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Casey family papers

Biographical/Historical Note

On March 30, 1702, the property now known as Casey Farm, in Saunderstown, Rhode Island, was purchased by Joseph Morey of Jamestown, Rhode Island, the first Casey ancestor to own the farm. Soon after he purchased the land, Joseph Morey gave the land by deed of gift to his daughter Mary, who was married to Daniel Coggeshall, a grandson of John Coggeshall, one of the original incorporators of Rhode Island and its first president. After Mary's death in 1724, the land passed to their son Daniel Coggeshall, Jr. Around 1750, Daniel Coggeshall, Jr., and his wife Mary Wanton Coggeshall built the mansion house that still stands today. The couple had seven children and were successful in farming the land. Daniel Coggeshall, Jr., lived on the property and managed it until 1772, when he moved into the home of his daughter and son-in-law, Abigail (1737-1821) and Silas Casey (1735-1814). In 1774, Benjamin Gardiner took possession of the farm due to Daniel, Jr.'s, failure to pay a mortgage on part of the land. The farm was returned to Coggeshall's heirs in 1783. Abigail and her husband Silas Casey, received a one-eighth share of the farm. In 1781, Silas Casey, a successful businessman and merchant, came into sole ownership of the divided estate. In 1787, Silas sold part of the farm to his father, Thomas Casey (1706-1797). A complicated set of dealings saw various parts of the estates in different hands throughout the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

When Silas Casey died in 1814, part of the farm was transferred to his son, Wanton Casey (1760-1842). Wanton had fought in the Revolutionary War, eventually going to France in 1779 for his health and to learn the mercantile business. He returned from France in 1783 and became a partner in his father's business. Soon after, he traveled to Ohio, where he was one of the founders of the town of Marietta, on the Ohio River, one of the first settlements west of the Allegheny Mountains. There he married Elizabeth Goodale (1772-1830). They returned to Rhode Island in 1793 and moved into the mansion house at the farm with their family. The Caseys had ten children.

Wanton Casey left the farm to his oldest son, Thomas Goodale Casey (1796-1855), who had improved much of the land. At the time of his death, he was engaged in building a new barn. He had added a porch to the mansion house, and re-shingled and clapboarded the house as well. He left the farm to his nephew Thomas Lincoln Casey (1831-1896), the eldest son of his younger brother Silas Casey (1807-1882) and his wife Abby (Pearce) Casey (1813-1862).

Silas Casey (1807-1882) was among several members of the Casey family who were distinguished members of the military. In 1822, at age fifteen, Silas entered West Point. Graduating in 1826, he was commissioned second lieutenant in the 2nd Infantry. In 1830, Casey married Abby Perry Pearce (1813-1862), daughter of the Honorable Dutee Jerauld and Abigail Coggeshall (Perry) Pearce of Newport, Rhode Island, a union which lasted until her death in 1862. During his forty-two-year military career, Casey served in posts throughout the continental United States and Mexico. He spent the first ten years in posts on the Great Lakes and the frontier and from 1837 to 1842 in the South where he was involved in the Florida War against the Seminole Indians. During this time he was promoted to first lieutenant and then captain. In 1847-1848, he served with General Scott in the Mexican War, and was seriously wounded in the storming of Chapultepec. While engaged in Mexico, he was brevetted major on August 20, 1847 and lieutenant-colonel, September 13, 1847. In the years between the Mexican War and the Civil War, he was stationed primarily on the West Coast, at Benecia in California and in the Puget Sound district, Washington Territory. During this time the 9th infantry was organized. Casey was appointed lieutenant-colonel in the new regiment, and in 1861 became its colonel. Returning to the east coast at the outbreak of the Civil War, he was appointed brigadier-general of volunteers in 1861. He served with the Army of the Potomac in the peninsular campaign, and commanded a division which was involved in the battle of Fair Oaks, also known as Seven Pines. Casey was brevetted brigadier general in the regular army and was appointed major general of volunteers in May 1862. For the remainder of the war, his division was assigned to the defense of the city of Washington. He retired from active service, July 8, 1868.

In his time, Casey was best known for his manual of infantry tactics, published in 1862. Known as Casey's Tactics, it was used by both the Union and Confederate armies during the Civil War. He also said to have published a manual called Infantry Tactics for Colored Troops, but the whereabouts of a copy of this work is currently unknown. Casey also served as president of the board of examiners charged with choosing officers for colored troops. Silas and Abby Casey were the parents of seven children who lived to maturity. Their sons, Thomas Lincoln (1831-1896) and Silas, had notable careers. Thomas was an engineer who was responsible for the completion of the Washington Monument, the building of the Library of Congress, and many other buildings. Silas attended the Naval Academy and became an admiral in the United States Navy. The youngest son, Edward Wanton, a graduate of West Point, was killed by Sioux Indians in South Dakota in 1891. Daughter Abby Pearce Casey married Gen Lewis Cass Hunt and Elizabeth Goodale Casey married Lt. Col. Robert Nicholson Scott. Mrs. Casey died in 1862. In 1864, Silas married Florida Gordon, daughter of Charles and Julia (Crawford) Gordon of Washington, D. C. They had a daughter Julia Clifford, and a son Frederick Gordon, who died in infancy. General Silas Casey died in Brooklyn, New York, on January 22, 1882.

