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Introduction: The Richard Cave Family Cemetery

Below is an article on the history of the Richard Cave Family Cemetery which was located in Bonaparte Township, Van Buren County, Iowa.

The history is an expansion of a talk given by Mike Miller at the April 9th, 2009 meeting of the Van Buren County Genealogical Society. Miller is the President of the Bonaparte Historical Society.

Richard Cave was an early pioneer in Desmoines County, Wisconsin Territory, when in the fall of 1836, he brought his family from Florida, Monroe County, Missouri to a homestead located 3 miles above Farmington.

By studying records at the Van Buren County Courthouse, online resources like those found at and from email correspondence with a descendant of Richard Cave in California, the author has confirmed two early Cave burials at the now vanished cemetery.

Richard was a mill-wright and had built a mill at Florida, Missouri in about 1827. He also built a mill for his brother-in-law, James H. Jordan, on Soap Creek in Davis County, Iowa.

Richard built, and for a time captained, The LIGHT, an early steamboat in the Des Moines River trade. This steamboat was a joint venture of Richard Cave with John Anderson Pinchback of Warsaw, Illinois and William Meek Senior of Bonaparte. Cave sold his interest in the boat to his partners in 1842.

Online aerial photographs from the 1930's and other references to the cemetery yielded a likely location for this old Pioneer Cemetery.

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The Richard Cave Family Cemetery

Section 22, Township 68 North, Range 8 West, Bonaparte Township

A Brief Richard Cave Family Genealogy

Richard Cave was the first child of Rueben and Catherine Haden-Cave. He was born August 20, 1799 near Lexington, KY and died on the Salmon Summit Trail in Humboldt County, California on July 30, 1859, the victim of a highwayman.

His father, Rueben Cave, was born about 1770 to the Rev. Richard and Elizabeth Craig- Cave. Rev. Cave was an early Baptist preacher who moved his family to Kentucky during the Revolutionary War.

They sheltered with other settlers at Bryant Station, KY in 1782 to defend themselves from the Indian attacks fomented by the English Loyalist, Simon Girty.1 After the Rev. Cave's death in 1816, Rueben moved his family to Boone County, Missouri. They settled at what is now Columbia where he died about 1829.

A listing of Reuben Cave's children comes from the summary2 of a deed recorded in the Boone County Deed Book B, Page 261 dated July 14, 1827:

"When the minor children become of age, the slaves and property should be divided equally among the children, Richard Cave Jr., Polly Cave, Elizabeth Witt, Sarah Stephenson, Hayden Cave, William S. (sic) Cave, Merrit H. Cave, John B. Cave and Jesse H. Cave."

It was in Missouri that Richard Cave married Colma Brent Williams on September 20, 1820. Colma was born in Franklin County, Kentucky on November 7, 1803.

Hugh L. Cave, their youngest son, wrote in his Cave and Williams Genealogy:3

"My mother, Colma Brent Williams Cave, was the first child born to my grand-parents, John and Fanny Brent Williams, (their family) consisting of eight children: Colma Brent, Ann, George, John Brent, Sarah Frances, Mary, Frances Melvina, (and) Younger."

Hugh Cave reported that Richard and Colma :

"...were the parents of eight children: Amanda, Oscar, Washington, Alfred, Josiah,

1 Bryant Station: "Heroes and Heroines," by Mrs. Peyton E. Howard, 353 S. Mill St., Lexington, Kentucky
2 Genealogical Gems from Early Missouri Deeds, 1815-1850 by Marsha Hoffman Rising. Page 19-20
3 Genealogy of the Cave and Williams Families by Hugh L. Cave : Email Communication - Jim Roan, 20 SEP 2008

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Richard, Hugh and Frances Juliette. The three older children were born in Boone County, Missouri. The next three children were born in Florida, Monroe County, Missouri. Hugh and Juliette were born near Farmington, Van Buren County, Iowa."

The 1884 History of Monroe County, Missouri states Richard Cave erected a mill on the North Fork of the Salt River in about 18274 when the area was part of Ralls county. Monroe County was formed in 1831. Florida, Missouri was also the birthplace of Samuel Clemens who was born there on November 30, 1835.

