Saturday, July 19, 2014

The Caseman Family: George W. Caseman (1828-1913)



*Grace was born to an unmarried Mary Jane and took on the last name of her stepfather, William Martin.
Tracing the Caseman family beyond Mary Jane becomes more difficult as we go back into the 1700’s and early 1800’s.  Records become scarcer, lost in floods, fires, or never recorded in the frontier and backwoods of Kentucky and western Pennsylvania.  Maybe someone from the family got into town to record a birth or death at the court house and often they didn’t; or perhaps there was no nearby court house.  The dead might be buried on the farm with just a stone or wooden cross marker, or the headstone has been destroyed.

George’s Civil War background has been described in The Killing Fields of Chickamauga and They Stood As If Every Man was a Hero although George’s capture by Confederates outside Atlanta during Sherman’s march was not detailed.

Our mother - who would have been George’s great-granddaughter - always insisted Mary Jane’s side of the family was German.  Since George’s wife, Meriah, was likely Scottish descent the German side had to come from the Casemans.

Suggestions have been made that George's father Jacob descended from William Caseman in Frederick County, Virginia and later Greene County, Pennsylvania, and that William’s original name was Wilhelm Kaeseman.  Wilhelm was born in Nesselrode, Germany and was a Hessian mercenary fighting for the British when captured at Yorktown.  While being marched around as POW’s, the prisoners had opportunity to “get lost”, i.e., escape, and that Wilhelm stayed and settled in this country as a young man.  Again, this is myth until we are able to make documented connection between our Jacob and Wilhelm.

Venango County, Pennsylvania


Franklin, Pennsylvania, lies at the confluence of French Creek and the Allegheny River in Venango County.  Franklin was the site of first a French fort and later a British fort in the 1700’s, The British were massacred and Fort Venango burned  by Indians in 1763, followed by construction of Fort Franklin by the Americans.  A frontier community was established in the late 1700’s in the Fort Franklin area by Virginians, many claiming land for their services in the Revolution.  Travel through the early 1800’s was difficult due to poor condition of any roads and trails, leaving inhabitants heavily dependent on creeks and rivers.  Boats easily brought passengers and goods upstream from Pittsburgh via the Allegheny and this is likely the path by which the Caseman’s arrived.

The family’s presence in Venango County, Pennsylvania, in 1828 is established by the fortuitous finding of George’s birthplace on his Civil War enlistment and later his marriage certificate with Eliza.   His parents are established as Jacob Caseman and Lydia by records in Pendleton County.  Later census records establish Lydia’s birth as about 1798 in Pennsylvania, but Jacob’s birth, age, and their marriage have not yet been found.

There are no Casemans or families with similar spellings in the 1820 Venango County census so it is relatively safe to say at least John Jacob arrived between 1820 and George’s birth in 1828.  Did they arrive as a family, or did John Jacob migrate on his own and marry a local girl?

The 1830 census shows a John J Caseman family with man and woman in the appropriate age range and  and four children living in French Creek near the fork with the Allegheny River, the only Casemans in Venango County in that census year so we can be relatively certain this is our family.

We do know with some certainty that young Lydia, George’s older sister born in 1821, and the older Lydia, John Jacob’s wife, were both born in Pennsylvania but their birth places lack county documentation and we do not know the older Lydia’s maiden name.  There is a 7 year gap between sister Lydia and George’s births which could be accounted for by a number of possibilities.  That John Jacob and Lydia electively decided not to have children until they migrated from elsewhere in Pennsylvania would have been highly unusual for the times.  Another thought is that young Lydia was born from a previous marriage, her mother since died, and older Lydia was Jacob’s second wife, starting a second family with George in 1828.  However,  the most plausible explanation is that several children between young Lydia and George were born but died in childhood.  The support for this option is that young and old Lydias share a common name, a frequent practice at the time and a bane to genealogy researchers.

Hamilton County, Ohio

A History of Venango County relates one of the first settlers in Franklin was George Power who helped build the fort, stayed a bit longer, then moved on to Fort Washington which is now Cincinnati.  He returned to Franklin in 1790 and lived on the bank of French Creek until his death in 1845.  Did John Jacob hear about Ohio from this neighbor, or other neighbors?  Franklin was becoming more hospitable by the time John Jacob decided to move on with his family.  By the early 1800’s roads were being laid out, and by 1823 the town had a hotel, a lumber yard, brick maker, justice of the peace and two story houses.  An influx of settlers grew the county from 4000 in 1820 to 9000 by 1830.  Was it becoming too crowded and land too expensive?  If John Jacob had established his homestead on the banks of French Creek, were they prompted to leave due to frequent severe flooding?

