Joseph Case was an Iowa farmer. He came to Iowa as a youngster, after his family moved west in the early 19th century. Joseph was also my 2nd great grandfather.
As the Case family made its way, over generations, to Iowa, they stopped in Kentucky, where Joseph was born, and in Indiana. Precisely where the American Cases originated is still a bit of a mystery. I’ve been chipping away at the mystery for years, and the name most likely stretches back to Southold, New York, and before that, a ship voyage from England. The rest of Joseph’s heritage, well documented, reaches back to colonial Virginia.
This coming week is the 122nd anniversary of Joseph’s death in Central Iowa, where he is buried in the Duncombe Township (Methodist) Cemetery. My late father remembered that when he visited Duncombe with his parents from Sioux City, the extended family would walk to the cemetery to see Joseph’s gravesite. I first visited that cemetery 10 years ago and wrote about Joseph’s gravestone in one of my earliest posts, My Father’s House.
I recently had a chance to take a closer look at Joseph. For several weeks I have been attending a genealogy class online through the Salt Lake Institute for Genealogy (SLIG) to revitalize my research skills. Happily, the class was a chance to learn more about federal land records. I’ve long wanted to strengthen my knowledge of land records, knowing it would be a useful tool to investigate the Cases, who arrived in Iowa very near the time it was attaining statehood. Doing this so close to the anniversary of Joseph’s death made clear it was time for his profile.
Joseph Royalty Case was born in Kentucky in April 1830, one of about a dozen children of Obadiah and Elizabeth Louisa Case. The year Joseph was born, Andrew Jackson was president. The Case family soon migrated to Indiana, where some of Joseph’s siblings were born. By 1850, four years after Iowa became a state, Joseph, age 20, was living on his father’s farm in eastern Iowa, not far from the Mississippi River, in Clinton County.
Joseph first purchased his own land in eastern Iowa in 1852, the same year he married Eliza Jane Russell, whose family had also arrived from Indiana. The Case farm was purchased under a federal program that reduced the cost per acre and the minimum acreage required to be purchased, as long as the land was paid for upfront, in full. The Cases would purchase more land in 1852, 1853, and 1854.
By 1860, Joseph and Eliza had two young children and a modest 70-acre farm, valued at $500, with just under half of the land improved, and farming equipment worth about $125. The farm had two horses, three milk cows, six working oxen, four cattle and two swine. That year, they produced 300 bushels of “Indian corn” and 60 bushels of oats.
By 1870, the farm had grown to 240 acres, with all but about 20 acres improved, and was now valued at $6,000. The family owned 13 horses, three milk cows, six cattle, 28 sheep, and 10 swine. That year the farm produced 1,200 bushels of spring wheat, 900 bushels of corn, and 500 bushels of oats.
By this time the household was bustling with six children, including my great grandmother Martha, then about age 4. In the years since he purchased the farm, Joseph had lost his younger brother Beniah, a Union soldier in the Civil War, who as a member of an Iowa regiment had succumbed to illness in Arkansas. He would later lose his father, Obadiah, who is buried in a pioneer cemetery not far from the farm in rural Clinton County. In the next 10 years, Joseph would lose his mother, Elizabeth Louisa, who is buried with Obadiah. In the midst of this loss, one more child would be born to Joseph and Eliza and named after Joseph.
Joseph would soon move the family north, just over the county line to Jackson County, where in 1880 the family resided in Van Buren Township, northeast of Preston. His obituary in the Preston Independent said he was “in business” there and “owned a farm.” Joseph is still listed as a farmer in the Census of that year, and my great grandmother Martha was “at school.” Martha was 14 years old now, with two older and two younger siblings in the home. The Cases lived in Jackson County for more than a decade, until 1886.
In their later years, Joseph and Eliza found their way to Central Iowa, and in 1890 moved to Duncombe, the home community of their daughter Martha, my great grandmother. Martha had married Jacob Clausen, a Danish immigrant, while they were still in eastern Iowa, and was raising her family in Duncombe. Joseph would live in Central Iowa until his wife Eliza’s death in 1898 and his own death one year later.
I’ve yet to uncover either a scandalous misstep or a showy achievement to attach to Joseph. We learn from his obituary, this: “He was a straightforward, upright man and was held in high esteem by all who knew him.” He raised a family, built a farm, stayed close to his home, did some business, made some friends, and spent time with his children and grandchildren in his final years. He died just as the 19th century was drawing to a close. And more than 120 years later, his descendants still visit his grave.
He was an Iowa farmer. Salt of the earth. I’m grateful for that. Rest in perfect peace, Joseph.