Introducing the Iowa Casbons! Part 1

I first heard of the Iowa Casbons when I was a teenager. My brother had a friend from Iowa who knew of people named Casbon, and who were living in the Waterloo, Iowa area. Up to that point, as far as I knew, the only Casbons in the world were a small number of grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins, all (with the exception of my immediate family) living in or around Valparaiso, Indiana. I had a vague notion that they had come from someplace else, maybe England; but in my mind, it seemed just as likely that they had sprung up from the Indiana soil. I remember thinking how strange it was to learn of other people with the same name, living in Iowa of all places!

It wasn’t until many years later, when I became interested in tracing the family history, that I learned how the Casbons came to Iowa. I made reference to this in an earlier post, but will give a brief summary here. George Washington Casbon, born August 16, 1874 in Valparaiso, Indiana to Sylvester V (1837–1927) and Harriet (Perry, 1842–1874) Casbon, was given up after his mother’s death to be raised by his uncle Robert N (1845–1924) and aunt Emma (Casbon, 1847–1910) Rigg. Robert and Emma moved to Tama County, Iowa, when George was only about two years old. There he grew up and lived for almost his entire life. All of the Iowa Casbons are descended from George.

I am indebted to Claudia Vokoun, a granddaughter of George, for contributing photographs, documents and personal memories that have vastly increased my understanding of George and his descendants.

Of George’s early years there is little information. I know from a census record that he attended rural school (probably a one-room schoolhouse) and completed the fourth reader.[*],[1] Another census has “8” written in the space for “Extent of Education: Common [school], so this probably means he attended school for eight years.[2] I also know that he was in contact with his Indiana brothers and cousins, as well as his father, Sylvester. I know this because George possessed an autograph book, in which he kept little sayings from his relatives.[3] Claudia Vokoun has sent me copies of some of these autographs.[4]

Casbon Charles P ltr to George W 1886Casbon Lodema ltr to George W 1886
Handwritten “autographs.” Top: “Dec 27 1886/Deep River Ind./Brother George/May your virtue
ever shine/like blossoms on a pumkin vine/Yours truly,/Charles P Casbon” (George’s brother)
Bottom: “Dec 27 1886./Boon Grove Ind./Cousin Georgie/Remember me when far away/and only
half awake. Remember/me on your wedding day and/send me a slice of cake./Yours truly,/Lodema E Casbon” (George’s cousin). Scanned copies courtesy of Claudia Vokoun.
Casbon SV ltr to George W 1891
“Autograph” to George from his father: “Sep 4th AD 1891/Dear son think of [me]/
when far away in/Indiana and always/be [a] good boy and favor/me your Father/
S.V. Casbon” Scanned copy courtesy of Claudia Vokoun.

According to Claudia, George obtained these on visits to Indiana.[5] Before I had this information, I thought there might have been little or no contact between George and his Indiana relations, but these autographs suggest otherwise. Claudia also sent me copies of photographs showing that George’s brother Charles Parkfield Casbon visited George in Iowa in the 1920s or 30s.

On December 26, 1905, George married Bertha Maud Carpenter in St. Hilaire,
Minnesota.[6] Maud, as she was known, was born November 22, 1879 in Benton County, Iowa, to Ira R and Josephine (Keech) Carpenter.[7] In 1895 her family was living in Clark Township, Tama County, Iowa, and in 1900 they were living in nearby Black Hawk County.[8],[9] George grew up in Tama County, almost on the county line with Black Hawk County, so it’s likely that he met Maud during this time, when she was a teenager or in her early 20s. Maud’s family moved to Minnesota in about 1903 (because of her sister’s allergies, according to Claudia), and George followed about a year later (along with his aunt Emma), either already engaged or soon to be so.[10],[11],[12]

Scanned copy of scanned copy; courtesy of Claudia Vokoun personal collection 16 Aug 17
George and Maud (Carpenter) Casbon, undated photo, scanned copy courtesy of Claudia Vokoun.

George’s and Maud continued living in Minnesota the first two years of their marriage, during which time George operated a bakery and a farm.[13] Two children were born in Minnesota: Sylvester on February 25, 1906, and Ira Raymond (known as “Buddy”) on December 10, 1907.[14],[15]

Casbon George W and son SylvesterCasbon Bertha M Carpenter and son Ira
Left: George with Sylvester. Right: Maud with Ira (“Buddy”). scanned copies, undated photos,
courtesy of Claudia Vokoun. (Click on images to enlarge)

After a couple years in Minnesota, George and Maud returned to Tama County, Iowa, where they farmed the land (155 acres) that his uncle, Robert Rigg, had sold to his wife Emma for $1.00 as part of a settlement to dismiss her petition for divorce.[16] By the time of the 1910 census, a third child had been born, Emma Elizabeth, on October 10, 1909, named to honor the aunt who had raised George.[17]

Casbon George W b1874 1910 census Iowa
Detail from 1910 U.S. Census, Geneseo Township, Tama County, Iowa. The entry for George’s uncle,
Robert Rigg, is just above that for George and his family. (Click on image to enlarge)

1910 was significant for other reasons. First, on New Year’s Day, 1910, while George was in Chicago selling cattle, a lamp tipped over in his and Maud’s home (owned by Emma Rigg), starting a fire that consumed the home.[18] According to Claudia Vokoun, George built a small “‘cabin’ for a family of 5 and they lived there till five more children were born.”[19]

Emma Rigg homeCabin 1910
Left: the house that burned down January 1, 1910. Right: the “cabin” that George built for his family after the fire. Scanned copies, undated photos, courtesy of Claudia Vokoun. (Click on images to enlarge)

The second major event of 1910 was Emma’s death on July 29th.[20] Emma had gone to visit her brother Jesse in Indiana the previous October. While there, her health deteriorated to the point that a return to Iowa was not possible.[21] In her last will and testament, dated November 30, 1909, she bequeathed to George “all the residue and remainder of my estate, real, personal and mixed of every kind and nature, and wherever situated to be his absolute property in fee simple.”[22]

Court filings show that all of the personal property in Emma’s estate was “exhausted in the payment of claims filed and allowed against said estate,” and that the executor of the estate (Jesse Casbon) requested that he be allowed to sell one half of Emma’s land in Iowa in order to settle those claims.[23] I don’t know whether the request was granted, but somehow, George was able to retain all of Emma’s land, as evidenced by later
plat maps.[24]

In my earlier post I observed that George was not mentioned in Emma’s obituary, and wondered if this was a reflection of a poor relationship between them.[25] Now, thanks to the information provided by Claudia, I can say with confidence that they must have had a close relationship. Not only did she make George the chief beneficiary of her estate, but she wrote several letters to George and Maud in her final months, which make it abundantly clear that their relationship was longstanding and affectionate. It is also clear that she doted on George and Maud’s children.

Feb1910 p7a
Detail from letter written February 1910 from Emma (Casbon) Rigg to George & Maud Casbon. Emma is addressing her great nephew: “Dear Sylvester Hello how are/you getting along you must help dady/& mama you are now 4 years old pull/Brother Ira in your wagon & help to/to take [care] of sister Emma.”[26]
(Click on image to enlarge)

This seems like a good place to end this part of George and Maud’s story. I’ll pick up where I left off in the next post.

