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John Ferguson Seeley


Gender: Male

Date of Birth: June 27, 1844

Birth Place: Ovid, Seneca County, NY

JOHN FERGUSON SEELEY. Banking has been the field to which Mr. Seeley has devoted the energies of his active career for thirty-six years, and it is not only as a practical executive and as president of the Commercial Savings Bank of Caro that he has prominent relations with his community, but is also a recognized authority on financial and currency matters, and was one of the prominent men who in recent months contributed to the discussions relative to the reform of banking systems, and his suggestions were approved by the Treasury department as to the form of currency issues under the direction of the national government.

John Ferguson Seeley was born in Ovid, Seneca county, New York, June 27, 1844, a son of Nathaniel and Elizabeth (Kinne) Seeley. His mother’s father was Captain Kinne, a veteran of the war of 1812. Mr. Seeley’s father was born in Saratoga, New York, and his mother in Ovid of the same state. A special talent in manufacturing, financial and business affairs have been characteristic of the Seeley family for several generations. His father was an expert in the manufacture of steel, and became prominent as the inventor of a peculiarly shaped axe, with a characteristic bulge that made it known and popular all over the timber countries of the United States. It was called the Seeley axe. The father manufactured this axe at a shop in Ovid for many years. His expert knowledge in the tempering of steel and the form of the axe blade, which made it especially useful for wood chopping, gave his output a prestige which continued all his life. Had he obtained a patent on his axe, the invention would have been worth a fortune, but as it was he contented himself with a fair degree of prosperity and contributed gratis an important improvement to the world of mechanics. He and his wife were active members of the Methodist church and prominent people in their community in New York. The father died in I888 at the good old age of eighty-seven, and the mother passed away in 1869 when sixty-seven years of age. On both sides the family is of English origin.

The only survivor of the nine children of his parents, John F. Seeley acquired his early training in the grade and high schools of Ovid and in the Seneca Collegiate Institute. Leaving home at the age of seventeen, he has from that time to the present been engaged in a varied experience which has led him from one stage of successful accomplishment to another, until he is one of the leading bankers of the state of Michigan. His first work was as cashier in the Erie Railroad Company’s office at Dunkirk, New York, and three years later he went to New York City and was made a clerk in the correspondence department of A. T. Stewart Dry Goods Company. He remained with that great commercial enterprise for a year and a half, and for a similar period was identified with other mercantile establishments of New York City. Returning home, he organized the co-partnership known as Seeley & Company, dealing in dry goods and similar wares, and for eleven years the company did a very prosperous business at Ovid. In the meantime Mr. Seeley had been seized with the western fever, and in response to the urgings of his desires in this line he sold out his interests in New York State, and 1878 moved to Caro, Michigan. The beginning of his present extended and important relations with Tuscola county was the opening of a private bank, employing his own savings as the chief resources of the institution, which was known as the Tuscola County Bank. For nearly twenty-six years Mr. Seeley conducted a successful banking and real estate business, and in 1904 organized the Commercial Savings Bank, of which he has since been the active head. He is also a stockholder in other banks in Tuscola county, owns extensive real estate holdings and is one of the leading farmers of Tuscola county. He has taken an interest in fruit growing, and during the past few years he has put out fourteen hundred fruit trees of various kinds on a well situated farm near Caro. His contributions to the welfare and improvement of Tuscola county has taken the form of land development. In the course of a period of years Mr. Seeley has invested more than twenty-five thousand dollars in raw lands in Tuscola county, and has cleared up and improved nearly all of his property to first class productive farms, which are now highly valuable, and which increase the permanent wealth and resources of Tuscola county. Since locating here it has been Mr. Seeley’s firm conviction that Tuscola county is a section whose prosperity will continue to increase as long as it remains the home of civilized men, and his judgment in that way has always been backed up by his varied investments. He is one of the largest dealers in real estate in the county.

