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AN ESTEEMED CITIZEN GONE. Ludington Record May 9th 1889

Sudden Death of Captain Robert Caswell from Heart Disease.

Had the news that President Harrison had died, been announced in Ludington Friday morning there would not have been a more general feeling of sympathy and bereavement than there was when it passed in suppressed voice from mouth to month that in the thickened shadows of night the soul of Captain Robert Caswell had left its earthly casement and gone out into the vague forevermore. Buoyed with good deeds, expanded with kind acts, emblazoned with love and good will, the spirit of this man leaves a halo of light in its immortal course that touches the hearts of all men.

He is mourned as a friend to the poor, a father to the orphan, a champion of the oppressed, a devoted husband and affectionate father. His religion had but one tenet, tin- golden rule of Confucius, and throughout his whole life whether battling the waves as a servant of his government, or braving the dangers of navigation and sharing its hardships with his men, he was a living exemplification of that rule.

When you did not dream that he knew of your trouble, he would suddenly appear as a ministering angel, and shadows of gloom would disappear before him as night fades before sunshine. But the plans of his generous mind, the warm impulse of his great heart, were in excess of his general system. Under the continual strain of the nervous energy of his intense nature, his heart ceased to vibrate, the brittle thread of life snapped suddenly, and Ludington’s most loved pioneer, the father of much of its history, and the friend of every man who ever set foot on its streets, passed quietly away, peacefully, contentedly, and “like one who wraps the drapery of his couch about him and lies down to pleasant dreams.

For some years back Capt. Caswell had been troubled with an affection of the heart, which at times caused him serious inconvenience and his family and friends grave apprehensions. He spoke of it frequently, and said that when his time came he expected to pass away quickly and it was his wish that such should be the case. Last winter he took a trip to the Pacific coast in hopes to gain relief, and returned this spring feeling much benefited by the change of atmosphere and scenes.

On the opening of navigation he took command of one of the tugs belonging to the line in which he was a partner, and continued to sail her up to within a few hours of his death Thursday, his last day on earth was spent as usual at his post on the boat, notwithstanding he frequently complained of a dizzy sensation, and had trouble at times in keeping his balance, owing no doubt to rushes of blood to the head.

In the afternoon, while towing out a vessel, the latter swung round and came in contact with one of the F. & P. M. boats that had got fast on the bar between the piers in attempting to leave port.

This, no doubt was in connection with his already overwrought physical condition, sufficed to augment his ailment, and when he went home early in the evening he was feeling worse than usual, although no alarming symptoms had shown themselves.

The Captain had a spell of coughing before retiring, and another more severe about 11 o'clock. Mrs. Caswell became anxious and sent one of the children to a neighbor's after assistance, but before their arrival Captain Caswell dropped back into the arms of his wife, and while a slight trembling shook his frame the spark of life took it’s flight, and he was no more.

Deceased was born of American, parents in the village of Chippewa, Canada, on the 20th of May 1834. He was one of a family of five children-three boys and two girls. In 1839 his parents removed to the States, young Robert accompanying them, and settled at Buffalo. Two years after the family again changed their place of residence, and coming west located upon a farm three miles outside the insignificant city of Milwaukee. Young Robert, then seven years old, spent his time as most farmer’s boys do.

As long as he was not large enough to work on the farm which his father owned, he attended school. But in those days fathers readily discovered that their boys could do something to help along. In 1857, tiring of farm life and being ambitious to find a new field in which to make a living for himself, and desiring to start in business, his father supplied the means, and he entered into partnership with Timothy O’Brien in the hardware business at Columbus, Wis.

Business was fair, but done largely on the credit system in those days, and owing to the failure of the wheat crop two years later, the firm was forced to make an assignment. Robert, after nearly a year’s illness, then took to the lakes, commanding a vessel owned by his father and brother.

In January 1854, he lead to the altar and was married to Miss Elizabeth Daly, a neighboring farmer’s daughter near the old home, with whom he had passed much of his youth. Three children were born to the couple, one of whom Miss Emmeretta is still living; the other two died in childhood and infancy, and were a few years later followed by the mother and wife, the latter expiring from that insidious disease consumption.

Capt. Caswell still continued to sail the vessel meanwhile up to the spring of 1867, when he brought from-Chicago to Ludington a tug for harbor towing called the Cyclone, owning her jointly with James Ludington. Subsequently the Captain bought the interest of his partner, and Capt. Amos Breinig bringing the tug Aldrich here in 1871 a co-partner ship formed which death alone severed.

On December 19,1872, Capt. Caswell was again united in the holy bonds, the wedding taking place in this city, the bride being Miss Charlotte Harbaugh, who survives him. The couple were blessed with six children, four of whom are still living. Deceased was a man who thought the world of his family, with whom his relations were more happy and pleasant than those ordinarily met with; and in their irreparable loss the family have the earnest heartfelt sympathy of the entire community. In fact it may be truly said that the whole city mourns.

Capt. Caswell was in no sense a politician, although often holding office, many times much against his will. His sterling worth, well known honesty, and the universal esteem in which he was held, often compelled him to be the candidate of his party, as victory was will nigh assured with him on the ticket. In politics, he was by instinct a Republican. He had been supervisor several terms, alderman from the First ward four years, mayor in 1885 and 1886, the last” time being elected without opposition, and at the time of his death was a member of the board of education.

In religion he was a liberal, and though willing that others should believe as they pleased, he always detested any form of hypocrisy. When he prayed that some poor man’s family might be helped he knew that his prayer would be answered, for he always took up fulfillment upon himself. He was a prominent Mason, being a member of Apollo cammandery, and also a member of the Knights of Labor.

The funeral of deceased occurred on Sunday afternoon at 2:30 o’clock from the opera house. Long before the appointed time for the services to begin the building was packed by friends and acquaintances from all parts of the county who were present to witness the last sad rites. Not to exceed one-third of those who desired could gain admittance to the opera house; the building, although the largest in town for such assemblages, was inadequate to accommodate the throng.

The funeral directions were in charge of the Masonic fraternity, which forming at the house and accompanied by the Knights of Labor and a long line of carnages escorted the remains from the residence of deceased to the place where the services were held. Rev. W. J. Maybee delivered an earnest funeral discourse, taking for the text of his remarks the 90th Psalm 12th verse: “So teach us to so number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.”

All about the extemporized altar was a. wilderness of potted flowers brought by loving and willing hands. The cortege, that followed the remains from the open house to their last resting place in the city cemetery, contained over 100 teams, and well attested the universal esteem and popularity in which deceased was held. At the grave the usual impressive Masonic services were observed, and the remains consigned to their last resting place.

 

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Note to researchers, I do not maintain information on families outside of my own at this time, Your best chance to contact other family researchers and find information is going to be in posting some of your family information on the Mason County Boards. Volunteers and lookup materials can be found in the "lookups" category. -I routinely check the postings if I have information or can steer you in another direction I will contact you. I do not provide research services. Historic White Pine Village can help you in that area.

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