Saturday, November 11, 2023

Samuel Addison Casseday - Louisville Geologist


While reviewing some pages from the The Journal of the Cincinnati Society of Natural History Volume V Number 8 October 1882 article "Brief Mention of some of the Men who Aided in Developing the Science of Geology in America, but who are known no longer, except by their Works" by S. A. Miller pages 101-115, a new name was revealed to me tied to Louisville's natural history past. Samuel Almond Miller (1836-1897) starts the article off with this note: "Investigation, as some of the geologists have not received obituary notices in the scientific journals, and not being members of scientific societies they have passed away from their field of labor without proper public notice. It is but just that their names should be commemorated, and this article, even in its incompleteness, will no doubt possess some value for reference, and as a basis for a more thorough biography."

He writes on page 107, "S. A. CASSEDAY was born in Louisville, Ky., and died at the same place, in September, 1860. He is remembered for his valuable publications upon the Crinoidea."



His father was Samuel Casseday born August 6, 1795 in Lexington, Virginia. After his father, Peter Casseday, a American Revolutionary War veteran, died, the family moved to Kentucky in 1813. By 1822, he worked as a carpenter in Louisville and in 1824 after apprenticing as a clerk, at John S. Snead's hardware store. From there he and another store employee John Bull became dealers in queensware, glass and china goods through their company Bull & Casseday. In 1835, a new firm formed as Casseday, Raney, & Gamble which later became Casseday & Hopkins and by 1865 just Casseday and Sons. Samuel retired in 1870. He helped a number of charitable institutions during his lifetime: the Blind Asylum, the Orphanage at Anchorage, the Cooke Benevolence, the Presbyterian School. Samuel died on July 2, 1876 in Louisville and is buried at Cave Hill Cemetery.

Early Life

It is unclear the exact date of Samuel Addison Casseday's birth. His mother was Eliza McFarland Casseda (1800-1849) of Philadelphia. A birth date recorded in his brother-in-law's Bible lists November 13, 1831. His youngest sister in 1922 described their childhood environment growing up in one of her published books:

The Casseday home was notable in its day. In 1844 father bought an elevated plateau right in the heart of Louisville, Kentucky. There were eight children of us and he built a big sunny house, providing winter romp-rooms for his four little girls and a completely furnished carpenter shop for his four growing boys. This wise provision kept his girls and boys at home and also supplied companionship with the boys and girls of his friends... We were a big, happy, cultured family, bookish and artistic. I think we were modest withal, of our very fortunate circumstances did not strike us as exceptional at all or a matter to be vain of, but only as a happy matter of course. Father and mother, both, early taught us the Golden Rule as a rule for life.

A winter picture of the Casseday Family House, where they lived from 1844-1865 in Louisville


The Louisville newspapers listed geology talks that were given in the city around the mid-1800s. The first of these appeared in the The Louisville Daily Courier on Monday, June 4, 1849 stating the monthly meeting of the Academy of Natural Science at 8 o'clock will have a lecture on geology by S.A. Casseday, Esq.

He traveled to Europe to expand his geological studies from 1853 to 1854.

In 1854, he published in German Abdruck a. d . Zeitschr . d . deutschen geologischen Gesellschaft Jahrg .237 where he described the crinoid genus Batocrinus and two species B. icosidactylus (shown at the top of this posting) and B. irregularis (shown below). S. A. Miller translated this into English in the Eighteenth Report of the Geological Survey of Indiana of September 1892. It was entitled " DESCRIPTION OF A NEW GENUS OF CRINOIDS FROM THE MOUNTAIN LIMESTONE OF NORTH AMERICA , BY MR. CASSEDAY, OF LOUISVILLE, KENTUCKY. "

On Saturday, August 25, 1855, page 4 The Louisville Daily Courier published this notice:

We are glad to hear that an effort is being made, with every prospect of success, to reorganize the Louisville Natural History Society. Two winters ago it had a brief, but highly useful existence, and the memory of the instructive and pleasant lectures, delivered under the auspices, is yet cherished by those who were so fortunate as to be hearers... There are others, younger in years, but scarcely less proficient than their seniors, whose ambition in so unusual a province of study should be stimulated by popular approbation. Among these is Mr. S. A. Casseday, a young gentleman whose natural inclinations and talents have been furthered by the greatest possible advantages in the scientific schools of Germany. In him the Natural History Society has an enthusiastic, yet unassuming member, whose labors the older members highly appreciate.

In 1857, The Palaeontological Report of S.S. Lyon, E.T. Cox, and Leo. Lesquereux as Prepared for the Geological Report of Kentucky and Published in Vol. 3 was published. On page 495, it is written "For valuable hints and assistance our thanks are due to Dr. D.D. Owen; also, to Samuel Casseday, for the use of his cabinet of Crinoidea and Olivanites."

