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Frank M. Seely

Frank M. Seely
Oakland Tribune, Saturday Evening
February 9, 1901, Front Page


F.M. Seely Comes From Portland to Commit Murder – Pathetic Story Told in Letters

Another double tragedy – a murder and a suicide, in which husband and wife were the principal actors – is the awful record of last night.

On two marble slabs at the Oakland Morgue lay the bodies of Frank M. Seely and his wife, Mary Seely, the former both murderer and suicide.

A neat little cottage at 835 Franklin street stands lonely and desolate – the silent witness as the scene of the terrible crime.

Somewhere at a friend’s house there is a child, Helen Seely, who is left an orphan.

The double crime was committed shortly after 3 o’clock last evening.

It was about this time that the attention of Officer McSurley and Special Officer Ford was attracted by two pistol shots that rang out and broke the stillness of the night, and a shrill whistle brought Sergeant Green with them to the scene of the shooting.

As the officers saw Seely running from the cottage at 835 Franklin street, revolver in hand, they went to apprehend him, but with that cunning that marks one of the characteristics of the murderer, Seely ran quickly to the rear of the house and fired a bullet through his brain.

On the floor behind the cottage door Mrs. Seely was found in a pool of blood. Sidney Wilson, a Pullman car conductor and a friend of the family, and B.B. Southard and George Haliahan found the woman, and believing that there might be a spark of life left, hurried with her to the Receiving Hospital. But soon the woman breathed her last.

Both bodies were removed to the Morgue.

The details that led up to the commission of the double tragedy are not in the least complicated.

Frank M. Seely, secretary of the Mount Hood Division No. 91, Order of Railway Conductors, of Portland, Or., arrived in San Francisco last Thursday night, accompanied by his nephew, C.W. Garletz.

They had traveled thither to find Mrs. Seely, who her husband claimed, had hidden their little girl.

Garletz yesterday located Mrs. Seely’s place of abode, and last night Seely, enraged and determined to find his child, crossed the threshold and entered the cottage. Garletz stood watch at the corner.

In the parlor Seely found his wife entertaining Sidney Wilson, an old and valued friend of the family. After making some inquiries about his child, Seely whipped out his revolver and ordered Wilson out of the house.

Wilson, however, had scarcely closed the door behind him when the shot was fired that shortly afterward ended Mrs. Seely’s existence. The woman tried to escape when she was shot through the heart.

According to W.H. Drummond, a motorman on the Alameda electric car, and brother of Mrs. Seely, for whom she was keeping house, the awful tragedy was not unexpected.

“I have been expecting this thing to happen,” he said to a reporter. “I told Mary to look out, for I suspected that Frank was concocting some deviltry. I received a letter yesterday from Seely, dated at Portland on the 6th, that he was to leave that night for Baker City. When Mary read me the letter I said: “That looks suspicious I don’t believe he is going to Baker City.” Another thing which made me believe a plot was on foot was the fact that Garletz, Frank’s nephew, whom we had never seen before, came here yesterday morning, as he said, merely to look us up on a friendly errand. I told Mary when he went away, ‘Blood is thicker than water, and this young fellow, if anything comes up, will stand in with his uncle. What reason has he to look us up?”

They were married on Christmas of 1893, much against the wishes of our family. Seely was 36 and Mary only 18, and although he was well to do, he was dissipated and we did not want her to marry him. It was only a year after they were married that Mary discovered him making love to a housemaid. She at once left him and came home. From that time she loathed him and never willingly lived with him. Seely followed her here and made all kinds of promises of reformation. She finally went back with him, but they were never happy together after the first disagreement. Whenever Seely was drunk he abused her and frequently threatened her life. Last August she determined to endure it no longer and came down here again. I took her into my family and since my own home was broken up last November she has kept house for me. Last week we moved over here, which was the reason that Garletz and Seely had trouble in finding her.

“Mary worried about her little girl Helen, whom she had been compelled to leave in Portland, and in December she went alone to Oregon and got the child. After that she knew and frequently said that Seely would kill her at the first opportunity. So yesterday afternoon my sister took her child to a friend’s house.”

It appears that Wilson became acquainted with Mrs. Seely the time she went to Portland to secure possession of her child.

Speaking of last night’s awful crime Wilson says

“ I was alone in the house with Mrs. Seely when Seely called. She started to introduce me and he said ‘No, you can’t shake hands with me.’ I saw I was not wanted and started to leave when he said ‘Wait a minute, I want to see you.’ Then he turned to his wife saying, ‘ Do you have company every night’ He called me a name and as I put up my hand to expostulate he pulled out a pistol and I ran out, followed by Mrs. Seely. As I got outside the door I heard the shooting and then I yelled for help. Before that trouble began Seely asked where the child was. Mrs. Seely said the girl was at a private school at Mission San Jose. That angered him. He knew me, because once I had protected his wife on a train at Portland from him.