[*] This may well refer to McGuffey Readers, a series of books in widespread use beginning in the mid-1800s. “The fourth Reader was written for the highest levels of ability on the grammar school level.” (“McGuffey Readers,” Wikipedia [ : accessed 4 October 2017]).
[1] 1925 Iowa State Census, Tama County, book 1, population schedule, Geneseo & Otter Creek Townships, unnumbered 4th page, line 34, categories 1-7, Casbon George W; imaged as “Iowa State Census, 1925,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 4 October 2017); citing FHL microfilm 1,429,567, item 1; citing citing Iowa State Historical Department, Des Moines.
[2] 1915 Iowa State Census, Tama County, Card 454, Geo W Casbon; imaged as “Iowa State Census, 1915,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 4 October 2017), image 787 of 5290; citing FHL microfilm 1,462,833; Iowa State Historical Department, Des Moines.
[3] Claudia Vokoun, Kansas City [(E-address for private use),] to Jon Casbon, e-mail, 16 Aug 2017, “Re: Photos etc in the notebook”; privately held by Casbon [(E-address), & street address for private use], Colorado Springs, Colorado, 2017.
[4] Photocopies of autographs to George Casbon, in scrapbook compiled by Claudia Vokoun, Aug 2017; privately held by Jon Casbon [Address for private use], Colorado Springs, Colorado.
[5] Vokoun to Casbon, e-mail, 16 Aug 17.
[6] “Welcome to Minnesota Official Marriage System”, database, MInnesota Official Marriage System ( : accessed 3 October 2017), search term (field – Last Name): “Casbon,” Casbon, G W & Carpenter, Maud, 26 Dec 1905; citing Red Lake County.
[7] “Metropolitan Deaths … Mrs. Maude B. Casbon,” Waterloo (Iowa) Daily Courier, 5 Jun 1972, p. 5, col. 1; online image, Newspaper Archive (accessed through participating newspapers: 16 August 2017).
[8] “Census of Iowa, 1895,” Tama County, Iowa, population schedule, Clark Township, p. 147 (stamped), dwelling 106, family 107, Ira Carpenter; imaged as “Iowa State Census, 1895,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 10 September 2017), image 124 of 905; citing FHL microfilm 1,022,184; citing State Historical Society, Des Moines.
[9] 1900 U.S. Census, Black Hawk County, Iowa, population schedule, Big Creek Township, p. 33 (stamped), enumeraton district 3, sheet 17-B, dwelling 459, family 461, Ira Carpenter; imaged as “United States Census, 1900,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 10 September 2017); citing NARA microfilm publication T623, roll 417.
[10] 1905 Minnesota Census, Red Lake County, population schedule, St. Hilaire, p. 159 (penned), enumeration district 6, sheet 3, line 108, Carpenter, Ira R (age 56); imaged as “Minnesota State Census, 1905”, database with images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 27 September 2017), image 247; citing FHL microfilm 928,810; citing State Library and Records Service, St.Paul.
[11] Claudia Vokoun to Jon Casbon, e-mail, 17 Jan 2017, “Re: Harriet Perry,” privately held by Casbon, 2017.
[12] 1905 Minnesota Census, Red Lake County, population schedule, St. Hilaire, p. 173 (penned), sheet 17, Casbon, G.W., imaged as “Minnesota State Census, 1905,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : 3 August 2017), image 18 of 24; citing FHL microfilm 928,810; citing State Library and Records Service, St.Paul.
[13] “Deaths – George W. Casbon,” Waterloo (Iowa) Daily Courier, 25 Feb 1944, p. 2, col. 5; online archive, Newspaper Archive (accessed through participating libraries: 16 January 2016).
[14] “Minnesota People Records Search”, database, Minnesota Historical Society ( : accessed 4 October 2017), search terms: (First Name) Sylvester, (Last Name) Casbon, Casbon, Sylvester, 25 Feb 1906, Red Lake County, certificate number 1906-20802.
[15] Vokoun to Casbon, personal correspondence.
[16] Tama County, Iowa, District Court, Emma E. Rigg vs. Robert N. Rigg, February term 1902; photostatic copy provided to Jon Casbon by Claudia Vokoun, August 2017.
[17] “Find A Grave Index,” database, FamilySearch ( : accessed 5 October 2017) Emma E. Casbon Eldridge, 1982; Burial, Dunkerton, Black Hawk, Iowa, Fairview-Lester Cemetery; citing record ID 59075462, Find a Grave,
[18] Vokoun to Casbon, e-mail, 17 Jan 17.
[19] Notes about Rigg and Casbon land in Black Hawk & Tama Counties, Iowa, in scrapbook compiled by Claudia Vokoun, Aug 2017; copy privately held by Jon Casbon.
[20] “Indiana, Death Certificates, 1899-2011,” database with images, Ancestry Library Edition (accessed through participating libraries: accessed 29 June 2017), certificate image, Emma Riggs (age 63), 29 Jul 1910, Valparaiso, Porter, no. 493 (stamped); citing Indiana State Board of Health.
[21] “La Porte City Resident Dies,” Waterloo (Iowa) Evening Courier, 5 Aug 1910, p. 5, col. 5; online images, Newspaper Archive (accessed through participating libraries : accessed 29 June 2017).
[22] Last will and testament of Emma E. Rigg, Valparaiso, Porter County, Indiana, 1909, photostatic copy in scrapbook compiled by Claudia Vokoun, Aug 2017; copy privately held by Jon Casbon.
[23] Estate of Emma E. Rigg, Application of Executor to Sell Real Estate Debts, District Court, Tama County, Iowa, May term 1911; photostatic copy in scrapbook compiled by Claudia Vokoun, Aug 2017; copy privately held by Jon Casbon.
[24] “Map of Geneseo Township,” Atlas of Tama County, Iowa (Chicago: The Anderson Publishing Co., 1916), p. 5; online image, The University of Iowa Libraries, Iowa Digital Library ( : accessed 5 October 2016).
[25] Jon Casbon, “Children of Thomas Casbon (1803–1888): Emma,” Our Casbon Journey, 3 Jul 17 ( : accessed 5 October 2017), para. 14.
[26] Emma Rigg to George & Maud Casbon, letter fragment, abt Feb 1910, p. 7; privately held by Jon Casbon. Originally collected by Emma Elizabeth (Casbon) Eldridge, then passed to her daughter Claudia (Eldridge) Vokoun, and then in August 2017 to Jon Casbon.

Financial Difficulties

We haven’t visited the Peterborough Casbons in a while, so let’s check in on them. For a refresher, this branch of the family arose in the area of Littleport, Cambridgeshire, and over the course of two generations, ended up in Peterborough sometime before 1851.[1] By 1870, the third generation of gardeners consisted of two brothers, John (1832–1885) and Thomas (1840–1887) Casbon.[2] Thomas was living in Peterborough, and John was in nearby Spalding.[3]

Apparently, John wasn’t doing as well as his brother, as evidenced by this article in The Lincoln, Rutland, and Stamford Mercury of October 14, 1870.[4]

Stamford Mercury 14Oct1870 John Casbon bankruptcy court
(Click on image to enlarge)

We don’t know what events preceded John’s bankruptcy. It seems from the tone of the article that the proceedings were somewhat amicable, with the creditors meeting in a hotel and agreeing to settle the affair “by arrangement” rather than through bankruptcy court. The fact that John’s brother Thomas was involved in the process also suggests to me that the creditors were willing to settle the matter in as friendly a manner as possible. Of course, being a fellow gardener, Thomas had the right expertise to assess the value of John’s business holdings and to ensure that fair prices were paid as those holdings were liquidated. John was also fortunate in that imprisonment for debt had been abolished in the United Kingdom in 1869.[5]

The bankruptcy explains why it was necessary for John’s business to be sold at auction in 1871.[6]

Casbon John bankruptcy auction 1871 Stamford Mercury
(Click on image to enlarge)

The auction would have been a pretty traumatic event for John, his wife Rebecca (Speechly) and their five children, especially as the household furnishings were sold off.

My curiosity got the best of me when I read that they were also selling one-half acre of “Mangel Wurzels.” I had to look this one up. A mangelwurzel or mangold wurzel is a large white, yellow or orange-yellow beet, used “as a fodder crop for feeding livestock.”[7]

By A. Currie & Company.; Henry G. Gilbert Nursery and Seed Trade Catalog Collection. [CC BY 2.0 ( or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

Wikipedia also informs us that “the mangelwurzel has a history in England of being used for sport.”[8] Somehow this seems like a very British thing to do. Interested readers are highly encouraged to visit The Mangold Hurling Association webpage for further enlightenment.

Humor aside, John recovered from his financial woes. He moved back to Peterborough and established a new gardening business, as evidenced by these 1876 ads.[9],[10]

Casbon John and son ad 1876 PBoro advertiserPlants ad 1876

After John’s death on August 18, 1885, his estate was valued at £212 9s. 10d.[11] Today that would be equivalent to about £25,725.[12] He had been given a second chance, and made the best of it.

[1] Jon Casbon, “How doth your garden grow? Part 1,” Our Casbon Journey, 22 Sep 2016 ( : accessed 25 September 2017).
[2] Casbon, “How doth your garden grow? Part 2,” Our Casbon Journey, 27 Sep 2016 ( : accessed 25 September 2017).
[3] Casbon, “How doth your garden grow? Part 2,” Our Casbon Journey.
[4] “Peterborough Bankruptcy Court,” The Lincoln, Rutland, and Stamford (England) Mercury, 14 Oct 1870, p. 5, col. 4; accessed through “British Newspapers,” database with images, findmypast ( : accessed 25 September 2017).
[5] “United Kingdom insolvency law,” Wikipedia ( : accessed 26 September 2017), rev. 14:27, 7 Sep 2017.
[6] “Sales by Auction,” The Lincoln, Rutland, and Stamford (England) Mercury, 8 Dec 1871, p. 1, col. 7, 4th listing; accessed through “British Newspapers,” database with images, findmypast ( : accessed 25 September 2017).
[7] “Mangelwurzel,” Wikipedia ( : accessed 25 September 2017), rev. 08:05, 9 Jul 2017.
[8] “Mangelwurzel,” Wikipedia.
[9] Advertisement, “Surplus Stock of Fruit Trees,” The Peterborough (England) Advertiser, and South Midland Times, 26 Feb 1876, p. 2, col. 3, 8th listing; accessed through “British Newspapers,” database with images, findmypast ( : accessed 25 September 2017).
[10] Advertisement, “Plants! Plants!! Novelties in Plants,” The Peterborough Advertiser, 3 Jun 1876, p. 2, col. 4, 29th listing; findmypast ( : accessed 25 September 2017).
[11] “Find a Will,” accessed as “Wills and Probate 1858-1996,” database, GOV.UK ( : accessed 26 September 2017), 2d page, John Casbon.
[12] “UK Inflation Calculator,” ( : accessed 26 September 2017).

