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Rufus Parker Seely


Gender: Male

Date of Birth: February 18, 1838

Date of Death: March 14, 1919

Birth Place: Oakland Township

Rufus Parker Seely was born in Oakland Township, Feb. 18, 1838, a son of Alva & Margaret Andrews Seely, who located in Oakland soon after their marriage. Tradition states the Seely family was of Scotch descent.

In 1845 Alva Seely died. He was a woodsman and worked in the Warren County forests. He was buried somewhere in Warren County. The mother later married James Watt and they lived in Cherrytree Township.

R.P. Seely, or “Park” as he was always known, moved into the Peter Grove home at Wallaceville at the age of 16 and lived there until the Civil War.

On October 7, 1861, he married Miss Sally Ann Starling with G.T. Churchill, a justice of the peace of near Troy Center performing the rites. Sally Ann was a daughter of Elisha and Terresa Noel Starling of near Wallaceville. Coincidentally she was born on June 11, 1839, the very day that the large Wallaceville flouring mill building was raised.

Exactly five days before their wedding, Park enrolled for Civil War service in Company I of the 4th Pennsylvania Cavalry. One week after the wedding he left for encampment. While he was in the army, Sally Ann stayed with relatives, the William Hamilton family, in Cherrytree Township. Park Seely was in every battle of the Army of the Potomac except the battle of Antietam in September 1862, during which time he was sent home to gather recruits. He was present at the battle of Gettysburg, but took little part in it. His cavalry regiment was sent out occasionally on feints in this battle to draw the enemy?s fire so it would benefit certain strategy of the Federal infantry. Park watched the grand spectacle of Pickett?s charge while standing on one of the ridges at Gettysburg. During one scrape in the war a comrade named Hoover was shot in the knee and Park carried him off the field on horseback with the rebels chasing them. Soon they stopped safely and Park carried him to a fence corner beside the road. Park was sure that Hoover died just then, having bled to death.

Park always kept a nice groomed horse for his use in the war. A particular one was a fine gray horse. Horses were of course inspected at certain intervals. While the inspector was checking them one, he said to Park, after seeing this gray horse, ?This is the best looking horse in the whole regiment!?

Probably Park Seely’s proudest moment in the Civil War was when he made a horse trade with a certain well-known soldier. This particular soldier eyed Park’s nice horse and said to him, “Soldier, would you trade horses with me?” Park did. Who was this soldier? None other than Gen. W.T. Sherman, the famous warrior whom the state of Georgia shall never forget.

Park got through the entire war without a wound. A spent ball did, however, strike him on the leg, but caused no injury. He contracted asthma in the war as a result of exposure by lying out at nights on the wet ground and in the rain at Warrenton Junction in the late fall of 1863. He was honorable discharged at Lynchburg, Va., on July 1, 1865. He then came home and stated improvement on a 50-acre piece of land in Plum Township which he bought from Peter Grove and paid for it while in the Army. While he built a set of buildings on it, he and Sally Ann lived in an old log house on an adjoining farm which was the later Lewis Bower farm. Park’s place was located at a point over a mile northeast of Sunville and a mile west of Wallaceville.

Park and Sally Ann had the following children: Elisha Dayton Seely, John Andrews Seely, Mrs. Mary Myrta Seely Sweeting, Mrs. Cora Alice Seely Clark and Miss Zula Pearle Seely. John died March 24, 1869 at the age of 11 months. The doctor claimed the child had ulcers in his mouth and stomach. He was not sick long. Zula died Jan. 30, 1898 of consumption at the age of 22. She had had lung fever at the age of two and never was blessed with robust health. She did a lot of sewing at home. Dayton died only a few years ago, his home having been between Oil City and Dempseytown. The other two daughters, Myrta Sweeting and Alice Clark are yet living. Mrs. Sweeting, 88, lives at Warren and Mrs. Clark, 84, lives in Meadville. Mr. and Mrs. Seely also reared Lee R. Davison, whose mother, Mrs. Alma Davison, died when Lee was only a few months old. Mr. Davison lives today on the R. P. Seely farm, having bought it from the heirs shortly after Mr. Seely died.

Park Seely was 5 feet, 6 inches tall and weighed well over 200 pounds. He had a light complexion, blue eyes and light brown hair when a young fellow, but his hair gradually turned gray when fairly young, too. Sally Ann weighted 98 pounds when she married, but in later years she weighted more. Park Seely was a co-owner of one of the first threshing outfits in Venango County during the 1870s. Will Hamilton was probably the other owner. This was a pepperbox outfit. Then Park got a separator and first ran it by horsepower, using four teams to go round and round pulling a long pole attached to a rotating unit which ran the separator. Then later a steam boiler was bought to run it. Co-owners of the later threshing outfits were A.C. Miles and Robert Battin. Grant Seely and James Loker went around with them some too. Park used to say that they threshed from spring to fall, then never did get around to get all their toll. The ?toll? payment was getting a share of the grain, generally five ? six bushels to every 100 bushels, instead of cash.

