrote about the family Bible of Charles and Mary (Marrell) Casbon last week, I thought I would be fitting to follow up with their obituaries this week. Charles was the first to go: he died on October 15, 1915.[2]

Casbon Charles T obit 27Oct1915
Obituary of Charles Thomas Casbon.
Clipping from unknown newspaper.[3]
(Click on image to enlarge)

This obituary was included in the pile of photocopies my father received from Ilaine Church in the early 1990s. It was another valuable find in that collection, since the local newspapers from Valparaiso and Porter County, Indiana are not available online for this time period. Whoever originally copied the obituary probably found it on microfilm at the Valparaiso library.

Charles Thomas was the second surviving son of my third great-grandfather, Thomas Casbon, who emigrated from England in 1846.

The obituary gives us a very nice character description of Charles, especially of his life after retiring from his farm in the country to his home on Monroe Street. I love the description of him “driving his little bay horse and open buggy, or walking along greeting his friends.”

Charles T Casbon House Valpraiso Indiana
Charles and Mary (left) in front of their home on 203 E. Monroe St, Valparaiso, Indiana. The woman on the
right is unidentified – possibly their daughter Sina. As far as I can tell, this house is no longer standing.
From History of Porter County, Indiana: A Narrative Account of its Historical Progress, its People
and its Principal Interests
(Chicago, Illinois: Lewis Publishing Company, 1912). 

Unfortunately, obituaries sometimes get facts wrong. This can happen because family members make mistakes in their recollections, or newspaper writers and editors record facts incorrectly. The glaring error in Charles’ obituary is the opening statement that he came to Indiana from Ohio when he was eight years old. In fact, Charles first came to Indiana as a young adult.  The History of Porter County gives this account: “In company with a friend, George Bittner, in March, 1862, he arrived at Valparaiso, a small place at that time, where he paused in his journey and in this vicinity has remained ever since, to his own profit and to the benefit of the community.”[4]

The obituary tells us that Charles’ health began to fail about two years before his death, and that he died from “complications of diseases.” His death certificate tells us that he died from “valvular insufficiency of both valves of heart,” of two years’ duration.[5] Oddly, the obituary doesn’t tell us when Charles was born, or his age at death. He was born in November 6, 1840, which would have made him just shy of 75 years old when he died.

His widow, Mary, survived him by more than twelve years, passing away on February 26, 1928.[6]

Mary C obit
Obituary of Mary (Marrell) Casbon. From The (Valparaiso, Indiana)
Vidette-Messenger, 27 Feb 1928, p. 1, col. 7. (Click on image to enlarge)

Mary’s obituary tells us how her body was discovered by her brother, John, who was evidently living with her. Then it goes on to give more typical information, including her birth, marriage, social activities, and surviving relations. Unlike Charles’ earlier obituary, we really don’t learn much about Mary’s personality.

The only error I see in her obituary is the statement that Charles and Mary came to Porter County “shortly after their marriage” in 1868. This contradicts the date given for Charles arrival, above. The History of Porter County tells us that “he returned to his Ohio home [from Indiana] and there married Miss Mary E. Marrell.”[7] The family Bible also tells us that Charles was residing in Valparaiso at the time of his marriage.[8]

It’s impressive that Mary’s death made the front page of the newspaper. The Vidette Messenger didn’t have a separate obituary section at the time. Most notices of deaths and funeral ceremonies were reported on pages three or four, but some made it to the front page. Whether this was due to the prominence of the person in the community, the circumstances of their death, or some other reason is unknown to me.

Every indication is that the 48-year marriage of Charles and Mary was a strong one. They are now survived by members of the Church family—descendants of Lodema Casbon and her husband Hiram Church. Lodema was the only one of Charles’ and Mary’s children to have children of her own.

Charles grave markerMary grave marker
Charles’ and Mary’s grave markers, Maplewood Cemetery, Valparaiso, Indiana.[9]

[1] “obituary (n.),” Online Etymology Dictionary ( : accessed 8 October 2018).
[2] Indiana, State Board of Health, Certificate of Death, no. 215, Porter County, Valparaiso, Charles T Casbon, 26 Oct 1915; imaged as “Indiana, Death Certificates, 1899-2011,” Ancestry ( : accessed 10 August 2016), Certificate >1910-1919 >17 >image 264 of 4078; citing Indiana Archives and Records Administration, Indianapolis.
[3] Photocopy of clipping from unknown newspaper, handwritten date “Wed 27 Oct 1915,” “Succumbs to Death After Long Illness”; privately held by Jon Casbon.
[4] History of Porter County, Indiana: A Narrative Account of its Historical Progress, its People and its Principal Interests (Chicago, Illinois: Lewis Publishing Company, 1912), vol. 2, pp. 459-61.
[5] Indiana, State Board of Health, Certificate of Death, Charles T Casbon, previously cited.
[6] Indiana, State Board of Health, Certificate of Death, no. 6509, Porter County, Valparaiso, Mary E Casbon; imaged as “Indiana, Death Certificates, 1899-2011,” Ancestry ( : accessed 24 August 2016), Certificate >1928 >03 >image 1516 of 2757; citing Indiana Archives and Records Administration, Indianapolis.
[7] History of Porter County, Indiana, previously cited.
[8] Photocopy of title page, holy matrimony, births, marriages and deaths pages from The Holy Bible Containing the Old and New Testaments, etc. (Philadelphia: A J Holman & Co., 1882), said to be the Charles Casbon family Bible (original in possession of Bud Church); privately held by Jon Casbon.
[9] Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed 08 October 2018), memorial page for Charles T Casbon (1840–1915), memorial no. 92655517, maintained by George & Linda Novotny; citing Maplewood Cemetery, Valparaiso, Porter County, Indiana. Find A Grave ( : accessed 08 October 2018), memorial page for Mary E Casbon (1844–1928), memorial no. 9265539, maintained by George & Linda Novotny; citing Maplewood Cemetery, Valparaiso, Porter County, Indiana.