James Casbon (~1813–1884): Final Days in England

Today’s post serves as a coda to my previous post about James Casbon (~1813–1884). In that post I mentioned that James might have been living in Cottenham, Cambridgeshire, as early as 1861. He was probably living there when he married Mary Jackson in 1866; and he was definitely living there when his son Amos was born in 1869. [1],[2]

Cottenham is located 14 miles north northeast of James’ home town, Meldreth, and about 6 miles south southwest of Stretham, where James and Mary were married and Amos was baptized.

map Meldreth Cottenham
Map showing location of Cottenham in relation to Meldreth and Stretham.[*] (Click on image to enlarge)

This news article from the Cambridge Chronicle and University Journal of September 10, 1870 once again places James in Cottenham, as well as in a difficult situation.[3]

Cambridge Chronicle 10Sep1870
(Click on image to enlarge)

This brief statement conveys some very interesting information, and raises questions as well.

In addition to giving James’ home as Cottenham, it tells us that he had two children at the time, that he was convicted of neglect, and that he was being committed to “the Castle.”

Who were the children? They must have been Amos and his older sister, Margaret. Amos was just over a year old in September 1870. Margaret was probably born 1864 in Stretham.[4] Margaret and Amos were the two children who arrived in the United States with Amos and his wife Mary (Jackson) in December, 1870.[5]

In what way did James neglect his children? What was the legal definition of child neglect in nineteenth-century England? I found the answer in The Poor Law Amendment Act, 1868.

Poor Law Act

With regard to child neglect, the law states,

When any Parent shall wilfully neglect to provide adequate Food, Clothing, Medical Aid, or Lodging for his Child, being in his Custody, under the Age of Fourteen Years, whereby the Health of such Child shall have been or shall be likely to be seriously injured, he shall be guilty of an Offence punishable on Summary Conviction, and being convicted thereof before any Two Justices shall be liable to be imprisoned for any Period not exceeding Six Months.[6]

I’ve been unable to find any news article or other source giving details of James’ trial or conviction, so we really don’t know the circumstances. We know that James was perpetually poor. We don’t know enough about him to know whether he would willfully neglect his children.

Another question I have is, where was Mary? Presumably she was at home with the children doing the best she could. James was probably the breadwinner, and somehow fell short of his responsibilities.

Readers may wonder what “castle” James was being committed to. The Castle was the name of the building that served as the county jail (or gaol) for Cambridgeshire.[7] Originally a Norman castle, it served as the jail for centuries.[8] The original castle was torn down and replaced by a newer building in 1807.[9] This is the building where James would have been confined.

If he was actually in jail for the entire two months, he would have been released right before he and his family boarded the ship Great Western in Liverpool, November 11, 1870, bound for New York.[10]

James C passenger list detail 1870 NY
Detail of passenger manifest from the ship Great Western, which arrived in New York on Christmas Day, 1870.[11] James’ surname has been misspelled as “Custon.”

With the information available, it’s possible to create a timeline of James’ life in England.

James Timeline
(Click on image to enlarge)

A long chapter in James’ life came to an end in dramatic fashion. Coming out of the Castle and traveling to Liverpool to board the ship, James’ final days in England must have been hectic. Was the trip planned and anticipated, or was it a last-minute decision? How did he pay for the voyage? He must have had financial assistance, probably from his brother Thomas in Indiana. Whatever the circumstances, he was on his way.

[*] Detail from Ordnance Survey of England and Wales, Revised New Series (1903), Sheet 16, 1:253,440 (label boxes added). This work incorporates historical material provided by the Great Britain Historical GIS Project and the University of Portsmouth through their web site A Vision of Britain through Time ( Creative Commons license (
[1] “Stretham Marriages 1558 – 1952,” PDF extract, database,  Cambridge Family History Society ( : accessed 2 September 2017), >Casben >Stretham >Stretham Marriages 1558 – 1952, James Casben & Mary Jackson, 3 Nov 1866; citing Stretham (Cambridgeshire) parish records.
[2] “Cambridgeshire Baptisms,” database, findmypast ( : accessed 30 January 2017), Amos James Casben, 3 Aug 1869, Stretham; citing Cambridgeshire parish records (transcribed by Cambridgeshire Family History Society).
[3] “Cambridgeshire … Commitments to the Castle,” Cambridge (England) Chronicle and University Journal, Isle of Ely Herald, and Huntingdonshire Gazette, 10 September 1870, p. 4, col. 6, para. 13; accessed in “British Newspapers,” online archive, findmypast ( : accessed 25 March 2017)
[4] “Cambridgeshire Baptisms,” findmypast ( : accessed 22 September 2017), Margaret Jackson, 24 Jul 1864, Stretham.
[5] Passenger manifest of ship Great Western, unnumbered p. 3, lines 27-30, James Custon (age 57) and family; imaged as “New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1891,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 10 November 2016), image 107; citing NARA microfilm publication M237, Roll 338.
[6] Hugh Owen, Jun., Esq., The Poor Law Amendment Act, 1868 (31 & 32 Vict., C. CXXII.) (London: Knight & Co., 1868), p. 26: 37; online image, Google Books ( : accessed 22 September 2017).
[7] Wikipedia ( : accessed 22 Sep 2017), “Cambridge Castle,” rev. 08:28, 22 Sep 17.
[8] “A History of Cambridge County Gaol 1802-1829,” Victorian Crime & Punishment ( : accessed 22 September 2017)
[9] “A History of Cambridge County Gaol 1802-1829.”
[10] “Home Ports,” Lloyd’s List (London), No. 17,651, 12 Nov 1870, p. 2, numbered column 7 (Liverpool … sailed, Great Western, 11 Nov 1870); accessed in “British Newspapers,” online images, findmypast ( : accessed 13 January 2017).
[11] Passenger manifest of ship Great Western.

Did James Casbon (~1813–1884) Use an Alias in the 1861 Census?

OK, I’ll admit it – it sounds a bit fantastic. But hear me out, it’s not totally crazy.

Why would I think this entry from the 1861 census of England might be James Casbon?

Randle James 1861 census Cottenham Details from 1861 census, Cottenham, Cambridgeshire.[1] (Click on image to enlarge)

For starters, here is a little background. James was my fourth great uncle, the youngest brother of my third great grandfather, Thomas Casbon (1803–1888), who came to the United States in 1846. James was born in about 1813 or 1814, and followed his brother Thomas to Indiana in 1870. He has been the subject of two previous posts: “James Casbon of Meldreth, England and Porter County, Indiana” and “James Casbon in the 1880 U.S. Census, Porter Township, Porter County, Indiana.” Thanks in part to James’ propensity to father children, he is possibly the patriarch of more of today’s living Casbons than anyone else of his generation.

For a long time, I’ve been frustrated by the fact that I haven’t been able to find James or most of his children in the 1861 census. I have him in the 1841 and 1851 censuses. After 1851, he doesn’t appear in a census again until the 1880 United States Census, when he was living in Indiana (he missed both the 1870 U.S. and 1871 U.K. censuses because he emigrated in late 1870). This leaves a huge gap in my knowledge of James’ whereabouts before he came to America.

The time period between 1851 and 1880 isn’t a total blank. I know that his first wife, Elizabeth (Waller) died in August 1852, and their youngest daughter, Emma (b. 1851) died in November 1853.[2],[3] Their deaths left James responsible for seven children ranging from 4 to 17 years old. This must have placed a tremendous burden on him. He was a poor agricultural laborer, without a steady income, on one of the lowest rungs of the social order. His situation could have come from a Dickens novel.

In 1851, James and Elizabeth had seven children. [4] His oldest son, William, age 15, was already working as an agricultural labourer.