Early Cave and Williams Land Transactions in Van Buren County, Iowa

Among the early deed records of Van Buren County, there were two land sales in 1838 showing a direct business relationship between a Jeremiah Williams and members of the Rueben Cave family.

In a deed recorded in Book A, Page 64, Richard's brother, William Johnson Cave, bought the Southeast quarter of Section 15, Township 68 North, Range 8 West from Jeremiah Williams.

Page 62 of the same book records the mortgage John Q. Adams gave Richard Cave for his acting as Security on a note Adams gave to Jeremiah Williams as payment for the purchase of the adjacent Northeast Fractional Quarter of Section 22, T68N, R8W consisting of Government Lots 1 and 2. These deeds are transcribed in Appendix A.

The 1836 Congressional Survey Plat seen below is from Iowa State University's GIS Information Server. 5 It shows a house symbol in the Northwest corner of Government Lot 1 in Section 22 on land that Jeremiah Williams sold to John Q. Adams on March 2, 1838.

The house is located just across the river from where Richard Cave settled and might have been the home of Jeremiah Williams in 1836. However, the language in the 1838 Deed Williams gave to William J. Cave states Williams was living in the Section 15 part of his property at the time of the transfer.

The Congressional Survey map also shows a house named for John Q. Adams on the west side of Slaughter Creek in the Southwest Quarter of Section 14. Adams was listed in the 1840 Federal Census as a school teacher with 14 students. So Cave and Williams children might have attended the Adams school.


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Adams later transferred his interest in Government Lots 1 and 2 to Richard Cave who applied for a patent on them in March of 1840. This gave him ownership of the whole North half of Section 22 along with lands in Section 21 and near Farmington.

1836 Congressional Survey Map 

1836 Congressional Survey Map of Sections 15 and 22, 68, 8.

James H. Jordan's trading post was located at the house symbol in Gov. Lot 4 of Section 15.

Of the land William Johnson Cave bought from Jeremiah Williams, Government Lot 2 in Section 15 was patented by Samuel C. Reed. Lewis Myer, who purchased his

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homestead across the river on Government Lots 4 and 5 from James Jordan, patented Government Lot 3 and the East half of the Southeast quarter of Section 15 where John Q. Adams' field was shown in the 1836 map. These land sales along with the possible Forqueran land sale to Richard Cave discussed below, show the people we think of today as the early settlers in Bonaparte Township were relative late comers in the chain of squatter's rights claims.

Cave and Williams Marriages in Van Buren County, Iowa 6

Francis Melvina Williams, younger sister of Colma Brent Williams and sister in law of Richard Cave, married James H. Jordan on November 27, 1838. James Jordan was a well-known, Southeast Iowa Indian Trader and acquaintance of Chief Black Hawk. Jordan was a native of Kentucky and owned land in Section 15 just north of Richard Cave's homestead.

Amanda Fitzallen Cave, eldest child of Richard and Colma Cave, married Robert White Magruder in Van Buren county, Iowa on February 24, 1839. They moved to Florida, Monroe County, Missouri where Robert Magruder died. Amanda Cave- Magruder then married Christopher Penn in Monroe County, Missouri on April 12, 1843. She died there on May 21, 1844.

John B. Cave and Delilah Donaldson were married on April 8, 1841. In preparation for his marriage, John purchased the Northwest quarter of Section 21, 68, 8 from Richard Cave on March 24, 1841. A survey of this land was made on April 21, 1842 and is recorded in Survey Book A on page 225.

John B. purchased Robert Moffett's interest in "New" Lexington at the sheriff's sale held on April 24, 1847 and recorded deeds for other land nearby at the same time. He sold his Section 21 property to Jesse Cave in August of 1849. John made several trips taking supplies West for resale there before he sold his Iowa interests to Dennis Haney in 1858 and went West for good.

Jesse Haden Cave married Delia Caroline Rhoades on July 4, 1844. The following year he sold Lot 1, Block 4 in Bonaparte, Iowa to M. R. Neiswanger. Jesse bought J. B. Cave's quarter section of land in Section 21 in 1849. Jesse eventually went West too.

