Tag Archives: Coshocton

Why Did William Bassett Leave Keene?

William Bassett 1779-1833

Keene New Hampshire

Current day picture of Keene NH United Church of Christ

In 1826,  William Bassett and his wife Elizabeth Stone Bassett and their five daughters packed up a wagon in Keene, New Hampshire, and headed out for the new settlement of Keene, Ohio. It had been two centuries since the first William Bassett arrived in North America. Both pioneering families–the Bassetts and the Stones had spread throughout Massachusetts and into neighboring states by the 1800s.

Stagecoach moving west

A Stagecoach going West. Photo by the author.

My 3rd-great-grandfather, William Bassett, who was in a sense a pioneer when he settled in Ohio, actually came along SIX generations after the real pioneer William Bassett,–a member of the Plymouth Colony who arrived in 1621. (Why he wasn’t stepping ashore at Plymouth Rock in 1620 is another story for another day.) Ironically, I have far more information about the men on either side of this William than I do on William himself.

What persuaded William to move his family to Ohio? Was it a worthwhile move?

Click here to see the journey. (At least the start and end, since I’m not sure what roads and boats were available to them.)

Keene New Hampshire

Keene New Hampshire

New Hampshire land disputes. Photo from Wiki Commons

Keene NH lies in the southwest of New Hampshire, in an area that was once disputed territory, with first Massachusetts and then both Vemont and New York claiming it.

Samuel Bassett, who had been born in Norton Massachusetts, lived in Keene ,New Hampshire when he enlisted in the colonial army in 1775. He married William’s mother, Martha Belding in Swanzey, a smaller town just slightly south of Keene, and William was born in Keene in 1779.

During the period between 1750 and 1790, WIlliam’s family in Keene had been subject to constant fighting about overlapping claims of three states. At first Vermont was considered part of the colony of New Hampshire. The New York claims to territory west of the Connecticut River spurred the formation of the Green Mountain Boys, led by Ethan Allen, to protect those settlers in what were known as New Hampshire grants.

Once New York was discouraged from poaching land in the New Hampshire grants, Vermont and New Hampshire fought over territory, and the people of Keene wished to stay with New Hampshire.

New Hampshire  officially became a state in 1788, with the line between Vermont and New Hampshire designated as the path of the Connecticut River.  Congress admitted Vermont in 1791 with the proviso that they should give up claims to New Hampshire East of the Connecticut River.

Keene New Hampshire in 1800s

The War of 1812 was demoralizing to the people due to disagreements about support of the war. Morality campaigns began to encourage those who had begun to ignore church. The town fathers felt it necessary to appoint tythingmen to insure that people paid to support the churches and remembered to attend churche on Sunday. William’s father Samuel, was appointed one of the first tythingmen in 1814.

Keene, New Hampshire in 1826 was a thriving community, growing fast, with many schools, churches, a new hotel, businesses of all sorts. It had recovered from the Revolutionary War and even held theatrical performances.  The most promising new mode of transportation was by steamboat on river and canal systems, and a company formed to finance locks along the Connecticut River.  One of the committee was a Belding (related to William’s mother.)

But despite all these signs of a healthy community, religion continued to divide people, which may have triggered the exodus of so many citizens for Ohio.

A group split off from the town-supported Congregational Church, forming a Unitarian Church. The town continued to tax everyone to support the church, despite protests from those who no longer attended. (Separation of church and state, anyone?)

Ohio in the 1820s

By the time that William and Elizabeth and their girls traveled to Ohio, it was no longer a territory–it was a state. (I am saying five girls, because although some people say there is a sixth, the evidence is scanty.  Based on the 1810 census, there might have also been a boy who died in childhood.) [NOTE: After I wrote this, I found the sixth daughter, Harriette.  See Questions for Elizabeth Stone Bassett.]

The enterprising New Hampshirite who founded Keene, Ohio ( in Coshocton County) in 1824, was betting on the future of the new western state. The Erie Canal was being constructed through Coshocton County between the middle of the 1820s and 1830–and there were great expectations of the wealth this new transportation corridor would bring. When the community was founded, Holmes County had not been split from Coshocton, and boosters of Keene thought it would make a dandy site for a county seat. However, when Holmes County was split off, that no longer was an option.

Although it was adventurous to leave one’s native New England, it was comfortable to be traveling with numerous families who came from the same town. There are several Bassett families that show up in the history of Coshocton County, including an indication that William’s brother Nathan may have moved at the same time as William. Some others may have been relatives.