James C b1814 1851 census Melbourn
Detail from 1851 census, Melbourn, Cambridgeshire (Click on image to enlarge)

After Elizabeth died, it’s likely that some of the older children had to find work, and some might have been placed with other families, or even a public institution (daughter Emma died at the “Royston Workhouse”).[5]

Since I was unable to find James in the 1861 census using traditional search methods, I decided to use a more broad-based approach. Sometimes surnames are so badly misspelled that they yield false negative search results. So, instead of searching by surname, I searched for any males named James born in Meldreth between 1808 and 1818.

This approach yielded 9 results. Of these, the one for James Randle caught my eye. Why? Because he was living in Cottenham.

I knew that James had lived in Cottenham shortly before coming to the United States. Specifically, James’ place of abode was listed as Cottenham when his son Amos James was baptized (in nearby Stretham) in August, 1869.[6] I also know that James married Mary Jackson in Stretham, in 1866, so it’s also possible that he was living in Cottenham then.[7]

Besides the location, other information in the 1861 census entry suggests that James Randle and James Casbon could be the same person. James Randle’s age is listed as 45. James Casbon would have been about 47 in 1861. Age discrepancies are common in census records, and a 2-year difference is minor. (It’s also possible that James Casbon did not know his exact age.) Like James Casbon, James Randle is listed as a widower and an agricultural laborer. And of course, both were from Meldreth.

Who was Thomas Randle? Look again at the 1851 census. James and Elizabeth’s fifth child, and second son, is recorded as “Thos,” age 6. His age is a close match to 15-year old Thomas Randle’s.

The fact that James and Thomas Randle were lodging in a public house during the census is interesting. It suggests they had recently arrived, or perhaps were looking for work.

Is there any evidence that someone named James Randle really was born in Meldreth during the eighteen teens? I’ve searched all the baptism, marriage, and burial records for Meldreth and nearby areas, and there are no entries for Randle or similar names. Nor does he turn up in censuses prior to 1861. Also, I haven’t found any records for a Thomas Randle in or near Meldreth.

Why would James Casbon be going under an assumed name? It would suggest that he did not want to be found – by the law or creditors. We know that he was a poor man, so debt could have been an issue. It’s also possible that he was on the lam for a criminal offense.

What about James’ other children – why aren’t they listed in the census along with James and Thomas? By 1861, the older children were in their late teens and early twenties, so it’s likely they were already employed elsewhere. That still leaves the two younger children, George and John, who would have been 14 and 12, respectively. After an exhaustive search, I haven’t been able to find either one in the 1861 census (although they appear again in later censuses). It’s possible that they were given up to other families after their mother’s death, but this still doesn’t explain their absence from the 1861 census.

Another possibility is that the surname listed on the census is incorrect. What I mean is that it really was James Casbon in Cottenham, but whoever recorded the information made a mistake. How could this happen? The way a census was taken is that a form, known as a schedule, was handed out to each household, to be completed by the head of household.[8] The census enumerator collected the forms on the following day and entered the information from the schedules into the Census Enumerator’s Book (CEB). The original census schedules have not been retained, and it is only the CEB that remains.[9] This is the census record showing James and Thomas Randle, above.

What if the head of household was illiterate? We know from the 1880 U.S. Census that James “cannot write.”[10] So it’s possible that the owner of the public house or someone else completed the census schedule for him. The name could have been written incorrectly; or the enumerator might have transcribed the information incorrectly into the CEB.

Are you convinced? I hope not. All I’ve presented is circumstantial evidence. It’s far from a compelling argument. But I think there’s a decent possibility that I’m right. If I’m wrong, and James Randle was not James Casbon, then who was he?

[1] 1861 census of England, Cambridgeshire, [parish] Cottenham, p. 4, schedule 23, James and Thomas Randle; accessed as “1861 England, Wales & Scotland Census,” image, findmypast ( : accessed 24 February 2017); citing [The National Archives], RG 09, piece 1019, folio 96, p. 4.
[2] “Register of Burials in the Parish of Meldreth in the County of Cambridge,” p. 54, no. 427, Elizabeth Casbon (age 36); FamilySearch ( : accessed 29 August 2017); citing FHL microfilm 1,040,542, item 10, image 470.
[3] “Register of Burials in the Parish of Meldreth in the County of Cambridge,” p. 56, no. 448, Emma Casbon (age 2); accessed as “Parish registers for Meldreth, 1681-1877,” browsable images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 29 August 2017); citing Family History Library (FHL) microfilm 1,040,542, item 10, image 471.
[4] 1851 Census of England, Cambridgeshire, [parish] Melbourn, folio 208 (stamped), schedule 126, entry for James Casbon (age 37); accessed as “1851 England, Wales & Scotland Census,” image, findmypast ( : accessed 1 September 2017); citing [The National Archives], HO 107, piece 1708, folio 208, p. 32.
[5] Register of Burials in the Parish of Meldreth in the County of Cambridge, p. 56, no. 448, Emma Casbon.
[6] “Cambridgeshire Baptisms,” database, findmypast ( : accessed 30 January 2017), Amos James Casben, 3 Aug 1869, Stretham; citing Cambridgeshire parish records (transcribed by Cambridgeshire Family History Society).
[7] “Stretham Marriages 1558 – 1952,” PDF extract, database,  Cambridge Family History Society ( : accessed 2 September 2017), >Casben >Stretham >Stretham Marriages 1558 – 1952, James Casben & Mary Jackson, 3 Nov 1866; citing Stretham (Cambridgeshire) parish records.
[8] “The Census 1841 – 1911,” para. 7, History House ( : accessed 12 September 2017).
[9] “The Census 1841 – 1911,” para. 10.
[10] 1880 U.S. Census, Porter County, Indiana, population schedule, Porter Township, p. 545 (stamped), dwelling 187, family 191, James Casbon; accessed as “United States Census, 1880,” image, FamilySearch ( : accessed 4 July 2016); citing NARA microfilm T9, roll 305.

Happy Birthday, Blog!

Today is Our Casbon Journey’s first birthday! The first post, “Welcome to ‘Our Casbon Journey’” was published on September 7, 2016.

I want to share some of the blog’s statistics from its first year.

Blog posts: 75 Likes: 136
Visitors: 1,659 Comments: 127
Views: 3,838

That averages out to about 22 visitors per post and 51 views per post. That’s not many in the blogging world, but there aren’t that many of us out there, so I don’t expect large numbers. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the number of followers who aren’t related at all – they are generally fellow bloggers with an interest in genealogy (thanks for your support!).

Views by country:

Country Views Country Views Country Views
United States 2,836 France 6 Hong Kong 3
United Kingdom 1,659 Netherlands 6 South Korea 2
Australia 153 Denmark 5 Pakistan 2
South Africa 36 Ireland 5 Mexico 1
Canada 27 Germany 4 Bangladesh 1
New Zealand 27 Sweden 4 Israel 1
Philippines 9 India 3 Portugal 1

The top three countries roughly reflect the distribution of Casbons in the world and the major migrations from England. The next three are all British Commonwealth countries, and may be the location of later migrations.

Some of the most popular posts:

                    Post Date Views
“The old cow got round it” 7 Oct 2016 88
“The Collage Explained” 14 Sep 2016 62
“How doth your garden grow? Part 1” 22 Sep 2016 60
“’Rags’ to Riches” 13 Jun 2017 51
“Friday Fun: 1968 Casben Shorts Ad” 23 Sep 2016 50
“Welcome to Our Casbon Journey” 7 Sep 2016 49
“The Amos Casbon Farm, Boone, Grove, Indiana” 22 Aug 2017 47
“From England to Indiana, Part 3” 21 Oct 2016 43
“Cousins” 13 Apr 2017 43
“Give me an ‘a’” 25 Nov 2016 43
“From England to Indiana, Part 1” 10 Oct 2016 42
Casbon Reunion Oct 1901
Casbon Family Reunion at home of Hiram (“Hilda”) Church, Valparaiso, Indiana, October, 1901. (Click on image to enlarge)

Thanks to all my readers for your support and encouragement. Let me assure you, I still have plenty of material, so Our Casbon Journey is far from over! I encourage family members to share their stories and old family photos, so our history can be shared, celebrated and preserved.

Two Women of Folkestone

Had you been reading The Folkestone Herald on March 25, 1899, you would have come across this advertisement and article.[1],[2]

combined ad_article(Click on image to enlarge)

Who is “Miss Casbon … Late of Claremont house”? From census records, it is clear that she is Fanny Sanders Casbon. Very few records of her life exist, but I think they are enough to tell us that she was a remarkable woman for her time.