In 1885 Park bought an adjoining 50 acres from Tom Davison, through Davison’s guardian, Squire Gilliand of Sunville. A few years later the family moved on this new ?upper 50 acres,? as it was called, and lived in what was known as the old Foster house, which sat across the road from the present L.R. Davison house. Park?s original 50 acres was called “the lower 50 acres,” which he eventually sold to Samuel Noel. Mr. Davison today, however, owns the entire 100 acres.

In 1895 the Seely family lived in the large Jim Grove house and rented that farm that year. They hired a 19-year-old lad named Ralph Snyder that summer for $8 a month. Young Snyder put in 50 acres of crops with Seely’s team. That was quite a large acreage of crops for one season in that time.

About 1896, Park had the present L.R. Dawson house built, a double plank frame structure, hiring Robert Hollabaugh to carpenter it. Lumber was bought above Fauncetown for $7 per M. The present barn had been built around 1890 with the carpenter being Bill Borger assisted by Charles Messinger who was learning the trade at that time. It rained the day the barn was raised.

The R. P. Seely family were good singers. They had singing sessions every evening before retiring for the night. One hymn they sang often but is seldom heard today is ?When I can Read My Title Clear.? Park himself used to sing a song called “The Sword of Bunker Hill.” Myrta & Zula both could play the family organ which Park bought for $80 in 1881 from a couple of agents who were probably from Cooperstown.

The family attended the Christian Advent or Second Advent Church of Plum (Chapmanville). Then, when a church of the same denomination was established in Wallaceville about 1890, they became active members in it. Park helped to build the Wallaceville church building. His family were caretakers of this church for many years. The doctrine of the Second Advent Church was believing in the second literal coming of the Lord, to judge the world in righteousness and to set up the Kingdom of God on earth, purified and made new as God’s everlasting Kingdom.

Park kept a fine stock horse which was called an ?English Billhorse?. The family raised turkeys and geese. They fattened the turkeys in the fall on corn and also chestnuts. At times they would store as high as 18 or 20 bushels of chestnuts upstairs.

In 1899 the String Town Oil Co., represented by Hugh Miles of Fagundus, leased a good bit of land in the Sunville vicinity and their first well was drilled that spring on Sam Noel’s place (Park’s former lower 50 acres), Smith and Braden drillers, drilled to the second sand and there was some showing of oil. It was, however, a wonderful gas well, but it was abandoned. The men boarded at Seelys.

A few years later a West Virginia oil company drilled some wells in the vicinity. These fellows, whose names have been forgotten, liked their whiskey. In fact, when they located a well, they would pour a quart of whiskey on the stake for good luck. They hired Warren Myers of below Sunville to drill a well in Park’s woods in the southeast corner of the upper 50 acres. It had the prettiest sand and showed good promises, but they never shot it and abandoned it for some reason. Myers told Park that it showed up to be as good as those he drilled at Sugar Lake where there was excitement at that time. About 1907 Jennings and Ehrhart drilled some wells on Seelys, one of which pumped ten barrels a day and was pumped for years.

Park had filled a few township offices which included judge off election, tax collector, school director and road commissioner. He was formerly a Republican but was a Prohibitionist during his last many years. He was a member of the Union Veterans Union, No. 10, of Chapmanville, the Andrew Jackson Post, GAR, of Cooperstown, the Farmers Alliance of Wallaceville and the Diamond Grange.

The couple celebrated their golden wedding at their home on Oct. 7, 1911 with 93 guests present. Owing to the cold day, only one table was set. Plates were passed to the remainder of the crowd. They received many gifts.

One day Park suffered a stroke in the living room and had another one later the same day. This made him partially paralyzed. Finally the family had a sale and moved to Chapmanville in 1918 in the house now owned by Mr. and Mrs. Freeman Proper, Sr. He continued having little strokes until his death on the evening of March 14, 1919. Following services in the home, he was buried at Wallaceville on the 17th.

Mrs. R. P. Seely died on Feb. 22, 1934, at the home of her daughter, Mrs. Sweeting, in Warren, where she had spent her last five years. She was 94.

“Who Was Who in Plum Township” Titusville Herald, By H. W. Strawbridge, July 22, 1958

[Rufus Parker; Alva; Samuel; Unknown]

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