The Family Bible of Charles and Mary Casbon

My pursuit of family history began in the mid-1990s as a collaborative effort with my father. He had received an offer in the mail to purchase The World Book of Casbons, published by Halbert’s Family Heritage.  We didn’t know it at the time, but this company was named as a purveyor of “scam” genealogy books, and had several cease-and-desist orders placed against it by the U.S. Postal Service.[1]

Regardless, he ordered the book, and I think was quite pleased with what he received. It contained several chapters containing generic information: “The Great Migrations of Man: Early Origins, Settlement and Development,” “The Origin and Meaning of Names,” “How Early Coats of Arms Were Granted,” and “How to Discover Your Ancestors.” One chapter was titled “Early Casbon Immigrants to North America.” This indicated (correctly) that Thomas Casbon had arrived in America in 1846 and (incorrectly) that he had arrived in Ohio in 1854. This was the only family-specific genealogical information found in the book.

The final chapter was titled “The Casbon International Registry.” This chapter explained that, “using a highly sophisticated network of computer sources in Europe, North America, and Australasia, over 220 million names and address records have been searched to locate Casbon family members.” The registry identified 65 households in the United States, 41 in Great Britain, and 1 in Germany (that was me – I was stationed there at the time!), and included names and mailing addresses. You may recall, that in those relatively early days of home computers, you could purchase CDs containing millions of phone and address listings for various countries. I suspect that was the “sophisticated network” used by the publisher to come up with the list.

WBC cover title page
The cover and title page of The World Book of Casbons. (Click on image to enlarge)

Scam or no, I have to say that my father got his money’s worth out of that book. He took those mailing addresses to heart and started writing dozens of letters to other Casbons. Many sent replies and shared information about their families. I suspect that at least of few readers of Our Casbon Journey were recipients of those letters (feel free to leave a comment if you did!). He was able to meet a number of these people, including quite a few in England. He somehow learned about the Casbens of Australia and contacted them as well.

In the course of all of this, he learned that others had been researching the Casbon family origins and were willing to share their research.

My role in all of this was pretty minor at the time. I bought some genealogy software and started to input names and connections. I would print out reports and my dad would send them out with his letters. He would get replies with corrections and additions. Eventually I started doing more of the research on my own and later took over the enterprise.

I thought my father had given me all of his old genealogy papers several years ago, but a couple of months ago he sorted through some boxes and presented me with another box containing various reports, notes, photocopies and photographs. These included much of his original correspondence along with The World Book of Casbons pictured above.

There was a thick pile of photocopies that looked like they had all come from the same person. After some investigation I discovered that the source was Ilaine Church, who had done quite a bit of local research in Valparaiso, Indiana. Ilaine, with whom I occasionally correspond, is married to a descendant of Hiram and Lodema (Casbon) Church. She went with my dad to the local copy center in Valparaiso, where he copied a great quantity of her genealogy research findings.

Which finally brings me to the topic of today’s post. Among the materials from Ilaine were several photocopied pages from a family Bible.

Clipboard02 Clipboard03
Title and first family history pages from the family Bible of Charles and Mary Casbon.
(Click on images to enlarge)

This was the family Bible of Charles Thomas (1840­–1915) and Mary Elizabeth (Marrell, 1844–1928) Casbon. Charles was the second son of Thomas (1803–1888) and Emma (Scruby, 1811–1870) Casbon, and is my third great uncle.

The title page tells us that this Bible was published in Philadelphia by the A.J. Holman company in 1882. A.J. Holman was a well-known Bible publisher. His firm was established in 1872.[2] Holman Bibles were quite popular in the 1880s and 90s, and usually sold door-to-door.[3]

The exhibit of the A. J. Holman publishing company at the 1876 United States
Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia.[4]

Family Bibles are wonderful heirlooms, and can be a treasure trove of family history information. “Prior to easily retrievable birth certificates, marriage licenses, death certificates, and digitized record keeping in general, the family Bible held the ultimate narrative of ancestral history.”[5]  Official records of births and deaths were not required in Indiana until 1900 or later, so the records in this Bible are a valuable substitute for vital records.

The family history section of the Bible begins with the marriage of Charles and Mary:

This Certifies
That the Rite of
Holy Matrimony
Was Celebrated Between
Charles T. Casbon of Valparaiso Indiana
and Mary E Marrell of Lakevill Ohio
on December 30th 1868 at L. Marrell’s
by Rev. Winbigler of Ashland Ohio
Witness: J. Crotz/E. Joyce

Subsequent pages are for births, marriages, and deaths.

Clipboard04 Clipboard05 Clipboard06
Pages from the family Bible for Births, Marriages, and Deaths. (Click on images to enlarge)


Charles Thomas Casbon
Was born at
Meldreth Near Royston
England on the 6th
day of November 1840.