Josiah Cave was reportedly married in Van Buren County but his marriage license is not recorded in the Van Buren County Marriage records. Hugh Cave wrote:

6 See Appendix B for transcriptions of these Marriage Book entries.

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"During the summer of 1852 my brothers, Josiah and Richard Brent Cave, crossed the plains to California with a team belonging to John Bradford Cave and John Bell arriving at Sacramento about September first." ... "Josiah Cave, shortly after returning to Iowa, was united in marriage with Miss Ellen Arrowsmith, native of Van Buren County, Iowa."

"Early in the year 1860, he was given power-of-attorney to act for the heirs of Richard Cave. He recorded the selling of the farm to Benjamin Wagoner. With his wife, mother, and sister Frances Juliette he came to California via New York and Panama arriving at Arcata about July 1, 1860..."

Clara Ellen Arrasmith was the Iowa born daughter of James Arrasmith who patented land in Section 10, 68, 8.

Log Cabin Photo 

The above photograph taken in 1910, is of an early log cabin located on the claim of James Arrasmith.

The First Known Cave Cemetery Burial: Catherine Haden-Cave, 1765-c.1835

The biography of John B. Cave 7 states he came to Iowa in 1833 and that his mother, Catherine, died here shortly afterwards. Other Cave family genealogies report she died and was buried in Van Buren County in 1835. Hugh Cave, who was born in 1837, states of Richard Cave's trip to Iowa:


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"Sometime during the summer and fall of 1836, my father with his family moved from Monroe County, Missouri and settled on a farm in Van Buren County, Iowa on the west bank of the Des Moines River, three miles above Farmington."

The Wisconsin Territorial Census for the Western part of Desmoine County (Census Transcript Book pages 69-73) was returned on August 9, 1836, but it did not list any Cave surnames in that part of Desmoine county. This suggests that Richard Cave was still in the process of moving to the Cave homestead in Van Buren County.

Records for District Court Case Number 3 heard during the April 1837 Term of the District Court of Van Buren County, Wisconsin Territory held at Farmington, shows Richard Cave and Samuel C. Reed were both present in the area.

The case Richard Cave filed against Crittington Forquerean was for breach of contract for which 1000 dollars in damages was sought. This is the same amount of damages allowed for nonperformance by the Williams to Cave deed recorded in Book A, Page 64.

However at his trial, Mr. Cave withdrew the case having apparently settled his differences with Mr. Forquerean out of court. The Court Record does not state the source of the conflict but a land purchase agreement comes to mind as a possibility.

Crittington Forgason is listed in the 1830 Federal Census for Marion County, Missouri probably in Fabius Township. In the 1840 Federal Census, he was living in the Indian Territory above the Van Buren County line. Forqueran genealogy postings suggest he was in Kansas by 1860. The various misspellings of this French Huguenot name made tracing his family line challenging.

Regardless of whether Catherine Cave's death was shortly after 1833, in 1835 or, most likely, after Richard Cave's arrival here in 1836, Catharine Haden Cave was probably the first Cave burial at what we know as the Cave Cemetery.

The Second Known Burial: Washington Cave, 1824-1836

The second person documented to be buried at the Cave Cemetery was Washington Cave. Hugh Cave records the burial.

"Son Washington Cave died 23 September 1836 in his twelfth year. Buried there on the homestead."

This burial shows Richard Cave barely missed the August 1836 Wisconsin Territorial Census and dates his family's arrival in Iowa between August and September of 1836.

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Other Possible Burials at the Cave Cemetery

There may have been a Williams burial at the Cave Cemetery given the close Cave and Williams family connections. Jeremiah Williams may not have left Iowa after he sold his lands to William J. Cave and John Q. Adams on March 2, 1838.

On August 22, 1839, Jeremiah filed a lawsuit 8 in Van Buren County District Court against Robert Moffett and William Fallis for a bad debt. This case was handled by his attorney, H. H. Buckland, so Jeremiah's residency is not defined in the court records.

