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 MyHeritage.com.

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 (https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/viewer/BL/0000183/18710412/053/0007 : accessed 24 September 2016).
[2] “England & Wales, Civil Divorce Records, 1858-1916,” database with images, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/2465/40243_612057_1776-00000 : 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 (https://probatesearch.service.gov.uk/#wills : 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 (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=1164  : 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 (https://casbonjourney.wordpress.com/2016/09/27/how-doth-your-garden-grow-part-2/ ).
[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 (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=1783 : 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 (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=1942 : 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 (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=2172 : 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 (https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/100140156 : accessed 13 September 2018).
[3] “Michigan Marriages, 1868-1925”, database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:NQWF-V93 : 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 (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HT-DTKQ-VLX?i=4&cc=1325221 : 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 (https://records.myheritagelibraryedition.com/research/record-90100-32622591/american-bee-journal-vol-24-january : 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 (https://records.myheritagelibraryedition.com/research/record-90100-32615041/american-bee-journal-vol-26-january : 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. (https://records.myheritagelibraryedition.com/research/record-90100-32622541/american-bee-journal-vol-24-january : 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 (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:939Z-YG9X-6F?cc=1503055 : 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 (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33SQ-GB9J-S8M2?i=7&cc=1473181 : 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 (https://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=70625904 : 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 (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HT-D5GG-RL?i=13&cc=1438024 : 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 (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33S7-9TM4-RD8?i=78&cc=1410397 : 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 (https://records.myheritagelibraryedition.com/research/record-90100-32622541/american-bee-journal-vol-24-january : 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 (https://www.gro.gov.uk/gro/content/certificates/indexes_search.asp : 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 (https://www.gro.gov.uk/gro/content/certificates/indexes_search.asp : 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 (http://search.findmypast.com/record?id=gbc%2f1911%2frg14%2f19456%2f0549%2f1 : 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 (https://www.gro.gov.uk/gro/content/certificates/indexes_search.asp : 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 (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=6598 : 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 (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=2352 : accessed 4 September 2018), Northamptonshire >Fletton >06 >image 502 of 803.
[6] “England & Wales Marriages 1837-2008”, database findmypast (http://search.findmypast.com/record?id=bmd%2fm%2f1915%2f3%2faz%2f000238%2f011 : 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 (https://www.gro.gov.uk/gro/content/certificates/indexes_search.asp : 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 (https://casbonjourney.wordpress.com/2018/07/09/jess-steves-excellent-adventure/ : 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 (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33S7-9RH3-8SN?i=14&cc=1810731 : 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.


Anna’s Migration Stories

I’m continuing to work through a number of photographs of family artifacts sent to me by John Casbon. One of the photos is of this single handwritten sheet of paper.

Casbon Anna narrative of Thomas migration from England
Photo courtesy of John Casbon. (Click on image to enlarge)

According to John, this was written by his grandmother Anna Mae (Casbon) Fleming (1876–1957). The text reads as follows (I’ve inserted periods where I think they belong):

Thomas and Emma Casbon of Melborn England sailed to America from So Hampton England April 11 arriving at Qubeck May 30 [.] moved to Wooster Ohio Wayne Co June 1856[.] came to Boon-grove in 1865[.] they had 5 living children Selvester, Mary Ann, Charles, Emma, and Jesse[.] Jesse had 4 living children Maud Anna Lill and Edna[.] Anna married and 3 children were born[.] one passed away in invency the other two both living[.] Jesse at Cocoa Beach Fla Steven at Laurel Md Their mother at Orlando Fla.

This is an abbreviated history of Anna’s family, beginning with the voyage of her grandfather Thomas Casbon (1803–1888) and up through her adult children. It describes Thomas’ voyage from England to a new home in Ohio, and later to Indiana. The year of Thomas’ voyage from England is wrong, but otherwise it gives an accurate account of events.

Some time ago, I received another photograph from John, this one of a family Bible that belonged to his mother, Elizabeth (Ryan) Casbon (1906–2000).

Elizabeth Casbon family bible
Photo courtesy of John Casbon. (Click on image to enlarge)

Thomas Casbon and wife Emma Scrubey Casbon of Meldreth near Royston Cambrige Shreve England, set sail to America from Southhampton England April the 11-1846 arriving at Qubeck Canada May 30th then to Woster Ohio June 1846 then to Boon Grove in April 1865. They had six children while in England one died in invency in England[.] The five that came to America were Selvester, Mary Ann, Charles, Jesse and Emma[.] one child was born after coming to America but died in invency. Selvester the oldest child was a school teacher married three times had 5 children and died in his 92 year leaving four boys and one girl. Mary Ann was the second child[.] she was married to Eliga Priest and had one child Willis who died one year to the very month of his father[.] both died in March. Willis was married to Emma Allenbrant and had two girls Ivy and Mable. Mable died after grown to womenhood[.] Charles (third child died in Valparaiso Ind left three children[.] He was married to Mary Murell[.] Jesse the 4th child and youngest boy died Jan 24-‘34[.] he was the last of the family of Thomas & Emma Casbons children[.] Emma was the youngest girl[.] she married Newell Riggs and passed away July 10 1910 had no children[.] Was taken back to Laport Iowa for buriel by her brother Jesse.