Garletz professed that he had no inkling of the premeditated murder. He declares he and his uncle came over solely to get little Helen.

“I did not want to come over,” he said, “but my uncle insisted. It was simply understood that he was to see his wife and see if there could not be some compromise fixed up. They had not yet been divorced, but there was talk of a separation. I knew my uncle had a pistol in his grip, but did not know he brought it to Oakland. I would not go in the house with him, so after I had pointed it out to him as we walked by the place, I left him and went up the corner and waited.”

Drummond, however, says that he believes Garletz knew more than he will admit. He declared also that Wilson was a friend and expressed sorrow that his name should be mixed up with this affair.

Frank M. Seely was 43 years old, a native of Illinois. At one time he was a Wells Fargo & Co. messenger for the Oregon Railroad and Navigation Company. Two years ago he lost a leg and had a cork leg substituted. He has two sons by a former marriage who reside in Portland.

Mrs. Mary Seely has lived at various places. Once she resided with friends at 208 Golden Gate avenue, San Francisco, also at 426 Sixth street and 681 (?) Eleventh street this city, from whence she is supposed to have taken up her home with her brother, Drummond. Her parents are Mr. and Mrs. J.H. Drummond of Cloverdale, a suburb of Portland. She also is a sister of Mrs. D.B. Ladd of San Jose.

Mrs. D.B. Ladd, together with her husband, who is clerk at the St. James, San Jose, and her brother, George Drummand, with his wife, all came up from San Jose this morning. All are very respectable people, and not one them can account for Seely’s awful crime.

“I cannot image what possessed Frank to commit the crime,” said Mr. Ladd, “unless he must have been insane.”


The story of the unhappy couple during the last few months of their career and leading up to the bloody sequel last night is told in an effective manner in letters left by the actors of the tragedy and others.


The following letter was one of the last, if not the last written by the murdered woman. There is nothing in it about the husband but Wilson is spoken of as a true friend at the same time the unfortunate woman professes love for Ed Stock. The missive was written Wednesday last and forty-eight hours after, when the woman anticipated no trouble on the part of her husband, she fell dead at the very table on which the letter had been indicted The letter was never posted. Maggie referred to is a friend in Portland.

“Oakland, Cal, Feb. 6, 1901
“Dear Friend Maggie – Mr. Wilson was just here and gave me the picture Fred gave him. It is really very good of Fred, but I could not tell who the others were if I had not known them. Mr. Wilson thinks Ed Stock and Fred are fine fellows. I suppose he told Fred I was keeping house for my brother. We have a lovely flat of five rooms all newly furnished, so if you and Fred come down I want you both to come and stop with me and have a lovely time. * * * Maggie will you do me a favor. Find out if Gertie is working and who she is running with and try to find out whom she is chasing with and try and find out if Lenta is going to school and which school. * * * Edith (Bowles) is going to the devil as fast as she can. She drinks like a fish and has about forty fellows on the string. * * * Helen is getting along fine. What did the boys think of Mr. Wilson? He is a fine young man and goes in the best society. I am expecting him down this evening, so I guess I will have to go and dress. Tell Ed Stock he owes me a letter and I look every day for it. Tell him I love him as much as ever and hope he will come down here before long. * * * I am getting awfully good since I have been living in Oakland.

835 Franklin street, Oakland, Cal.


Seely seems to have felt that all was not right. He, therefore, put up a ruse. He wrote a letter to his wife from Portland, Ore., last Monday, February 4th. The letter was delivered in this city two days later. On the day of its delivery Seely’s wife wrote to a female friend telling her among other things that Wilson, the witness of the tragedy, was coming to see her that evening and that she ‘loved Ed Stock as much as ever.” Seely wrote his wife that he was going to Baker City to look after some interests there. Instead, he went to San Fran-

(Continued on page 2)

cisco and then unexpectedly appeared on the scene last night and the tragedy was enacted. The decoy letter, the import of which was not misunderstood by Mrs. Seely’s brother, was in part as follows”

“Portland, Ore., Feb. 4, 1901.

“Dear Mary and Baby – I just received your kind letter and will hasten to answer it. I will send you $10 today and some more in a few days.

