When I first started gathering information about our family history in the 1990s, there wasn’t much information available online and I didn’t have access to many sources. One source I did have was a privately printed volume entitled Aylesworth Family, Porter County, Indiana. The first printing of this book was 250 copies in March, 1946. I have the second printing – a run of 400 copies in July, 1984. This remarkable book was written by members of the Aylesworth family, initially building upon published works and family records. The 1984 edition was updated with information provided at Aylesworth family reunions, which were a regular occurrence in Porter County, Indiana, for many years. The 1984 printing contains more than 150 pages, and includes information on 13 generations of Aylesworth descendants, beginning in the 1600s.
Why am I talking about the Aylesworth family in Our Casbon Journey? Well, it turns out there are close connections between the Aylesworths and the Casbons in the United States. When Thomas Casbon arrived in Wayne County, Ohio, in 1846, several members of the Aylesworth family were already there. Some of these families then moved westward to Porter County, Indiana. Sylvester Casbon (1837—1937), son of Thomas (1803—1888), married Adaline (or Mary Adaline) Aylesworth (1842—1868). She was the daughter of Giles Aylesworth, the first Aylesworth to migrate to Porter County. Amos James Casbon (1869—1956), the son of James (1813—1884), married Carrie Belle Aylesworth (1873—1958). So, there are important Aylesworth connections in both branches of the Indiana Casbon families.
This rather lengthy introduction provides the back story for the real subject of today’s post. The entry in the Aylesworth book for Adaline Aylesworth Casbon, wife of Sylvester, lists their first child as “Deette.”
I haven’t been able to locate birth records for Deette, but that’s not unusual, since birth registration wasn’t required at the time.
The subsequent Aylesworth Family entry on Deette says that she married Napoleon Lightfoot in 1872.
These innocuous looking entries are the basis of a mystery – who was Deette Casbon and who were her real parents? She couldn’t be the child of both Sylvester and Adaline. When Deette was born in 1856, Adaline Aylesworth and her family were living in Indiana. Sylvester first came to Porter County in about 1859. So, it’s highly unlikely that Sylvester even knew Adaline when Deette was born.
This doesn’t rule out Adaline as the mother. Although she was only 14 in 1856, it would be biologically possible for her to have a child.
In an effort to resolve the question, I took another look at the 1860 U.S. census to see if I could find any clues about Deette. I had seen these records before, but his time I noticed something interesting in the entry for Giles Aylesworth and his family.
You can see the entry for Adaline, age 18. This was recorded about 1 month before she married Sylvester Casbon. What I had previously overlooked was the entry for Deretta Ailsworth, age 4. Could Deette be a contraction of Deretta?
Notably, Deretta does not appear as one of Giles Aylesworth’s children in the Aylesworth Family book. So what is she doing here in the 1860 census?
If she was part of Sylvester and Adaline’s family, you might expect her to appear under Sylvester’s name in the 1870 census. But when I look at Sylvester’s census entry, there is no listing for Deette or Deretta. Of note, Adaline died in 1868. By 1870, Sylvester had remarried and had a stepchild from his new wife in addition to his own children.
What about Giles Aylesworth in the 1870 census? Neither Deette nor Deretta appear. However, there is a curious entry for Cicelia Gray, age 13, Domestic Servant.
At first glance this name doesn’t appear to mean anything special. But let’s fast forward a few years to Deette’s marriage to Napoleon Lightfoot in 1873 (not 1872 as stated in the Aylesworth book).
Marriage record, Porter County, Indiana.
Contrary to what’s listed in the Aylesworth Family book, Napoleon Lightfoot did not marry Deette Casbon – he married Cicley (a misspelling of Cicelia) Gray – the same name that appears in the 1870 census! So why does the Aylesworth book say he married Deette?
The solution is that Deette/Deretta and Cicelia/Cicley are the same person. This is confirmed by the 1880 census, in which her name is recorded as Deitt Lightfoot. Different versions of her given name and surname can be seen in two other references. Napoleon Lightfoot’s obituary states that “he was married to Deepie Gray who preceded him in death August 13, 1886.” Their daughter Stella Lightfoot’s 1912 marriage record gives her mother’s maiden name as Deta Ellsworth (Ellsworth is a variant of Aylesworth).
Before I noticed the Deretta Aylesworth entry in the 1860 census, I thought that maybe Deette/Cicelia had been orphaned from a family named Gray, and that Sylvester and Adaline had adopted her, either formally or informally. But now I think that she must have been Adaline’s daughter, born out of wedlock.
Many questions remain. Was Gray her father’s surname? If so, who/where was he? I’ve searched the 1850 and 1860 Porter county censuses and there was no one in the county named Gray. Unless there are documents or letters in an archive or someone’s attic, we may never know.
Was she ever really known as Deette Casbon, i.e., was she part of Sylvester and Adaline’s household? It’s possible that they took her into their family after they were married in 1860. The fact that she is listed as their child in the Aylesworth book suggests that there was some basis for considering her part of the family. If so, why did she return to the Aylesworth household after her mother died? Was she turned out by Sylvester, or did she choose to return to her grandparents? Was she really a household servant in 1870? I hope she wasn’t treated like a servant in her grandparents’ house. Maybe that’s what they told the census man (and nosey neighbors!) as a convenient way to explain her surname. She must have held some affection for her grandparents, since she named one of her sons Giles.
When did she become known as Cicelia Gray? The fact that she was using the surname Gray in 1870 indicates that she learned the truth about her birth at some point. The middle initial “D” in her marriage record makes me think that Cicelia was her first name, and Deretta her middle – or the other way around. Maybe she used Gray as her legal name, and Casbon or Aylesworth socially. It seems like her preferred nickname was Deette, since versions of that name appear on many records.
It must have been confusing and difficult for this young girl, living first in her grandparents’ home, then (possibly) with Sylester and Adaline, then losing her mother at an early age and returning to her grandparents. Deette married Napoleon at the age of 16, and died before she turned 33. I hope she was able to find some happiness along the way.