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John Smith Seely, Sr.


Gender: Male

Date of Birth: March 8, 1848

Birth Place: Huntington providence of Quebec

Another of the pioneers of Humboldt county, and one whom his fellow citizens hold in high esteem, is John Smith Seely, Sr., who has been a resident of Humboldt county since 1879, and who during these many years has proven himself to be a man of ability and splendid character. He was for many years engaged in dairying and farming, but within the past few years he has retired from active business pursuits, and is enjoying a well-earned rest in his pleasant home in Arcata.

Mr. Seely is a native of Canada, having been born near Huntington providence of Quebec, a place about five miles from the New York state boundary line, on March 8, 1848. His father was Hiram Seely, also a native of the providence, while the grandfather, John Seely, was born in England and settled in the province of Quebec, where he was a farmer. The father was also a successful and prosperous farmer of that section. He had retired from business a few years previous to his death, which occurred in 1888. The mother was Elizabeth (Smith) Seely, also a native of the province of Quebec, where she died in 1867. The childhood of the present respected citizen of Arcata was spent on the farm, working with his father, when he was not attending school. After completing the grammar school he entered a local academy, but soon gave up his course there to return to the farm, preferring the farm work to school life.

It was in October 1869, that Mr. Seely determined to come to California, and that same month he arrived in Sonoma county, where he had relatives living. He crossed the continent on one of the first transcontinental trains. He remained in Sonoma county for several months, and in February 1870, came to Arcata, Humboldt county, where he has since made his home. Here he at first went to work for wages, by the month, continuing for a year. During that time he had saved a little money and the next year he planted ten acres of potatoes on shares. When the crop was harvested Mr. Seely found that he was out two hundred dollars and two years’ work, what he had saved the first year having been lost in the unsuccessful venture in potatoes. He was not disheartened, however, and the following year, 1872, he rented a ranch from his cousin and engaged in farming for himself. Here he met with merited success, and in 1876 he purchased his home place of forty acres, and has continued to farm this property since. In the beginning the raising of potatoes was his chief industry, and he found the crop a very profitable one. In 1877, with a brother-in-law, he purchased a ranch of one hundred acres, and for the next two years he operated both these properties with much success. In 1879 they divided the one hundred acre ranch and dissolved the partnership.

It was in 1885 that Mr. Seely started in the dairying business, making his first venture on a small scale. The price of butter went very low soon after this, at one time reaching the small price of eleven cents per pound; later the price increased, but by so small a margin that there was no profit in the business at that time, and Mr. Seely sold his stock and engaged in general farming. Recently he has retired from active business, having leased his property, and now resides in Arcata, where he owns a comfortable home.

When Mr. Seely first came to Humboldt county the land lying between Arcata and the river was a brush, timber and marsh land, but it has since been reclaimed and is now rich bottom land. Many other changes have also taken place in the surrounding country during the long years of his residence in the county.

Asides from leasing his farm property, Mr. Seely also has an interest in the general merchandise store of Seely & Titlow Company in Arcata. He is a Republican, and has always taken an active part in political affairs, and especially when the welfare of the city is involved. He is progressive and broad-minded, and an independent thinker. He is a member of several fraternal organizations, being a charter member of the local Knights of Pythias, and a member of Anniversary Lodge No. 85, I.O.O.F.

The marriage of Mr. Seely occurred in Arcata, February 14, 1874, uniting him with Miss Laura Virginia Deuel, a native of California, born in the mining camp at Virginia Mills, near Oroville, Butte county. She is the daughter of Edmund P. and Margaret Deuel, pioneers of California, who came to Trinidad, Humboldt county, when she was eighteen months old. Here she received her education in the public schools. Mrs. Seely has borne her husband five children, four sturdy sons and one daughter. They were all born at Arcata, and have grown to manhood and womanhood there, receiving their education in the public schools. They are: Henry Stanley and Frank Hazelton, merchants in Arcata; Charles Hiram, shingle manufacturer in this vicinity; John Smith, Jr., clothier in Eureka; and Virginia May, at home.

Mr. and Mrs. Seely are well known in Arcata, where they have many friends and acquaintances, and are highly esteemed by all who know them.

Pages 468-470 History of Humboldt County, California with Biographical Sketches, History by Leigh H. Irving, published by Historic Record Company, Los Angeles, California 1915

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