The Louisville Daily Courier on Monday,  November 8, 1858 that the Academy of Natural Science appointed Mr. S.A. Casseday chair and Prof. Wm. Hailmain as secretary. They listed the objectives of the group:

1. The formation of a library pertaining to natural sciences.
2. The cultivation of natural sciences by its members.
3. The diffusion of a taste for natural science in the community, by means of public lectures.
The same paper on Monday, November 15, 1858 listed that evening the society would hold a meeting at the Female High School at the corner of Center and Walnut Streets. Mr. Casseday will read a paper entitled "Apparent Discrepancies between the Mosaic and Geologic Account of Creation."

On September 27, 1858, The Louisville Daily Courier published a description of Saturday (September 25, 1858) Sixth Annual Exhibition by The Kentucky Mechanics Institute. The following refers to Dr. James Knapp who I wrote about in an early posting. They listed:
A case of fossils and minerals, from the cabinet of Dr. Knapp, presents a fruitful field for thought. Corals from the ancient coral reef of the falls, now many thousands of years old; minerals elaborated in the recondite laboratories of the globe; and huge stalactites, formed by the slow dripping of water form the roof of some cavern; combine to carry the feelings back into a former existence, dreamed of only by geologists... Some fine calumets, made from the redstone quarries of the Northwest, belonging to the same gentleman, remind us of the quint description of this peculiar stone in Longfellows' Hiwatha. A case of birds, animals, etc. for the cabinet of S.A. Casseday, Esq., complete this portion of the exhibition.

The Louisville Daily Courier Wednesday November 17, 1858 edition page 1 published a notice by the The Academy of Science in Louisville, Kentucky. 

We regret that the initiate meeting of this institution, which promises to prove so valuable in directing the literary tastes of our city, should have been marked by the production of a paper that is likely to cause suspicion to rest upon the Academy. We refer to the essay of Mr. S.A. Casseday. He argued with great ingenuity, much plausibility, and show of learning worthy of a better cause, that the Mosaic account of the creation did not coincide with that deduced by geologists. It would be an easy task, but one that we do not covet, to disprove the assumption of Mr. Casseday. There is, and there can be, no real discrepancy between the ible and geology. The impress of the Divine hand is upon both. Each sustain the other. We have high admiration of Mr. Casseday's talent, and regret that he has seen fit to expend this time and researches in so questionable a manner. Mr. Dembitz reads the next paper before the Society. The following officers were chosen Monday night: President, S. A. Casseday; Vice President, T. E. Jenkins; Secretary, W. N. Hailman; Treasurer, G. Dembitz; Librarian, C. G. Knapp.

On Wednesday, January 19, 1859, page 1 The Louisville Daily Courier published an article entitled OUR FALLS. It follows:
Since the eventful day upon which Gen. Geo. Rogers Clark set sail from the midst of "our falls" upon the adventurous expedition which proved so fruitful of honor to his arms, the falls about the Ohio have proven a historic object. That they were converted into a higher, and holier, and deeper interest has not been generally known. Last evening, Prof. Yandell delivered, in the University Hall, an elaborate discourse upon the geological formation of the falls. He demonstrated conclusively that the action of ages had changed the formation of the rocks. Think of it! We might have had a cascade of water that would have equaled the famed Niagara. Prof. Yandell demonstrated the positions of his lecture of a fine display of corals and other geological specimens. Together with Mr. S. A. Casseday, he has the finest collection of Devonian rocks in the world. They are all a truthful witness of the great I AM.

The American Journal of Science in 1860 published an article entitled "Description of Nine new species of Crinoidea from the Subcarboniferous Rocks of Indiana and Kentucky" by Sidney Smith Lyon (1808-1872)  and S.A. Casseday. They named Pterotocrinus depressus,  Pterotocrinus pyradmidalis, Pterotocrinus rugosus, Zeacrinus ovalis, Cyathocrinus dekadactylus, Cyathocrinus hexadactylus, Actinocrinus indiaanensis, Actinocrinus coreyi, and Onychocrinus exculptus.