Maud Elma Casbon was born at Stevens Corner Ind March 4-1872
Anna May Casbon was born at Gates Corners. Dec 22-1876
Lillie Casbon was born at Valparaiso Feb 12-1884
Edna Emma was born Dec 9-1880 at Valparaiso

Jesse and Emma Casbon left four girls[.] a little boy died at Gates Corners at the age of 8 weeks[.] Maud the oldest married Myron Dayton[.] three children a little boy died in invency while in Waco, Tex. Anna the second child was Married to Newton Kitchel[.] three children 2 boys and a little girl who died at eight weeks old[.] There names of Kitchell was changed to Casbon at the time of sepration by law. Jesse Casbon was born Okuachle Wisconsin 12 miles from Oconowoco[.] Steven was born at Wabeno Forest Co Wis[.]

The description of Thomas’ migration to Ohio and his move to Indiana is almost identical to that of the shorter version. This version goes into more detail about Thomas children and their families. It focuses on the four daughters of Jesse (1843–1934) and Emma (Price, 1856–1893) Casbon, and ends with the births of Anna’s two sons.

If you look closely at these two documents you’ll see that the handwriting is identical, and many of the misspellings are the same. Presumably, Anna wrote both of these, probably at different times. If I had to guess, she wrote the entries in the Bible first, since the handwriting is a little steadier, and the chronology ends with Jesse and Steven’s births. I wonder if she gave the Bible to her daughter-in-law, Elizabeth, as a gift. It mentions the death of Anna’s father, Jesse, in 1934, so the Bible entry was written sometime after that date. Jesse didn’t move to Cocoa Beach until 1947, so that is the earliest date the shorter document could have been written.

It’s interesting to compare Anna’s version of events with other sources. There are quite a few accounts, both published and unpublished, of Thomas Casbon’s migration to Ohio and Indiana. I’ve written about most if not all of these. No two accounts are exactly alike: they differ in the level of detail, specific dates, and family history information. When combined they tend to give a more complete picture of what actually occurred. I’ll present them in chronological order.

Handwritten history of Isaac Casbon and his descendants (ca. 1890). This document is two and a half pages long. I only have a photocopy; the original is lost or forgotten. I’ve written about this document in an earlier series of posts, beginning with “From England to Indiana, Part 1.” The entire document can be found here. It summarizes Thomas’ voyage to America with a simple statement: “Thomas Casbon emigrated to Unites States in the year of 1846.” Thomas’ time in Ohio is barely mentioned, and the move to Indiana is described in these terms: “They concluded to go to the State of Ind[.] Sylvester went arrived in Indiana[.] Thomas Casbon moved his family soon after and settled at Boon Grove.”

Tom emigratesConclude to go to Indiana
Excerpts from handwritten history of Isaac Casbon and his descendants.

Although the migration itself receives little attention, this document contains information found in no other single source. It provides the names of all four of Isaac Casbon’s sons. It also gives valuable information about Emma (Scruby) Casbon’s brother, James, who preceded them to Ohio. Finally, it is the only source to mention the fact that Emma’s niece, Emma Payne, accompanied them on their voyage to America, and that Thomas’ niece, Mary Casbon, came to America in 1856 with Mary Payne.

This text also lists the children of Sylvester and Charles Casbon by name. However, it only says that Jesse and his wife Emily had “four daudhters [sic] and one son who died in infancy,” and does not give their names. This suggests that the author had closer ties to the two older brothers. Anna’s account fills in the gap created by this omission. The Bible narrative also tells us about the marriages of Thomas’ two daughters, Mary Ann and Emma, information not contained in Isaac’s family history.

Biographical note on William Wallace Slocum (published 1908). This unlikely source exists due to the fact that Mr. Slocum married Emma Payne, who accompanied Thomas and his family to America. It provides a brief but concise summary of the voyage from England. “She kame with relativs to America, sailing from Southampton 16 April, 1846, arriving at Qubec, Canada, 30 May, and at Wooster, Ohio, in June, 1846.”[1] (Misspellings are intentional, as the author endorsed a phonetic spelling system.) This single sentence gives dates and ports of embarkation and debarkation. Note that the date of departure is slightly different than the 11 April date given in Anna’s account. According to a notice in Lloyd’s List, the actual departure date from Southampton was 18 April 1846.[2] I haven’t located a source for the arrival dates in Quebec and Wooster, Ohio, but the dates given here are consistent with Anna’s account as well as other published sources. Emma (Payne) Slocum was undoubtedly the source of this information, as she was still living when the book was published.

Biographical Sketches of Sylvester and Charles Thomas Casbon, in the History of Porter County (published 1912). Each of these sketches provides a different perspective on the voyage from England to Ohio, along with a bit of “creative writing” to spice up the story. Here is an excerpt from Sylvester’s entry.