Robert Moffett was likely a founder of (New) Lexington and William Fallis was the first postmaster in the area appointed in April of 1837. As happened later at Bonaparte's founding in 1842, his appointment probably occurred shortly after the (New) Lexington town plat was filed with the Desmoine County, Wisconsin Territory Recorder's Office.

H. H. Buckland was listed in the 1832-1833 Yale College Student Register as a law student living at Mrs. Shepherds in East Windsor. 9 He was admitted to the bar in Hampshire County, MA before 1835 10 and spent 3 years of his career in Bentonsport, Iowa before returning home to Massachusetts. 11

An 1850 Census listing for a Jeremiah and Susan Williams living in Lewis County, Missouri shows two of their children were born in Iowa about the right time for this to be the Jeremiah Williams from Van Buren County. Both parents and their oldest listed child born in about 1832 were from Kentucky. This is followed by two Iowa births, one in about 1837 and another in about 1839.

If this is the right Jeremiah Williams, the grasping conjecture is that the five year gap between the Kentucky born child and the first Iowa born child allows for a child to have been born in 1834-5, who dies before 1850 and thus might have had an Iowa burial.

Candidate Location of the Cave Family Cemetery

The general location of the Cave Cemetery is in the Northwest Quarter of Section 22. Kenneth Crabill, who owns the original Cave farm, reports there is a record in the Van Buren County Auditor's office that stated the Cave cemetery was a certain distance

8 Van Buren County District Court Case Number 99
11 Genealogical and Personal Memoirs relating to the families of the state of Massachusetts, by Wm. Cutter, and Wm. Adams, Lewis Historical Publishing Co, 1910; Page 1999

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(1364 feet?) up the road from the bank of the Des Moines River.

This information may have been in the cemetery location records kept there or it may have come from the plans for a 1.3 mile long road widening project on 250th street approved in 1957, BO-2-57. Unfortunately, I was unable to find either the distance of the Cave cemetery from the river at the Auditor's Office or the records for the BO-2-57 project at the county engineer's office.

The most helpful description in locating the candidate cemetery site was given by Keith McCrary in 1972. It is recorded in the Cemetery Index binder at the Bonaparte Public Library.

"In 1895 Clarence McCrary purchased a farm (now owned by Keith McCrary, his son) in Bonaparte Township, just across a gravel road from the Cave Cemetery. At that time there was a fence around the cemetery. It lay on a slight rise of ground about a quarter mile from the Des Moines River bank. Graves were marked by field stones. By the time the Anderson family purchased the Cave farm, the fence and stone were gone and only the slight rise of ground now marks the place where the burial ground lay."

USGS Topographic Map

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The topographic map above shows the general area of the Cave Cemetery. This view is the same area seen in the 1836 Congressional Survey Map above.

The image below shows the relevant parts of Section 15 and 22 from a 1930's aerial photo which is also available online from the GIS Information Server. Note the half bulls eye feature by the road in the center of this image which is about a quarter mile from the river.

1930s Aerial View Photo

1930's aerial view showing the proposed Cave Cemetery site in the center of the image. The darker colored cemetery site appears outlined by a ring of lighter color soil. This half bulls eye is just inside the closed 600 foot elevation contour line that straddles the boundaries between Sections 15 and 22 shown on the prior topographic map.

The lighter color soil around the darker colored center may result from the margins of the less eroded cemetery site sloping down to the level of a more eroded field and thus the slopes are either more directly illuminated or are of a lighter colored subsoil.

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Overlaying the 1930's aerial photo with a current aerial photo suggest the Cave cemetery was located near the level ground in front of the trees on the right side of the image below. This photograph was taken by the author in 2008 and shows the view of 250th Street looking East towards the river from the brow of the hill. There is the possibility that the Cave Cemetery site was disturbed during the 1957-8 road widening project.

Photo Gravel Road near Cave Cemetery Site

Photograph by the author


Another Cave Family Member Burial in Iowa - Oscar Cave

Hugh Cave also mentioned the Iowa death and burial of his brother, Oscar Cave.