Fanny was born in Meldreth in 1846, the fourth daughter, and youngest of six children born to James (1806–1871) and Susanna Hayden (Sanders; 1806–1850) Casbon.[3] We were introduced to James and Susanna in earlier posts (here, here, and here!). In these posts we learned that James was a landowner – a step up from his other Meldreth cousins. He wasn’t wealthy by any means, but his status probably allowed his children to pursue careers as tradesmen or to marry into the lower rungs of the middle class.

For her time Fanny was in a minority among women; she never married, and she achieved independence and success on her own.

We only have snapshots of her life through census records. In 1861 (age 15), she was living with her father and one brother in Barley, Hertfordshire, and listed as “housekeeper.”[4] James’ third wife is not listed in this census, and it’s possible that they were estranged, or that she was already deceased. Both the 1871 and 1881 censuses list Fanny as a “visitor” in the household of Ebenezer Cayford, in London. This is odd – how likely is it that she would be visiting the same family during two consecutive censuses? I suspect she was either lodging with or employed by the family. The 1881 census lists her occupation as “dressmaker.” However, her age and birthplace are listed incorrectly, so it’s likely the census enumerator transcribed someone else’s information into her entry.

So, other than the fact that she was either living or visiting in London in 1871 and 1881, we don’t really know anything about Fanny’s life from the time she lived in Barley until the 1891 census.[5]

Casbon Fanny 1891 Census London Marylebone a
Detail from 1891 census, Marylebone, London, England. (Click on image to enlarge)

In this census, Fanny’s relation to head of household is listed as “Mistress,” and her occupation as “Superintendent.” The census entry for this address – 12 York Place – begins on the previous page. Evidently this was a large boarding house or tenement, with 49 occupants – all female – listed on the census form. As “mistress,” Fanny must have been something like the apartment manager or “dorm mother” for all of these working women.

We know from the advertisement and article at the beginning of this post that, by 1899, Fanny had moved to Folkestone. She remained there for the rest of her life. Here is her entry in the 1901 census.[6]

Casbon Fanny 1901 census Folkestone
Detail from 1901 census, Folkestone, Kent. (Click on image to enlarge)

I’ve highlighted two entries in this census. The first shows Fanny, age 55, and gives her occupation as “Boardinghousekeeper.” The second has the name “Lavinia Do.” “Do.” stands for “ditto,” and this entry is for Lavinia Alice Casbon, age 30. Lavinia was Fanny’s niece, the daughter of her brother George S Casbon (~1836–1914). Lavinia was born in Barley, Hertfordshire, in 1870.[7]

Being unmarried and childless, Fanny seems to have “adopted” Lavinia as a favorite niece. Look back at the 1891 London census. Five entries above Fanny’s name, you can see Lavinia, age 20, single, living at the same address, and with the occupation “Bookseller.” Fanny probably helped Lavinia to get settled in London. Then, Lavinia either moved to Folkestone at the same time as Fanny, or shortly after the boarding house was established. Like her aunt, Lavinia never married, and remained in Folkestone for the rest of her life.

What do we know about Folkestone, and the boarding house at 12 Trinity Crescent? Folkestone is located on the southeast coast of England, not far from Dover. At the time Fanny and Lavinia lived there, it was a popular seaside tourist destination.

Google map of Folkestone and surrounding areas (Click on map to explore. )

One of the most popular destinations in Folkestone was, and still remains, the Leas, a 2-mile promenade with beautiful lawns, situated on top of the cliffs overlooking the English Channel. If you click on “view larger map” above, then choose satellite view and zoom in, you will have a good view of the Leas. This 1908 map shows the location of Trinity Crescent and its proximity to the Leas.[8]

Folkestone 1908 map
Detail map of Folkestone. Trinity Crescent is circled; The Leas are underlined. (Click on image to enlarge)

Google Street View shows the building currently located at 12 Trinity Crescent

(Click and drag to explore; use mouse wheel to zoom in/out)

This is probably the same building that Fanny operated as the Casbon House. Isn’t it lovely?

Fanny advertised her boarding house widely during the first decade of the twentieth century. The advertisements drop off abruptly after 1909. We learn why from her obituary, published January 20, 1912 in the Folkestone Herald.[9]

Casbon Fanny obit Folkestone Herald 20 Jan 2017
(Click on image to enlarge)

The accompanying death notice that she died “after a long illness, patiently borne,” and that “Miss Lavinia Casbon tenders her sincere thanks for condolence and sympathy in her bereavement, also for the many beautiful wreaths sent.”[10] I think it’s interesting that other nieces and a nephew attended her funeral. Maybe she was a doting aunt to all of them.

As to Lavinia, she apparently took over management of Casbon House after Fanny’s death. I haven’t been able to locate Fanny’s will, if she left one, but later advertisements refer to Lavinia as the proprietress.[11] At some point, she moved to a nearby home on 14 Castle Hill Street while the boarding house remained in business.[12] Lavinia was frequently mentioned in newspaper articles for her participation in church and charitable organizations.[13],[14],[15] One article stated, “Much credit is due to Miss Casbon whose work as Secretary of the local Baptist Missionary Society is worthy of the highest praise.”[16] Lavinia was also active in the temperance movement (see “Pleasure Gardens and the Temperance Movement”) and warned young people about “the evil of strong drinks.”[17]

Unfortunately, the online archives of the Folkestone newspaper end in 1935, two years before Lavinia’s death, so I don’t have a copy of her obituary. I’m sure it would contain many kind words about her. She died on May 11, 1937, and was buried in the same cemetery as her aunt Fanny.[18]

[1] Advertisement, “Casbon House,” The Folkestone (Kent, England) Herald, 25 Mar 1899, p. 20, col. 1; online image, “British Newspapers,” findmypast ( : accessed 28 August 2017).
[2] “Casbon House, Trinity Crescent,” The Folkestone Herald, 25 Mar 1899, p. 7, col. 4; findmypast ( : accessed 28 August 2017).
[3] “England and Wales Birth Registration Index, 1837-2008,” database, FamilySearch ( : accessed 2 August 2016), entry for Fanny Casbon, 1st quarter, 1946; citing Birth Registration, Royston, Hertfordshire, vol. 6: 591, line 17; citing General Register Office, Southport, England.
[4] “1861 England, Wales & Scotland Census,” database with images, findmypast ( : accessed 31 Aug 2017), entry for Fanny Casbon (age 15) in household of James J Casbon, Chequer Corner, Barkway Road, Barley, Hertfordshire; citing [The National Archives], RG 09, piece 812, folio 85 (stamped), p. 5, schedule 23.
[5] “1891 Census of England and Wales,” database with images, findmypast ( : accessed 28 August 2017), entry for Fanny Cassbon (age 45), 12 York Place, Marylebone, London; citing [The National Archives], RG 12, piece 94, folio 8 recto, p. 9, schedule 38.
[6] “1901 Census of England, Wales & Scotland,” database with images, findmypast ( : accessed 28 August 2017), entry for Fanny S Casbon (age 55), 12 Trinity Crescent, Folkestone, Kent; citing [The National Archives], RG 13, piece 848, folio 17 recto, p. 25, schedule 73.
[7] “Hertfordshire Baptisms”, database with images, findmypast ( : accessed 3 Feb 2017), Lavinia Alice Casbon, b. 11 Jul 1870, baptized 28 Jun 1874; citing parish registers, Barley, Hertfordshire.
[8] Map, “Kent LXXV.SW (includes: Folkestone.),”3d edition, 1908, Ordnance Survey Six-inch England and Wales, 1842-1952; online image, National Library of Scotland ( : accessed 31 August 2017).
[9] “Obituary … Miss F.S. Casbon,” The Folkestone, Hythe, Sandgate & Cheriton Herald, 20 Jan 1912, p. 5, col. 4; online image, “British Newspapers,” findmypast ( : accessed 28 August 2017).
[10] “Births, Marriages and Deaths,” The Folkestone, Hythe, Sandgate & Cheriton Herald, 20 Jan 1912, p. 10, col. 7; findmypast ( : accessed 28 August 2017).
[11] “Situations Vacant – Females,” The Folkestone, Hythe, Sandgate & Cheriton Herald, 22 Jun 1912, p. 10, col. 2, para. 22; findmypast ( : accessed 31 August 2017)
[12]  “Situations Vacant – Females,” The Folkestone, Hythe, Sandgate & Cheriton Herald, 5 Mar 1927, p. 1, col. 1, para. 14; findmypast ( : accessed 31 August 2017).
[13] “Homœopathic Dispensary: Last Year’s Work,” The Folkestone, Hythe, Sandgate & Cheriton Herald, 11 Mar 1916, p.7, col. 4; findmypast ( : accessed 31 Augusts 2017).
[14] “The Cheerful Sparrows: Fourth War Memorial List,” The Folkestone, Hythe, Sandgate & Cheriton Herald, 7 May 1921, p. 5, col. 3; findmypast ( : accessed 31 August 2017).
[15] “Baptists and Missions,” The Folkestone, Hythe, Sandgate & Cheriton Herald, 19 Apr 1924, p. 10, col. 10; findmypast ( : accessed 31 August 2017).
[16] “Baptists and Missions: Sale of Work at Folkestone; Canterbury Baptists who Walked to Folkestone,” The Folkestone, Hythe, Sandgate & Cheriton Herald, 11 Dec 1926, p.5, col. 6; findmypast ( : accessed 31 August 2017).
[17] “B.W.T.A.U. Bazaar: Young People’s Efforts,” Folkestone, Hythe, Sandgate & Cheriton Herald, 10 Nov 1928, p. 9, col. 6; findmypast ( : accessed 31 August 2017)
[18] “England & Scotland, Select Cemetery Registers, 1800-2014”, database with images, Ancestry Library Edition (accessed through participating libraries: 17 Feb 2017), Lavinia Alice Casbon (age 66), 11 May 1937; citing Register of Burials in the Burial Ground of the Joint Burial Board of the Township of Folkestone and Parish of Folkestone in the County of Kent, Book 7 [1924–1939], p. 482, no. 3852; citing Shepway District Council; Folkstone, Kent, England.