His father, who was an English farmer, in 1847 determined to share in the remarkable opportunities of the new world, and in that year embarked his family at Southampton on board the Canadian lumber boat Parkfield. … At that date one of the few passenger railroads in England was the line from London to Southampton, and many other remarkable changes have occurred in England since then. The streets of London which they passed over were paved with cobblestones, and the modern pavements and subways were undreamed of. The boat on which they took passage had a long and tedious voyage, leaving England in February, first sighting land at the Banks and thence sailing up the St. Lawrence river. Sylvester was then eight years old and retains many vivid recollections of the eventful journey. At Niagara the family made the transfer in the horse cars then in use, and all had time to enjoy the spectacle of the mighty falls. From Buffalo they took another boat to Cleveland, where they arrived in the month of May. Thomas Casbon, the father, moved to Wayne county, Ohio, and bought eighty acres of land near Wooster on the Columbus road at the village of Eddyville, where the stages between Cleveland and Columbus then changed horses.[3]

This account gets the year wrong, but it concurs with Anna’s story that the family departed from Southampton. It also gives an important detail: the name of the ship – Parkfield. This fact enabled me to find details of the Parkfield’s sailing dates. Sylvester’s entry mentions the difficulty of the ocean voyage. Although Quebec isn’t mentioned, further details of the trip from Quebec are given, such as the use of horse carts at Niagara Falls and the boat trip from Buffalo to Cleveland. As the entry mentions, Sylvester was old enough to remember the voyage. He was the likely source of the factual information in this sketch.

Likewise, Sylvester’s younger brother, Charles, probably had some memories of the ocean voyage, perhaps supplemented by what he was told by his older brother and parents.

When the son (Charles) was five years old his father determined to bring his family to America, which was then a land of opportunities and almost undeveloped resources. … The sailing vessel on which they all embarked encountered adverse winds that after several weeks drove it back within sight of the starting point, and it was a long voyage before the western continent appeared. The boat came down the St. Lawrence river, and from Buffalo the family continued on to Cleveland. Thomas Casbon then walked on to Wooster, Ohio. where James Scruby, a brother of his wife and a farmer, lived, and having obtained a horse and wagon returned to Cleveland for his family. By this means they all arrived at a place ten miles from Wooster, on the old Cleveland and Columbus state road, where Thomas Casbon began his career in the new world.[4]

Charles’ account also mentions the difficulty of the voyage, substantiating what Sylvester recalled. His account tells how Thomas traveled on foot from Cleveland to Wooster, Ohio (about 50 miles), and mentions Emma’s brother, James Scruby.

Neither of the brothers’ stories mention the month or year that Thomas moved to Indiana from Ohio. Anna’s migration stories give the date as April, 1865. Although the month cannot be confirmed by other sources, Porter County, Indiana land records confirm that Thomas first bought property there in 1865.

“Fate’s Hand Can Be Far Reaching,” by The Stroller, article in The (Valparaiso, Indiana) Vidette Messenger, 22 March 1957. This is a largely fictional account that combines details from Sylvester and Charles’ accounts in The History of Porter County with the writings of a British journalist and a quest for the “Vale of Paradise” (Valparaiso). It does not add any useful information to the other migration narratives, but is an entertaining story. I wrote about it in “A Tale of Three Stories.”

Most of these migration narratives were told by people who had first-hand knowledge of the events. Sylvester and Charles Casbon, and Emma Payne were passengers on the Parkfield when it sailed from Southampton to Quebec. They were witnesses to the events they described. What is remarkable about Anna’s descriptions is how accurate they are considering that she wasn’t there. She was born thirty years after the Parkfield sailed and eleven years after Thomas moved to Indiana. Her shorter account, given at the beginning of this post, was written more than one hundred years after Thomas emigrated from England. Yet, her version of events tracks very closely with the other accounts.

All of these narratives, especially Anna’s, tell me that preserving the family story must have been very important to the early generations of Casbons in America. Where did Anna get such detailed information? She might have heard it from her father, Jesse, but he was less than three years old when he came to America, so he could not have recalled much about the voyage. Maybe the stories were told and retold at family gatherings over the years. She might have heard directly from her Grandpa Thomas – she was eleven years old when he died in 1888.

Sadly, the migration stories have faded from the memories of later generations. It’s only because they have been preserved in dusty books or long-forgotten scraps of paper in old attics that we have them today. Our families have grown, branched, moved apart, and moved on to more recent events. Even though these stories have no bearing on our daily lives, they are still important. They are something we have in common. They are compass points in our heritage; waypoints in the chain of events that got us to where we are today. I hope by sharing them my readers will be able to relive and appreciate these events, and pass them on to future generations.

[1] Charles Elihu Slocum, History of the Slocums, Slocumbs and Slocombs of America: Genealogical and Biographical, Embracing Twelve Generations of the First-named Family from A.D. 1637 to 1908, with Their Marriages and Descendants in the Female Lines as Far as Ascertained, Vol. 2 (Defiance, Ohio: published by the author, 1908), p. 129, entry on William Wallace Slocum; online image, Google Books (https://books.google.com/books?id=1e4UAAAAYAAJ&vq=casbon&source=gbs_navlinks_s : accessed 10 August 2018).
[2] Lloyd’s List (London), No. 10,014, p. 1, col. 3, 20 April 1846, Parkfield sailing, 18 Apr 1846; online image, “British Newspaper Collection,” Findmypast (http://search.findmypast.com/search/british-newspapers : accessed 13 January 2017).
[3] History of Porter County, Indiana : a Narrative Account of its Historical Progress, its People and its Principal Interests, vol. 2 (Chicago: The Lewis Publishing Company, 1912), pp. 482-3; online image, Hathi Trust Digital Library (https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/011679885 : accessed 10 August 2018).
[4] Ibid, pp. 459-60.