"In the month of May 1847, Oscar Cave, my eldest brother, enlisted as a volunteer soldier, U.S.A. and was ordered to Mexico via Vera Cruz. He marched with General Winfield Scott's army from that city to Mexico City, participating in all of the Battles of that expedition. He was never wounded; however, he returned after the close of the war a man broken in health, dying November 28, 1849 at Soap Creek Mill, Davis County, Iowa and was buried there."

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Oscar Cave's stone is one of two stones standing in the Soap Creek Mill Cemetery.

Gravestone Photo of Oscar Cave & Alex Murry

Photograph courtesy of Jo Eddy.

The Soap Creek Mill Cemetery is located in Section 4, Township 70 North and Range 12 West in Davis County, Iowa. In the Congressional Survey Map shown below, the Soap Creek Mill Cemetery is located along the trail leading to the Southwest from the feature labeled "Jordan's Mill".

This area is now a forest preserve but in 1819, its rugged terrain sheltered the Ioway Indians who survived the Sac and Fox massacre. Black Hawk lead the warriors who burned the village at Iowaville and slaughtered the inhabitants.

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Map of Jordan's Mill Location 


Cave Cemetery Information Summary

Name: Cave Cemetery

Location: On the South side of 250th Street at the brow of the hill over looking the right bank of the Des Moines River in the NE Quarter of the NW Quarter of Section 22, Township 68 North, Range 8 West

Known Burials:

Catherine Haden-Cave mother of Richard Cave b. c.1765 , d. c.1836 Washington Cave, son of Richard and C. B. Williams-Cave b. c.1824 d. 23 SEP 1836


The cemetery is unmarked with its fieldstone grave markers and original iron fence long since removed. Part of the site may have been disturbed by a later road improvement.


Place a road side sign listing the known burials near the location of the Cave Cemetery.

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Appendix A. Early Cave and Williams Deeds

Van Buren County Deed Book A, Page 62

John Q. Adams' Mortgage to Richard Cave for Cave acting as Security on Adams' note to Jeremiah Williams

This Indenture made and entered unto this 2nd day of March 1838 between J. Q. Adams of Van Buren County and Territory of Wisconsin of the first part and Richard Cave of Said County and Territory of the Second part Witnefseth that the Said J. Q. Adams has this day granted bargained and Sold and by these presents doth grant bargain Sell and Convey unto the Said Cave all his right title interest and Claim in and to the North East Fractional quarter of Section twenty-two in Township Sixty-Eight in range Eight west for and in consideration of the Sum of Two Hundred Dollars to him hand paid the Receipt whereof is hereby acknowledged and to the said Adams for himself his heirs administrators and afsigns warrant and defend the Same against the claim or claims of any person or persons whatsoever except the claim of the government of the United States, and if the Said Adams has or may git a pre-emtion to the Same it is legally transferred to Said Cave by this Deed of conveyance and the Said Cave his heirs administrators or afsigns is to have and to hold the Same with all and singular the rights and privileges and appertinances there unto belonging The Condition of the obligation such that where as the Said Richd Cave this day Became Security for the Said Adams to pay or Cause to be paid unto Jeremiah Williams in two years from this date the Sum of Two Hundred Dollars for which Sum the Said Adams and Cave executed their joint note this day payable in two years to Said Williams on his order Now if the said adams shall pay or caused to be paid the Said Sum of Two Hundred Dollars unto Said Williams as order fully and Completely Relinquish the Cave from the payment thereof.

Then this obligation to be void and of no effect otherwise in full force and virtue and it is the exprefsed agreement that all the property of every kind belonging to Said Adams at the time the Note becomes due bound and holden for the payment in addition to the above tract of land.

Given under my hand and seal the day and year above written.