In 1898 a gentleman from Germany called on Mr. Seeley and interested him in the beet sugar industry as carried on in Germany, and calling his attention to the fact that the United States was importing nearly $1oo.ooo,ooo worth of brown sugar made from beets grown in Germany and France each year, and refining same here. He convinced Mr. Seeley, after several audiences, that beets rich in sugar could be grown in northern Michigan and around Caro, Tuscola county. Mr. Seeley became so deeply interested in the subject that he caused a few other citizens of Caro to join him in endeavoring to persuade farmers in the vicinity to grow beets, and after months of hard work and endeavor about 3,ooo acres were contracted for as a beginning, conditioned upon a sugar plant being built at Caro. The enthusiasm of Mr. Seeley knew no bounds, and as a result a large sugar refining company was located at Caro in I899, the second plant in the state to produce granulated sugar from beets grown in the locality. This sugar plant has been enlarged several times until now it requires over 1o,ooo acres of beets to supply it and produces 25,ooo,ooo pounds of granulated sugar each year. All this was practically brought about by the untiring efforts of Mr. Seeley.

It has already been noted that Mr. Seeley has not confined his attention entirely to practical banking, but is a student of banking laws and currency problems. He is one of the original members of the Michigan State Bankers Association, of which he was an organizer, and has taken an active part in its affairs. On the subject of bank note currency, he addressed the American Bankers Association in 1912, and his plan of issuing paper money, if adapted, would save the government nine hundred thousand dollars in paper bills, and the life of currency would be a third longer than that now in use. His address, with this and various other suggestions, met the hearty approval of Mr. McVeagh, then secretary of the treasury, who thanked Mr. Seeley for his valuable suggestions and expressed the hope that they might be adapted in any plan of currency legislation which should pass through congress. Mr. Seeley was appointed by Governor Ferris as commissioner to assist in the passage of bills for the prohibition of the shipment of liquor into dry territory, and on this commission served as a delegate during December, 1912, at Washington, D. C. His ideas on currency problems received wide publicity in the metropolitan papers of the country, and a number of editorial paragraphs were written in approval of his plan. While an active Republican, Mr. Seeley has always preferred to exert his’ influence on public affairs through the medium of his private business and through bankers and other semi-public bodies, and has refused nomination from his party for the legislature, an honor which was equivalent to election. He is an elder in the Presbyterian church, of which his family are members. Naturally Mr. Seeley is a business man whose name is not only known and spoken with respect in his home county, but enjoys a wide acquaintance among men of prominence and influence throughout the United States.

In 1867 at Hamilton, Ontario, Mr. Seeley married Miss Mattie P. Grover, who was born in New York state, and graduated from the Wesleyan Female College of Hamilton, Ontario. Her death occurred in February, 1894, suddenly while visiting a daughter in Ann Arbor. She became the mother of four children, and the two now living are: Lewis G. Seeley, who graduated from the local high school and the University of Michigan and is now cashier in his father’s bank; Laura, who is the wife of Sabin Hooper, a banker at Boyne City, Michigan. In August, 1895 Mr. Seeley was married at Midland, Michigan, to Miss Emily Fuller, who was born in Saginaw. Her father, Rev. O. E. Fuller, was one of the first graduates from the University of Michigan, for many years served as a pastor of the Episcopal church, and is now deceased. His daughter, Mrs. Seeley, graduated from the Ypsilanti Normal school and became a teacher and for eight years taught in the public schools of Caro, later was advanced to the office of principal and then of superintendent, and concluded her term of service as an educator as a teacher in the girl’s high school of Brooklyn, New York. Mr. and Mrs. Seeley are the parents of three children: Clinton Fuller Seeley, Alice Seeley, and Barrett K. Seeley, students in the Caro high school.

Page 865-867. ” History of Michigan” Volume II, By Charles Moore, published by The Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago, 1915.

[Son of Nathaniel SGS # 1951 – John Ferguson, Nathaniel (SGS # 1951); Daniel, Hezekiah; Nathaniel; Nathaniel; Nathaniel; Nathaniel; Robert]

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