After the birth of Mary Ann Casbon in 1833, Thomas and Emma (Scruby) Casbon named their second child, a son, “Sell.” He was born about August, 1835, baptized July 1st, 1836, and buried July 24, 1836 at the age of 11 months. , Their third child was also a son, and as was common at the time, Thomas and Emma also named him Sell – a nickname for Sylvester, which is how he came to be known as an adult. He is my second great grandfather.
Sylvester V Casbon was born in Meldreth (Cambridgeshire) June 6, 1837 and baptized August 6th of the same year. His life has been well-documented, thanks to two books describing the early history of Porter (and Lake) counties, along with biographies of many of its citizens. The first of these books is titled Counties of Porter and Lake Indiana: Historical and Biographical, Illustrated, published in 1882. The second is History of Porter County, Indiana: a narrative account of its historical progress, its people and its principal interests, published in 1912. Sylvester’s biography from the latter reference has been transcribed and posted on the Porter County, Indiana INGenWeb site and can be found here. I am quoting many excerpts from the 1912 biography in this post. Sylvester was also the subject of two previous posts: “From England to Indiana, Part 5,” and “Sylvester on a Cart.”
Regarding the family’s voyage from England to America in 1846, we are told the following:
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…. 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.
Like his sister Mary Ann, the long voyage must have made a profound impression on young Sylvester. He was the oldest son, but probably too young to engage in the hardest work while his father established a household and started farming in the new land. Of his childhood and early adulthood, the following is written:
The Casbon children obtained their education in an old stone schoolhouse near Nashville, Ohio, and by diligent study Sylvester fitted himself for teaching, and taught one term at Mt. Ollie, Ohio. Then acting under the persuasion of a friend Mr. Ellsworth, who had settled in Porter county, Indiana, and also from his own wish to locate further west, Mr. Casbon came to this county in 1859 and began teaching in what was then known as the Ellsworth school, which he conducted successfully for three terms. He also taught one term in Boone Grove and one term in the House school, as it was called then, but later known as Boone Grove school.
“Ellsworth” is a misspelling of the name “Aylesworth,” a family strongly associated with the Casbon family both in Ohio and Porter County, Indiana. The identity of “Mr. Ellsworth,” mentioned above, is unknown. Presumably he was close in age to Sylvester. He might have been one of the sons of Ira or Philip Aylesworth, who lived in Wayne County, Ohio. Or perhaps he was a son of Sylvester’s future father in law, Giles Aylesworth, who moved to Porter County in 1842. If the latter, Sylvester might have met “Mr Ellsworth” when he came back to Ohio to visit relatives.
Although not university-educated, Sylvester was apparently schooled well enough to teach others, and was probably better educated than many of his contemporaries.
I’ve tried to identify the locations of the schools mentioned in the biography. Unfortunately, there is insufficient detail to know exactly where they were located. The one exception might be the so-called Ellsworth school. An 1876 plat map of Boone township, Porter County, shows a school located on one corner of a large tract of land owned by Ira Aylesworth in section 9, township 33 north, range 7 west. Since this was located on Aylesworth land, it might well have been called the Aylesworth (or “Ellsworth”) school.
In 1860 Mr. Casbon established his own home by his marriage to Miss Mary A. Ellsworth, a daughter of Giles Ellsworth, of Boone township. Their wedded life was begun on a farm of eighty acres in Boone township, which he had purchased. There was a small house, but few other improvements, and on this place their youthful enthusiasm and industry soon were rewarded with substantial prosperity. The three children born of their marriage were Cora A., Bertha (deceased) and Lawrence A. In 1868 Mr. Casbon lost his wife by death, she being only twenty-six years of age at the time.
Sylvester’s bride’s full name was Mary “Adaline” Aylesworth (1842–1868), daughter of Giles and Mary (Jones) Aylesworth. I’ve speculated in an earlier post that Mary Adaline might have had a daughter out of wedlock at a very young age. If so, the marriage to Sylvester would have helped her and her parents out of an awkward situation.