Mary Elizabeth (Marrell) Casbon
Was born in Wayne
County Ohio on the
10th day of December 1844

Lillie May Casbon
was born in Porter
County Indiana on the
17th of June 1870

Lodema Evaline Casbon
was born in Porter
County Indiana
on the 24th day of
October 1871

Sina Jane Casbon
was born in Porter
County Indiana
on the 27th day of
March 1873

Lawrence John Casbon
was born in Porter
County Indiana
on the 26th day of
August 1875


Mr Hiram Church
Miss Lodema E. Casbon
Were united in holy
Matrimony. Elder Utz
did the ministrial tying
on February 26th 1890

Lawrence J. Casbon
Lyda May Pouter
was married. January
23rd 1899 at Adrian
Michigan by Rev.
C. L. Adams

Mr Alfred Urbahns
Miss Sina J. Casbon
was married Oct 15th 1915
at Muskegan Michigan
by Elick Scott


Lillie May Casbon
Departed this life
September 10th 1871
one year 2 months old

Charles T. Casbon
Departed this life
on the 26th of October
1915 at 9 o.clock in the
Morning. Aged
74 year and 11 days

Lawrence J. Casbon
Died peacefully in his
home 309 W 42 street in
Los Angeles California
on Tuesday morning
October 9th 1923. Age 48
years one month and
12 days

Mary Elizabeth (Merrell)
Casbon departed this
life Febuary [sic] 26, 1928
83 years 2 months &
6 days

Alfred Urbahns Departed
this life January 3 1930.
age 56 years. Brother in Law

To my eye, it appears that all of the family events that occurred prior to the purchase of the Bible were written by the same hand, probably in one sitting. These include the marriage of Charles and Mary, all the births, and the death of infant daughter Lillie May Casbon in 1871. The handwriting is elegant and neat, reflecting the importance of the events that were recorded. All the marriages, as well as the deaths of Charles and Lawrence are written in a nearly identical hand as the earlier entries.

I’m almost certain that all of these entries were made by Mary. What feelings did she have as she entered the deaths of her infant daughter, husband, and son into the Bible. Was she in the depths of despair, or did the Bible bring her comfort and solace? Or both?

The handwriting changes with the last two entries – the deaths of Mary and Alfred Urbahns. These must have been written by Mary’s daughter, Lodema – note the reference to Alfred Urbahns as brother in law. She must have ended up with the Bible after her parents’ deaths. Also note that Lodema’s death in 1938 was not recorded. You can see on the title page that it was in the possession of Bud (Merritt) Church, one of Lodema’s grandsons, as of 1994.

It’s too bad no one continued the tradition of recording important dates after Lodema was gone. Sadly, family Bibles have fallen out of favor as a means of transmitting and preserving significant family events.

I can’t say that I gleaned new information about the people listed in these pages, but this Bible is still a valuable genealogical source, and it validates the information I have gathered from other sources. I’m glad it has stayed in the family. Thanks to Ilaine, who allowed my dad to copy these pages so many years ago!

[1] “Beware of this scam!,” Goldstraw & Goostrey Geneaology ( : accessed 1 October 2018).
[2] “A.J. Holman Dead,” The Philadelphia Inquirer, 15 Oct 1891, p. 5, col. 3; online image, Newspaper Archive (accessed through participating libraries: 1 October 2018).
[3] “Salesman Bible Samplers – How the Antique Family Bibles were sold ‘door-to-door’,” ( : accessed 1 October 2018).
[4] Centennial Photographic Co., A.J. Holman & Co.’s exhibit–Main Building [Albumen print]; online image, Free Library of Philadelphia ( : accessed 2 October 2018).
[5] Dave Tabler, “The Family Bible,” Appalachian History: Stories, quotes and anecdotes ( : accessed 2 October 2018).

Lost Man, Found

Ever since I wrote about Thomas Casbon (b. 1840) of Peterborough, I’ve been wondering what happened to him.

You may recall that Thomas was fished out of the Thames in Greenwich and admitted to the Greenwich Union after an apparent suicide attempt in 1871.[1] Thomas was estranged from his wife, who had filed for divorce in 1868.[2] Possibly distraught over his failed marriage, his plunge into the Thames was also fueled by excessive alcohol.[3]

Thomas disappeared from public records after that incident, and in 1900, his son, Charles Wheeley Casbon, was granted the right to administer his estate under the presumption that Thomas had died “in or since May 1887.”[4] In other words, there was no evidence that Thomas had been seen or heard from in the previous thirteen years.

My interest in Thomas was re-awakened about two weeks ago when I was idly browsing through a database of deaths in Victoria, Australia. The record showed that a man named Thomas Casbon, age 50, died in Brighton, Victoria, in 1889.[5]

myheritage screen shot
Screen shot from

Was this the same Thomas? The age was just about right – our Thomas was born in early 1840. I decided to look in other Australia databases to see if I could gather any additional information. I found him again, living in Ryde, a suburb of Sydney, New South Wales, in 1887.[6]

Thomas C b1840 1887 NSW directoryEntry for Thomas Casbon in Sands’s Sydney & Suburban Directory for 1887. (Click on image to enlarge)

Notably, his occupation was listed as nurseryman. This is a key piece of evidence, since Thomas of Peterborough was also a nurseryman. He was the third generation of Peterborough gardeners, about whom I have written previously.[7] Given this clue along with the fact that there is no evidence of Thomas remaining in England, we can be reasonably certain that the Australian Thomas was our man from Peterborough.

