Just When Happiness was Finally in Reach…

My husband’s grandfather, Arthur Francis Mabery Casada, had a rough life. And, when he passed away just days before his 27th birthday, it was also altogether too short.

Arthur Francis Mabery Casada

Arthur Francis was born in Drywood, Kansas on September 25, 1902, to parents James William Mabery and Nancy Ellen Large Mabery. He joined an older brother, Jesse Emmett, and an older sister, Molly Sopironia. (Side note: Isn’t that the most amazing middle name? I’ve never seen it anywhere else.)

James, Arthur’s father, was born in Kansas, not far from Drywood, and he lost his mother when he was only two. Remember this fact. His father remarried, and James and his older siblings were raised by their father and stepmother.

James married Nancy Large, and they were farmers in their small community, renting their land and raising their children, Jesse, Molly, and Arthur.

That all changed when Nancy passed away in early 1905, when little Arthur was only a few months past his second birthday.

And things were never the same for him.

Arthur’s father, James, was now a young widower, a farmer, with three small children to care for. Jesse was six; Molly was four; Arthur only two.

According to a written family record, James decided that he couldn’t care for little Arthur, and his neighbors, the Casadas, stepped in to help. Eventually, they convinced James to let them adopt Arthur, with promises that things would remain the same, and James would always have access to his son.

Do you have a bad feeling about this, too?

The Adoption Papers for Arthur Francis Mabery

Eventually, the Casadas moved away from James’ farm, taking Arthur with them. They began to fight James when he wanted to see his son. James often made a way to see Arthur, but the Casadas would punish Arthur with a “whipping.”

When Arthur was 16, James bought him a team of horses and a wagon. Arthur was whipped, and the horses were sold.

Apparently, the whippings weren’t enough of a deterrent, and Arthur would make a way to see his father and older brother, Jess.

Arthur married Irene Gier July 12, 1927. I don’t know how or where they met, but I can imagine that in little neighboring Kansas towns, it wouldn’t be difficult to cross paths.

Irene and Arthur Casada’s Wedding Photograph

According to Irene’s sister, Ruth, Irene made her own wedding dress, and she and Arthur “made their home look like a million bucks on a couple hundred.”

“We all loved Arthur. He fit into the family like he had always been there.”

Irene and Arthur

Apparently, the Casadas weren’t happy that Arthur had married, as their plan was that he would be there to take care of them in their old age. They made life hard for Arthur and Irene.

Irene and Arthur were to have gotten their own farm in the fall after their wedding, but that never happened. Instead, Arthur stayed and worked on the Casadas’ farm.

When they had been married only a year, Arthur was in the field, riding the disk, when his appendix ruptured. The Casadas felt that it was no use wasting money going to the doctor for just a little stomach ache. After all, there was work to be done.

Eventually, Arthur did have an operation, but the incision never healed correctly.

Little Esther Marie, my husband’s mother, was born three months later, November 8, 1928.

1929-CASADA-esther marie-six months-KS
Esther Marie Casada

Again from a recollection of Irene’s sister Ruth:

The old folks did let them move the the winter after Marie arrived…They were a happy family… evenings Arthur would get his fiddle out and play. Marie would clap and laugh. Arthur was a terrific person. He and Jess (his older brother) were so alike that if they were in a different room you couldn’t tell which was talking or laughing. Marie was always looking for a daddy like Uncle Jess…

Arthur went into the hospital in the fall of 1929, right before Marie turned a year old. It was to be for his third operation due to the appendicitis. While in the hospital, just when it appeared that all was going well, he contracted typhoid fever.

Tragically, on September 19, 1929, he passed away.

That tragedy wasn’t the only one that night in Hepler, Kansas. The roads were slick, as it had been raining hard. Irene was on her way to the hospital, riding in a Model A Coupe belonging to a family friend. The top-heavy car turned over, and Irene’s right leg was scraped on an open vent. She developed blood poisoning, and the night Arthur died, doctors were sure that her leg would have to be amputated. Thirty-six hours of round-the-clock hot packs were administered, as this was long before the invention of antibiotics.

Arthur’s funeral was held the next Sunday. Irene’s brothers had to carry her, as it would be yet another week before the doctors were sure that her leg could be saved.

In the funeral program, I think it is telling that there is no mention of any of the Casada family attending or participating.

1929-funeral booklet-CASADA-arthur mabery-hepler-KS (5)

1929-funeral booklet-CASADA-arthur mabery-hepler-KS (4)

They didn’t even send flowers.

After the funeral, the Casadas demanded that Irene pay her money that Arthur “owed” them. They had kept an accounting of money they had spent on Arthur going several years back. So, less than a month after Arthur’s funeral, Irene was forced to hold a farm sale. The Casadas even had a sheriff at the sale to ensure that they weren’t cheated.


After the sale, Irene and little Marie moved back into the Gier’s home.

Irene’s brothers helped to ensure that she could go to college for her teacher’s certificate, enabling her to provide for herself and Marie. Which she did, for a very long time, until marrying again when Marie was 14.

Arthur’s death, Irene’s injury, the emotional distress dealing with his adoptive family, and the necessity of having to move back into the family home was a tremendous trauma in Irene’s and Marie’s lives, with ripples that still radiate. I believe that my mother-in-law, even though not a year old when her father died, was profoundly affected by this and still is to this day. And while Irene did eventually remarry and have another child, her life was marked by struggles, difficulties, and strained relationships with their roots in this horrible time.

‘Til next time; be well and hug your loved ones.