The Amos Casbon Farm, Boone Grove, Indiana

During my Indiana visit, my cousin (third, twice removed) Ron Casbon toured me around the parts of Porter County most closely associated with the descendants of Amos James Casbon (1869–1956). Amos was the only one of James Casbon’s (~1813–1884) sons who came with him to America. As such, he is the patriarch of what is probably the largest branch of the family in the United States.

The highlight of my driving tour was a visit to the farm that originally belonged to Amos, and is still occupied by one of his descendants. Here is a picture of the farm as I saw it.

Amos Casbon farm Aug 2017

We’ve encountered Amos in two previous posts: “Cousins” and “Amos Sees Something Amiss.” Likewise, I’ve mentioned his father James in two earlier posts: “James Casbon of Meldreth, England and Porter County, Indiana” and “James Casbon in the 1880 U.S. Census, Porter Township, Porter County, Indiana.” Readers may recall that Amos was only 15 when his father died from complications of a bite wound inflicted during an unprovoked attack.[1]

The historical record is silent about what happened to Amos immediately after his father’s death. Unfortunately, the 1890 census was lost in a fire, so there are no records to cover the twenty-year gap between 1880 and 1900. An article in the Valparaiso Vidette Messenger commemorating his 50th wedding anniversary tells us, “before his marriage he was a gripman on the street car in Chicago for four years. He then came to Porter county and started farming.” Cousin Ron suggests that Amos did not get along well with his step-mother, Mary (Payne), who eventually moved to Valparaiso, where she died in 1903.[2] Perhaps his poor relationship with her motivated him to seek employment in Chicago.

Exactly when he left Chicago and returned to Porter County is unclear, but the 1900 census shows him listed as a boarder in the household of William Shreves, a farmer in Porter Township.[3]

Amos 1900 census
Detail from 1900 U.S. Census, Porter township, Porter County, Indiana. (Click on image to enlarge)

The census does not list Amos’ occupation, but the fact that he was boarding with a farmer suggests that he was probably working on Mr. Shreves’ or another nearby farm.

1900 was also noteworthy for the fact that on November 28th of that year, he married Carrie Belle Aylesworth (1873–1958), daughter of John and Eliza Jane (Herring) Aylesworth.[4] The Aylesworths lived in Boone township, just a few miles away from the Shreve farm. Since Amos did not yet have his own farm, where did the newlyweds live? Probably with her parents, but that is only a guess.

Amos began to rectify the living situation quickly. Porter County records show that he made his first land purchase in January, 1901, when he bought 65 acres in Porter Township from Hattie Dye for the sum of $3,250.[5] The land was located in section 32 in Porter Township, just southwest of the small community of Boone Grove. It was on this site that Amos and Carrie started to build their farm.

Which brings me to a wonderful photo, provided by Ron Casbon.

Amos and Carrie Casbon farmhouse
Children of Amos & Carrie Casbon, in front of the family home. Undated photo, courtesy of Ron Casbon.

Not only were Amos and Carrie building a farm, they were building a family as well. The photo shows their first six children, beginning with Berlyn Clyde (b. 31 May 1901); followed by Ada Lucille (b. 5 November 1902), then Vernon Lloyd (b. 9 August, 1904), Harry James (b. 23 February 1906), Neva Beatrice (b. 6 September 1907), and Herbert Aylesworth (b. 29 August 1910). Given Herbert’s apparent age of 1–2 years, the photo must have been taken in 1911 or 1912. Amos and Carrie would go on to have three more children: Donald Glen (b. 8 February 1913), Doris Bernice (b. 14 April 1914), and Delbert Keith (b. 30 October 1916).

According to Ron, the children in the photograph are standing in front of the original farm house. Quite a cozy little home for a rapidly growing family! If you look to the left of the picture, you can see the “new” house, either still under construction or newly built. Compare to this photo I took during my visit.

Comparison view

By chance I happened to take this picture from roughly the same position as the earlier photo. The “new” house is on the left. Where did the original house go? It’s still there, but it has been moved to the back of the house and greatly modified. It is the garage you see in the background. Here’s a picture taken from the back of the garage, showing what appears to be an original window.

The old house now garage

Amos continued to make land purchases up through 1922, eventually totaling more than 220 acres, by my calculations.

inset map
Inset map showing Amos Casbon’s property and where it was located in Porter County.[6]
Much of the land is still owned by his descendants today. (Click on image to enlarge)

Amos was industrious and farmed his entire life. In addition to farming, he operated a sawmill on his property for a period of time. He also bought a threshing machine, which was used by many farms in the area.

There are probably many family stories associated with this farm. Unfortunately I don’t know them. Hopefully family members will feel free to share them as comments to this post.

[1] “Murder! That is About what is Made out of the Case of Old Man Casbon,” The Porter County (Indiana) Vidette, 28 Aug 1884, p. 1, col. 2; unnumbered microfilm, Porter County Library, Valparaiso.
[2] Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed 4 July 2016), memorial page for Mary Payne Casbon (1833–1903), memorial no. 109800943, created by Alana Knochel Bauman; citing Maplewood Cemetery, Valparaiso, Porter, Indiana.
[3] 1900 U.S. Census, Porter County, Indiana, population schedule, Porter Township, p. 162, enumeration district 91, sheet 10-B, dwelling 201, family 207 (209 lined through), Amos Casborn in household of William Shreves; accessed via “United States Census, 1900,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 12 September 2016); citing NARA microfilm publication T623, roll 398.
[4] Porter County, Indiana, Marriage Record, vol. 12: 326, Amos J Casbon & Carrie B Aylesworth, 28 Nov 1900; image, “Indiana Marriages, 1811-2007,” FamilySearch ( : accessed 19 August 2017), citing Porter County,Clerk of the Circuit Court; Family History Library microfilm 1,686,211.
[5] Porter County, Indiana, Deed Record, vol. 60: 37, Hattie Dye to Amos J Casbon, 14 Jan 1901; Recorder’s Office, Valparaiso.
[6] Map, “Porter County, Indiana (Rockford, Ill.: The Thrift Press, 1928), online image, “Maps,” Porter County, Indiana ( : accessed 19 August 2017) > Valparaiso National Bank and First Trust Company produced map of Porter County.

501 Academy Street, Valparaiso, Indiana

My trip to Indiana earlier this month for a family reunion was a great time to meet people, dig into old records, and see many of the places associated with Our Casbon Journey in America. It was the first time I had spent any significant time here since childhood.

The best part was being able to spend time with family and friends, visiting their old haunts, and listening to stories of days gone by. One of the most noteworthy places I saw was the house at 501 Academy Street in Valparaiso. 501 Academy was home to four generations of my Casbon ancestors.

501 Academy St
The house at 501 Academy Street, located at corner of Haas (left) and Academy (right) Streets.
Photo taken August 5, 2017.

