“At the 1916 Oregon State Fair, under the sponsorship of the Oregon Congress of Mothers, “a free kindergarten will be maintained in the old pavilion, where children of fair visitors will be cared for. Miss Nellie Casebere, of Salem, will superintend this department.” (The Morning Oregonian, Monday, September 25, 1916)
Nellie Christina Casebere was born in March 1887. Her parents, Edwin G. and Mary E (Frickey) Casebere were residents of Salem, Oregon and Nellie was their second child. Nellie’s father, Edwin was the superintendent of the farm at the state asylum for three years prior to his rather sudden death in 1892 from a “hemorrhage of the bowels” . Nellie’s mother Mary was left to provide for her 3 children : son Cordes Arthur (1885- ), and two daughters, Nellie Christina (1887-1942), and Freda Ethel (1890-1944) with the help of her extended family: Christian & Christina Frickey (grandparents), Frank Frickey (uncle) and Minnie (aunt and appointed guardian-ad-litem of the minor children on 10 July 1893 under the terms of Edwin’s will).
Nellie graduated from Salem High School in 1907 and attended Willamette University until leaving for the East Coast in 1912 for further training at the Lucy Webb Hayes National Training School for Deaconesses and Missionaries in Washington D.C. She was accompanied by her Aunt Minnie Frickey. For two years, she worked and trained as an Assistant Kindergarten Teacher.
In 1914 Nellie returned to Salem and can be found living with her mother Mary and sister Ethel according to city directories of that time. By 1916, the two sisters have established the Casebere Standard Kindergarten in their home at 388 Winter St. as documented by this article from the Daily Capital Journal, June 17, 1916.
“About one hundred proud parents and friends attended the lawn fete given by the little tots of the Misses Ethel and Nellie Casebere’s kindergarten, at their residence on Winter street, Wednesday morning.
The affair which closed the school season for the little ones was interesting and artistic to a degree. The grounds were prepared for the festivities and were adorned with huge baskets of red roses, from which festoons of graceful Rambler roses formed a semi-circle enclosure and background for the dainty little participants.
Numbers that completed the artistry of their charming little programme were the spring songs, and the especially quaint dance “Lads and Lassies of Long Ago.”
During the morning, the guests assembled in the house, where an interesting and remarkable exhibition of the year’s work was displayed.
Assisting the Misses Casebere were Miss Eva Hogue, pianist, and Miss C. Jory.
Those little ones taking part were: Virginia Berger, Billy Cupper, Helen Darby, Maxine Glover, Eldon Jory, Frances Harlan, Rutheta Hoffnell, Nancy Hunt, Edith May Jenks, Elizabeth Lewis, Norma Lorendine, Doro McCracken, Catherine Taylor, Richard UpJohn, Frederick Choat, Robert Choat, Jene Wilson, Richard Wilson, Eloise White, Gordon Bennett.”
In 1919 Nellie made the move to Portland after accepting a position at the Williams School (7439 N Charleston Ave) in the St. Johns neighborhood of North Portland. Her mother Mary and sister Ethel moved to Portland with her, setting up residence first at 680 E. Harrison St. and later at 1285 Ave. The Portland School District and its Free Kindergarten Association were recognized as West Coast leaders in the movement to integrate kindergarten into the public schools. Nellie quickly became a highly recognized kindergarten authority, often called upon to give speeches , write articles , prepare demonstrations , train fellow teachers and parents and represent the state of Oregon on the West Coast level as the Oregon state secretary to the Kindergarten Primary Council of the West and on a national level as one of Oregon’s delegates of the International Kindergarten Union.
After the death of their mother Mary in 1927, the sisters moved to 280 Omaha Ave. in Portland and Nellie accepted a position as the director of the kindergarten program at the Holladay Demonstration School (East Ninth and Clackamas Streets) , an institution used to train teachers. She continued her work furthering kindergarten education on the statewide and national level until her death on November 9, 1942. She is buried in River View Cemetery in Portland, Oregon.