Within a very short time of their arrival, William’s daughter Mary Bassett had established her own school. It was short lived, since she was 16 when she arrived in Ohio and married at 19, when she moved to Holmes County. In short order the new immigrants to Ohio built churches and the Keene Academy. Among the churches was the Keene Presbyterian Church where several members of the family are buried.

The Family in Ohio

Within three years of their arrival in Keene, Ohio, William’s wife Elizabeth died and the three oldest daughters–Eliza (Emerson), Martha (Smith) and Mary (Platt,2nd- Morgan) were married. Eliza wound up living with a son in Kansas; Martha moved to Iowa and the next daughter, Sarah, never married. Sarah lived with her sister Lura, who had married a Stone (perhaps a relative of her mother) in Killbuck Ohio, and moved to West Virginia before moving back to Guernsey County. Mary, as we have seen, moved to Killbuck in Holmes County.

William himself died in 1833, just seven years after the big move from New Hampshire. Hardly long enough to establish himself in his new state, although his move was one more step in the westward movement of the family.

William and Elizabeth lie side by side in the Keene Old Presbyterian cemetery.

William Bassetts' Wife

Elizabeth Stone Bassett gravestone in Keene, Ohio, Photo by Todd James Dean

William Bassett

Gravestone of William Bassett in Keene, Ohio. Photo by Todd James Dean at Find a Grave.com


How I Am Related

  • Vera Marie Badertscher, the daughter of
  • Harriette Anderson Kaser, the daughter of
  • Vera Stout Anderson, the daughter of
  • Hattie Stout Morgan, the daughter of
  • Mary Bassett Platt Morgan, the daughter of
  • William Bassett.

This has been a weekly post in the 52 Ancestors/52 Weeks Project started by Amy Johnson Crow at “No Story too Small.” Check out her weekly recap showing the list of participants for some ripping good stories.

Research Notes

  • History of Coshocton County: Its Past and Present 1740-1841 Compiled by N. N. Hill, Jr. (Available on line from Google Books.)
  • Birth, marriage and death dates come from original records found at Ancestry.com
  • Gravestones and burial information from FindaGrave.com
  • Information from family stories from Vera Stout Anderson and Harriette Anderson Kaser and family Bibles.
  • History of Keene, New Hampshire, 1874-1904 by Frank H. Whitcomb (1904)

Is There a Villain in the Kaser Family Story?

I have always thought that my grandfather, Clifford Kaser (1867-1930), was the villain in my family story.  Not the classical evil villain, certainly, as he was a righteous, hard-working, religious man. But a villain to family because he was so righteous, so focused on hard work, and so stiff-necked when it came to religion. And since he died before I was born, it was easy to make him out to be a bad guy. He never had a chance to prove otherwise in person. And I had only my father’s stories of grievances against his father to go by. And those, unfortunately stern photographs from back in the day. Even in this picture with the hint of a smile, he looks like a tough cookie.

Clifford Kaser

Clifford W. Kaser, probably about 1928 or 1929.

But I’ve been “living with” Cliff Kaser (I don’t think anyone ever called him Clifford) for a few days now, and I have slightly adjusted my opinion. Cliff was born in 1867, the 6th child of Catharine and Joseph Kaser. The family lived in Bloomfield, Ohio, a town that later changed its name to Clark.  (Research note: most geneaological records depend on locating a person in the United States by city or township, county and state. However, the little town of Bloomfield/Clark was/is split right down the middle between Coshocton County and Holmes County. That makes life a little too interesting for the researcher.Family members who lived in the same town, might be in different counties.)

Cliff’s oldest brother, Cornelius, was 13 years older. His brother Edward, born in 1871 was the youngest of the family.The only member of this large number of aunts and uncles that I ever heard my father mention was Emma (also listed in records as Anna), and I will be writing about her shortly.

Most members of the family stayed in or near Clark and their family and farms. That was my first clue that I might be able to relate to Clifford. He didn’t stay put. He changed jobs, he changed locations and he changed religions.

On October 26, 1893 Cliff married Mary Isadore Butts (1869-1926), more commonly called Mamie, in Mt. Vernon, Ohio. According to my father’s records they were married in Mt. Vernon by a Squire Workman. That is significant because Mamie’s family were devout Catholics. One year later, they had their first son, Keith. The whole story surrounding his marriage to Mamie contains one clue as to why I had an unfavorable opinion of Cliff, but that will have to wait for another day.

Clifford Kaser and wife

Mamie and Cliff Kaser About 1893. Wedding picture, perhaps.

Keith was born in Danville, which was the town Mamie came from.Wherever they lived in those early years, by 1900 they lived in the town of Coshocton, Ohio and Cliff was working as a “tinman,” to support his family, now increased by the birth of Irene and Paul (my father).

