|Born||3 January 1807
Glens Falls, Warren County, New York
|Died||15 September 1896|
Cause of death
|Residence||Mason County, Michigan|
|Other names||Aaron Burr Caswell|
|Education||initially learned cabinet making|
|Occupation||lumberman, lighthouse keeper, civil servant for Mason County|
|Known for||developing Mason County|
|Title||Probate Judge, Surveyor, Coroner, Fish Inspector|
|Spouse(s)||First wife Hannah Green, second wife Sarah|
Caswell was born at Glens Falls, New York, in 1807 with the given name of Aaron Burr although he always went by just the name "Burr." As a young man Caswell learned cabinet trade skills. He practiced this business for several years in Glens Falls.
In 1827 he married Hannah Green. They were married in Glens Falls where they remained for a few years. Caswell and his family afterwards made several changes in the next few years like many of the early settlers. They even went to Mississippi and were employed on the river boats. In 1842 Caswell and his family moved to Barrington Station, Lake County, Illinois. Here he bought a farm where he lived for three years.
Caswell by himself then in 1845 went to Pere Marquette Township in Mason County, Michigan, for a while. There he spent most of his time fishing at Duck Lake. He was there to 1847 and then returned to Illinois and got his family of six and moved back to Pere Marquette Township. A distant relative Frances Caswell Hanna in her book Sand Sawdust and Sawlogs relates the story of their arrival,
|“||On a balmy day in the late summer of 1847, The Eagle, a sailing schooner northbound from Chicago, with a family of six aboard, stood off the entrance to Pere Marquette Lake.||”|
His family was the first family of white settlers in the area which was then considered a frontier. They lived in dense wilderness and rugged terrain. The closest white settlers were in Manistee some 20 miles away. Caswell got along well with the local Michigan Ottawa Indians. He learned their customs and religion. Caswell built a small two story frame house in 1849 out of old driftwood. It was the first frame structure in Mason County which still stands at White Pine Village very near its original location as the Mason County Historical Society's outdoor museum's centerpiece.
A book of 1882 titled History of Manistee, Mason, and Oceana Counties says,
|“||Nothing could be wilder and more uncivilized then the surroundings of the first family of white settlers. Their home was in the midst of dense wilderness, their neighbors a tribe of Ottawa Indians. There were two or three white men at work up the river [making shingles] but there were no white settlers nearer then Manistee. The Indians introduced Mr. Caswell to the mysteries of their religious rites.||”|
He continuely worked at improving his farm while working in the lumber industry. In 1855 when Mason County officially became a county Caswell turned over the first floor of his farmhouse to use for a courthouse and trading post. The family moved to the upstairs of the farmhouse. The Mason County Courthouse county seat was placed at Caswell's house from 1856 to 1861. For many years Caswell produced lumber from the local timber that was shipped to Chicago for construction. The village which sprang up around the Caswells was then called Pere Marquette. This was in honor of the missionary that died in the area in 1675.
Caswell and his eldest son were fishermen and trappers at first. They later worked at Baird and Bean Lumber Mill in downtown Ludington. Caswell was the first Mason County surveyor, coroner, probate judge and fish inspector. Caswell's wife, Hannah Green, died in 1870 and he then moved to downtown Ludington. He became the manager of a local shingle mill.
In 1871 Caswell married again. His new wife's name was Sarah. They then moved into the Big Point Sable lighthouse in 1873 where Caswell became its keeper. They lived there for 5 years until 1878.
Caswell and his wife then went to Mitchell, South Dakota. Here they operated a large hotel. They were there until 1886. Caswell then returned to Ludington and 10 years later he died in 1896. Caswell is buried in Lakeview Cemetery in Ludington beside his first wife.
His September 17, 1896, obituary reads
|“||Mr. Burr Caswell No More...sober industrious and useful life ending his journey an honor to his family.||”|
Further family history
Caswell's daughter Mary, that was born about 1835, married Richard Hatfield at the Caswell farmhouse in 1854. This was the first recorded marriage in Mason County. Mary died in 1882 at the age of 46 (if the birth date is correct). She was the mother of fourteen children, nine of whom preceded her in death. Helen, who was Mary's younger sister, was born about 1837. She married Sewell Moulton. Caswells last child was Edgar, who was born in 1840 in Illinois. He married Julia Genia 1871.
- "Aaron Burr Caswell genealogical family history". Retrieved 2008-07-28.
- "Burr Caswell biography with family history". Retrieved 2008-07-28.
- "Richard Hatfield biography with family history". Retrieved 2008-07-28.
- "SAND, SAWDUST AND SAW LOGS — Lumber Days in Ludington". Retrieved 2008-07-28.
- "Rediscover small-town Michigan life in the late 1800s and beyond". Retrieved 2008-07-28.
- DuFresne, p. 64, The first frame house in Mason County was built by Aaron Burr Caswell in 1849. Six years later the two-story home was still the only frame building in an area that was trying to organize itself into Michigan's newest county. So that year Caswell offered the front half of his home as the first courthouse and county seat of Mason. Today the preserved building is a state historic site and the centerpiece of White Pine Village, a museum complex operated by the Mason County Historical Society.
- DuFresne, Jim, MICHIGAN, Off the Beaten Path, The Globe Pequot Press 1988, ISBN 0-87106-791-9