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Morries E. Seeley


Gender: Male

Date of Birth: May 3, 1840

Birth Place: Medina County, OH

MORRIS E. SEELEY. During the past several years Morris E. Seeley has been a member of the retired colony of Reedsburg, where he owns a pleasant home and devotes himself to its oversight and improvement. He is still active and possessed of sound faculties, although more than seventy-seven years have unrolled their length since his birth, May 3, 1840, and he takes a keen and active interest in the world’s work going on about him, although to younger shoulders has he transferred the labors that were his for so many years. His memories are culled from experiences as pioneer, hunter, carpenter, general mechanic and soldier, and particularly are rich in incidents relating to the very early history of Sauk County.

Morris E. Seeley was born in Medina County, Ohio, a son of Austin and Mary (Kent) Seeley and a grandson of Levi and Mary (Webster) Seeley. The grandfather, who fought as a soldier during the War of 1812, came to Reedsburg about the year 1850, and here passed away, as did also his wife. They were the parents of a large family of children, and of these three still survive: Sarah, who is a resident of North Freedom; Milo, who fought in the Civil war as a captain in the Fourth Wisconsin Cavalry, and is now a resident of North Freedom; and Levi, who was also a soldier during the war between the North and the South, and who is now a resident of Bingham, North Dakota. Austin Seeley was born in 1820, in Medina County, Ohio, and was there married to Mary Kent, also a native of that county, who was born in 1822. In 1845 they left Ohio, where Mr. Seeley had at one time been a manufacturer of funs and came to Wisconsin, first locating at Geneva and later removing to Delavan, Walworth County, where Mr. Seeley was engaged in business as a manufacturer of coffins. In 1848 the family came to Reedsburg, which continued to be its home during the lifetime of the parents, both of whom passed away here. Mr. Seeley was variously employed at this place, although the greater part of his attention was devoted to the cultivation of his farm, a tract of eighty acres of good land lying 1 ½ miles from Reedsburg, which is now worth in the neighborhood of $20,000. He was one of the substantial and highly respected citizens of his community, and at various times was called upon to represent his fellow-citizens in positions of public trust, at one time being chairman of the board of supervisors during the early days when such officials were called upon to work out their own problems, with few precepts to guide them. From the formation of the republican party until his death Mr. Seeley was a supporter of the principles of the grand old party. Mrs. Seeley was at first a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church, but in later life transferred her membership to the Congregational faith. There were three children in the family, as follows: Morris E., of this review; Caroline, who is now Mrs. Markle and resides at Reedsburg; and Ada, who is the wife of Robert Tate, of Lavalle, Wisconsin.

Morris E. Seeley was five years of age when he accompanied his parents from his Ohio birthplace to the new country of Wisconsin, and but three years older when he arrived at Reedsburg, then a little settlement boasting of five log shanties, which gave but small indications of developing into a thriving mercantile center, with modern schools, churches and civic improvements and a population of prosperous, industrious and energetic people. Beside himself there were but two white boys in the little community, and in search of playmates the youth often chose as his boyhood friends the Indian youths of the locality, there being many red men still having their camps in Sauk County in the vicinity of Reedsburg. It was but natural that he should learn a smattering of the tongue spoken by his playmates, and he still remembers many Indian words. From his father Mr. Seeley inherited a natural love and predilection for mechanics. When not attending the rude and primitive schools of the country or assisting his father on the home farm, he could usually be found tinkering with some piece of mechanism, often preferring this than to join the other lads of the neighborhood in play. Thus it was that he developed his inherent genius in this direction, and throughout his life he has been identified with one or another of the skilled trades. Game was still plentiful in Sauk County, when he came and for many years after, and Mr. Seeley gained something more than a merely local reputation as a huntsman and fisherman. He also had a touch of frontier life, making a trip to South Dakota, where he resided on a claim for a time, and his youthful experiences were such as many men do not enjoy in an entire lifetime. Thus he grew to strong and sturdy manhood, just the king of material necessary for the country’s needs when the great issue between the North and the South had to be decided by force of arms. In 1861, with the war only several months old, he enlisted in Company B, Twelfth Regiment, Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry, with which he served until the close of the struggle, after Appomattox. The Twelfth Regiment took part in numerous notable engagements, including those of the Atlanta campaign, and had the record for marching of any regiment in the Union army. For three years Mr. Seeley played as a member of the regimental band, but also took an active part in the fighting, and because of bravery and fidelity was advanced in rank to corporal of his company. When he received his honorable discharge he returned to Reedsburg and again took up mechanical work, principally engaging in carpentry, although he also did a nice business in repairing guns, lawnmowers, etc., in his well known little shop, a historic landmark of Reedsburg, which was originally the first schoolhouse of this city. Upon his retirement he settled down to a life of comfort in his neat and attractive home at No. 222 North Walnut Street. Mr. Seeley may be said to be something more than a mechanic; in his way he is an artist, as will be evidenced by a number of fine pieces of furniture of his manufacture which are to be found in his home and which are composed of sumac. He is a fine worker in and carver of wood, in fact can still make anything than can be composed of wood, and several fine pieces of work in his home are a large hall clock and a violin. All the best turning work in the big stores of Reedsburg was done by Mr. Seeley, whose services during his active years were always in demand when an exceptionally difficult or intricate piece of work was needed to be done. Mr. Seeley is a republican, but has never cared for office. He belongs to the Grand Army of the Republic, and is a thirty-second degree Scottish Rite Mason.

Mr. Seeley was married on Narrows Prairie, Sauk County, in 1867, to Miss Nellie Augusta Farrar, who was born at Columbus, Chenango County, New York, June 23, 1844, and came to Sauk County, Wisconsin, in 1855, with her parents, Nelson and Olivia Farrar, the family first settling in Washington Township on a farm. Later they removed to Reedsburg, where Mrs. Farrar died January 25, 1910, aged eighty-eight years, Mr. Farrar having passed away at Mendota, Wisconsin, September 29, 1872, when fifty-eight years of age. Mrs. Seely died at Reedsburg September 26, 1910, having been the mother of one child, a daughter, Calla, born October 9, 1881, at Reedsburg. She was educated in the graded and high schools of this city, and was married March 26, 1911, to Leon B. Devereaux, of Lavalle, Wisconsin. Mr. and Mrs. Devereaux now reside at Reedsburg with Mr. Seeley, and are the parent of one child: Bliss Leon, born April 4, 1916. Mrs. Devereaux is a talented musician, one of the real artists of the Reesdburg Orchestra, of which she has been a member for several years, and a general favorite in social circles of the city of her birth.

Pages 968 – 970 , “A Standard History of Sauk County Wisconsin” Vol. II, Edited by Harry Ellsworth Cole, Published by The Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago and New York, 1918.