Further searching shows that he appears in the 1888 directory at the same address. He does not appear in a directory any earlier than 1887 or later than 1888. This supports the idea that he was the man who died in 1889.

In addition to the directories above, he appears in a different kind of record. In October 1886 he was jailed for seven days in Darlinghurst Gaol, Sydney, for drunkenness.[8] He was jailed again for the same offense in January 1887.[9] It seems that Thomas did not have a healthy relationship with alcohol.

Darlinghurst Gaol
Entrance to Darlinghurst Gaol, 1887. State Library of NSW. (Click on image to enlarge)

There is also a police report of a “Silver English lever hunting watch” being stolen from Thomas Casbin in March 1886. It’s likely this is also our Thomas.[10] If so, this is the earliest record I have found of him in Australia.

I searched through various passenger lists prior to 1887 but could not find any entries for Thomas, so we don’t know when he departed England or arrived in Australia.

There are still many unanswered questions. Where was Thomas between 1871 and 1886? When and why did he leave England? What was he doing in Brighton, Victoria (almost 450 miles from Ryde) when he died and how did he die? (I could get an answer to this last question if I paid $24.50 for a copy of the death certificate, but my curiosity doesn’t run that deep!)

Map showing locations of Ryde, New South Wales and Brighton, Victoria. Google Maps. (scroll to zoom)

One thing is evident: Thomas’ estranged family had lost touch with him by May 1887. Did they know he had gone to Australia? Did he break off communication or did they?Something seems to have gone wrong in Thomas’ life. He was a troubled man, and perhaps not a very nice one.

The last record I have of Thomas other than his death is a report of an unclaimed letter addressed to him in Ashfield, another suburb of Sydney. The letter was waiting for him in the Sydney General Post Office as of January 15, 1889.[11] It was sent from within the colony. The contents of the letter, like much of his life, remains a mystery.

[1] “Greenwich,” The (London) Standard, 12 April 1871, p. 7, col. 5; online image, The British Newspaper Archive ( : accessed 24 September 2016).
[2] “England & Wales, Civil Divorce Records, 1858-1916,” database with images, Ancestry ( : accessed 24 February 2018), wife’s petition, Emily Casbon, 1868; citing The National Archives, J77/84/787, Kew.
[3] “Greenwich,” The (London) Standard, 12 April 1871, p. 7, col. 5.
[4] United Kingdom, Calendar of Wills and Administrations 1900, n.p., Casbon, Thomas, “in or since May 1887”; “Find a will,” searchable database, Gov.UK ( : accessed 20 September 2018).
[5] “Australia, Victoria Death Index, 1836-1985,” database, MyHeritage Library Edition (accessible through participating libraries: 10 September 2018), Thomas Casbon, 1880, Brighton; citing The Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages Victoria.
[6] “Sands Directories: Sydney and New South Wales, Australia, 1858-1933,” database with images, Ancestry (  : accessed 10 September 2018), 1887 >C >image 4 of 22, p. 523, col. 3, Casbon, Thomas, nurseryman, Parramatta rd, Ryde; citing W. & F. Pascoe Pty, Ltd, Balgowlah.
[7] Jon Casbon, “How doth your garden grow? Part 2,” Our Casbon Journey, 27 September 2016 ( ).
[8] New South Wales, Australia, Darlinghurst, (Gaol) Entrance Book, 1886, 11 Oct, no. 9751, Thomas Casbon; imaged as “New South Wales, Australia, Gaol Description and Entrance Books, 1818-1930,” Ancestry ( : accessed10 September 2018), Entrance Book >Darlinghurst >1886 >image 249 of 387; citing State Records Authority of New South Wales, Kingswood.
[9] New South Wales, Australia, Darlinghurst, (Gaol) Entrance Book, 1887, 10 Jan, no. 293, Thomas Casbon; imaged as “New South Wales, Australia, Gaol Description and Entrance Books, 1818-1930,” Ancestry (cited previously), Entrance Book >Darlinghurst >1887 >image 18 of 391.
[10] New South Wales, Police Gazette and Weekly Record of Crime, 1886, no. 11 (17 March), p. 82 (“Watches and Jewellery, &c. Reported Stolen”), 10 Mar, Thomas Casbin; imaged as “New South Wales, Australia, Police Gazettes, 1854-1930,” Ancestry ( : accessed 10 September 2018), 1886 >image 61 of 227; citing State Records Authority of New South Wales, Kingswood.
[11] New South Wales, Australia, Supplement to the New South Wales Government Gazette, 1889, no. 146 (9 March), p. 1883, no. 151, Thos. Casbon, Ashfield; imaged as “New South Wales, Australia, Government Gazettes, 1853-1899,” Ancestry ( : 10 September 2018), 1889 >January-March >image 1909 of 2503; citing State Records Authority of New South Wales, Kingswood.

Last Words

In my previous post I described the enjoyment Emily (Price) Casbon derived from keeping bees and extracting their honey. Today’s post looks at what might have been Emily’s defining characteristic: her Christian faith.