Report Cards

Among the many treasures recently sent to me by John Casbon were photographs of these two report cards.

Casbon Jesse Report cardCasbon Steve Report card
Photos courtesy of John N Casbon. (Click on images to enlarge)

These are obviously report cards for brothers Jesse (1898–1974) and Steven (1900–1979) Casbon. Jesse was John N Casbon’s father. Although the location and year of the report cards are not given, we can narrow these facts down through other sources of information. In addition, the report cards can give us some insight into Jesse and Steven’s education and the educational system of the time.

As to time and location, the name of Jesse and Steven’s teacher, Grace Hubbell, aids us greatly in pinning these down. The name looked familiar to me, and then I recalled an earlier post, “Bundy School, Porter County Indiana, 1907,” that mentioned Miss Hubbell and even included a photograph of her. In a 1912 biography of her uncle, Fletcher D White, we are told, that

Mr. and Mrs. White have reared in their home a niece, Grace Hubbell, an amiable, talented young lady, who is a graduate of Valparaiso University in the scientific and normal departments. She has taught for three years in the Bundy school near this city and has recently been engaged to teach in the schools of Gary.[1]

Based on this information, we can guess that the report card is from Bundy school in Porter County, probably sometime between 1908–1912.

This matches well with what we know about the boys’ whereabouts based on census reports. In 1905, they were living with their mother Anna and aunt Lillie Casbon in Red Lake Falls, Minnesota.[2] By 1910 they were living with their grandfather, Jesse Casbon Sr. in Porter County.[3] Jesse and Steven were listed as ages 10 and 9, respectively. This was probably within a year or two of the time the report cards were written.

The Bundy school was a one-room schoolhouse with only one teacher, so the boys would have been in class with children of all ages and grade levels. The report cards don’t tell us what “grades” they were in, but evidently there was some way of distinguishing, since “Rank in Grade” (Jesse: 78 percent; Steven: 70 percent) was a category on the report cards. I find it interesting that the report cards were entirely hand-written. The only academic subjects receiving grades were Spelling ,Reading and Writing. Punctuality and Deportment (a word rarely used these days) were also graded. What a difference from today’s educational system!

Jesse and Steven weren’t at the top of their grade levels, but it looks like they were in the upper 50 percent (assuming Miss Hubbell was using a zero to 100 percent scale). Jesse seems to have been a slightly stronger student than Steven. In particular, he scored 96 percent on an examination in mathematics. We know from later life that Jesse was an astute businessman. Perhaps this was an early indication.

The 1912 History of Porter County has some interesting information about the county’s public schools. Outside of the city of Valparaiso, there were several high schools and one grammar school. Aside from these, each township was divided into a number of school districts, “and one teacher is employed in each district school.”[4] The one-room schoolhouse was still the norm for education through the eighth grade. The average school term was 178 days.[5] We’re also told that the average daily wage for teachers in Porter County was $3.38.[6]

We know from the 1940 census that Jesse and Steven completed eight years of school education.[7] I wonder how much of their education was completed in Porter County? Their early years must have been rough – parents separated, then divorced, relocation to Minnesota and then Indiana. These experiences probably helped to build a strong bond between them. The report cards were presumably saved by their mother, Anna. What significance did they hold for her?

[1] History of Porter County Indiana: a Narrative Account of its Historical Progress, its People and its Principal Interests, vol. 2 (Chicago: The Lewis Publishing Company, 1912), p. 569 (entry for Fletcher White, pp. 564-9).
[2] Fifth Decennial Census of Minnesota (1905), Red Lake County population schedule, Red Lake Falls, p. 344 (penned), enumeration nos. 1079–1082, Annie Kitchenn, Lillie Casbon, Jessie & Steven Kitchenn; imaged as “Minnesota State Census, 1905,” FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:9Q97-YSB7-M72?i=7&owc=waypoints&cc=1503056 : accessed 1 August 2018), Red Lake > Red Lake Falls, Ward 02 > image 8 of 10; citing State Library and Records Service, St. Paul.
[3] 1910 U.S. Census,  Porter County, Indiana, Center Township, enumeration district 137, sheet 10A, dwelling 155, family 158, Jesse Casbon; imaged as “”United States Census, 1910,” FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33SQ-GRJJ-CL9?i=18&cc=1727033 : accessed 1 Auguest 2018), Indiana > Porter > Center > ED 137 > image 19 of 26; citing NARA microfilm publication T624, roll 374.
[4] History of Porter County Indiana: a Narrative Account, vol. 1, p. 87.
[5] Ibid.
[6] Ibid.
[7] 1940 U.S. Census, Anne Arundel County, Maryland, population schedule, election district 5, p. 622 (stamped), enumeration district 2-29-B, sheet 4-A, household 79, Casbon, Jesse (age 41); imaged as “United States Census, 1940,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QS7-89M1-HKD9?i=6&cc=2000219 : accessed 6 July 2017); citing NARA digital publication T627, roll 1502. 1940 U.S. Census, Anne Arundel County, Maryland, population schedule, 4th Election District, District Training School, enumeration district 2-23, sheet 9A, p. 494 (stamped), line 16, Stephen Casbon (indexed as “Carbon”); imaged as “United States Census, 1940,” FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QSQ-G9M1-HVF6?i=16&cc=2000219 : accessed 28 June 2018); citing NARA digital publication T627, roll 1501.