With his marriage, Sylvester gave up teaching and took up farming. Perhaps his earnings as a teacher helped him to make his first land purchase. This was recorded in 1861, when he bought portions of land in sections 9 and 16, township 33 north, range 6 west (Boone Township) from his father in law, Giles.
Sylvester and Adaline’s marriage was marred first by the loss of their child, Bertha, who lived only 6 months, and then by the tragic death of Adaline herself. The cause of Adaline’s death is not recorded, but it does not appear to be related to childbirth, unless the birth of the child is also unrecorded. Their third child and first son, Lawrence, was my great-grandfather.
Sylvester married Emmeline “Harriet” Perry in October 1869, one and one-half years after Adaline’s death. A fellow blogger has described Harriet’s earlier divorce from Henry Chester, something unusual for the times. The 1870 census shows Sylvester living in Ross township, Lake County, Indiana with his new wife Harriet, his two surviving children, and Harriet’s daughter Henrietta Chester.
Detail from 1870 United States Census, Ross township, Lake County, Indiana. (Click on image to enlarge)
Sylvester’s biography tells us that he had traded farms with his brother in law, Porter Aylesworth, which explains why he was now living in Lake County. After this move,
“by his thrifty industry he became the owner of a fine estate of two hundred and sixty acres. On this he erected a brick house which at the time was considered one of the finest country homes in this region.”
Sadly, his marriage to Harriet was also shortened by her death.
There were three sons by this marriage, Thomas S., Charles P. and George W., who were still in childhood and infancy when deprived of the care of their mother, whose lamented death occurred in 1874. After this loss Mr. Casbon kept his home and children and was both father and mother to them for several years.
What the biography does not tell us is that Harriet’s death occurred less than 3 months after the birth of their son George. This was another terrible tragedy for the family. The cause of her death is also unrecorded.
An important consequence of her death is also not mentioned in the biography. Faced with the responsibility for six motherless children ranging in age from 3 months to 14 years, Sylvester gave up his youngest son George to be raised by his sister Emma and her husband Robert Noel Rigg. Emma and Robert had been married in 1869 and were childless. During the 1870s, they moved from Porter County, Indiana to Tama County, Iowa, where George was raised. George either retained, or took back the Casbon surname. His story will be the subject of a future post, but for now suffice it to say that the Casbon name was established in Iowa by George and his descendants.
Sylvester married Mary M Mereness, 14 years his junior, in December 1877. According to Sylvester’s biography, “Mrs. Casbon became a loyal mother to her husband’s children, and to her they owe much of the training which helped them attain worthy positions in life.” Despite her young age, Mary never had children of her own.
Detail of 1880 United States Census, Ross Township, Lake County, Indiana. Only sons Lawrence, Thomas and Charles were still at home. Cora married John Sams that year, and George was living in Iowa with his adoptive parents. The family entry immediately below Sylvester’s is that of John Mereness, Mary’s father. Apparently Sylvester did not have to look far for his bride!
(Click on image to enlarge)
In 1892, Sylvester and Mary sold their fine brick house in Lake County, and moved to Valparaiso. He was only 55 years old. Had he prospered so much that he was able to retire at this early age? The record does not say. However, his biography does say this:
Mr. Casbon is one of the fortunate men upon whom age sits lightly, and he lives with the interests and activities of a man much younger. Daily his genial figure is seen on the streets, and from nothing does he derive more pleasure than his associations with old friends. He has been known and esteemed in this county for more than half a century, and he has a large circle of firm friends.
This photo, taken at a family gathering about 1905, shows Sylvester and Mary with their children (except George, in Iowa) and grandchildren.
Sylvester and Mary Casbon’s obituaries in
The (Valparaiso, Indiana) Vidette-Messenger.,
(Click on individual images to enlarge)
Sylvester’s obituary mentions his recollections of the famous Lincoln-Douglas debate in Chicago. His lifetime encompassed momentous changes in history, technology, and transportation. I wonder how much he recalled of his early years in England. What a contrast that must have been!
By the way, I have no idea of what the “V” of his middle name stands for.