Emma Elizabeth Casbon was the last child born to Thomas and Emma (Scruby) Casbon, and the only one born in the United States. Her life is poorly documented. Reporting of births was not required in Ohio until the 1850s, so there is no official record of her birth. The birth date carved into her grave stone is May 22, 1847. This would have been about one year after her family arrived in Ohio from England. She was named after her mother Emma and her maternal grandmother, Elizabeth (Robinson) Scruby. Her name is duly recorded on the 1850 and 1860 census reports with the other family members, but no information is given other than her age and sex.,
The next record I have is a copy of the marriage certificate of Emma with Robert Newell Rigg, in Porter County, Indiana, on April 15, 1869, when Emma was just shy of 22 years old.
Marriage registration of Robert Rigg and Emma Casbon, 15 April, 1869, Porter County, Indiana.
(Click on image to enlarge).
As I’ve noted previously, Thomas Casbon moved with his family from Ohio to Indiana about 1865. His farm was only about 1½ miles south of that of William Byron Rigg in Porter Township. Mr. Rigg came to Porter County from Pennsylvania in 1861. His son, Robert Newell (after his paternal grandmother), born in 1845, didn’t have far to look for his bride.
Initially Emma and Robert continued to live in Porter Township, where Robert worked on a farm, presumably that of his father.
The young couple remained childless after five years of marriage. This changed dramatically after an unfortunate event. In August 1874, a son was born to Emma’s brother Sylvester and his wife Harriet (Perry). He was given the name George Washington Casbon. In November of the same year, Harriet died, leaving Sylvester a widower with five children at home, ranging from the infant George to 13-year old Cora. Possibly to alleviate Sylvester’s burden (and grief), or to offset their own state of childlessness, Emma and Robert agreed to take responsibility for George’s upbringing.
In 1876 Robert, Emma, and George moved to Iowa. I don’t know why they moved, but as one of five sons, there might not have been enough affordable land to go around in Indiana, while Iowa still had abundant land for settlement (this is only speculation on my part). The 1880 census shows Robert, Emma, and “Georgio” living in Geneseo Township, Tama County. George is listed as “son,” and the enumerator has mistakenly listed his parents’ birthplaces as Pennsylvania and Ohio (George’s father, Sylvester, was born in England; mother, Harriet, was born in Canada).
It is unclear whether George was truly adopted, or simply raised in loco parentis by Robert and Emma. There are some indications that his home life was not a happy one. Since Emma is the subject of this post, and not George, I won’t dwell on his situation at this time. He will be the subject of a future post.
Meanwhile, although I have no documentation, living descendants of George have told me that Robert and Emma’s marriage was troubled. They reportedly filed for divorce in 1904. Whether the divorce was granted is unknown to me. It is noteworthy that in the 1905 Iowa State Census, Robert is listed as married but was apparently living by himself; I haven’t been able to locate Emma, and George was now grown and living on his own.
This is the only photo I have of Emma, taken at a family reunion in 1901 when she
was 54 years old. She is hidden in shadow behind her brother Jesse (a metaphor?).
The 1910 Census does nothing to clarify their marital status. They were not together when the census was enumerated. Robert was in Iowa, and Emma was in Indiana, a house guest of her brother Jesse. , Robert was listed as married, while Emma was listed as widowed. Emma’s status could simply be an incorrect assumption by the enumerator, or an evasion on her part.
Detail from 1910 Census, Center Township, Porter County, Indiana. Emma’s marital status is listed as
“Wd,” for widowed (compare to Jesse’s daughter Anna, who was divorced). (Click in image to enlarge)
Emma’s death occurred in Valparaiso, Indiana on July 29, 1910, just a few months after the census was taken. Her obituary gives little new information, and makes no mention of a divorce from Robert.
Given her “widowed” status on the census and the fact that she had been staying with her brothers in Indiana for several months preceding her death, it seems likely that she was estranged from her husband. I’ve gotten the impression from living descendants that they might have even lived in separate homes in Iowa.
Robert lived another 14 years after Emma’s death and never remarried. He died July 17, 1924 in La Porte City, Iowa, not far from the farm he moved to in 1876. His obituary described his as “one of the most substantial farmers and stock raisers of this section.” It also makes no mention of a marital schism with Emma.
Obituary from the (La Porte City) Progress Review, July 17, 1924.
(Click on image to enlarge – image is poor quality)
Given the ambiguous state of their marriage, I find it interesting that, in the end, they were buried side by side in Iowa.
The Rigg memorial stone, Westview Cemetery, La Porte, Black Hawk County, Iowa.
(photo courtesy of Claudia Vokoun)
What I find most interesting, and sad, however, is that neither of the obituaries mentions their foster-son, George. I’m afraid the silence says a lot about their relationship. Whatever the case, it is thanks to Robert and Emma that the Casbon name was brought to Iowa, where there are now a considerable number of George’s descendants.