In a biographically book published in 1882, his sister Fannie listed an entry as "was a geologist, and was a correspondent of Alexander von Humboldt, Lyell, and Prof. Rose... he died under thirty years of age." Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859) was a famous German naturalist and explorer. Humboldt met with President Thomas Jefferson in 1804 where the had earlier discussed among other things, mammoth teeth fossils.
The Falls of the Ohio as it looked in the early 1900s. Image colorized.
His sister Fannie wrote a history book, The Child's Story of the Making of Louisville in 1914, on page 24 she writes about the Falls of the Ohio and her memories of collecting fossils with her brother.
The term Falls appears hardly justifiable to the people of to-day. There seem now not even to be the rough and roaring eddies which danced in the sunlight before the eyes of the writer when, as a little girl, her geologist brother used to take her over the Falls at low water, his hammer in his hand and a bag for rare specimens of corals and shells slung over his shoulder.

Wonderful and beautiful and curious were the fossils he collected from that old Devonian sea, which once so teemed with life. From all over the civilized world men of science used to come to Kentucky and to Louisville to study the fossil remains on the Ohio Falls. Even that great man, Alexander von Humboldt, wrote autograph letters on the subject to that same brother, one of which still remains in  the family. Even now at lowest water, when the Kentucky chute is dry or very nearly so, one can see an ancient coral reef made of fine-textured "coral sand" about twenty feet in thickness and filed with fossilized corals exquisitely preserved. Louisville children should visit the Falls and see conditions there for themselves.


His oldest brother Benjamin Casseday (1825-1878) became a journalist and later wrote the 1852 book, History of Louisville

His brother Alexander C. Casseday (1836-1862) enlisted in the Confederate army and attained the rank of major. He was captured in Cumberland, Kentucky and later died in a prisoner of war camp in Columbus, Ohio on March 21, 1862.

His oldest sister Mary W. Casseday (1839-1874) married a Presbyterian Reverend William Thomas McElroy (1829-1910). After his death, Reverend McElroy's papers ended up in the Filson Historical Society along with S.A. Casseday's geological diary from his trip to Europe and letters during that time.

It turns out the most famous person in the family would be his sister Jennie H. Casseday (1840-1893) who was in a horrific horse carriage accident when she was 21 years old. After the accident, she was bedridden the rest of her living days.  In 1878 she created the Jennie Casseday Flower Mission to distribute flowers and scripture texts to the poor and sick of the community. The mission also distributed flowers to those in prisons. This movement gained popularity and by 1882 was spread across the United States with the help of the Women's Christian Temperance Union. She also helped organize the Louisville chapter of the Order of the King's Daughters.

Samuel Anniston's youngest sister Fannie Casseday Duncan (1844-1936) wrote a number of books and was quite the historian. Some of those books include: The Child's Story of the Making of Louisville (1914), The Message of the Lord's Prayer To Men of the Twentieth Century (1919),  Jennie Casseday of Louisville (1922), and When Kentucky Was Young (1928).


While the Find-A-Grave web site record for Samuel Addison does not list a birth or death date or a picture of his gravestone when I started writing this. So I visited Cave Hill Cemetery and took some pictures in section B, lot 75 where the Casseday family is buried. Reverend McElroy's Bible lists S.A. Casseday death date as September 13, 1860. The gravestone degraded after 160 years and is hard to read. It looked to me that the death year was 1860 and the day was 13 while I could not make out the month.

This is a picture of the Casseday family plot at Cave Hill Cemetery. The arrow points to S.A. Casseday grave. The large stone with a sphere at the top of it is where his sister Jennie Casseday is buried. It was paid for by donations from the school children of Louisville.

On October 15, 1860, The Louisville Daily Courier published this on page 3:

Kentucky Museum - We are gratified to learn that Samuel Casseday, Esq., has deposited in this promising institution the cabinet of his lamented son, Samuel A. Casseday. The collection is of rare value, comprising more than two thousand paleontological specimens, selected and arranged with scientific care, many of them discovered and described for the first time by the collector. Surely no more fitting monument could be elevated by the afflicted father to his departed son, and generations will bless the diligent collector and faithful scholar for the benefits and pleasures afforded them by the result of his patient toil and research in the field of science.


I am not sure what became of the Kentucky Museum that probably the holotype specimens of Batocrinus crinoid fossils went to. The Smithsonian and Harvard collection databases show this genus in their collections and some are from Indiana. The Harvard collection shows 7 specimens of Batocrinus irregularis from Spergen Hill, Indiana (type locality) that were collected by George H.(K) Green(e), catalog number IPCR-27. It could be possible that New Albany, Indiana fossil dealer Greene obtained the Kentucky Museum's collection and later sold it to Harvard.

 In 1868 F. B. Meek & A.H. Worthen in the Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia article "Notes on some points in the Structure and Habitats of the Palaezoic Crinoidea" named a new species of crinoid Batocrinus cassedayanus in which they wrote "The specific name is given in honor of Mr. S. A. Casseday, deceased, the author of the genus Batocrinus."

1 comment:

Buran said...

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