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.[*], Another census has “8” written in the space for “Extent of Education: Common [school], so this probably means he attended school for eight years. 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. Claudia Vokoun has sent me copies of some of these autographs.
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.
“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. 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. Maud, as she was known, was born November 22, 1879 in Benton County, Iowa, to Ira R and Josephine (Keech) Carpenter. In 1895 her family was living in Clark Township, Tama County, Iowa, and in 1900 they were living in nearby Black Hawk County., 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.,,
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. Two children were born in Minnesota: Sylvester on February 25, 1906, and Ira Raymond (known as “Buddy”) on December 10, 1907.,
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. 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.
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. According to Claudia Vokoun, George built a small “‘cabin’ for a family of 5 and they lived there till five more children were born.”
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. 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. 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.”
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. 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
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. 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.
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.”
(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.