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Joseph Seelye


Gender: Male

Date of Birth: September 26, 1857

Birth Place: Mason County, IL

The claim of Joseph Seelye, of Manito, upon the good will and consideration of his fellow-citizens in Mason County rests not alone upon the fact that he belongs to one of the old and honored families of this region which has contributed leading men to every line of activity, but because of his own successful and honorable career in business, his public-spiritedness and his contributions to the causes of morality, education and good citizenship. After about forty years spent in the hardware trade as a merchant he has retired from active business life, but is rounding out a career of exceptional public service in the capacity of police magistrate.

Mr. Seelye was born September 26, 1857, in Mason County, Illinois, and is a son of Bartholomew and Sarah (Sherer) Seelye. Jonathan Seelye, the paternal grandfather of Joseph Seelye, was the head of the family party which came over land from Ohio to Illinois in 1833, settling on land which he had entered from the government in Topeka Township, Mason County, where he built his log cabin and cleared and cultivated a farm. Unlike many of the early settlers, at the time of his arrival he was possessed of a few thousand dollars, considered a fortune in that day and locality, and thus did not have to suffer the hardships that fell to the lot of the majority who located in this region with little to assist them save their splendid determination and industry. The grandfather was a man who always liked to be close to Nature, and as the community offered plenty of good fishing and as deer and other game were to be found in the near vicinity, he was perfectly satisfied with his new surroundings. However, he was by no means an indolent man, but worked industriously when not engaged in hunting or fishing, and became one of the substantial and influential figures of his locality. He brought up his children to God-fearing ways, saw them marry and take homes of their own, and died rich in years and contentment, being buried on the old home place. At his side lies his faithful and worthy wife, a Pennsylvania Dutch woman, whom he married in Ohio. They were parents of: Abner, Jonathan, Douglas, Julius, Bartholomew, Rilly, who married twice, Emily who was married twice and died at Havana, Illinois, and another daughter.

Bartholomew Seelye was born in Ohio, January 25, 1828, and was a lad of five years when he accompanied the family to the new home in Illinois. He assisted in clearing the home farm in Topeka Township, which is now known as the John Williams farm, and grew up amid somewhat primitive conditions, so that his educational advantages were limited to his ability to write and read after a fashion. He was further handicapped by an accident in childhood, which made him a cripple, and when he tried to join the Union cavalry during the Civil war he was rejected on this account. Accordingly, he gave his life to the farm. After his marriage in Mason County he spent a brief period in Fulton County, where he entered a tract of land near Liverpool, but this he sold soon after and returned to Mason County, where he finished his like in Manito Township. Aside from his farming activities Mr. Seelye was a well-digger, and many of the early wells of Mason County were excavated by him. To add to his income he also many excellent axe-handles, and for both pleasure and profit engaged at times in trapping for fur. He was a republican in politics, but held no office nor had he any connection with any religious organization, although he was an attendant of church services. In Mason County Bartholomew Seelye married Miss Sarah Sherer, who was born in Menard County, Illinois. Her father had left home on an errand one day and never returned to his family, leaving his widow with four daughters: Polly Ann who married William Trent: Catherine, who married Lew Pemberton; Agnes, who married George Sainert, and Sarah, who became Mrs. Seelye. The mother of these daughters married Joseph Tibbs for her second husband and bore him three sons: Thomas, John and George. The children born to Bartholomew and Sarah Seelye were as follows: William Lindley, of Denton, Texas; Joseph of this review; Commodore Perry, of Ennis, Texas; Jonathan, of Manito, Illinois; Milton, a farmer of Springlake, Tazewell County, Illinois; Robert, deceased, who had two children, a son who entered the World war and has not been hear from since, and a daughter, Marietta, the wife of Edward Schapaugh, of Topeka, Illinois, and Charley, of San Jose, Illinois.

Joseph Seelye grew up in Mason County and was educated in the rural schools, remaining at the parental home until after he reached his majority. He began his independent career at the age of twenty-one years in this capacity, then leaving the farm and purchasing a tin shop. Subsequently he embarked in the hardware business, and with native ability and good management built up a prosperous enterprise, following this line of merchandising for about forty years and accumulating a gratifying competence. While Mr. Seelye has retired from active participation in affairs the business still continues, being at this time conducted by his sons. While ostensibly a merchant, Mr. Seelye was born with the love of land ingrained in him, and has never been able wholly to divorce himself from farming interests. He has been an active figure in public life, and was on the Manito Council for several years before he was elected president of the board and became mayor of the village. A progressive man of enlightened views, during his administration he recognized the need for brick sidewalks, and overcoming the opposition that was raised at first, laid the first walks of this kind in the village, at the corner of the Heckman store, near the Peoples State Bank. As the new improvement demonstrated its worth all opposition was swept away and within several years many block of this style of sidewalk were to be found. At the present time Mr. Seelye is serving his first term as police magistrate of Manito. He is a republican in his political views and cast his maiden presidential vote for James A. Garfield, having attended every national election since. Although a religious man, he belongs to no church, and fraternally is affiliated with the Masons and the Modern Woodmen of America.

At Manito, Illinois, October 19, 1884, Mr. Seelye was united in marriage with Miss Nellie Meigs, daughter of Rev. John B. and Zelinda Jane (Stevens) Meigs. John B. Meigs was born in Menard County, Illinois, and was a man of remarkable mentality. He was ordained a minister of the Baptist Church when he was twenty-one years of age, and at the same time received his degree of Doctor of Medicine from Rush Medical College, Chicago. During the Civil was he spent a few months in the Union army. For years he preached the Gospel in various localities, practices medicine with much success, and, as a strong temperance man, lectured frequently on the subject and was active in the promotion of the prohibition movement. His fraternal connection was with the Masons. Doctor Meigs died November 26, 1917, aged eighty-four years, and his wife, July 24, 1923, aged eighty-five years. Their children were as follows: John of Pekin, Illinois; Abner, of Manito, Illinois; Nellie and Fannie, twins, the former now Mrs. Joseph Seelye, and the latter the wife of George Warner, of Newton, Iowa; Hosmer, of Pekin, Illinois; James, whose whereabouts are unknown, as he was last heard from in 1911, and Cornelia, the wife of John Haskin, of St. Augustine, Florida. To Mr. and Mrs. Seelye there were born the following children: Clarel, of New York City, engaged as a promoter in the motion picture business; Ernest, a bookkeeper in the Bank of San Jose, Illinois, who married Opal Gay and has two sons, Levert and Glen; James, a merchant of Manito, who married Hattie Himmel, a daughter of Will Himmel, and has two children, Frances and Marion; and John Arvel, and automobile dealer of Manito, who spent a short time at the S.A.T.C. Champaign, Illinois, during the World war, married Mamie Dwyer and has a daughter, Josephine. Ernest and James Seelye, of the above family, served as registrars for the soldiery of Manito during the World war, and both were on the rolls themselves and were classified but never called into the service. James is now a member of the Board of Aldermen of Manito and has served as clerk of Manito Township, a position formerly held by his father at one period of his life.

Page 306 – 308, “History of Illinois and Her People,” by Professor George W. Smith, Volume IV, The American Historical Society, Inc. publishers, Chicago and New York, 1927.

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