Names often run in families. In my Grandma Olsen’s family, the name Caleb George is a prime example. Within the scope of my current knowledge, this name originated in the family of my great-great-great grandparents Jonathan and Esther Case, although there were at least two Caleb Case households enumerated in New York state in 1840.
Grandma Olsen, by the way, was born Goldy Verda Case. Like her mother and others in her family, she was called by her middle name. Verda married Aden Springsteen in 1918. After Aden died in 1941, Grandma married Fred Olsen in 1945, and was known henceforth as Verda G. Olsen.
In 1851 Jonathan and Esther Case lived with their family in East Oxford Township, Oxford County, Canada West, in the British Province of Canada. Jonathan’s presumed younger brother William Case and his wife Sarah Ann lived nearby. Jonathan and William Case were both farmers, living in log homes. Jonathan, William, and Sarah (Ogden) Case had all been born in New York state. Esther/Ester (David) Case had been born in Vermont. Based on the birth locations of sons and daughters reported in the 1851 Census of East Oxford Township, Jonathan and Esther apparently moved west to what was then Upper Canada about 1836, followed by William and Sarah around 1842.
Among the members of Jonathan and Esther’s household in 1851 were my great-great grandfather Joshua and his younger brother Caleb George Case. I don’t know if Caleb George was the first of that name in his extended family, but as we shall see he wouldn’t be the last.
Those unfamiliar with Canadian history should understand that there was no country of Canada until 1867. Before 1763, eastern North America consisted of New France, the British colonies that would rebel in 1776, and the Spanish colony of Florida. After the Seven Years War, known in the United States as the French and Indian War, New France became part of the British Empire. This new domain was split into the provinces of Nova Scotia, in the east, and Quebec, which extended through the Great Lakes region to the Mississippi River. With the migration of British Loyalists across the northern frontier of the new United States, Quebec was divided in 1791 into the predominantly French province of Lower Canada and the mostly English province of Upper Canada. Upper and lower referred not to north and south but to location along the St. Lawrence River valley. Upper Canada was along the upper reaches of the St. Lawrence River, along the Niagara and Detroit Rivers, and on the northern shores of Lakes Ontario and Erie. The Canadas (Lower and Upper) were combined in 1841 into the unified Province of Canada. When the nation of Canada was formed in 1867 from the British colonies of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Canada, Oxford County became part of the new Canadian Province of Ontario.
Caleb George Case, 1838-1910
Jonathan and Esther Case’s son Caleb George was born in East Oxford Township on 1 April 1838. On 10 June 1860 Caleb married Emily Spencer, whose family had been neighbors in 1851.
In the 1861 Census of Oxford County, Caleb was listed living with his parents in East Oxford Township and also with Emily who was living with her parents in neighboring North Norwich Township. Caleb was identified as a farmer in both households.
The 1870 United States Federal Census of Lapeer County, Michigan found Caleb and Emily with their family in the community of North Branch, Michigan. He was recorded as a hotel keeper and as a citizen of the United States. Caleb and Emily’s household included their children:
- Eunice, age 9, born in Canada
- Charles, age 7, born in Canada
- Ester, age 5, born in Michigan
- Caleb G., age 3, born in Michigan
This indicates that Caleb and Emily apparently moved west to Michigan around 1864. Additional household members were:
- Frank Weed, a hotel clerk, born in Maine
- Phineas White, an attorney at law, born in Michigan
- David Frodd, a hotel worker, born in Scotland
- Emily Case, a hotel waiter, born in Canada
- Emily Kennedy, a hotel waiter, born in Canada
- Roger McTaggart, a house carpenter, born in Canada
- Samuel West, a barber, born in Virginia
The hotel waiter Emily Case looks like a potential relative. In fact, she was Caleb’s younger sister, a daughter of Jonathan and Esther Case. Emily Kennedy might also have been a relative, given that Kennedys were granted the original land patent for the lot where William Case lived in East Oxford.
In 1880 Caleb and Emily Case were next door to William and Sarah Kennedy in Burlington Township, Lapeer County. Both men were identified as farmers. Sarah Kennedy, a daughter of Jonathan and Esther Case, was Caleb’s older sister. Caleb and Emily’s household included their children Ester, Caleb, and Albert as well as a servant named Stephen Bull who would marry Ester in July of 1880.