Anna Mae (Casbon) Fleming – Widow?

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

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

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

This is the point where I allowed the records to lead me astray. Specifically, when I found Anna in the 1930 census, she was now living in Baltimore, Maryland, and listed as a widow.[5]

Fleming Ann Casbon 1930 census Baltimore MD Detail/composite image from 1930 Census, Baltimore. Anna’s marital status is “Wd” for widowed. She is the proprieties of a boarding house. (Click on image to enlarge)

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

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

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

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

Fleming James death cert MI 1934
Death certificate of James Harvey Fleming. (Click on image to enlarge)

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

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

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

Fleming James H 1930 census MI
Detail from 1930 Census, Gratiot County, Michigan. (Click on image to enlarge)

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

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

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

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

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

[1] 1900 U.S. Census, Forest County, Wisconsin, population schedule, Cavour Town, enumeration district 39, sheet 5B, dwelling 87, family 90, Anna Kitchel in household of Newton Kitchel; imaged as “United States Census, 1900,” FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HY-6X19-MYQ?i=9&cc=1325221 : accessed 25 July 2017), Wisconsin > Forest > ED 39 Cavour town > image 10 of 16; citing NARA microfilm publication T62, roll 1789. Porter County, Indiana, Marriage Record Book 11, Sept 1895–Jan 1899, p. 430 (stamped), Newton Kitchel and Anna Casbon, 9 Jul 1898; imaged as “Indiana Marriages, 1811-2007,” FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33S7-9R15-4M4?i=253&cc=1410397 : accessed 18 June 2017), Porter > 1895-1899 Volume 11 > image 254 of 286; citing Porter County Clerk, Valparaiso.
[2] Indiana, State Board of Health, Certificate of Death, Center Township, Porter County, no. 118, Emma E Margreete Kitchel, 6 Apr 1902 (age 2 mo, 7 d); imaged as “Indiana, Death Certificates, 1899-2011,” Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=60716 : accessed 10 July 2018), Certificate >1902 >10 >image 1020 of 2753; citing Indiana Archives and Records Administration, Indianapolis.
[3] Oceana County, Michigan, Marriage Register, vol. 4, 1911, p. 205 (penned), record 3515, James H Fleming & Anna Casbon Kitchel, 16 Jun 1911, imaged as “Michigan, Marriage Records, 1867-1952,” Ancestry  (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=9093 : accessed 25 June 2018), Registers, 1887 – 1925 >1911 – 1915 >1911 Manistee – Washtenaw >image 294 of 703; citing Michigan Department of Community Health, Division for Vital Records and Health Statistics.
[4] 1920 U.S. Census, Warwick County, Virginia, population schedule, Newport News, enumeration district 86, sheet 5A, p. 5 (stamped), family 74, James H Flemming; imaged as “United States Census, 1920,” FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33SQ-GRN2-CNJ?cc=1488411 : accessed 25 July 2017), Virginia > Newport News (Independent City) > Newport News Ward 1 > ED 86 > image 18 of 21; citing NARA microfilm publication T625, roll 1899. FHL microfilm 1,821,899.
[5] 1930 U.S. Census, Baltimore City, Maryland, population schedule, enumeration district 4-583, sheet 5A, p. 173 (stamped), 602 North Ave., dwelling 85, family 104, Anna Fleming; imaged as “United States Census, 1930,” FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33S7-9R4J-W2C?i=8&cc=1810731 : accessed 26 July 2017), Maryland > Baltimore (Independent City) > Baltimore (Districts 501-673) > ED 583 > image 9 of 18; citing NARA microfilm publication T626, roll 856.
[6] Polk’s Baltimore City Directory 1922 (Baltimore: R.L. Polk & Co., 1922), p. 743, Fleming, Anna (“wid JH”), imaged as “U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995,” Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=2469 : accessed 28 June 2018), Maryland >Baltimore >1922 >Baltimore, Maryland, City Directory, 1922 >image 380 of 1156.
[7] Death certificate, Alma, Gratiot County, Michigan, register no. 118, state office no. 129 1397, James Harvey Fleming, 12 Nov 1934; imaged as “Michigan, Death Records, 1867-1950,” Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=60872 : accessed 5 July 2018), Certificates 1921-1942 >103: Gratiot-Alma, 1921-1935 >image1413 of 1516; citing Michigan Department of Community Health, Division of Vital Records and Health Statistics, Lansing.
[8] 1900 U.S. Census, Gratiot County, Michigan, population schedule, Seville Township, enumeration district 59, sheet 1B, dwelling & family 19, James H Flenny; imaged as “United States Census, 1900,” FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HY-DTBS-FYV?i=1&cc=1325221 : accessed 5 July 2018), Michigan > Gratiot > ED 59 Seville township > image 2 of 29; citing NARA microfilm publication T623, roll 713.
[9] Marriage register, Missaukee County, MIchigan, no. 188, 2 Dec 1891, James H Fleming & Myrtie Newcomb; imaged as “Michigan Marriages, 1868-1925,” FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HT-D8QQ-7Z?i=281&cc=1452395 : accessed 5 July 2018), 004208240 > image 282 of 646; citing Department of Vital Records, Lansing.
[10] 1910 U.S. Census, Oceana County, Michigan, population schedule, enumeration district 127, sheet 2A, p. 94 (stamped), James H Fleming; imaged as “United States Census, 1910,” FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33SQ-GRVJ-1J6?i=2&cc=1727033 : accessed 5 Jul 2018), Michigan > Oceana > Greenwood > ED 127 > image 3 of 16; citing NARA microfilm publication T624, roll 669.
[11] 1930 U.S. Census, Gratiot County, Michigan, population schedule, Newark Township, Gratiot County Infirmary, enumeration district 29-18, sheet 11A, p. 193 (stamped), line 6, James Fleming in household of Lee Raycraft; imaged as “United States Census, 1930,” FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33S7-9RHS-9SQ?i=20&cc=1810731 : accessed 5 July 2018), Michigan > Gratiot > Newark > ED 18 > image 21 of 24; citing NARA microfilm publication T626, roll 989.

