JOHN F. CASPER a farmer of fifty-four years' residence in Johnson County, and who has lived nineteen years on his present farm of seventy-seven and a-half acres, was born in Union County, this State, March 20, 1838. His father, Caleb Casper, was a native of North Carolina, and a farmer, who removed from that State to what is now Union County in the fall of 1815. He was born November 6, 1812, and was a son of Peter Casper and wife, who before her marriage was Miss Fullenwider. When the latter came to Illinois, they brought with them a family of four children, of whom Caleb was the second child and second son in order of birth. They brought with them their cows and sheep, driving them on before, and squatted on a large tract of land near where Anna and Jonesborough now are. Afterward Mr. Casper added to his first claim by purchase until he had about one thousand acres of land, which was at that time very heavily timbered, some of which is still unimproved, and is covered with oak and black walnut trees. This land is now very valuable.
The grandparents of our subject lived to a ripe old age, and reared a family of nine children, four sons and five daughters, who all grew to adult age, and some of them are still living. The mother of these children died in 1842, at the age of sixty, of typhoid fever, which is believed to have been the first case of the kind in southern Illinois. The disease became epidemic, and three of the family died of it within a few days. Grandfather Casper lived until 1860, and died at seventy-nine years, leaving to each of his sons good tracts of wild lands, upon which they made good homes. He was a great hunter, and every year went on a hunting expedition, and, it is thought, lengthened his life in this way. He was a thoroughly enterprising and progressive farmer, and for the period a well-informed man. His son Stephen was one of the finest mathematicians in the country.
Caleb Casper, the father of our subject, married Elizabeth Rich, daughter of Thomas and Esther (Noah) Rich, who was born in Alabama, and came to Illinois with her parents about 1825. Mr. and Mrs. Casper first settled on one hundred and sixty acres of land now owned by the Southern Illinois Insane Asylum, but in 1842 sold out and removed to Western Saratoga, Union County, where they remained two years, later removing to Elvira Township, Johnson County. Here the former died March 22, 1852, leaving his widow with two sons and four daughters, viz: John F., Mary Jane, Alice Ann, Esther, Francis Marion, and Elizabeth, deceased, the rest all being still alive.
Our subject received only a common-school education, but taught school two winters, and was reared to hard labor on the farm. He has been married twice; first at twenty-two years of age, to Mary Ann Roberts, of Wayne County, Tenn., who bore him two daughters: Ella, who died at seventeen years; and Flora Ann, wife of A. J. Gourley, a farmer and physician living at Lake Creek, Union County; they have one daughter, Mertie A., a promising young girl of seven years. Mr. Casper was married the second time, to Annie C. Plater, of Jefferson County, Ill., daughter of James A. and Catherine (Stull) Plater, both of Washington, D. C, and who were educated and cultured people, who mingled in the best of Washington society. The former was a wealthy planter on Sugar Creek bottom lands in Maryland, and with his wife and family removed to Kaskaskia, Ill., about 1825, where they became warm and intimate friends of the first Governor of the State, Shadrach Bond. They settled on the land upon which the widow now resides in Union County, and reared ten children, all of whom grew to maturity but one.
Mrs. Casper was the only daughter of this family, and now has seven brothers, of whom James and William were in the War of the Rebellion, serving about one year. L. F. Plater is a lawyer of Elizabethtown, Hardin County, and James is a druggist in Missouri, where his brother Thomas is a merchant. William and Joseph are farmers in southern Illinois. John is in Arkansas, and Charles W. is a master mechanic living at Murphysborough, Ill.; he has been superintendent of bridge building on the Mobile & Ohio Railroad, and is now in charge of that company's yards at Murphysborough. William W. Plater has an elegant farm adjoining the city of Carbondale, Ill. The father of these children died at the old farm home in 1867, aged sixty-four years. John F. Casper was a farmer in Elvira Township from 1858 to 1873, when he sold his farm there and removed to his present farm, after which he bought seventy-seven and a half acres with inconsiderable improvements, and moved into a small log house, in which he lived a few years, when he erected his present large and commodious dwelling. He has carried on general farming for the most part, but has also done something in the way of growing and shipping small fruits. He has a fine apple orchard of eighteen acres, and raises for his own use an abundance of apples, peaches, pears, grapes, etc., and was the first man in this section to ship small fruits and to utilize the fertilizers.
Mr. and Mrs. Casper have buried one little daughter, Elizabeth, who died at the age of eighteen months, and their living children are: Lilly D., wife of M. C. Lawrence, residing at Simpson, Ill., who had one child, Clyde, who died at the age of nineteen months; and Luella B., wife of F. M. Chapman, who is living with Mr. Casper and conducting the farm, and has one little son, Earl Clifton, the joy and pride of the household. Our subject was a volunteer in the One Hundred and Twentieth Illinois Infantry under Capt. J. T. Mozley, in which he enlisted as a private, on the 14th of August, 1862, and was discharged in the following December, on account of disability. He was School Trustee nine years in Elvira Township, and County Commissioner of Johnson County from 1879 to 1881, during which time the county was relieved from a large debt of long standing except the railroad bonds. He is a member of the Masonic fraternity, has been a Republican for thirty years, and with his wife is an influential member of the Christian Church.
Extracted from Biographical Review of Johnson, Massac, Pope, and Hardin Counties, Illinois, published in 1893, page 453
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