In 1900 the elder Caleb was living in the village of Vassar in Tuscola County, Michigan. He was recorded in the census as a divorced bartender. Emily was living in the village of Clifford, Burlington Township, Lapeer County. She was listed as a widow in the household of her son-in-law and daughter Thomas and Elma McLaughlin. Emily was recorded as having been the mother of five children, four of whom were still living. Caleb and Emily’s son Charles had in fact died in 1873.
Caleb and Emily were remarried in Clifford, Tuscola County on 8 October 1906.
Emily Spencer Case died of a pelvic abscess on 26 September 1907 in Dayton Township, Tuscola County. Personal information provided for her death record stated that she had first been married at the age of 17 and that she had been the parent of six children, three of whom were still living. Ester Bull had died in 1905.
Caleb George Case died of pneumonia on 19 February 1910 while visiting his son in Dayton Township, Tuscola County. His sister Emily Frances Catto reported that Caleb’s parents were Johnathan Case and Ester David. Caleb’s and Emily’s mortal remains were laid to rest in the West Burlington Cemetery near Silverwood, Lapeer County, Michigan.
Caleb George Case, 1867-1910
Caleb and Emily Case’s son Caleb George was born 31 May 1867 in Burlington Township, Lapeer County, Michigan. As already noted, he was living with his parents in Lapeer County, Michigan in 1870 and 1880. Caleb married Phebe Helen Smith in Lapeer on 1 October 1890. Phebe’s parents, like Caleb’s, had been born in Canada.
In 1900 Caleb and Phebe were living in Koylton Township, Tuscola County, which borders Burlington Township, Lapeer County. Caleb was recorded as a farmer. Their household included four children:
- Wilma, born in September 1891
- Beatrice, born in March 1894
- Charles, born in July 1896
- Helen, born in April 1900
Helen died on 6 August 1900.
Caleb died of pneumonia in Dayton Township, Tuscola County on 21 February 1910, two days after his father. He was buried in the West Burlington Cemetery.
Phebe was recorded in the 1910 census living as a widow in Dayton Township. She was reported as the mother of six children, five still living:
- Wilma, age 18
- Beatrice, age 15
- Charley, age 12
- Newell, age 4
- Emily, age 1
Phebe lived in Detroit in 1920 with Charles, Newell, and Emily in her household. She was reported as having no occupation, but she had taken in two female teachers and a housekeeper as lodgers. Her daughter and son-in-law Wilma and Jasper Dawson were recorded as a separate household in the same dwelling. Jasper, who had been born in Canada and had lived in Tuscola County, was an auditor for the post office. Phebe’s daughter Beatrice had married Earl Feller and subsequently died after a miscarriage in 1916.
Phebe was living with her son Charles in Detroit at the time of the 1920 and 1940 census enumerations. In 1940 grandson Charles Dawson was living with them. His mother Wilma had died in 1921 when he was just over a year old.
Phebe died in Saginaw, Michigan on 1 May 1950. I don’t know where her remains were laid to rest.
Caleb George Kennedy, 1857-1920
Jonathan and Esther Case’s daughter Sarah Ann and her husband William H Kennedy had six daughters and two sons of which I am aware. Caleb George, their third child and first son, was the first born in Michigan. He and his younger siblings were probably all born in Lapeer County. Apparently known as George from an early age, he was born 24 December 1857.
In 1860 George Kennedy lived on a farm in Burlington Township, Lapeer County with his parents and sisters Francis, Isabell, and Layette. A Spencer family whose children had been born in Canada West lived nearby.
In 1870, apparently still living on the same farm, sisters Cornelia, Sarah, and Ester had been added to the household. Sister Francis was working as a domestic servant in a household near other Kennedys in Burlington Township. William and Sarah Kennedy’s last child, William, was born in 1873.
George married Mary Blue in Marathon Township, Lapeer County on 17 August 1879. When the 1880 census was taken, George and Mary had moved to the northwestern lower peninsula of Michigan. They were living in the household of her brother and sister-in-law Mark and Lottie Blue in Liberty Township, Wexford County. George and Mark were both farmers.
The 1890 census having been almost entirely destroyed, we next find George and Mary enumerated in neighboring Cedar Creek Township, Wexford County in 1900. George was identified as a farmer. Mary was reported as having given birth to five children, all still living. They were listed in George and Mary’s household:
- Dawn, a teacher, born in October 1880
- Elsie, married for two years with no children, born in August 1882
- Sadie, born in May 1884
- Rodney, born in June 1889
- Mary, born in November 1897
Elsie’s husband was not in George and Mary’s household.