Jess & Steve’s Excellent Adventure

Jess and Steve’s excellent adventure began on June 8, 1921, when they signed on as crewmembers aboard the S.S. Western Comet in Baltimore, Maryland.[1]

Casbon Jesse J and Steven ship manifest NY 1921 Manifest of crew members of S.S. Western Comet, arriving in New York from St. Nazaire, France, 8 October, 1921. Column 4 shows that “J Casbon” and “SF Casbon” were engaged as crew members 8 June, in Baltimore. The form was apparently filled out incorrectly, as corrections were made to the ports of arrival and departure.
(Click on image to enlarge

“J” Casbon on the ship’s manifest is Jesse John Casbon, and “SF” Casbon is his younger brother Steven. Jesse and Steven were close. They were born less than two years apart in Wisconsin, Jesse in December 1898 and Steven in August 1900, the offspring of John Newton (1875–1945) and Anna Mae (Casbon, 1876–1957) Kitchel.

Their early lives were tumultuous. By 1905 the parents were separated, their father remaining in Wisconsin, and Anna and the two boys living in Minnesota (see “1905, Red Lake County, Minnesota” [link]).[2] By 1910, John and Anna were divorced. Anna and the two boys were staying with her father, Jesse Casbon, on his farm in Porter County, Indiana.[3]

The boys acquired a step-father in 1911 when Anna married a Michigan farmer named James H Fleming.[4] The available records are silent on their whereabouts during most of their teen years. Jesse enlisted in the Army in October, 1916 and served for the duration of the first World War, returning from Brest, France, in early 1919.[5] Upon his return, he moved back in with his family, who were now living in Newport News, Virginia.

In the 1920 census, we find James Fleming, the stepfather, employed as a watchman at a shipyard. Jesse is working as a clerk and checker at a warehouse, and Steven is listed as a steam engineer at a shipyard.[6]

Fleming James b abt 1864 Mich 1920 census VA
Detail from 1920 U.S. Census, Newport News, Virginia. (Click on image to enlarge)

It must have been during this time that they hatched the idea of the adventure. Maybe Steven’s work in the shipyard inspired them; or maybe Jesse wanted to return to France in peacetime with his little brother. At any rate, they joined the crew of Western Comet where they were listed as ordinary seamen (“OS” in column 2 of the ship’s manifest).

The Western Comet was built in 1918 by the Northwest Steel Company in Portland, Oregon.[7] Originally built under contract to the French government, the ship was transferred to the U.S. Navy after the United States entered World War I.[8] Following the war, the ship was transferred to the U.S. Shipping Board for use in commercial operations.[9]

Launch of Western Comet Ready to lead the Hun astray
Source: Heave Together, Official Organ of the Northwest Steel Company, Portland Oregon,
vol. 2, p. 695; image copy, Google Books (https://books.google.com/books?id=8tVHAQAAMAAJ&dq=s.s.+western+comet&source=gbs_navlinks_s : accessed 26 June 2018).

Signing up as fledgling sailors on a cargo ship bound for France was an adventure in itself. However, the boys were in for more than they expected. Contemporary newspapers recount the various mishaps that befell the ship, even before departing the port at Baltimore.

On June 13, five days after joining the crew, the ship was “badly disabled” while still in port, the damage being attributed to striking marine workers.[10] The nation was in the midst of a seamen’s strike involving 140,000 marine workers at all major ports.[11] This raises another possible reason why the two brothers decided to become sailors that summer: they might have been filling vacancies left by striking sailors.

Apparently, the damage to the ship was repaired quickly, as The New York Herald reported on June 19th that Western Comet had departed Baltimore on Friday, June 17.[12] However, on the same day the New York Tribune reported, “while outward bound Friday evening with coal for St Nazaire the str [steamer] Western Comet went aground off Hawkins Point and remained here today. Defective steerng [sic] gear is attributed as the cause of the accident.” Hawkins Point lies at the southern tip of Baltimore, where the outlet of the harbor begins to merge with the Chesapeake Bay. The ship was barely out of port and already in trouble!