The History of Porter County tells us that “in 1892 Mr. and Mrs. Casbon removed from their country estate to Valparaiso, and have since enjoyed the comforts of a pleasant city home on Academy street.”[1] “Mr. and Mrs. Casbon” were my second great-grandfather Sylvester (~1837–1927) and his third wife Mary (Mereness, 1851–1932) Casbon. They had been living at their farm near Deep River in adjacent Lake County for the previous 15+ years. Sylvester was only 55 years old when he retired from farming and moved to “Valpo.” He did not sell his land in Lake County for a number of years, so I suspect he was letting someone else do the work and still getting income from the farm. The house was originally numbered as 21 Academy Street (and later renumbered in the early 1900s), as shown in this 1893 Valparaiso City Directory.[2]

Casbon Sylvester and Lawrence 1893 Valpo Directory
Detail from 1893 Valparaiso directory. (Click on image to enlarge)

I think Sylvester was the original owner of the home, although I don’t know for sure. The plot of land containing the lot, known as Pierce’s Addition, was added to the city plat in 1854.[3] I don’t think any homes were built on the addition for many years. Fire insurance maps of the city don’t show any buildings on the site until 1905, when the present structure can be seen.[4]

1905 Sanborn Fire Ins map Detail of 1905 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map, showing Haas and Academy
Streets. 501 Academy Street is outlined in red. (Click on image to enlarge)

You can see in the 1893 directory that Sylvester’s oldest son, Lawrence, was also living at 21 Academy Street. Lawrence (1865–1950), my great-grandfather, would have been 28 years old in 1893. I believe this portrait of him was taken in about the same time frame.

Casbon Lawrence L b1865 taken abt 1889
Lawrence L Casbon (undated photo)

I have no idea why he was living with his father or what he was doing for a living in 1893. This period of his life is a complete mystery to me. The 1890 U.S. census was lost in a fire, so it is of no help. By January of 1894 he was married to Katherine (“Kate”) Marquart; and somewhere along the line he took up farming in Porter township, in the southern part of the county.[5] So, his time at Academy Street must have been of short duration.

As the patriarch of a fairly large family, Sylvester would likely have used his house for family gatherings. This photo, which I’ve dated to 1905 or 1906, shows such a gathering.

OLD CASBON GROUP labels Is this the  house on 501 Academy Street? Look closely at the detail of the double window casing.
It looks identical to me. The siding is different (more about that in a bit) and the current house no
longer has a front porch. If you look at the fire insurance map, however, you can see that the
original house had a front porch in this location. I’m confident that they are the same house,
with an entryway built out from the original porch. (Click on image to enlarge)

Sylvester was still living in the house when he died in 1927.[6] His widow, Mary, continued to live there until her death in 1932.[7] Mary’s death heralded the arrival of two more generations of Casbons to the house on Academy Street. This article appeared in the April 26, 1932 Vidette-Messenger.[8]

Casbon Leslie move from Chicago to Valpo 1932 Vidette
(Click on image to enlarge]

Leslie Casbon (1894–1990) was my grandfather, the son of Lawrence. You can see him in the previous photograph seated on the ground, second from the left. The article says he would be commuting to work in Chicago. He must not have done so for very long. This was during the depression, and his business (jewelry, radios, musical instruments) was failing. Soon afterwards he gave up on the Chicago business and joined his two brothers in the new Casbon Brothers Electric Company, which was to become a well-known and successful Valparaiso business for another five decades or so.

The two children mentioned in the article were my father Lewis and his brother Don. They grew up in the house on Academy Street. During my visit, they shared their recollections of the house with me.

Both mentioned the fact that wakes or funerals were held in the house. Don remembers the death of his great uncle Ed Lewis, a wealthy businessman from Chicago. He remembers going down the stairs late at night & seeing Ed’s body in the coffin – the first dead person he had ever seen.

Don also remembers when his dad, Leslie, put asbestos shingle siding on the house – that’s right, asbestos! It was a popular material in home construction in those days. They would cut it to size and then attach it to the house. According to Don, this kind of asbestos wasn’t believed to be harmful. From what I’ve read, that’s true, unless the shingles are damaged (or cut!). Look closely at the picture of the house as it is today. Those asbestos shingles are still there – just painted yellow!

Lewis and Don walked to school, a block west and four blocks south of the house. The alley behind the house was a popular thoroughfare and probably the starting point for many adventures.

Dad remembers a time when a neighbor called his mother while she was working at the draft board, and told her,  “I just saw the back end of a jack ass in your front door. ” Don and his friend were bringing a pony into the house! He also recalls that his father dug a basement beneath the house and eventually installed a furnace there. At one point he had to crawl into the basement through a window to tend the furnace, because the house was quarantined due to scarlet fever.

My dad’s best friend was Jim (“Jimmy”) Brown, whose dad ran a grocery store on the first floor of their house, about four doors down the street on Academy. Dad & Jimmy have remained good friends for their entire lives. During our visit, we were able to surprise Jimmy on his birthday and share good memories of past times.

Jim Brown & Dad Aug 2017
Jim Brown (left) & Lewis Casbon (right), Valparaiso, August 2017.

My grandparents sold the house in the early 1940s, probably in the early years of the war. It had been in the family nearly fifty years. There must be many more stories, yet untold. I’m glad the house is still standing, a silent witness to the family’s history.

[1] History of Porter County, Indiana : a narrative account of its historical progress, its people and its principal interests (Chicago: Lewis Publishing Company, 1912), vol. 2, p. 484; online image, Hathi Trust Digital Library (;view=1up;seq=139;size=175 : accessed 14 August 2017).
[2] Valparaiso Porter County, Ind. City Directory 1893 (Chicago: Kraft & Radcliffe, 1893), unnumbered p. 59 of 130; PDF image, Internet Archive ( : accessed 9 Aug 2017).
[3] History of Porter County,” vol. 1, p. 195; Hathi Trust Digital Library (;view=1up;seq=229 : accessed 14 August 2017).
[4] Insurance Maps of Valparaiso Indiana (New York: Sanborn Map Company, 1905), p. 17; PDF image, “Maps,” Porter County Indiana ( : accessed 14 August 2014) >Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps >Valparaiso >1905.
[5] “Indiana Marriages, 1811-2007”, database with images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 10 March 2017), Lawrence L. Casbon & Kate E. Marquart, 31 Jan 1894; citing County Clerk, Porter, Indiana.
[6] “Death Calls S.V. Casbon; Reached 90,” The(Valparaiso, Indiana) Vidette Messenger, 10 Dec 1927, p. 1, col. 1, online image, Newspaper Archive (accessed through participating libraries: 16 June 2016).
[7] “Death Claims Mary Casbon.” The Vidette Messenger, 29 Feb 1932, p. 3, col. 8; online image, Newspaper Archive.
[8] “Local Brevities,” The Vidette-Messenger, 26 Apr 1932, p. 3, col. 1, para. 27; online image, Newspaper Archive.

An Almost Forgotten Occupation

One of my favorite sources for stories has been the British Newspaper Archive, hosted by Find My Past. The collection is constantly being updated with new materials. Just last week the Herts and Cambs Reporter and Royston Crow was added. “Herts” stands for Hertfordshire and “Cambs” stands for Cambridgeshire. Royston is a town in northern Hertfordshire, just a few miles south of Meldreth and Melbourn, Cambridgeshire, the ancestral home villages of many of today’s Casbons.

Map showing Meldreth, Melbourn, Royston and Barley (indicated by stars) (Google Maps).

When I searched on the name “Casbon” in the Herts and Cambs Reporter, one of the first things to pop up was this advertisement.[1]

Casbon G W Wheelright ad Herts Cambs Reporter 8Feb1901

“G. W. Casbon, Jun.” would have been George Walter Casbon, the son of George Casbon (~1836–­1914) and Sarah Sophia Pryor (~1831–­1903). He was the grandson of James Casbon (“James Casbon, Farmer and Carrier, 1806–­1871”). George Junior was born October 14, 1873 in Barley, a village just outside of Royston.[2] He married Miss Emma Brown in London March 27, 1901, shortly after taking over his father’s business.[3] They had a son, Mervyn Henry George, born in 1905 (d. 1964).[4],[5]

As the ad indicates, George Junior was continuing his father’s “long established” business as a wheelwright. George Senior’s business certainly was long established; his occupation was listed as wheelwright as early as the 1861 census, when he was 20 years old and newly married to Sophia.[6]

According to Wikipedia, “a wheelwright is a craftsman who builds or repairs wooden wheels.”[7] The word “wright” means a maker or builder, and derives from the Old English wryhta, relating to work.[8] Many occupations ended in “wright”; probably the most common today is playwright.

When George Junior took over his father’s business in 1901, I wonder if he realized his profession was in its waning days. Wire-spoked wheels and pneumatic tires were invented in the 1870s.[9] Many early automobiles used wooden-spoked wheels, but as the 20th century progressed, the need for wooden wheels would have gradually decreased. Today the profession of wheelwright is largely restricted to living history museums.

An iron tire being placed on a wooden wheel. (Daphne Turner, “The Craft of the Wheelwright,” Small Farmer’s Journal, issue 28-4, online periodical { : accessed 30 July 2017}).