In 1910, they were living in Clark Township again, surrounded by Cliff’s family and Cliff was a barber with his own shop. I find it interesting that his older brother owned a tinshop, but Cliff worked as a barber. (From cutting tin to cutting hair–what the heck.). In another coincidence that may not be entirely coincidental, the 1930 census shows Cliff’s future brother-in-law George Sutherland as owning a barbershop in Clark.

Very soon after the 1910 census, Cliff started a tin shop in Killbuck, Ohio. The family was living in Killbuck when Milton was born in 1912.  Judging from Milton’s size in the first picture below, this postcard picture had to be taken in 1913 or 1914. (Note: I can’t help wondering if the same itinerant photographer who took the promotional postcard pictures of my Daddy Guy’s stores also took these of Kaser’s Tin Shop).

Clifford Kaser Tin Shop

Kaser Tin Shop, Keith, Clifford, (front) Milton, Paul. About 1913

Kaser Tin Shop

Kaser Tin Shop with Keith and Clifford about 1913

The tin shop did not last long. Cliff had converted to Seven Day Adventism and took his family (whether they wanted to go or not) with him.  The Adventists were an evangelical and fundamentalist church formed in the mid 1800s, and increasing their evangelical efforts post World War I.  The World Headquarters of the Adventist movement was in Takoma Park, Maryland near Washington, D. C. and Cliff moved his family there for a year or two during the teens of the 20th century. My father, who was born in 1909, was old enough to remember the experience quite well. You can see him in the center front row of this picture, squinting one eye. This picture is dated 1914-1915, Takoma Park.

Paul Kaser Takoma Park MD, Seven-Day Adventist

Paul Kaser (center dark suit) with Seven Day Adventists in Takoma Park MD 1913-1914

When they returned from Tacoma Park Maryland, they settled in Millersburg, Ohio, and according to the 1920 census,Clifford was working as a “plumber” for the railroad. But he went back to working with tin, this time as an installer and repairer of furnaces. Millersburg is where my father finished high school in 1926, and where the most damning evidence of Cliff the villain arises in the family story.

My father was intellectually curious and longed to go to college. The family agreed, but he must go to a Seven Day Adventist School and study to become a minister.  At 17, he took a train to D.C. and started studying Greek and the Bible, but just a month after he started his exciting studies, he got a telegram from his father. His mother had died in October, 1926.

My father never got over his outrage that his father had not contacted him to tell him his beloved mother was ill. To make matters worse, Cliff announced that Paul could not return to school, but must stay to help with the furnace business. The two older children had married and left home. Only Milton, 15, and still in school, remained at home.

This picture was the last time the whole family would be together for a portrait. Mamie, who looks much older, is 56 and Clifford is 59.


Clifford Kaser Family

Kaser Family: Paul, Irene, Milton, Keith, Clifford, Mary I (Mamie) About 1926

Then, tragically, five months and one week after their mother died, the youngest Kaser boy, Milton, came down with a lung disorder and died in my father’s arms in April 1927. My father, grieving for the two people he felt closest to in the world, and having to work at a job he hated, got one more blow. His father married another woman and boarded a train for Florida. He (and also I when I heard the story) couldn’t help but feel that Cliff got what he deserved when his new wife, promptly deserted him once they got to Florida. Apparently she was just looking for a ticket out of Millersburg.

Cliff returned to Millersburg and continued to conduct his business, but in June, 1930, he went into the hospital for minor surgery and died of complications. My father, at 19, had lost his mother, his younger brother and his father and his chance for higher education.  He blamed it all on Clifford. How Paul Kaser survived on his own through the tough economy of the 30’s is yet another story for future episodes, but now we are talking about Clifford.

While the rest of the Kaser family stayed in the small town of Clark all their lives, Clifford moved away. While others stayed close to the farm and farming-related occupations, he tried different occupations. He apparently was good with his hands–a good craftsman. He had an entrepreneurial spirit, starting businesses of his own. While many members of his family could never write anything more important than “farm day laborer” on the census report, he wrote “Own”, under employer.  He was adventurous enough to move clear across the country at one point.

Whatever I might think about his strictness, I have to admire the fact that he lived by his own beliefs.   Ever job he did must be done well. And he followed his religion strictly. My father remembered that he went to extremes to avoid working on the Sabbath.

The main message Clifford Kaser passed on to my father was that the aim of life is to leave the world a little better than you found it. He did nothing huge in this world, but he supported his family without being dependent on others. And he fathered fine children. His gravestone mentions perhaps the best thing in his life. It reads, “Cliff Kaser, Husband of Mamie.”