Hawkins Point Map of Baltimore showing location of Hawkins Point. (Google Maps; click on image to enlarge)

Again, there did not appear to be any serious damage, but the cargo had to be unloaded in order to refloat the ship. Five days after its original departure, The New York Herald reported “Str Western Comet, hence for St. Nazaire, before reported aground at Hawkins Point, floated and is reloading cargo.” Two days later The Herald reported “Cape Henry, Va … Passed out … 23d, 9 AM, str Western Comet, … (from Baltimore) for St Nazaire,” meaning the ship had passed Cape Henry, Virginia, the outlet of the Chesapeake Bay and entrance to the Atlantic Ocean.

The voyage across the Atlantic was unremarkable. All was going well until …

American Steamer Aground Near France
Source: The Boston Post, 9 Jul 1921, p. 2, col. 7; online image, Newspaper Archive (accessed through participating libraries: 26 June 2018).

A similar report appeared in the New York Tribune on June 10.[13]

NY Tribune 10 Jul 1921 p19 col4

On Jun 25, more than two weeks after the mishap, The New York Herald reported that Western Comet was once again afloat, and “proceeded to St Nazaire, where she is expected to go into dry dock.”[14] The Bulletin of the American Bureau of Shipping gave a more detailed report:

“BORDEAUX, August 1, 1921.— The S.S. Western Comet. after being hard aground off St Nazaire, has been salvaged and dry docked in the same port. It is estimated that repairs will cost about $200,000. All French repair films along the coast are to bid on the work, and the job may be done in La Palice.”[15]

I haven’t been able to determine where the repair work was done. The next reports tell us that Western Comet departed St. Nazaire for New York on September 16, more than two months after foundering off the French coast.[16] The ship finally arrived in New York on October 8. There are reports that Western Comet was being towed, at least part way across the Atlantic, by another ship.[17] Apparently whatever repairs were done in France were not sufficient. Once in port in New York, the ship was immediately taken to dry dock for more work.[18]

The route
Approximate route taken by Jesse and Steven from Baltimore to St. Nazaire, and then to New York. (Google Maps; click on image to enlarge)

The adventure was over, and apparently so were Jesse and Steven’s careers as sailors. In 1922, we find the brothers living together in Baltimore (with their mother), now running their own confectionary business.[19]

The story of the brothers’ voyage on the Western Comet as I’ve told it is based entirely on contemporary records. It leaves many questions unanswered. Why did they sign up? What did they do while the ship was awaiting repairs in St. Nazaire? Was this the vacation of a lifetime or were they stuck on board ship? It was a small but memorable episode in their lives. I wonder if any tales have been handed down to later generations? If so, I would love to hear more of the story.