In 1910 George and Elsie were living in the village of Manton, Cedar Creek Township with daughter Mary and a boarder who worked in a stave mill. George was working as a night watchman for the village.
In 1920 George and Mary were living in Onaway, Presque Isle County, Michigan with their son-in-law and daughter Edward and Elsie McManus and granddaughter Tilda. Edward and George as well as a boarder were reported as laborers in a rim plant.
George died in Manton on 20 November 1920 of cirrhosis of the liver. He was buried in Fairview Cemetery, Manton.
Mary married William B. Traver on 13 April 1926 at Columbiaville, Lapeer County. He died 29 August 1929 in Lapeer. William and Mary apparently lived at Columbiaville at the time of his death.
In 1930 Mary Traver lived with 19-year-old daughter Berneta in Marathon Township, Lapeer County. Berneta was presumably William’s daughter.
Mary died of empyema of the gall bladder at Mercy Hospital in Cadillac, Wexford County on 1 July 1934. She was buried in Fairview Cemetery with her first husband Caleb George Kennedy.
Caleb George Case, 1885-1950
Jonathan and Esther Case’s son William Henry Case and his wife Amy Ogden Case apparently had nine daughters and four sons. Their youngest child, Caleb George Case, was born 7 May 1885 in South Norwich, Oxford County, Ontario. He was known among his siblings as Cap.
I have not yet found William and Amy Case’s family in the 1891 census of Ontario, but in 1901 they were living in the city of London, Middlesex County, west of Oxford County. Their household members were:
- William H. Case, born 9 May 1835 in England, immigrated to Canada in 1838
- Amy, born 22 August 1840 in New Brunswick
- Matilda, born 20 July 1872 in Ontario
- Ada Anna, born 20 December 1875 in Ontario
- Ella May, born 23 July 1877 in Ontario
- Anna, born 9 May 1880 in Ontario
- Alfred Leroy, born 20 March 1881 in Ontario
- Caleb George, born 7 May 1885 in Ontario
William was in fact born in New York state and, as previously noted, probably arrived in Upper Canada in 1836 with older siblings Sarah Ann and Joshua.
Caleb was known in adulthood as George C. Case and might have been called George at an early age. He married Selma Fick in Detroit, Wayne County, Michigan on 27 April 1909. In 1910 George and Selma were enumerated in Detroit. George was an assembler at a plumbing supply business. He was reported to have been naturalized after arrival in the United States in 1902.
In 1920 George was a retail grocery manager living with his sister Ella Demrick and her children in Royal Oak, Oakland County. He was reported to have immigrated in 1900 and to have been naturalized in 1912. We have seen that his family was still in Canada in 1901 so we know that he didn’t move to Michigan until later. George was also reported as divorced. In fact, Selma was granted a divorce from George on 1 March 1920. The divorce records indicate that George and Selma had no children. Selma was recorded in the 1920 census living in Detroit, working as an office clerk.
I don’t know where George was in 1930. The 1940 census found him in Lansing, Ingham County, Michigan with wife Marie. He was working as a salesman in retail electrical work. Marie informed the census enumerator that George had completed the fifth grade of school and that she had completed the fourth.
George died on 1 November 1950 in Lansing. Marie followed him in 1959. They were interred in the Evergreen Cemetery in Lansing. I have found no record of children, but don’t know that there were none.
Avey C G Case, 1886-1918
Jonathan and Esther Case’s son Joshua and his wife Sarah Chamberlin Case had six children of which I am aware, including my great-grandfather Edwin Case. After Sarah’s death, Joshua married Sarah Fisher and had three more children. Edwin Case moved west to Michigan at a young age, where he later met and married my great-grandmother Cynthia Loretta Green. Their oldest child, Avey C G Case, was born 8 January 1886 in New Haven Township, Gratiot County, Michigan. Avey’s middle initials were a nod to the name Caleb George.
In 1900 Avey was living with his parents and younger siblings in Sheridan Township, Mecosta County. His father Edwin was listed as an alien, having arrived in the United States in 1873. His mother was recorded as having been the mother of six children, all still living. This was true for her marriage with Edwin Case, but she had lost a two-year-old daughter from her first marriage. Edwin was working as a farmer. Their children were recorded as follows:
- Ava, born in January 1886
- Frank, born in December 1887
- Elsie, born in July 1891
- Charles, born in December 1893
- John, born in March 1895
- Goldie, born in November 1899
Birthdates given for Frank, Charles, and Goldie do not appear to be correct.
