George B. Seeley

Personal

Gender: Male

Date of Birth: June 8, 1829

Birth Place: Madrid, St. Lawrence County, NY

The End of a Seely Line
Story by Terry Tietjens and Ann Seela Hall

The renowned patent medicine vendor, Dr. A. B. Seelye and his family have long been recognized as residing in Abilene; however it has been found there was also another notable Seeley family member in Abilene history. During research in preparation for the re-creation of Old Town Abilene, Kan., George B. Seely was discovered to have operated a mercantile store in old Abilene during the years leading up to 1880. An advertisement appearing in the February 25, 1870 Abilene newspaper under Dry Goods, &c. (sic) reads:

“G. B. Seely, Wholesale and Retail Dealer in Dry Goods,
Staple & Fancy Groceries,
Clothing, Gents’ Furnishing Goods, Boots,
Shoes, Hats, Caps, Fine Cut Smoking & Plug Tobaccos, Cigars,
Tinware, Hardware, Table and Pocket Cutlery, &c.,&c., &c.,
North West Corner of C and First Sts.,Abilene, Kans.”

One of the buildings being restored for the Old Town Abilene exhibit will be the mercantile store that George B. Seely operated from before 1870 to about 1879 while resident in Abilene, Kan.

Records indicate that George B. Seely had been born in Madrid, St. Lawrence County, N.Y., on June 8, 1829. He was the son of Bishop Seely, SGS # 3052, and Betsy Brush. Bishop Seely was the son of Stephen Bishop Seeley SGS# 1323, a seventh generation descendant of Obadiah Seeley. In about 1835, George Seely moved to Illinois with his family. In Sangamon County, Ill., on April 26, 1850, he married Mary L. Childs, who had been born in Potsdam, Madrid County, N.Y., in August 1832; and had likewise moved to Illinois with her family.

In late 1879, George and Mary Seely apparently decided to leave Abilene to join the “gold rush” pioneers moving to Colorado. A young woman named Ella B. Bower, who was born in about 1848 in Ohio, accompanied them. It appears that Miss Bower had never married and may have been a clerk in Mr. Seely’s store in Abilene. In the 1885 Colorado State Census for Alma, Park County, Colo., these three appear in the same household, and Miss Bower is shown as a boarder. George and Mary Seely initially purchased land for a home in Alma in May of 1880; and, since only Mary Seely and Ella Bower were recorded as living there in the 1880 Federal Census, it is likely that George Seely spent the summer of 1880 trying his hand at “placer” gold mining in the gold fields near Alma. In October of 1880 George and Mary sold the land they had purchased and bought a lot on the corner of Buckskin and Main streets, the principal intersection in Alma. At that time, Alma was a bustling gold mining town, located at 10,500-feet elevation, and having about 2,000 occupants, mostly miners and those supporting work in the gold fields. Alma today has a population of about 400, and is the highest incorporated town in the United States.

George built a store and home on the corner of Buckskin and Main streets and opened the Seely Mercantile in 1881. He operated the business with the help of his wife Mary and the boarder, Ella, until about 1887, when he apparently sold half interest to a James L. Welch. Land records indicate that at this time he may have become an investor in an on-going gold mining company involved in “sluice mining,” the newly evolved method for recovering gold from lower yield ore deposits. He sold his gold mining interests in April of 1901, just four months before his death.

In the 1900 Federal Census, George and Mary show as still residing in Alma, Park County, Colo. Ella B. Bower still shows as being a member of the household, except in this census she is shown as an adopted daughter. No record has been located of such an adoption; however, in the heirship judgment for George B. Seely, she is judged to be an heir, which lends credibility to such an adoption, even though the judgment never specifically refers to her as an adopted child. There is no recorded evidence of George and Mary ever having any natural children. On July 21, 1901, George B. Seely died. The Park County Bulletin of July 26, 1901 reported that “he died at his home at 7:10 pm of heart failure. Two days previously he had collapsed while sawing wood near his residence, and never recovered.” The newspaper reported that his wife, Mary L. Childs, survived him, but that there were no other known survivors. George was buried in the Buckskin Cemetery near Alma.

On Dec. 19, 1909, Mary L. Seely died. The Park County Bulletin dated Dec. 24, 1909, reported that “Mary had been an invalid for several years and her death was not a great surprise as she had been failing for several weeks and had recently suffered from a hemorrhage from her nose and had failed rapidly thereafter.” Mary was buried next to her husband in Buckskin Cemetery. A large headstone now is in place identifying the burial place of George and Mary Seely. Of note, there are two apparent errors on the headstone: The birth year of George is shown as 1830, when in fact he was born in 1829; and the death year of Mary shows her year of death as 1910, when in fact she died Dec. 19, 1909. It could not be determined who had placed the headstone or when it had been placed with these errors. The error in Mary’s death year might have been partially a result of the practice at that time of not burying the dead during the depths of winter, but rather holding them in a frozen state until the ground softened in the spring, which would then have been in the year of 1910.

Prior to Mary Seely’s death, she had transferred her half-ownership in the land and store, which she had inherited upon George’s death, to Miss Ella B. Bower, who still resided with her. At an heirship hearing before the local court, the judge decreed that Ella Bower was the rightful owner by heirship of the half-interest in the land and store in Alma. In May of 1910, six months after Mary’s death in December of 1909, Ella Bower left Alma and moved to Sangamon County, Ill. Miss Bower’s death has not been determined; however in April of 1915 she executed a small land transfer in Alma while she was a resident in Sangamon County, Ill.; and in August of 1916 she sold her inherited half-interest in the land and store in Alma to Susie B. Bradley, a Sangamon County resident. Ella Bower could not be located in the 1920 Federal Census so it is likely that she died in Illinois between 1916 and 1920, ending the story of this line of the Seeley families. In January 1918, Susie Bradley and her husband Stephen sold the land and store to an Alma resident, possibly signaling Ella Bower’s death.

SOURCE RECORDS:
1. Land Records, Park County, Colorado, 1880 to 1916.
2. Microfilm copies of the Park County Bulletin and the Fairplay Flume, weekly newspapers from 1880 to 1910.
3. Colorado State Business Directory for 1881.
4. Colorado State Gazetteer for 1884-85.
5. Federal Census Records for the years 1880, 1900, 1910, 1920 and 1930.
6. Miscellaneous Records, Park County, Colorado, Book 75, pages 319 & 320.
7. Colorado State Census for 1885

Seeley Genealogical Society Newsletter, August 2004, page 9 & 11, by Terry Tietjens and Ann Seela Hall.

[George B. Seeley is son of Bishop Seeley SGS # 3052 – Bishop; Stephen Bishop; John; John S; Obadiah; Obadiah; Obadiah]