In any event, several years after the birth of Lydia the couple had three more children in quick succession, George in 1828, Jacob in 1831, and Mary Anne in 1833.  By time of the 1840 census, the family and four children had migrated down the Allegheny and Ohio Rivers to Anderson, Hamilton County, Ohio.  A fifth and last child, Foster, was born in Hamilton County in 1842.

Older sister, Lydia, came of age in Hamilton County and married Robert Hay in 1842, subsequently remaining in the Covington area.  By 1870, Lydia was twice widowed and living in Falmouth, Pendleton County, Kentucky.  Her 70 year old mother, the older Lydia, is in the home.

Pendleton County, Kentucky

Our Jacob, Sr., and Lydia came to Pendleton County sometime between 1842 when Foster was born in Hamilton County and 1847 when there is documentation Jacob Sr. bought a mill from Alexander Rouse in Pendleton County (Pendleton Circuit Court, p. 229).  Jacob, Sr. likely died in the next 2-3 years as he is not listed in the 1850 census.  Proceedings in 1853 show the Jacob, Sr. was “much embarrassed” financially at the time of his death, and the mill was foreclosed leaving his heirs to pay his debts.

In 1850 widowed Lydia is living with 22 year old head of household George W. who is now supporting his mother, his three younger siblings, Jacob now 19, Mary Anne, 15, Foster 8, and a one year old Edward.  A circuit court document in 1855 issued a summons for George to appear before the judge to show cause why he should not be bound out in the death of the infant son of Jacob; this may be Edward as he does not show up in later censuses.  

Our 24 yr old George married 20 year old Meriah Johnson, daughter of farmer and mill owner William Johnson, in 1852.  George is farming in Flower Creek, indeed just a designated post office with no associated town.  The closest village is Butler.

The mother, 55 tear old Lydia, remarried  in 1855 to a neighboring farmer, 79 year old John Clinkenbeard, and left the family home.

Jacob, Jr., 26, married 15 year old Sarah Mains from a nearby farm in 1857. 

In 1860, twenty year old Foster is working as a farm hand in Campbell County, Kentucky, which is Sarah’s home county.

George and Meriah had their first child, Lydia, (another Lydia!) in November 1852 followed by another 3 children over the next 8 years.  Of these, only our great grandmother, Mary Jane, survived childhood.  Tragedy struck the family when 5 year old Lydia and 1 year old Jacob L (another Jacob!) died with infant flux within days of each other.  Young William, born in 1858 is on the census in 1860, but not ten years later in 1870 when he would have been only 12, and he must have died sometime in the interim.  Their fifth child, Emily, was born in 1861 months before George left for war.

In October 1861, 33 year old George and his two brothers, 30 year old Jacob and 19 year old Foster, enlisted in the Union Army, Kentucky 23rd Regiment, Company D, and trained a Camp King near Covington, Kentucky.  George is described as tall at 6’ 3/4”, hazel eyes, black hair, and a scar over his right temple.  Foster is described as 5’8”, dark complexion, brown eyes, black hair.

The regiment went by foot to Lexington, then to Louisville where they boarded a steamer and were transported to Nashville.  They wintered 1862-63 at Nashville and saw little action through the spring and summer.  Through this period, George was promoted through the ranks to Corporal before even leaving Lexington, then to Sergeant by July 1862.  All three boys left the unit in August 1862, “left behind on the march,” a week before the units first severe fight at Round Mountain in Tennessee and remained AWOL until March 30, 1863.  Very likely they went home to help with fall harvest, possibly tobacco; with some re-organization of Rosecrans’ army an amnesty was offered allowing the boys to return without penalty other than George was demoted back to private status.

The 23rd remained in Tennessee through the summer until moved to Chattanooga in September 1863.  They did reconnaissance up Lookout Mountain looking for Confederates and subsequently engaged in the horrific fight at Chickamauga.  On the first day of battle, September 19, Lt. Colonel Foy, commander of the 23rd, describes arriving at Lee and Gordon’s Mills about daylight, having some marching and flanking action and entering the fight at about 11 AM,

