In the November 1986 issue of the SGS Newsletter, Editor Donald Eff, at the behest of then SGS President Bob Cox, wrote a history of the Seeley Genealogical Society. As our organization approaches 40 years in existence, its important that we remember not only the history of our family, but the history of SGS.
All things have to be started somewhere, sometime, and someplace by someone, and the beginning of the SGS is herewith repeated.
The founder of SGS was one, Garner Osborn, a Methodist minister born Nov. 8, 1887 in Burr Oak, Iowa. Burr Oak is not big enough to be listed in present day road atlases, but is shown in Compton’s Encyclopedia, published in 1956 as having 250 inhabitants. Therefore the population in 1867 when Garner was born must have been very small. It is in Winneshiek County, in northeast Iowa, just south of the Minnesota-Iowa border. Garner was the son of William and Alice (Seelye) Osborn. He went to Morningside College in Sioux City, Iowa, became an ordained minister in 1912, and served many parishes in Iowa, amd came to Lyons, Colo. in 1954. He moved to Longmont, Colo. in 1972, died in 1976 at age 88 and is buried in the Foothills Garden of Memory.
He had spent 15 years gathering Seeley family records, and started the Seeley Newsletter at the suggestion of Mrs. Arthur Hellyer of Boise, Idaho. His interrest in genealogy included studying the formation of family organizations such as his related Merwin and Tidwell Family Associations.
Initially, and most importantly, he found that there had to be a need for such an organization. This is often evident when someone gets the idea and writes a family history. But then, as so often happens, he or she dies, the heirs put the work in the attic where dust, rust and neglect finely destroy it. And, as our present English genealogist (Allen Phipps) has remarked, a family association is only as strong as its leader. Translated: that indicates a family association founder not only must have an intense and enduring interest, some knowledge of what all is/entailed with genealogy, consideration of others, and hopefully a good enough physical condition to endure for several years.
The first thing Garner decided was that the President and Vice President (at least in the beginning) should be, if at all possible, named Seeley. Certainly that would be helpful! Also that there was a place for the women of the Seeleys. In fact, women were instrumental in getting SGS off the ground. The men may furnish the name, but the women often provide the needed impetus. So we learn that such was the case with the preparation and mailing of the newsletters. Women did the typing, the preparation, and the mailing. We also learn that costs were originally on a contribution basis. Such things as regular dues and a research fund come in good time, and when appropriate. There were no elected officers as such in the beginning, and Garner is shown only as the Interim Editor. However, by the second issue he had appointed Preston Seelye as temporary treasurer. By December of 1966, Garner who is now nearing 79 years of age, has determined that SGS was already becoming a burden on his health and interest. So he felt fortunate in receiving the cooperation of Leela Seely Anderson who agreed to serve as “editor pro-tem.” She was an English teacher from the San Bernardino Valley College in California. Also, by this time, Marion Seelye of Abilene, Kansas was acting as secretary. In the fall of 1968 we find that the new “editor pro-tem,” who had published two issues of the newsletter, left for Europe on a mission for the Church of the Latter Day Saints, so Garner, who by now is residing in Longmont, Colo. is back on duty, replacing his replacement. However, he now has Charles Martin of Charles City, Iowa as Custodian of Seeley information and records and Esther (Hogg) Houtz of Boulder, Colo. first as a contributing editor and then as director of publications, but now living in Allenspark, Colo.
In the spring of 1968, SGS had its first president: Lloyd Seeley of Klammath Falls, Oregon. Now with a more permanent slate of officers and a growing membership, SGS was taking its second progressive step. By the fall of 1970, Wallace Errol Seely of New Brunswick was the genealogist for the descendants of Obadiah Seeley and Douglas Stuart Seeley of Glastonbury, Conn. for descendants of Nathanial Seeley [sic]. By January of 1971 things had undergone another change. Garner was now in Kearney, Neb. and SGS President Lloyd Seeley had resigned. DeLoss Seely of Tacoma, Wash. had accepted the vacated position of President. In the fall of 1971, Garner, due to failing health, was forced to retire from all activity and so turned over all Seeley records to Esther Houtz. DeLoss in early 1972, organized the previously issued newsletters, No. 1 through No. 16 into booklet form, printed and sold them for $1.50. Garner, the founder and backbone of this Seeley Association died June 5, 1976, following by 11 months the demise of his wife.
A change in the format of the newsletter was begun in the fall of 1976. This was for economic reasons as well as easier preparation. In 1977, Douglas Seelye of Glastonbury, Conn., the genealogist for descendants of Nathanial Seeley, and an active officer as well as compiler of the Seeley Coat of Arms which was published in newsletter #21 (Aug. 1974) died at age 81. The year 1977 marked the publication of The Descendants of Robert Seeley covering the first five generations as compiled by Esther Houtz. Membership was growing by leaps and bounds due largely to then Secretary Hank Seeley, who was then of White Bear Lake, Minn., but now of Lawrence, Kans. Hank instituted and paid for printing and distribution of a form letter available through members, libraries and genealogical societies, which resulted in great interest in membership. Plans were being made to hold the First All-Family Seeley Reunion somewhere in Colorado in 1980.
But the “winds of change” were not all favorable. A big setback occurred in August 1979 when Esther’s husband Jack V. Houtz died during emergency surgery following a sudden heart attack. But life goes on, and so has SGS. Esther, helped by Sherrie Moss continued on with plans and the First All-Family Seeley Reunion was held August 16, 1980 at the Independent Order of Odd Fellows Hall in Lyons, Colo. Some 83 Seeley descendants from 18 states were in attendance. Two new officers were elected: Donald Eff of Boulder, Colo. as president and Robert Seeley Johnson of Chicago, Ill. as Vice President. At that business meeting it was voted that there should be annual dues, and that terms of officers would be for three years with a Triennial Reunion held to mark the expiration of their terms, as well as to elect new officers.
In 1982 a list of members, their addresses and lineage was published. Also reported were the findings of Allen Phipps on the English ancestry of Robert Seeley. Here in the U.S., closer to home Marion Seelye of Abilene, Kans. and her sister Helen suffered a fire in their home, and shortly thereafter Marion tendered her resignation as secretary. SGS suffered another blow when on Aug. 18, the home of Esther and her new husband Otto Walter of Allenspark, Colo. was struck by lightning and badly burned. The enclosed front porch, the adjoining living room, a corner bedroom, den and closet where Seeley records were kept, as well as Esther’s genealogy and correspopndence, suffered and a few items were completely destroyed.
In August 1983, the Second Seeley Reunion was held in Denver at the Greenwood Heritage Inn with the help of Vernone (Mrs. Douglas) Cox. Robert Cox of Rives Junction, Michigan was elected president. His wife, Marianne is president of the Michigan Genealogical Council. So now SGS with its problems in the past is on its way to greater things.