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Early History of the Casey Family

From County Tyrone to Taney
By Margaret Casey
1964

Without taxing our imagination too much, we can visualize the ship setting sail on a clear, cloudless day in the early spring of 1726 from Ireland with many vigorous, hearty men aboard, some possibly with young wives from the many counties of Ireland.

Two of these amicable Irishmen are from County Tyrone, and their names are Abner and Peter Casey. (It is interesting to note that up until the 14th Century the name was O'Casey.) These Casey boys must have been tall and angular, probably rather handsome young men. Abner was 26, with a determined face and chin, and possibly was prematurely grey.

We will follow Abner and his descendants through this history since he is the direct ancestor of the Casey clan in Taney County, Missouri.

Their ship docked at Baltimore, Maryland, and this hearty, young Irishman lived there a few years. Possibly he married there although we have no record that he was single when he came to America.

After a few years, he moved to Virginia, and then our records show that he and his family moved to South Carolina by 1748.

Abner Casey's family included eight boys. Possibly there were girls, but there is no record of them. The boys were John, Columbus, Jesse, Randolph, James, Benjamin, Christopher, and Levi.

Christopher, Randolph, Benjamin, and Levi (who was a colonel) all served in the Colonial army during the Revolutionary War.

The Taney County Caseys are direct descendants of Abner's son, Jesse. Jesse may have been born in Maryland, but more probably in Virginia as he grew to manhood along the James and Roanoke rivers of Virginia. He married, in Virginia and, with his father's family, moved to South Carolina in 1748.

Jesse had five sons. The oldest, Aaron, was born in Virginia in 1748 so he must have been a small baby when his parents moved to South Carolina. He grew up in Newberry County, and reared a family there. He served under Roebuck in the Revolutionary War.

About 1800, Aaron and his family moved to Georgia. Then a few years later, in true pioneer style, they moved to Tennessee, settling in Roane County not far from the present site of Knoxville.

Aaron Casey was the father of five sons (and probably some daughters, but research does not reveal their names). The sons were Abner, Jesse, Alexander, Anthony (imagine an Irishman named Tony!) and Uriah. The Taney County Caseys are descendants of Aaron's oldest son, Abner.

Abner, son of Aaron and named for his great - grandfather Abner Casey (the young Irishman who migrated to America in 1726), was born in South Carolina in 1766. He married Elizabeth Bowen who was born in 1782. He, with his family and his mother and family (we have no absolute record that his father still lived), moved as stated before to Georgia and then to Tennessee.

In l834 Abner Casey and his family moved to Arkansas and settled in Johnson County, but not long afterward, he and his immediate family including married sons and daughters settled on Buffalo Fork of White River in what is now Newton County.
Abner was a millwright and built one of the first watermills in Newton County. He was a Baptist and built one of the first Baptist church houses in Newton County, Arkansas.

Abner and his wife Elizabeth died between 1850 and 1860, and are buried in Buffalo Cemetery near Parthenon, Arkansas.
The children of this couple that we are familiar with are Jesse, Turner, Marion, and Levi.

Levi was born about 1809, probably in Tennessee. The records show that he married Polly Haggard (Hagger) in 1830 in Tennessee. He came to Arkansas in 1835 and lived there for several years. Then he moved to Taney County in Missouri and settled on the land grant on Swan Creek, and lived there the rest of his life. He was a good businessman, and owned several good farms on White River.

Levi and Polly Casey had two sons: Francis Marion and William Casey, and three daughters: Sis (who married Ben McKinney and lived on a farm where Long Beach is now located), Sari (who married a Lawflin), and Amanda (who married Andrew McHaffie). Amanda and Andrew were the parents of Leonard McHaffie and the grandparents of Opal (McHaffie) Parnell.

Levi Casey is the one who built the log cabin that is on display at Silver Dollar City near Branson. This log house was built originally on Swan Creek close to Forsyth, Missouri, on a land grant issued to Levi Casey about 1848. The Taney County Caseys can thank the Herschends of Silver Dollar City for the moving and preservation of the old home.