Emily was the wife of Jesse Casbon (1843–1934), who with his father Thomas, mother Emma, two brothers and one sister (born after their arrival in America), emigrated in 1846 from Meldreth, Cambridgeshire, England, first to Wayne County, Ohio, and then in the 1860s to Porter County, Indiana. Jesse and Emily had four daughters: Maud Elma, Anna Mae, Lillian, and Edna.

On April 25, 1893, Emily wrote a letter to her sister Catherine “Kate” (Price) Winslow, who was possibly living in Kansas at the time. John Casbon found a handwritten copy of the letter when he recently sorted through mementos belonging to Anna Mae (Casbon) Fleming, Emily’s daughter and John’s grandmother.

The copied letter has two explanatory notes at the top. One says, “Copy of Ma’s last letter, written the day before she died.” The other says “She made a mistake in her date. It was Apr. 25, as May 1st her body was at rest in the cemetery.”[1] I’m not sure who made the copy – I can’t tell if it’s Anna’s handwriting.

3 pages transp
Photograph of handwritten copy of letter written by Emily Casbon, 25 Apr 1893. (Click on image to enlarge)

Here is my transcription of the letter.

Dear Sister Kate,-

You think I have forgotten you, but I have not. I just got around from another attack of Grippe, the Dr. called it Am very weak yet.

O! How hard it is to give up to die, and then be compelled to come back to the old life and gather up the broken and tangled mass of thread which our nerveliss hand so gladly let fall. I do not know how you feel, but I welcome death with a joyous heart and gladly lay all cares aside to welcome it. After all it is but a passing from darkness into light The transition may be blinding for our tired eyes for a time, but we shall rest, have sweet peace. What a blessed thought. Then shall we receive the new sight which failith not. Our tired eyes shall be bright, for shall we not see the great white throne and gather with the redeemed to sing the praise of the Lamb, and last, but not least, we shall

[p. 2] see the dear Redeemer of this wicked world and realize the depth of his love for us.

These are beautiful and restful thoughts, but how to intermingle them with every day life, every little trial which beset our sensitive hearts, for the human heart when compared with the golden harps we often hear played very much resemble each other when touched by the master hand, produces sweetest harmony. But let a rude or careless hand attempt to produce the simplest cords, and discord is the result.

Further more, the human heart will shut its self up so closely when a thoughtless or cruel hand may pierce its tender membranes that one would never dream of the beauties within.

But sister mine, I am not writing on this subject exclusively. So we will leave room for others and abler pens than mine.

Maud graduates next month. Annie is having the work to do, while I am sick. Maud, Jesse and Annie are going over to (line cut off) …

[p. 3] Maud will get her graduating dress and will feel so relieved when the whole thing is over.

I have not seen Mary for a long time. Netta was here to see me not long ago. And now, dear sister, how are you getting along. Has John sent Daisy to you yet. I have tried every avenue to help you. So far have failed. Do you hear from Uncle Henry? I have tried to interest him in your behalf.

Well, good night and God bless you.

Your loving sister

Emily Casbon
Valparaiso, Ind
Box 924

Besides her sister Kate, the addressee of the letter, Emily mentions several people. They are:

  • Maud – Emily’s eldest daughter, age 20, preparing to graduate from Valparaiso
    High School
  • Annie – Emily’s second daughter, age 16
  • Jesse – Emily’s husband
  • Mary – Emily and Kate’s sister, Mary Jane, married to Godfrey Nimon
  • Netta – Emily and Kate’s sister, Annette, married to John Arnold
  • John – unknown, unless this refers to John Arnold
  • Daisy – Kate’s daughter, apparently not living with her at the time
  • Uncle Henry – unknown

Emily’s letter tells us that she has been ill with Grippe – a lay term for influenza.[2] She seems to be recovering but is still very weak. She must have suffered a serious relapse – perhaps pneumonia – to have died suddenly the next day.

Apparently, she had come close to death in the days preceding the letter, since she talks about giving up to die and then coming “back to the old life.”

Her letter is a testimonial of a deep and abiding faith. She has clearly accepted and even welcomes death “with a joyous heart” as a passage to a new life. Her language is filled with biblical metaphor. This tells us much about Emily and how she approached life. Although many might have shared her faith, I doubt that many could have expressed it with as much confidence.

After giving witness to her faith, she writes a little bit about her immediate family, and then inquires about Kate’s well-being. It’s apparent that Kate has been going through some kind of personal difficulty. The letter does not say what the difficulty is, but I suspect it is related to Kate’s marriage. Kate married Harrison Winslow when she was 16 years old.[3] Shortly afterwards, they moved to Kansas, where they had (at least) three children, one of whom was Daisy, mentioned in the letter. Sometime between 1885 and 1900, Kate and Harrison were divorced and living in different states.[4]

It’s amazing to me that Emily could have written such a profound and lengthy letter one day before her death. It must have been important to her to keep in touch with her distant sister. Having already been close to the brink, I don’t think she realized that her life would end so quickly.

We are lucky to have so much information about Emily. Clearly, she was a woman who loved life, but because of her faith did not fear death. This is also reflected in her obituary.[5]

Price Emily obit PC Vidette 4May1893
Click on image to enlarge

With that we’ll say farewell to Emily. It has been nice making her acquaintance!