In 1910 Avey was living and working on the farm of Fred and Vinnie Teed in Bloomer Township, Montcalm County. Vinnie’s father Amos Dodge was a half-brother of Loretta Case’s father Thomas Green.
Avey married Gladys Addie Teed, Fred and Vinnie’s daughter, on 6 December 1911 in Big Rapids, Mecosta County. This is apparently an example of kissin’ cousins.
When Avey registered for the draft in September 1918 he was a store keeper. According to his sister Verda, my grandmother, this store was in the crossroads community of Titus in Sheridan Township. Avey died two months later on the 11th of December from pneumonia after being weakened by influenza, a victim of the 1918 flu epidemic.
By 1920 Gladys had moved back to Montcalm County, living next to her parents in Butternut, Bloomer Township with her four daughters:
- Lura, age 6
- Loree, age 6
- Marie, age 3
- Naomi, age 2
Gladys was working in 1920 as a dressmaker. She apparently lived in Butternut until her death in 1964. Naomi June died at the age of ten in 1927.
Caleb George Case, 1924-1995
Edwin and Loretta Case’s son Charles Edwin Case, born 15 February 1894, married Susannah Maude Gunckle on 1 October 1909 in Lake City, Missaukee County, Michigan. They had a divorce case pending in Isabella County on 24 January 1914. Apparently this was finalized at some point. They were remarried 2 January 1918 in Stanton, Montcalm County. Charles enlisted in the army on 14 August 1918, serving in the ambulance service in France. He was discharged 24 May 1919.
Charles and Maude had three sons and two daughters. Caleb George Case, their third child, was born 12 February 1924. He was informally called Josh from an early age but was commonly referred to as C G.
C G was living in 1930 with his parents in Orleans Township, Ionia County, Michigan. His father Charles was working as a machinist in the highway industry. Charles and Maude’s children were listed as follows:
- Charles Jr., age 9
- Orval G., age 7
- G., age 6
- Rachel J., age 3
- Delilia, age 1
Charles’s brother Theodore was also living with them, working as a factory laborer.
Charles died of coronary thrombosis in the village of Sheridan, Montcalm County on 7 January, 1936. My father, Edwin Springsteen, recalls that Charlie died while working at his brother John Case’s garage in Sheridan. John opened the Oldsmobile dealership in Sheridan that was owned and operated for decades by Jake Beardslee and his son Denny.
In 1940, C G was living with his mother and three siblings in the city of Ionia, where Maude was working as a house keeper in a prison. Orval, Rachel, and Delilah were listed in the household as well as C G.
C G enlisted in the armed forces of the United States at Kalamazoo, Michigan on 27 March 1943. I don’t know what branch of military service he was assigned to, where he served, or for how long. Dad recalls that C G met his future wife while serving in the South. C G lived in South Carolina after World War II. At some point he married his wife as Mary Lee Case. C G had at least one child, Caleb George Case, Jr. I would certainly welcome more information about this part of our family.
Dad thinks the only time he saw C G after the war was while travelling between my parents’ winter home in Florida and their summer home in Michigan. I recall that this occurred while my family was living in Raleigh, North Carolina, which would have been between 1989 and C G’s death. Dad remembers his cousin C G as being “quite a mechanic.” I understand that assessment as a real compliment from a man who was a skilled craftsman of carpentry in his working days.
C G died 21 February 1995 in Marion, Marion County, South Carolina. His grave is in the Mount Hope Cemetery, Florence, South Carolina.
Caleb George Case, 1954-1969
All I know about C G’s son Caleb George Case is from his memorial record on Find A Grave. He was born 5 July 1954, died 2 May 1969, and was buried in Mount Hope Cemetery, Florence, South Carolina.
A heritage of names
Our names might mean as much or more to our parents as they do to us. Sometimes they are given to us to honor a particular person. Sometimes they appeal to a parent’s interests or inventiveness. In the past, naming patterns were often predictable, with first- and second-born sons and daughters named after grandparents. Sometimes we are given a traditional family name to carry on. Invoking the name of a person of authority can convey power. What, then, is in a name? As with so many things, we need to dig a bit to gain better understanding and appreciation.