This farm was always kept in the family until the federal government purchased the bottom land in 1949-50 prior to the building of Bull Shoals Dam and the overflowing of much good bottom land along White River. Opal (McHaffie) Parnell was the owner of the farm at the time the government decided to build Bull Shoals Dam and its subsequent sale was necessitated. Mrs. Parnell later sold the remaining land that wasn't overflowed, but with the reservation that she have the old log cabin house. Later she gave the log cabin to the Herschends at Silver Dollar City who had it moved in its entirety and rebuilt there. They marked and numbered each log, moved the cabin log by log, and then reassembled it exactly as it had stood on its original site. Mrs. Parnell furnished it as nearly authentic as she could remember. She was born in this cabin, one of two children of Leonard and Ella McHaffie.

On the hill above the bottom of this land grant, the Casey cemetery is still preserved, and occasionally a Casey or a Casey descendant is still buried there.
William Casey was born in Tennessee July 23, 1834. He married Missouri Cook of Taney County on October 12, 1854, and they were the parents of the Caseys whom many have known in this County of Taney: Calvin, Mary, Thomas Benton, Jefferson Davis, Sterling Price, Benjamin Lee, James Marion, William Lonnie, and Dock Dennis. (Is there any question after reading this list of names where sympathies were in the Great Conflict?)

The Caseys were slave owners, and probably the slaves were brought from Tennessee or Georgia when the Caseys left there. They did not have many slaves, probably just a few personal slaves who were treated as members of the family. I have heard Jeff Casey talk of two Casey slaves that he remembered, an elderly man named Job and a woman. After the Emancipation, Job went to Springfield and opened a blacksmith shop on Campbell Street. Jeff said that they saw him often after that.

Though a small child, Jeff remembered the Civil War and the skirmishes fought in this part of Missouri. I have heard him tell how his mother, Missouri, would hide food - their honey, bacon, and sorghum - in different places to keep the Southern or Northern marauders, whichever might be in the neighborhood, from stealing it. We had these on both sides during the war. The Caseys would drive the horses and cows off into the woods hoping they would not be located by the passing marauders.
The Casey pioneers probably had no costly possessions, no valuable silver, fragile china or art such as that found in colonial Virginia mansions where they tried to preserve it from Yankee guerrillas. Stalwart people who seek new lives in sparsely-settled new country could not be taxed with luxuries, if they ever did possess them. Necessities are taken, on long treks. Not very often do treasures find a place in a covered wagon when space is needed for the many children, primitive cookware, the spinning wheel and bare necessities.

Mrs. Missouri Casey and her sons: (seated) Jeff, Mrs. Casey, Cal, and Price; (standing) Ben, Button, Lonnie, and Dock.

Photo Courtesy Bill Casey

Missouri Casey's log house on White River had two large rooms joined together by a pass-through. One room was the kitchen, the other a living and bedroom combined, with a bedroom upstairs above this room. Also upstairs were several bins which stored dried food - peaches, apples and other fruit - for the winter.

William Casey died in 1872, leaving his tall, stalwart widow to rear his family of seven sons (Thomas Benton had died very young) and one daughter to woman and man-hood.

The seven boys all married in Taney County and lived here, excepting James Marion, affectionately known as "Button." He moved to Oklahoma in 1907, and died there in 1921. Button Casey married Martha Ellen Shawley, and they had ten children: Earl, Elsie, twin girls, Esther, Winna, Lillian, Mary, George, and Jesse. Most of them are living in Colorado, Texas, and Oklahoma.

Calvin Casey, the oldest son, married Mary Sims. They settled on Swan close to Taneyville, and had six children: Reta, Cora, Frank, Will, Sally, and Dilli. All but Reta are living. [1964]

The only daughter, Mary, married Samuel Martin May. They moved to Marionville, Missouri, and are buried there. They had two children. One died in infancy, but the other, Bertie, was a well known beloved figure in Forsyth for many years. Bertie was named for the last steamboat that plied its way up and down White River, the Alberta, in 1877. She married Jim Hicks and they had five children: Mable, Buelah, Herbert, Wilber, and Juanita.

The William and Missouri Casey homestead about 1900. L to R: Tisha Casey holding Roy, Ben Casey, Cora, Jim Hicks holding Mabel, Bertie, Button, Calvin, Jeff, Aunt Sis and Uncle Ben McKinney, Dock, Price, Lonnie, Missouri, and Mandy holding Edna. The children in front are Mack, Ralph, Alpha, Bertha, Manferd, and Claudia. The house, built before the Civil War, is still standing.