[1] Emily Casbon (Valparaiso, Indiana), to “Dear Sister Kate,” photograph of handcopied letter, 1 May 1893 (with note stating correct date was 25 Apr 1893); privately held by Jon Casbon. Given to Jon by John N. Casbon, 2018.
[2] George M. Gould, B.A., M.D., A New Medical Dictionary: Including All the Words and Phrases Used in Medicine, with their Proper Pronunciation and Definitions (Philadephia: P. Blakiston, Son & Co., 1890), p. 211, “Influenza”; online image, Hathi Trust Digital Library ( : accessed 13 September 2018).
[3] “Michigan Marriages, 1868-1925”, database with images, FamilySearch ( : 15 May 2018), Harrison Winslow & Catharine Price, 30 Dec 1868, New Buffalo, Berrien County; citing Secretary of State. Department of Vital Records, Lansing.
[4] 1900 U.S. Census, Woods County, Oklahoma Territory, population schedule, Waynocka Twp., enumeration district 242, sheet 3A, p. 136 (stamped), dwelling 56, family 58, Harrison Winslow; imaged as “United States Census, 1900,” FamilySearch ( : accessed 13 September 2018), Oklahoma Territory > Woods > ED 242 Waynoka Township (east half) > image 5 of 14; citing NARA microfilm publication T623, roll 1344.
[5] “Death of Mrs. Jesse Casbon,” The (Valparaiso, Indiana) Porter County Vidette, 4 May 1893, page no. unknown; photocopy, privately held by Jon Casbon, 2018. Handwritten note gives publication and date.

What’s the Buzz?

It’s often difficult to learn more about our ancestors than the basic facts of their lives: when they were born and died; who they married, where they lived, and who were their children. I’m always happy when I find something that tells me more about what someone did with their life. Such is the case with Emily (Price) Casbon. Her story gives us insight into an activity that brought her joy and fulfillment.

Emily Price was born about 1855 in Benton County, Minnesota, the daughter of William and Mary (Rose) Price.[1] In the 1860 census, she was living with her mother and siblings in her maternal grandparents’ home in Pleasant Township, Porter County, Indiana.[2] Her father died in 1863.[3] The date of her mother’s death is unknown, but it appears that Emily was an orphan by 1870, when she and two younger sisters were living with another family.[4]

Emily’s life took a positive turn when she married Civil War veteran Jesse Casbon on April 23, 1872.[5] Every indication is that their marriage was a happy one, blessed with the birth of four daughters: Maude, Anna, Lillian, and Edna. They lived on a farm of 160 acres, about one mile southwest of Valparaiso. She was active in her church and community.

Emily had a somewhat unusual hobby—beekeeping! I learned of her interest in bees when I found articles that she had written for The American Bee Journal. In the first article, she describes her early experiences with, and enjoyment of, beekeeping.

ABJ 1888

Source: The American Bee Journal, vol. 24, no. 47 (21 Nov 1888), pp. 762-3; MyHeritage ( : accessed 10 September 2018), image 590 of 660 (Click on image to enlarge)
In her next report, written a little more than one year after the first, she writes with confidence about her success with the bees.

Emily Casbon American Bee Journal 1890

Source: The American Bee Journal, vol. 26, no. 3 (18 Jan 1890), p. 44; MyHeritage ( : accessed 12 Aug 2016), image 40 of 656. (Click on image to enlarge)
Besides being a contributor, it’s clear that Emily was an avid reader of the Journal. She must have eagerly awaited each week’s edition in the mail, and then savored the articles, with their expert advice, reports on new developments, letters from other readers, and advertisements for beekeeping supplies.

It’s refreshing to see that beekeeping was an acceptable avocation for women in Emily’s day. Although not as frequent as men, several women wrote articles and correspondence for the Journal. Miss Marcia A Douglass, speaking at a beekeepers’ convention held at Burlington, Vermont in January 1888, read an essay on the question: “Should Women Keep Bees and Join the Bee-Keepers’ Association?” A summary of the convention proceedings reported that,

She could speak from experience, that while there was much hard labor in connection with the business, she saw no reason why a woman could not keep bees, to a greater or less extent, as successfully as the sterner sex, provided that she was adapted to the calling, and in love with it. If men were benefited by associations and interchanging of ideas and methods of work, why not women?[6]

Emily was obviously “adapted to the calling, and in love with” beekeeping. She sounds like a delightful person to me. Unfortunately, death took her at the age of thirty-eight, in April 1893.[7] It’s too bad that her obituary makes no mention of her interest in bees, since it obviously made her life more fulfilling. I wonder what happened to the bees after she was gone?

I found this entertaining about bees and honey on YouTube: enjoy!

ABJ cover 1888

Title page of The American Bee Journal, vol. 24, no. 1. ( : accessed 11 September 2018), image 7 of 660.