J. Q. Adams (seal)

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Territory of Wisconsin
County of Van Buren

Be it Remembered that on the 2nd day of March 1838 personally came before me Saml. C. Reed a Justice of the peace in and for said County J. Q. Adams who is known to me to be the person whoes name is Subscribed to the foregoing instrument in writing and acknowledged the same to be his act and deed for the purposes therein mentioned Given under my hand and Seal the day and year above written. Saml C Reed (JPVCWT)

Filed for Record March 2nd 1838 WmWelch RVCWT

Van Buren County Deed Book A, Page 64

Jeremiah Williams to William J. Cave

This Indenture made and Entered into this 2nd day of March Eighteen Hundred and thirty-eight Between Jeremiah Williams of Van Buren County and Territory of Wisconsin of the first part and William J. Cave of Same County and Territory of the Second part Witnefseth that the Said Williams has this day granted Barganed and Sold and by these presents doth grant Bargan Sell and convey unto the Said W. J. cave all his right title interest and Claim in and unto the South east quarter of Section 15 Township Sixty-eight Range Eight West and it is the exprefs agreement that if the Said Williams is or Should be intitled to a pre-emtion by any Law that has or may be pafsed by the government of the United States he the Said Williams is to Transfer the Said pre-emtion Right to the Said W. J. Cave for and in consideration of the sum of Two hundred Dollars to him in hand paid the Reciept whereof is hereby acknowledged And the Said Cave is to have peaceble pofsession of the Same from the day with all and Singular the rights privilege appertinances of the same from this day with all and Singular the rights privilege appertinances thereunto belonging

And the said Williams Warrants and defend the same against the Claim or Claiming under or through him for the true and faithful performance of the above agreement the Said Williams binds himself his heirs administrators and afsigns in the Sum of one Thousand Dollars Lawful money of the United States

Given under my hand and seal the day and year above written

Jeremiah Williams (seal)

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N. B. it is the exprefs agreement that if the Said Williams is or Shall be that if the Said Williams is or Shall be entitled to a pre-emition by the government of the united States on the above described quarter Section he is to Secure the Same to Said Cave But in case he is not intitled to a pre-emtion to the Said quarter Section he the Said Williams is not to Claim or indenavour to Secure a pre-emtion on any quarter Section in the possesio or occupied by any other person on the Fractional quarter that he now lives on (under the above penalty)

Witnefs my hand and Seal Jeremiah Williams (seal)

Territory of Wisconsin}
County of Van Buren}

Be it Remembered that on this 2nd day of March 1838 personally came before me Saml. C. Reed a Justice of the peace in and for Said county Jeremiah Williams who is personally known to me to be the person whose name is Subscribe to the foregoing instrument in writing and acknowledged the same to be his act and deed for the purposes therein mentioned

Given under my hand and Seal the day and year above written

Saml. C. Reed {J.P. V.C. W. T.}

Filed for March 2nd 1838 Wm Welch R.V.C.}

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Appendix B. Selected Van Buren County Marriage Transcriptions

James H. Jordan to Francis M. Williams

Marriage Book A, Page 4, Line 2

"Territory of Iowa County of Van Buren: I certify that I joined together in the Holy State of Matrimony James H. Jordan and Frances M. Williams both of said County November 27, 1838

William Kendrick justice of the peace VBC, IT"

Robert W. Magruder to Amanda Cave

Marriage Book A, Page 4, Line 8

"Territory of Iowa Van Buren County} ss I do hereby certify that I joined in the Holy bonds of Matrimony Robert W. Magruder and Amanda Cave, both of the county on the 24th day of Feb. A. D. 1839 Given under my hand and seal

Henry Bateman {seal} J. P."

John B. Cave to Delilah Donaldson

Marriage Book A, Page 17, Entry #143 license issued April 5, 1841

"excuted the within according to law on the 8 day of April 1841

R. B. Willoughby J. P." Jesse H. Cave to Delia Caroline Rhoades

Marriage Book A, Page 53, Entry # 415 license issued "July 2/44" returned "Sept 27th 1844"

"Iowa Territory

Van Buren Co ss I do hereby certify that on the 4th day of July 1844 I joined in marriage Mr Jesse H. Caves (sic) aged 23 and Miss Delia Caroline Rhodes aged 15 both of Farmington township at the residence of Joseph Rhodes of said County Danl. Jewett"

Josiah Cave to Clara Ellen Arrasmith/Arrowsmith

This marriage was not recorded in the Marriage records of Van Buren County.

Submitted by Mike Miller for the Van Buren County IAGenWeb Project - copyright 2009