Photo Courtesy Bill Casey

Thomas Benton Casey was born in 1859 and died in 1878 at the age of eighteen.
Jefferson Davis Casey married Julie Bachart. They had three-children: Bertha, Claudia, and Manferd, all living.

Sterling Price Casey married Vinea Jones and they had nine children: Macy, May, Lula, Lee, W. P., Sidney, Elsie, Ethyl, and Chloe. Four are deceased; two are living in California and the rest live in Taney County.
Benjamin Lee Casey married Tisha Lewallen and they had five children: Ralph, Roy, Ress, Rockford, and Esta Marie. Only two survive: Rockford (Bill) and Ress, both of Taney County.

William Lonnie Casey married Mandy Ellen Haggard. They had six children: Alpha, Mack, Vernon, Edna, Haden, and Ivan. Only one survives.
Dock Dennis Casey, the only surviving son of Widow Missouri Casey, lives in Taneyville. [1964] He married Ada Dunn, and they had four children. One is deceased and the others are Earlene (Casey) Owen, D. D. Jr., and Johnny.

Missouri (Cook) Casey, after being left a widow with eight small children to rear, lived on a White River bottom farm directly across the river from what is now Long Beach. By hard work and frugal living, she reared her children and in 1909, she was living on this farm, farming the productive bottom land with the help of her youngest son, Dock, who was still at home, and Jeff whose wife had died when Manferd was a baby. Jeff, with the help of his mother, was rearing his two children.

The Henry L. Daughtery interests were planning to build a power dam across White River. They were buying at their own price these rich bottom farms that the lake would overflow, and leaving the hill land that was not so productive to the owners.
They had been quite successful in acquiring the land along the river, and had crews busy cutting timber and clearing land that would be over flowed. But this multi-million dollar corporation from the East did not contemplate the shrewdness of one stanch, tall hill woman who had faced both Yankee and Rebel marauders alike during the Civil War. Missouri Casey probably had had more difficult decisions to make than this one - whether to sell at Henry L. Daughtery's offer or to hold out for what she thought her bottom land (and living) was worth. She consulted an attorney, and he advised her in part that the company would have to reimburse her each year for her loss in production if they overflowed without buying.

Still the big company's representatives tried to bluff her, but this firm, kind woman named Missouri held her ground. Her children supported her in her decision. On March 24, 1913, the Daughtery interests paid her the price she had asked for her bottom farm. The next day the gates were closed at Powersite Dam, and the water began to back up.

There was no-time for clearing the timber from Missouri Casey's farm. For many years this was a fisher-man's paradise and known far and wide as the Sunken Forest.
Missouri Casey died in 1914 at the age of seventy-six.
If we who are not so young anymore, but who are still the younger generation to those we write about, had just had the foresight many years ago to record many of the stories these older members could have told - how rich would be our heritage today!

My thanks to Abner Casey of Harrison, Arkansas, for much of the research on the earlier descendants of the Casey Clan.

Margaret Casey [1964]

Note: The preceding article was taken from the White River Valley Historical Society, Spring, 1964, magazine. It was prefaced by the following quotes.
"The history of one of Taney County's earliest and best-known families, the Casey's, is in this issue; the story tells of the preservation of the early pioneer home seen by thousands of visitors each year at Silver Dollar City and of Mrs. Missouri (Cook) Casey's successful struggle for fair treatment from a large corporation. The history was written by Margaret Casey, wife of Manfred Casey, (also known as Mrs. Manfred) who for several years owned an antique shop in downtown Branson, Missouri."

The following paragraph is from a book, The Ozarks Land and Life: by Milton D. Rafferty, University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, OK, 1st Ed. 1980, 2nd Ed. 1985. MLB

"Land for the lake [Taneycomo] was acquired without undue resistance, except for a tract owned by Missouri [Cook] Casey, a widow who had raised eight children. She held out for a higher price than the appraised value. On March 24, 1912, the Ozark Power and Water Company paid the full price for the Casey land, but then the dam had been completed and the lake was filling up, leaving no time to clear the timber from the Casey property. For many years a sunken forest stood in the lake as a memorial to the Widow Casey's persistence.

(This information and the text of the Missouri Casey story was sent to the CFA by Mr. Lawrence E. Williams, Owasso, Oklahoma, in 1995.)

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