Later records give George’s occupation as wheelwright and blacksmith.[10] Blacksmithing probably would have helped offset any potential loss of income as the need for handmade wheels declined.

George lived almost 97 years, until January 9, 1970.[11] His wife Emma died in 1942.[12]

[1] Advertisement “G.W. Casbon, Jun., Cart and Coach Wheelright, &c.,” Herts and Cambs Reporter and Royston Crow, 8 Feb 1901, p. 4, col. 3; online image, British Newspaper Archive, through findmypast ( accessed 28 July 2017).
[2] “Hertfordshire Baptisms,” database with images, findmypast ( : accessed 30 July 2017), George Walter Casbon, 28 Jun 1875, Barley, Hertfordshire; citing parish registers.
[3] “London, England, Church of England Marriages and Banns, 1754-1921”, database with images, Ancestry Library Edition (accessed through participating libraries: 10 August 2016), George Walter Casbon & Emma Brown, 27 Mar 1901; citing parish registers, St. John the Less, Bethnal Green, London.
[4] “England & Wales Births, 1837-2006,” database, findmypast ( : accessed 30 July 2017), Mervyn Henry G Casbon, 1905; citing Birth Registration, Royston, Hertfordshire; citing General Register Office, Southport, England.
[5] “England & Wales deaths 1837-2007,” database, findmypast ( : accessed 30 July 2017), Mervyn H G Casbon, 1964, 2nd quarter; citing Death Registration, Watford, Hertfordshire; citing General Register Office.
[6] “1861 England, Wales & Scotland Census,” database with images, findmypast ( : accessed 30 July 2017), entry for George Casbon (age 20)) in household of John Ryce, Smith End, Barley, Hertfordshire; citing [The National Archives], RG 09, piece 812, folio 76, p. 44; Royston registration district, enumeration district 5.
[7] “Wheelwright,” Wikipedia ( : accessed 30 July 2017), rev. 7 Jul 17, 10:40.
[8] “Wright,” Oxford Dictionaries ( : accessed 30 July 2017).
[9] “Wheel,” Wikipedia ( : accessed 30 July 2017), rev. 26 Jul 17, 10:45.
[10] “1939 Register Census of United Kingdom,” High Street , Hitchin registration district (Hertfordshire); database with images, findmypast ( : accessed 30 July 2017) ), entry for George W Casborn (b. 14 Oct 1873); citing [The National Archives], ref. RG101/1659B/003/37.
[11] “Find a Will,” database searched through “Wills and Probate 1858-1996,” GOV.UK ( : accessed 30 July 2017), >Casbon >1970, entry for Casbon George Walter, d. 9 Jan 1970.
[12] “England & Wales deaths 1837-2007,” database, findmypast ( : accessed 30 July 2017), Emma Casbon (age 75), 2nd quarter, 1942, Watford,Hertfordshire; ; citing General Register Office.

Nancy Casbon (~1800–before 1871): Research Methods

I thought I would share a bit about how I find and use old records to learn about my ancestors’ lives. I’ll use the baptismal record of Nancy Casbon as an example. Nancy was the daughter of James (“James Casbon of Meldreth (~1772-1833)”) and the sister of James (“James Casbon, Farmer and Carrier, 1806-1871, Part 1”). I speculated earlier that her father was a landowner, mentioned in the 1820 Award Book for the enclosure of Meldreth.[1]

James married his second wife, Mary Howse, in 1796.[2] How can we learn about their children? For this example we’ll do an online search using one of my favorite sites, FamilySearch (Https:// I like FamilySearch because: 1) it’s free, although you need to sign into the site to access some of the content; and 2) the data collections are extensive, drawing from the millions (billions?) of records collected, filmed, scanned, or transcribed by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (“LDS” – Mormons ). I have no affiliation with the LDS church, but I’m sure grateful for all the genealogical records they’ve stashed away. We’ll start at the FamilySearch opening search screen.

FS search screen 1
Detail of screen capture from

In this case we’ll leave the First Names and Birthplace fields blank. I’ve filled in the fields for Last Names and Birth Year so that the search includes anyone with the Casbon surname born between 1795 and 1815. We’ll limit the search to records from Cambridgeshire. One nice thing about FamilySearch and other online genealogy sites is that they use fuzzy logic to find similar-sounding surnames, so the search will still yield results even if the “wrong” spelling is used. It’s also possible to use “wild cards” (“*” and “?”) in place of letters to find even more variant spellings.

Here is a screen capture of the results of the search (there are actually several pages of results, but the closest matches to the search criteria appear first).

FS search screen 2
Detail from screen capture of search results. (Click on image to enlarge)

Bingo! You can see that three of the first four results show the names of children born to James and Mary Casbon: James, born 7 September 1806 in Meldreth; Mary, christened 20 May 1798 in Meldreth; and Nancy, christened 26 January 1800 (my third great grandfather Thomas, son of Isaac and Susanna, appears as the third result). Now that I have names and birth/christening dates, I can enter this information into my genealogy software (Family Tree Maker®). Since we’re interested in Nancy today, we click on her entry and see this screen.

FS search screen 3

This screen tells us that Nancy’s baptism information is contained in a data collection titled “England Births and Christenings, 1538-1975.” The collection only contains limited transcripts of the church records. The citation tells us that the source of the information is Family History Library (FHL) microfilm 990,297.

Let’s say we want to see what’s on that microfilm. Why? Well, because the microfilm can show us information that might not be included in the transcript. Also, it allows  us to see records in chronological order and get a sense of who and how many people were getting baptized, married and buried in the parish at any given time.

It used to be possible to order microfilms from the Family History Center in Salt Lake City, and have them delivered to a local Family History Center (located at LDS churches) or even my local library. However, just a few weeks ago FamilySearch announced that they will stop distributing microfilms as of August 31, 2017. They are in the process of scanning every microfilm and converting them into digital images, a project they hope to complete by the end of 2020.[3]

Fortunately, the digital images of the Meldreth parish registers have recently become available on the FamilySearch website. The images aren’t indexed, meaning you can’t look up individuals using the search page. Instead, you have to locate the file (i.e., Meldreth Parish registers) using the online catalog, and then browse through the images to see what they contain. Also, the parish register files can’t be viewed from home – you have to go to a local Family History Center to see them.

So, I went to the nearest LDS church (A.K.A. “Family History Center”), logged into FamilySearch, and located the link for the Meldreth parish registers. This is what the screen looks like.

FS search screen 4
Detail from screen capture, Meldreth Bishop’s Transcripts (I don’t have a screen copy of the parish registers, but this gives you an idea of what the screen looks like). (Click on image to enlarge)

Each thumbprint image represents a frame from the FHL microfilm. Each frame of the microfilm contains a photograph of a page or two of the parish registers, consisting of several books. The images can be viewed individually and downloaded. Here is the frame with Nancy’s baptismal record.

Nancy baptism unenhanced Unenhanced digital image of frame from FHL microfilm 990,297, showing Meldreth parish baptisms, 1796–1800.
(Click on image to enlarge)

I like to make the images more “presentable,” so I do a little enhancement with photo software, straightening, cropping, adjusting light and contrast, and adding a sepia tone effect. Although artificial, I like to think this last step gives the image a more realistic appearance.  Here’s the enhanced version.

Nancy baptism enhanced

And here is a detailed view showing the entry for Nancy’s baptism, January 26, 1800.

Nancy baptism detail
“Nancy Daughter of James and Mary Casbon _____Jan.y”

The column on the left is titled “Born.” You can see by the dates that children were not always baptized the same year they were born. You can also see that the year of Nancy’s birth is illegible, either because it has been erased, or just badly smudged. This means we really can’t know for sure when Nancy was born. Since her sister Mary was baptized in 1798, it’s likely that Nancy was born sometime between 1798 and 1800.

This is just a small example of the genealogical research process. For me each new bit of information is a new discovery, a small piece of a larger puzzle. The puzzle will never be completed, but every piece put into place makes it a little easier to understand the whole.

[1] Arnold Stanford, transcriber, “Inclosure Act 1820 Meldreth Award Book,” 2014, p. 12, James Casbourn copyhold allotment; PDF, Meldreth History ( ; accessed 19 January 2017)
[2] Parish of Meldreth (Cambridgeshire, England), untitled register of Marriages 1754–1807, p. 38, no. 152, James Casbon & Mary Howse, 23 Nov 1796; Family History Library (FHL) microfilm 1,04,0570, item 6.
[3] “FamilySearch Digital Records Access Replacing Microfilm,” posted 26 Jun 17, FamilySearch ( accessed 13 July 2017).