David Seely


Gender: Male

Date of Birth: October 12, 1819

Date of Death: May 24, 1892

Birth Place: Whitby, Ontario

Death Place: San Bernardino, CA

David Seely

Pioneer David Seely, one of the vice-presidents of the Pioneer society of San Bernardino, was born Oct. 12, 1819, in the township of Whitby, Ontario, Canada, one mile from Port Whitby. Up to his eighteenth year he was reared on a farm, making occasional trips with his father, who was the owner of three sailing vessels. At the breaking out of the Patriot war in Canada in 1837 his father being known as a sympathizer with the Patriot, or Reform party, the Canadian authorities, fearing that he might convey McKenzie, the Patriot leader, across the lake to the United States, dismantled one of his vessels. This action caused him to remove to the far west. He settled in Iowa, then a Territory, near Burlington. From there he removed to Nashville, Lee county, Iowa Territory. About this time David built two 100-ton lighters, to be used in taking the freight from steamers and conveying it over the Des Moines rapids. He continued as a pilot for three years. In July, 1846, he started for California and wintered near Council Bluffs, at a place called Seely Grove. In the following spring he started for Salt Lake City, which he reached in September of the same year. Here he remained until November 1849, when he left with Pomeroy’s train by the southern route for California for the purpose of mining. On the way the company picked up nine men, who formed a part of the Death Valley company, and who were starving and barefooted. The Piute Indians were very troublesome and drove out many cattle belonging to the company, and upon arriving at the Muddy, a small stream emptying into the Rio Virgin, Pomeroy destroyed nineteen freight wagons. He reached San Bernardino in the month of February, 1850, where he remained two months.

From here he went to Los Angeles where he sold out his effects and engaged passage on a brig bound for San Francisco. He then left for Coloma, where he arrived April 6, and engaged in a gold mining company with his brother and brother-in-law and was reasonably successful.

On August 1st, 1850, he started for home in company with others, by way of the Humboldt arriving in Salt Lake City in September. After wintering here he led a company of fifty wagons to California starting in March and arriving at the mouth of the Cajon pass on June 11, 1851, where the company remained camped at what is now known as Sycamore Grove until September.

Other companies followed and joined them. The rancho of San Bernardino was purchased by Messrs. Amasa Lyman and Charles C. Rich from the Lugos and the Yucaipa rancho from Diego Sepulveda. Afterwards possession was taken, and they then commenced settlement of the San Bernardino valley.

The Indians being on the war-path, a fort was constructed during the winter to afford protection to the colonists.

During the first two years Mr. Seely was engaged in farming and was also a merchant. In the meantime a road was constructed up to the tops of our mountains, and, in company with his brother, Mr. Seely built a small sawmill at the place now known as Seely’s Flat.

On April 26, 1853, the legislature of the state created the county of San Bernardino from Los Angeles county, and in the same act appointed David Seely, H. G. Sherwood, Isaac Williams and John Brown a commission to designate election precincts, appoint inspectors, receive returns and to issue certificates of election. This first election was regularly held under said act of the legislature, and the following gentlemen were elected to serve as the first officers of the new county of San Bernardino. County judge, D. N. Thomas; county attorney, Ellis Ames; county clerk, Richard R. Hopkins; sheriff, Robert Clift; treasurer, David Seely; assessor, William Stout; surveyor, H. G. Sherwood; justices of the peace, John Brown and Andrew Lytle.

At the next election Mr. Seely was again chosen to take care of the county treasury, showing the confidence already acquired by him among the early settlers. Since then he has been elected supervisor of the county several times, and was always a strong advocate of progress. In the construction of the old court house he took an active part, and met and overcame much opposition then manifested against what was then considered an extravagant enterprise. He was the leading spirit in the creation of the pavilion in the city park, where the people in large numbers can assemble for the public good and where the products and industries of our grand county can be exhibited. He maintained his interest for the public welfare until the last, as shown by his recent letter to the Pioneer society, advocating the free public road to our mountains. For several years he passed some of his time on the farm at Highland, devoting his attention to the culture of citrus and deciduous fruits, but he has continued to reside at his comfortable home on the corner of C and Sixth streets, since his entrance into this valley in 1851, a period of forty years.

During all of this time he has been a staunch and true friend of the county of San Bernardino, and has taken an active part in its development and progress. Being one of the founders, he maintained from the beginning an unwavering devotion to the best interests of the county. It was his good fortune to outlive all the commissioners and all the first officers of the county, with the single exception of Vice-President John Brown Sr., who was present at Pioneer Seely’s funeral, and has thus been a witness to the wonderful development that has taken place within the boundaries of the county in which he took so active and important a part.

Of late years Mr. Seely’s health has gradually failed, and with a view to improve the same, if possible, he took a trip about a year since with his wife to Illinois and Iowa to visit the scenes of his childhood and to renew the friendships of his boyhood days. But his health was not improved as hoped for, and for a year past he has been confined to his home hardly able to venture out among the busy scenes of life as he very much desired. In his sick room his friends were always welcome and received with heartfelt cordiality. He realized the result of the fatal disease afflicting him and arranged all of his worldly affairs with due consideration and before it was too late, and looked forward with Christian faith to the world beyond, bringing with him a long and useful life as a passport.

On Tuesday, May 24, 1892, at 10:30 o’clock a.m., at his home surrounded by his family, he breathed his last. On Thursday at 2 p.m. His remains were tenderly laid away in the family burying ground in the old cemetery. Rev. G. W. white, of the Methodist Episcopal church and the Pioneer society officiated in the last sad ceremonies. There has passed away one of San Bernardino’s oldest pioneers; one of the landmarks or pillars of San Bernardino county, respected and honored by all, particularly by those who knew him the longest—who learned to appreciate the durability of his good qualities. A firm and true friend in adversity, a kind husband, an indulgent and loving father, honest and upright in all his dealings with his fellow-men, forgiving as he would wish to be forgiven—he lived a Christian life and was prepared to receive its reward.

He leaves a widow—Mrs. Mary Seely—and four daughters—Mrs. Mary A. McDonald, Mrs. Emily E. Baker, Mrs. Caroline McFarlane and Mrs. Maria Isabella Corbett—and two sons—David Randolph Seely and Walter Edwin Seely—to mourn his loss, and who in common with a large circle of true friends, will love to preserve and to cherish the good name of Pioneer David Seely.

Originally published in a San Bernardino newspaper, dated 28 May 1892, and then reprinted in the Mt. Pleasant [Utah] Pyramid in August of that year.]

[He is SGS # 2339 – David (#2339); Justus Azel (# 836); Justus William; Joseph; John; Benjamin; Nathaniel, Robert]