“…the battery to our rear was pouring in destructive fire into their (Confederate) ranks and the Twenty -third Kentucky poured in volley after volley.  After we had been in this position about one-half to three-quarters of an hour, I noticed that the enemy were renewing the attack with redoubled vigor.  The Second Kentucky retired step by step and inch by inch until they arrived on a line with us.  At this instant I noticed the 24th Ohio giving slowly back.  I immediately sent an officer to see what was the matter.  He brought the word back “all right” and that they intended to hold their ground.  We now fought, I suppose for about an hour longer, but right in the midst of the fighting, finding out that the artillery to our rear was wounding some of the men in the right companies we moved to the left … we renewed our ammunition, marked to pass lines to the rear, which was done in good order… we had scarcely fallen back when the enemy redoubled their attack with great fury…they stood as every man a hero…side by side and shoulder to shoulder did the 24th Ohio and 23rd Kentucky stand up and successively repulse the enemy in all his attacks…the fire now was very hot.  It appeared to me as though every third man in the regiment was struck… finally, seeing we were outnumbered at least five to one, I very reluctantly gave the command to retire.  I found my loss to be 1 officer killed, 3 officers wounded, and 42 enlisted men wounded and 9 killed.”

Among the 9 enlisted killed was young Foster, twenty one years old.  The Union had 16,170 casualties (killed in action, wounded, captured, missing) and Confederates 18,454 in those two days of battle.  Foster is buried at Chattanooga National Cemetery.

Foster Caseman, 1842-1864, killed in action at Chickamauga
Having lost a brother at their side, George and Jacob, nevertheless, would have to fight the following day which was just as horrendous until retreat of the Union Army into Chattanooga.

The 23rd remained in Chattanooga surrounded and under siege by the Confederate Army until General Grant opened a supply line across the river to the starving men.  A week after Chickamauga, Jacob was accidentally shot by a drunken guard in his barracks, requiring amputation at the elbow and ending his soldier career.

George, alone without his brothers, and the 23rd moved out and participated in the great charge up Missionary Ridge on November 25 to break the siege, “there was never such a bold and daring charge made or witnessed by the Army of the Cumberland,” according to the commander of the 23rd.

With their three year enlistment up in January 1864, George and most of regiment re-enlisted and continued on with Sherman’s march through Georgia. George fought through the battles at Rocky Face, Resaca, New Hope Church, Pine Top, and was finally captured at Kennesaw just outside Atlanta on September 24.  He was a prisoner of war, perhaps at the horrific prison at Andersonville as his release occurred in Savannah on November 21, 1864.  He reported back to the Union Army on November 25 and rejoined the fight chasing Hood’s army back into Tennessee and Alabama where he mustered out in January 1865.

After the war

Age 37, George returned to farming at Flower Creek, to Meriah and two young children, Mary Jane and Emily who was just months old when George enlisted. Over the previous 9 years, he had lost one brother killed in action at his side, one disabled with an arm amputation, the sudden deaths of two young children, an infant nephew in his home, and possibly a third child, William.  He and Meriah had another five children in rapid succession between 1866 and 1874.  Sometime before the1880 census Meriah died.  No record of her death or burial site has been found.

Jacob returned to Sarah Ann and the two children born before he went to war.  He worked the farm, bought a sawmill, and obtained an artificial arm.  He and Sarah had three more children, the last one born a month after Jacob’s death in 1874 at the age of 37.

Our great grandmother, Mary Jane was 10 when her father George returned home from the war and 4 years later, at age 15 in November 1869, Mary Jane married and left the home. She lived briefly in the Pendleton County area in Falmouth but within 3-4 years she and her husband, Frank Shumate, moved away to Illinois then to Lewis County, Kentucky, where Frank was killed by a horse, leaving her widowed with two young children.

Lewis County, Kentucky

The 1880 census finds widower George with six children near Vanceburg on a farm next to newly widowed Mary Jane and her two young children.  What drew the family to the Clarksburg area some distance from Flower Creek and who moved here first is unknown.  Mary Jane is supporting herself as a seamstress, likely living on the same farm in Valley where her husband was killed in 1879, and George is farming.

George and Eliza's marriage certificate
The same year, 1880, no doubt needing help with raising his young children, George took another wife, - a young Eliza Moore who was the same age as his daughter Mary Jane.  George had another four children with Eliza over the next 16 years, for a total of 14 children in all.  There was 32 years difference in age between Mary Jane and George’s last child. born when George was 68 years old.

George and Eliza remained in Valley on the farm next to Mary Jane and finished raising his children.
George and second wife Eliza Ellen
By 1910, George had moved into Vanceburg, living on Third Street, and Mary Jane has finished raising her children, soon if not already living on Dry Run close to Grace.

George died December 30, 1913 at his home at age 85.  He is buried in an unmarked grave in Clarksburg Cemetery.

1 comment:

Janie Nute-Thomas said...

Wow, you have been busy! There is a wrong date in here. You have it as September 1963 when the 23rd went to Chattanooga. Very good saga! Wonder where George got his hairdo. He certainly was prolific in making kids.