Saturday, June 2, 2012

Hey Lenawee, Your Circus Performer, Anson Babcock, Who Knew?

Copyright 2012, CABS for Reflections From the Fence

There are days that I just love my volunteer job of formatting and editing books for the Lenawee County Family Researchers, this find rates as a fun and interesting benefit.  The first two extractions were found in the current book I am working on and trying to finish.  They are many pages apart in the book, but the first one tweaked my interest immediately.  I even spent some time snooping around for Anson, but, to no avail, as the first article has his name typed as Anse.  Then, I found the second article, the notice of his death, and I was off on a little research tangent.

From the May 20, 1896 issue of the Michigan Messenger published at Adrian, Lenawee County, Michigan:

"After an absense of ten years, the noted circus rider, Anse Babcock has returned to Morenci from South America."

From the December 30, 1896 issue of the Michigan Messenger published at Adrian, Lenawee County, Michigan:

"Anson Babcock, a noted circus rider, died in his rooms in Morenci, Wednesday, Dec. 23rd.  He was 47 years of age and commenced work with Stowe Bros. in 1865.  His wife, now with a "Trilby' Company in Kentucky, and a daughter,  Mrs. V. W. Whitney, of Morenci, survive."

From the  December 26, 1896, issue of the Adrian Daily Telegram published at Adrian, Lenawee County, Michigan, I found another report of Anson's death:

Next, I just had to know what his death certificate said, from, sure enough it says he was a circus performer.  I think that is the first time I have seen that occupation on a death record.

Michigan, Deaths, 1867-1897
name: Anson Babcock
death date: 24 Dec 1896
death place: Morenci, Lenawee, Michigan
gender: Male
death age: 47 years 9 months
estimated birth date: 1849
birthplace: Michigan
marital status: Married
father's name: Wm. Babcock
mother's name: Marian Babcock
occupation: Circus Performer
film number: 2363835
digital folder number: 4208790
image number: 828
reference number: p 154 rn 4672

The images for the death record appear on two pages at, the first is here, the second, here. Cause of death is listed as paralysis.

Continuing my web searching I found this at the Circus Historical Society page:

"VAN ZANDT, A. D. [r. n. Anson Babcock]. (1849-December 23, 1896) Began career as an acrobat at age 17. For 12 years, traveled with his brother as the Van Zandt Brothers, connected with John Stowe & Sons, 1868, 1871; G. G. Grady’s, 1869; Stowe & Orton, 1870; W. W. Cole’s, 1871-83; Great Transatlantic Allied Shows, 1879; Stickney’s Imperial Parisian Circus, 1880. 1877, he began riding and became a proficient bareback jockey. South America, 1886, with Dockrill’s; remained there until May 1896. Died at the home of his daughter, Morenci, MI."

Back to the search engines, I found this image, dated 1874 at the Library of Congress web site, sourcing information follows at end of this post.  This rendition would have been done about 3 years before Anson starting bareback riding, so, there is little chance it is Anson, but, how cool is this?

In one last search I went to the Lenawee County Family Researchers work, "Burial Records of Lenawee County, Michigan, Volume 1 : Seneca Township" to see if Anson's burial was noted, and sure enough, it was, in the Oak Grove Cemetery in Morenci.  I was rather surprised to see his parents buried in the same lot (#443).  I have no idea who the others buried in this lot are:

Yes, indeedy, some days my volunteer duties certainly provide some interesting little tidbits.  And, now, I must get back to finishing this book, almost there,    A*L*M*O*S*T!!

*  Sourcing information on the graphic:

Title: The two-horse act
Date Created/Published: c1874.
Medium: 1 print : lithograph, hand-colored.
Summary: Photograph shows a male bareback rider on two horses balancing his female partner on his right leg.
Reproduction Number: LC-DIG-pga-03752 (digital file from original print) LC-USZC4-13574 (color film copy transparency) LC-USZ62-1147 (b&w film copy neg.)
Rights Advisory: No known restrictions on publication.
Call Number: PGA - Gibson--Two-horse act (C size) [P&P]
Repository: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA
E4328 U.S. Copyright Office.
Title from item.


Lynne Carothers said...

OMG! What a fun memory jog. That picture reminded me of my efforts at "Roman Riding" while I attended Ivory Farms summer camp a million years ago. What a hoot! I was decent with the single horse but the tandem team ... well, I did keep trying. LOL.

Great sleuthing, Carol!

Joan said...

These side trips do delight us, wouldn't you say? As a child, I delighted to hear my grandfather's tales of when the circus came to town, but it wasn't until I got hooked on genealogy that the tales took on a whole new meaning. He lived near Baraboo WI and when the circuses wintered there---and the Ringlingly Bros. came from that area.I had a great time on a Baraboo-circus research tangent.
We are a strange lot, methinks.

Barbara Poole said...

Sure made for an interesting read. Do you think Anson fell, and then was brought back home to live with dau. until his death? And, the wife must be a circus performer too, ya think. Thanks for this.