[1] “List of Aliens Employed on the Vessel as Members of Crew,” S.S. Western Comet, arriving New York 21 Oct 1921 from St. Nazaire, France, nos. 12 & 13, Casbon J and Casbon S.F.; imaged as “New York Passenger Arrival Lists (Ellis Island), 1892-1924,” FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3Q9M-C95R-F771-9?i=202&cc=1368704 : accessed 25 June 2018), Roll 3034, vol 6913-6914, 7 Oct 1921-10 Oct 1921 > image 203 of 990; citing NARA microfilm publication T715, roll 3034.
[2] 1905 Minnesota Census, Red Lake County, population schedule, Red Lake Falls, p. 344 (penned), no. 1079, Kitchen, Annie; imaged as “Minnesota State Census, 1905,” FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:9Q97-YSB7-M72?cc=1503056&wc=M8SL-WT1%3A67006601%2C67115001 : 21 May 2014), Red Lake > Red Lake Falls, Ward 02 > image 8 of 10; citing State Library and Records Service, St. Paul.
[3] 1910 U.S. Census, Porter County, Indiana, population schedule, Center Township, enumeration district 137, sheet 10A, p. 26 (stamped), dwelling 155, family 158, Jesse Casbon; imaged as “United States Census, 1910,” FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33SQ-GRJJ-CL9?i=18&cc=1727033 : accessed 4 July 2018), Indiana > Porter > Center > ED 137 > image 19 of 26; citing NARA microfilm publication T624, roll 374.
[4] Oceana County, Michigan, Marriage Register, 1911, p. 205 (penned), record 3515, James H Fleming & Anna Casbon Kitchel, 16 Jun 1911, imaged as “Michigan, Marriage Records, 1867-1952,” Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=9093 : accessed 25 June 2018), Registers, 1887 – 1925 >1911 – 1911 Manistee – Washtenaw >image 294 of 703; citing Michigan Department of Community Health, Division for Vital Records and Health Statistics.
[5] Passenger List, U.S.S. Virginia, sailing 12 Feb 1919 from Brest, France, Battery C 1st Battalion Trench Artillery, no. 79, Jesse Casbon;imaged as “US Army WWI Transport Service, Passenger Lists,” Fold3 (https://www.fold3.com/browse/250/hR09WBr_U : accessed 21 Jun 2018), Incoming >Virginian >1918 Nov 11-1919 Apr 20 >page 151; citing NARA, RG 92, roll 347, College Park, Maryland.
[6] 1920 U.S. Census, Warwick County, Virginia, population schedule, Newport News, enumeration district 86, sheet 5A, p. 5 (stamped), family 74, James H Flemming; imaged as “United States Census, 1920,” FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33SQ-GRN2-CNJ?cc=1488411 : accessed 25 July 2017), Virginia > Newport News (Independent City) > Newport News Ward 1 > ED 86 > image 18 of 21; citing NARA microfilm publication T625, roll 1899.
[7] “USS Western Comet (ID-3569),” Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Western_Comet_(ID-3569) : accessed 26 Jun 2018), rev. 28 Dec 17, 12:14.
[8] Ibid.
[9] Ibid.
[10] “Blaze Holds up Buckeye State,” Evening Public Ledger (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), 13 Jun 1921, p. 8, col. 3; online image, “Chronicling America,” Library of Congress (https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83045211/1921-06-13/ed-1/seq-8/ : accessed 5 Jul 2018).
[11] Florence Peterson, “Review of Strikes in the United States,” Monthly Labor Review 46 (May 1938), no. 5, p. 1056; online image, JSTOR (https://www.jstor.org/stable/i40085540 : accessed 5 July 2018).
[12] “American Ports (By Telegraph),” The New York Herald, 19 Jun 1921, 2d news section, p. 9, col. 4; Library of Congress (https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83045774/1921-06-19/ed-1/seq-31/ : accessed 5 July 2018).
[13] “Maritime Miscellany (Baltimore July 9),” New York Tribune, 10 Jul 1921, p. 19, col. 4; Library of Congress (https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83030214/1921-07-10/ed-1/seq-19/ : accessed 26 June 2018).
[14] “Maritime Miscellany,” The New York Herald, 25 Jul 1921, p. 15, col. 1; Library of Congress (https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83045774/1921-07-25/ed-1/seq-15/ : accessed 26 June 2018).
[15] R W Clark, “Repairs to S.S. Western Comet,” Bulletin of the American Bureau of Shipping, vol. 1, no. 5, September-October, 1921, p. 15; Google Books (https://books.google.com/books?id=FVT36EA2CUYC&dq=s.s.+western+comet&source=gbs_navlinks_s : accessed 26 June 2018).
[16] “Foreign Ports … Departures for New York,” New York Tribune, 21 Sep 1921, p. 20, col. 3; Library of Congress (https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83030214/1921-09-21/ed-1/seq-20/ : accessed 26 June 2018).
[17]“Wireless Reports: from United States Shipping Board Daily Shipping Bulletin,” The New York Herald, 6 Oct 1921, p. 10, col. 3; Library of Congress (https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83045774/1921-10-06/ed-1/seq-10/ : accessed 9 July 2018).
[18]“Arrived,” The New York Herald, 2d news section, 9 Oct 1921, p. 10, col. 3; Library of Congress(https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83045774/1921-10-09/ed-1/seq-34 : accessed 5 July 2018).
[19] Polk’s Baltimore City Directory 1922 (Baltimore: R.L. Polk & Co., 1922), p. 509, entries for Casbon Bros, Jesse and Stephen, imaged as “U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995,” Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=2469 : accessed 28 June 2018), Maryland >Baltimore >1922 >Baltimore, Maryland, City Directory, 1922, image 263 of 1156.

Hops Picking – Update

One of the most satisfying aspects of writing this blog has been the occasional comment from a previously unknown relative, who found the blog through Google or by similar means. These contacts not only give me a boost; they usually provide information that otherwise would not have been available to me and help to fill in gaps in the family tree. One of these correspondents is Alice Casban, a sixth cousin once removed, who contacted me after reading some of my posts concerning the Casban branch of the family.

Alice shared my latest post, “A Working Vacation in East Sussex,” with her grandfather, whose grandmother was Margaret (Donovan) Casban, the subject of that post. I won’t use his name, as I have not asked permission to do so. After showing him the post, Alice said,

My grandad used to go hops picking all the time, his face lit up talking about it! He remembered getting the hopper trains, and also the name of the Lodge before I even read it out!

By coincidence as well, my grandad also said he knew Joanna Feeley (mentioned in the article), he could even recall she wore a trilby hat and stayed nearby to all the Casbans down in Bodiam![1]

Alice was also kind enough to send this photo.

Casban Margaret and Ellen hops picking
“The group photo shows Roger Lovett (son of that man who owned Court Lodge Farm), second from the left is Margaret Casban, third from the left is Nell (my grandads mother).” Undated photo courtesy of Alice Casban, used with permission. (Click on image to enlarge)

Alice’s granddad would have been less than two years old when the article in my previous post was written, so evidently his grandmother Margaret must have continued picking hops at Court Lodge Farm for some years after the article came out. “Nell” was Ellen Kathleen Casbon (1908–2008), Margaret’s youngest child.

So, thank you, Alice, for sharing your grandfather’s reminiscences with us! Maybe other readers will be inspired to do the same.

[1] Alice Casban [(e-address for private use)] to Jon Casbon, e-mail 4 Jul 2018, “Our Casbon Journey”; privately held by Casbon [(e-address and street address for private use)].