[1] Minnesota Territorial Census, 1857, Benton County, population schedule, township 38, range 31, p. 27 (stamped), dwelling & family 20, William Price: online image, FamilySearch ( : accessed 14 Jun 2017), Benton > Township 38, Range 31 > image 1 of 1; citing NARA microfilm publication T1175, roll 1.
[2] 1860 U.S. Census, Porter County, Indiana, population schedule, Pleasant Township, p. 110, dwelling 838, family 818, Henry M Rose; imaged as “United States Census, 1860,” FamilySearch ( : accessed 24 March 2017), Indiana > Porter > Pleasant Township > image 8 of 12; citing NARA microfilm publication M653, roll 289.
[3] Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed 17 June 2017), memorial page for William W. Price (1822–1863), no. 70625904, created by “Jackie & Ralph”; citing Spencer Cemetery, Kouts, Porter, Indiana.
[4] 1870 U.S. Census, Porter County, Indiana, population schedule, Pleasant Township, p. 14, dwelling 103, family 102, Emely Price in household of William Carr; imaged as “United States Census, 1870,” FamilySearch ( : accessed 11 September 2018), Indiana > Porter > Pleasant > image 14 of 16; citing NARA microfilm publication M593, roll 351.
[5] Porter County, Indiana, Marriage Record no. 4 (Sep 1871-Jan 1875), p. 88, no. 173, 23 Apr 1872, Jesse Casbon & Emma Price; imaged as “Indiana Marriages, 1811-2007,” FamilySearch ( : accessed 11 September 2018), Porter > 1871-1875 Volume 4 > image 79 of 246; citing Porter County Clerk.
[6] The American Bee Journal, vol. 24, no. 6 (8 Feb 1888), p. 91; online image, MyHeritage ( : accessed 10 September 2018), image 79 of 660.
[7] “Death of Mrs. Jesse Casbon,” photocopy of clipping from The (Valparaiso, Indiana) Porter County Vidette, 4 May 1893; privately held by Jon Casbon, 2018. (Handwritten note gives publication and date).

Wedding Portrait – Charles Arthur Casbon and Eliza Kate Harvey, September 21, 1915

Thanks to contributor Charles “Tony” Casbon in Peterborough, UK, for this portrait of his paternal grandparents’ wedding.

Casbon Charles A Eliza Harvey wedding photo adjusted
Photograph courtesy of Charles Casbon. (Click on image to enlarge)

Charles Arthur Casbon (1880–1945) was the son of Thomas (1854–1910) and Elizabeth (Pettifor, 1856–1906) Casbon.[1] Charles and his family were descended from the Littleport/Peterborough line of the Casbon surname. This was his second marriage. The first, to Grace Parker in 1903, ended with Grace’s death in 1912.[2] In the 1911 census, Charles was working as a baker in Bourne, Lincolnshire, about 15 miles north of his birthplace of Peterborough.[3]

Eliza was born in Manthorpe, Lincolnshire in late 1888, the daughter of Joseph and Eliza (Coddington) Harvey.[4] She was listed as a servant, working in Peterborough, in the 1911 census.[5]

Their marriage was registered in Bourne.[6] The Bourne registration district includes a number of neighboring villages, so I don’t know the exact location. The photograph suggests a rural setting, but it might not have been taken at the same location as the wedding ceremony. It looks like they are standing on hay bales. Could this be a studio photo with a rural backdrop?

They are probably wearing their best clothing. It’s simplicity of design reflects their working-class status as well as the austerity of World War I, which had begun a year earlier.

We met Charles and Eliza earlier, in the post “A Family Outing.” Although they had six children together, the marriage was ended prematurely by Eliza’s death in 1932.[7] She was only forty-three.

[1] England and Wales, “Search the GRO [General Register Office] Online Index,” database, HM Passport Office ( : accessed 4 September 2018), Charles Arthur Casbon, 1881, M[ar] qtr, vol. 3B:246; citing General Register Office.
[2] England and Wales, “Search the GRO [General Register Office] Online Index,” HM Passport Office ( : accessed 4 September 2018), Grace Casbon, age 35, D[ec] qtr, 1912, Peterborough, vol. 3B:259.
[3] 1911 England Census, Lincolnshire, Bourne, population schedule, schedule 284, West Street, Charles Arthur Casbon; imaged as “1911 Census of England and Wales,” findmypast ( : accessed 10 March 2017); citing [The National Archives], ref. RG14PN19456 RG78PN1163 RD412 SD3 ED1 SN284.
[4] England and Wales, “Search the GRO [General Register Office] Online Index,” HM Passport Office ( : accessed 4 September 2018), entry for Eliza Kate Harvey, M[ar] qtr, 1889, Bourn, Lincolnshire, vol. 7A/371. 1891 England Census, Lincolnshire, Manthorpe, population schedule, Witham on Hill, schedule 38, Joseph Harvey; imaged as “1891 England Census,” Ancestry ( : accessed 4 September 2018), Lincolnshire >Manthorpe >District 13 >image 1 of 4; citing The National Archives, RG 12, piece 2557, folio 153, p. 6.
[5] 1911 England census, Northamptonshire, Peterborough, population schedule, registration district 170-2, enumeration distric 5, schedule 251, London Rd., Kate Harvey in household of Henry Park; imaged as “1911 England Census,” Ancestry ( : accessed 4 September 2018), Northamptonshire >Fletton >06 >image 502 of 803.
[6] “England & Wales Marriages 1837-2008”, database findmypast ( : accessed 23 May 2017), Charles A Casbon & Eliza Kate Harvey, Bourne, Lincolnshire, vol 7A:1089, 3d quarter, 1915; citing General Register Office.
[7] England and Wales, “Search the GRO [General Register Office] Online Index,” HM Passport Office ( : accessed 4 September 2018), Eliza Kate Casbon, Sheffield, vol. 9C: 626.