Thomas Lincoln Casey (1831-1896) was born at Madison Barracks, Sacketts Harbor, New York. Casey graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1852, first in his class, and was appointed a lieutenant in the Army Corps of Engineers. During the Civil War he was stationed at Fort Monroe on the coast of Maine. In 1878, President Hayes and Congress appointed him to complete the construction of the Washington Monument, which, although construction began in 1848, had been abandoned due to design flaws. Casey redesigned the monument, which included strengthening the base, and Casey himself set the capstone in 1884. The monument was dedicated the following February. By 1888, he had risen to Chief of Engineers and Brigadier General. Among his achievements was overseeing the construction of the State, War, and Navy building.

Thomas Lincoln Casey spent considerable effort proving his title to the family's Boston Neck farm, since Thomas Goodale Casey's will was declared invalid in the state of Rhode Island. The dispute over his will led to the division of the estate among eleven heirs. Over the next fourteen years, Thomas Lincoln Casey endeavored to unite the property under one title. By 1875 he owned the farm without any encumbrance whatsoever and took up restoring the property as a hobby.

Casey and his family lived in Washington, but he spent his summers improving the farm while instructing the tenant family, the Goulds, on how the farm should be managed. Thomas Lincoln Casey and his wife, Emma (Weir) Casey (1834-1911), daughter of drawing professor Robert W. Weir (1824-1876), had four sons. The first, Thomas, Jr., (1857-1925) became a captain in the Army Corps of Engineers. Their second child, Robert Jerauld (1859), died at age one and is buried in the family cemetery. Their third son, Harry Weir Casey (1861-1880) was born at West Point. Their fourth son, Edward Pearce Casey (1864-1940), known as Ned, was educated at Columbia, receiving degrees in Civil Engineering and Philosophy, and trained as an architect at the École des Beaux Arts. Edward became an architect of merit in Washington, and worked with his father on the Library of Congress. Other major projects included the Memorial Bridge over the Potomac, the Grant Memorial, and the DAR Constitution Hall.

Harry and Ned Casey spent their summers at the farm during the 1870s. Harry's letters to his parents in Washington, D.C. during this time provide interesting descriptions of life with the tenant family farming the land. Harry also took many photographs of the farm with a glass-plate camera which provide important documentation of the property during the second half of the nineteenth century. In September 1877, Harry enrolled in the Scientific Department of Yale College, where he received a number of awards. Tragically, just prior to his junior year, he drowned off of Narragansett Pier on September 1, 1880.

Thomas Lincoln Casey died in 1896. At the time of his death, he was overseeing the construction of the of Congress in Washington, D. C., with his son, Edward Pearce Casey. He left the farm to his remaining sons, Thomas Lincoln Casey, Jr., and Edward. Upon Thomas, Jr.'s, death in 1925, the farm came into the sole possession of Edward Pearce Casey. Ned was a friend of William Sumner Appleton, founder of the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities, now Historic New England, so he knew of the Society, which was one of the only organizations that could be enlisted to preserve the farm at that time. Ned and his wife Lillian Berry had no heirs, and soon after acquiring the farm, Ned made a provision in his will for the property's future.

His will stated, "First, after all my lawful debts are paid and discharged, I give and bequeath to the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities of Boston, Massachusetts, The Casey Farm located on Boston Neck, North Kingstown, Rhode Island, with all the appurtenances thereunto belonging, including the house built about 1745 and historic in that it bears the marks of an attack by the British during the Revolution... Cultivation of the Farm shall continue and be maintained... This bequest will include, in addition, the contents of my dwelling and office comprising of old furniture, paintings, drawings, etc., much of which was taken from the Farm and should be returned; also genealogical material and a book written by General Thomas Lincoln Casey, giving the history of the Farm from the time of purchase from the Indians to be found in my library; also, documents, wherever found."

Edward Pearce Casey died in 1940, and his wife Lillian in 1955. Since that time, Historic New England has been operating the Casey farm as a working farm, preserving the valuable land along Narragansett Bay and teaching visitors about agriculture and preservation in Rhode Island.

The Casey family papers also include papers from members of the Greene family of Rhode Island, who were related to the Caseys through marriage. Rufus Greene (1712-1784) was in business with his brothers in iron manufacturing in addition to being a merchant. He lived in East Greenwich, Rhode Island, and married Martha (Russell) Casey (died 1770) of Dartmouth, Massachusetts, in 1735. Rufus and Martha Casey had fourteen children; their second eldest son Russell Greene (1738-1768) married Barbara Casey (1737-1784), daughter of Thomas Casey (1706-1797) in 1763. Russell and Barbara Greene had one son, Casey Russell Greene (1763-1768). Russell Greene drowned in February 1768 in a ferry accident while crossing from Conanicut to Narragansett.

Nathaniel Greene (1789-1841) of East Greenwich married Abby Sophia (Casey) Greene (1794-1838), daughter of Wanton (1760-1842) and Elizabeth (Goodale) Casey (1772-1830) in 1814. Nathaniel was captain in the merchant-marine service in the East India trade and later in life was an agent for the Providence and Stonington Railroad at East Greenwich. Nathaniel and Abby Greene had seven sons, two of whom died in infancy.