Snapshots: Anna Mae and Jesse Casbon II

Here are a few more odds and ends from the treasure trove sent to me by John N Casbon, grandson of Anna (1876–1957) and son of Jesse (1898–1974) and Elizabeth (Ryan, 1906–2000) Casbon.

John Newton Kitchel Family, about 1902

Kitchel John Anna Jesse Steven abt 1903
Photo Courtesy of John Casbon (Click on image to enlarge)

The inscription on the photo reads “Dads father/mother” with arrows pointing to John Newton Kitchel and Anna Mae (Casbon) Kitchel. The two young boys are Steven (left) and Jesse II (right). The “Dad” referred to in the inscription probably refers to Jesse and would have been added at a later date by one of his children. The back of the photo has a handwritten label that reads: “John Newton – F (?? – possibly “am”); Jesse II & Steven; Hunting Lodge; Wisconsin.” I like the composition of this photo, with a large tree stump and possibly garden in the foreground, guns and flags on the front of the log house.

The photo is undated, but I’m guessing it was the summer or fall of 1902, based on the apparent ages of the boys. Jesse was born in December, 1898 and Steven in August, 1900. The identities of the other family members are not given; they are possibly other relatives on the Kitchel side.

This was obviously taken before Anna and John Newton Kitchel were divorced. After the divorce, he remained in Wisconsin, while she went first to Minnesota, and then later to stay with her father Jesse in Indiana. She had the boys’ last name changed back to Casbon.

Anna and family

Casbon Jesse Steve Eliz Ryan Anna Fleming Betty Photo Courtesy of John Casbon (Click on image to enlarge)

The back of this photo (same handwriting as the previous photo) reads: “Betty – F(em?)– Mom – Jesse II – Steve.” John Casbon tells me that Betty was his sister Elizabeth Casbon (1924–2011). Second from left is Anna Mae (Casbon) Fleming. Given the labels on the two photos, I’m wondering if she had a nickname of “Fem” or something similar. “Mom” is Elizabeth (Ryan) Casbon (1906–2000). Next is Jesse II, and then Steven, Jesse’s brother (1900–1979).

The date of the photo is harder to determine. Betty was born in 1924. It’s hard to guess her age in the photo, but she looks like she could be in her early teens. Jesse and Elizabeth’s next child was born in December, 1937. I’m guessing the photo was taken before that, since the baby is not included in the picture. Elizabeth does not appear pregnant, so if the photo was taken in 1937, it would have been early in the year. The car looks like a 1930s design, but that doesn’t help. It’s possible the picture was taken in the late 1930s or possibly even early 1940s. The entire family was still living in Maryland at the time, so that’s probably where the photo was taken. I don’t have much else to say, except it appears that everyone in the family looks stylish and dapper!

Jesse’s Barber Shop, Glen Burnie, Maryland

Jesse barber shop MD
Photo Courtesy of John Casbon (Click on image to enlarge)

The back of the photo is labeled “Barber Shop in Glen Burnie Md – our car 1938.” When we last heard about Jesse (in 1922), he was in the confectionary business with brother Steven.[1] However, by the 1930 census, his occupation was listed as “Barber.”[2] John Casbon tells me that Jesse had been in the painting business with Steve and learned the barber’s trade from an older man. “Dad later had 6 chairs and made a good living and during the depression men needed a job so getting a haircut was very important.”[3]

Jesse’s Barber Shop, Cocoa Beach, Florida

Casbon Jesse barber ship Cocoa Beach FL Photo Courtesy of John Casbon (Click on image to enlarge)

According to John, his dad moved to Florida in 1947. “He moved to cocoa beach on a hunch that there was going to be a space program in a town of cocoa beach. … the barber shop was town hall and everyone came there to sit in AC and run the town.”[4] Jesse was an astute businessman who bought and developed a lot of downtown property. With Cape Canaveral on one side and Patrick Air Force Base on the other, the town was in an ideal location. The fact that the shop was air conditioned (see the sign by the door!) probably enticed his customers to linger. John says the family lived in the door to the left of the barber ship. Many German scientists also lived there, and John recalls playing with the children of Wernher von Braun.

Elizabeth and Jesse

Casbon Jesse and Elizabeth Ryan Cocoa Beach undated
Photo Courtesy of John Casbon (Click on image to enlarge)

You can see that this photo was taken in front of the Cocoa Beach barber shop and residence. Once again, it’s obvious and Jesse and his lovely wife were stylish dressers. The photo is also undated, but appears to be late 1940s or early 1950s to me.

Thanks again to John for the photos and his reminiscences. Reader contributions are always welcome!

[1]Jon Casbon, “Jess & Steve’s Excellent Adventure,” 9 Jul 2018, Our Casbon Journey ( : accessed 26 August 2018).
[2] 1930 U.S. Census, Anne Arundel County, Maryland, population schedule, Glen Burnie, enumeration district 2-25, sheet 8A, p. 71 (stamped), dwelling 161, family 164, Jesse Casbon; imaged as “United States Census, 1930,” FamilySearch ( : accessed 26 August 2018), Maryland > Anne Arundel > Election District 5 > ED 25 > image 15 of 94; citing NARA microfilm publication T626, roll 845.
[3] John Casbon (e-address for private use) to Jon Casbon, email, 9 Jul 2018, “Glen Burnie”; privately held by Jon Casbon (e-address for private use).
[4] Ibid.