“I just got another letter from the administrator of the Donnelly estate, and he says I must come up to Baker City at once. So I am going up tonight, and may have to go on to Salt Lake. That is the reason I cannot let you have more money at present, that is, until I get back for I don’t know how much I will need. I will write you the particulars when I get up there and send you a copy of the papers. No doubt you will have to go there yourself or give some one power of attorney. I will go to Baker tomorrow morning. From what I hear it is a good property. If it proves to be as represented you will be able to furnish up your cottage in good shape.

“I thought you were living in Oakland, but I see you always write from San Francisco. * * * I may not get back for a week or ten days, but will write up the country as soon as I know where we are at. Hoping that things do come our way and I can see my precious ones fixed comfortably again soon. I am your true and loving husband and papa.


To this letter there is a postscript as follows:

“Will send Frankie (a son by a former wife) when I get back. I got him a new suit and now I want to fix Helen out.”

Helen is the daughter of the slain father and mother.

There is not a single suggestion of craftiness in those lines. On the contrary, they reveal the better side of a devoted husband and loving father. The fact, however, stands forth that Seely, instead of going to Baker City, put his wife off her guard in that respect and come here with the results already known.


So far as the correspondence between Seely and his wife is concerned, there is scarcely anything to show hard feelings on the part of the husband. Under date of January 21st Seely wrote from Spokane, Wash., to his little daughter, Helen, who is in hiding and whose mother was the murdered woman, Seely’s second wife, in the most fatherly manner.

“Papa, “ he says, “wants to see you awful bad. I would just kiss you to pieces. Frankie (a son by a former marriage) was glad to get your letter and will answer it soon. He was too busy playing yesterday to write. * * * * I will let him go to visit you when Grandma Drummond goes down. * * * When papa gets a little more money you can take music lessons like Leota, so when papa comes to see you, you can play for me. Well, my little darling, I am sleepy and will say good-bye.



The deceased evidently contemplated a divorce, as is shown by the following, addressed to her from Portland under date of January 27th and signed by Mollie Ferguson:

“Portland, Jan. 22 – I thought I had said something to hurt your feelings, but feel glad that you know what I said. I only spoke as a mother to her child. Now, dear Mary, if you are going to get a divorce think over it well. I did think you ought to stay right here in Portland and show to a few that you could face them, and another thing, Mary, your company was not the best. I did think you did nothing wrong, yourself, but some of your company did, and you know how it is with a woman. I think you are mistaken about the W.O.W. (a fraternal order) You had the best of the circle on your side and Mrs. Henry had not. She has never been in the circle since you left, and no one asks her to.



On January 7th of this year, Seely writes again from Portland, showing the abduction by his wife of his wife of their little daughter Helen. The letter in part is as follows:

“My Dear Little Darling Helen: Papa received your dear little letter today and it made me so happy to get it. It was the first letter papa got from his little daughter and I shall always keep it. Papa is awful sorry to hear you are sick and I wish I could be there to hold you in my arms and nurse you back to health.

“Don’t be afraid, darling, papa will not steal you from your dear mama. Papa loves you too well for that. I want you to stay with mama and be a good girl when you grown up to be a woman, like mama, papa will come and live with you. Won’t that be nice?



The allusion in the foregoing letter to the Donnelly estate is explained by a previous letter which, in effect, shows that Mrs. Seely had been made a legatee of the property in question. This letter is dated Spokane, Washington, January 21, 1901. It is in part as follows:

“Spokane, Wash., Jan. 21, 1901 – Dear Dear Mary: I got a letter from a lawyer in Salt Lake City, Utah, stating that Joe Donnelly was dead and that he had left a will leaving his estate to you and me both equal shares. It consists of mining property in the Sumter district, Oregon, and some real estate in Baker City. He says the mine is a valuable property, and he wants to take the matter in hand for settlement for us. His name is J.H. Henderson.


This letter will be cheerful reading for little Helen, the child of the murdered woman and suicide. If the story should prove to be a facts and that the Donnelly estate was one of value, because she is now the heir of all her mother’s possessions.


A very pathetic letter is that of the mother of Mrs. Seely, which is dated Portland, January 20 of this year. There is little in it bearing on the tragedy, but it shows the tender solicitude of a mother for her children in trouble and the fact that her closing years are weighted with trouble and want:

“I received your ever welcome letter this morning,” she writes, “ and was so glad to hear from you and Billie. I am glad that little Helen is better. Take care of her, so many are dying with diseases now. Tell Billie to be careful and not be too hasty in what he does. I have not seen Gertie since last Sunday. * * * She said she did not think she would go back to Billie. Of course, her folks think it smart to have them all together. Leota is not going to school. If Billie should get the right to take Leota, he must take an officer with him or he will have trouble. Of course, it is too bad for him to be separated from his child. As for her going East, I never heard anything mentioned. * * * I am glad you are with Billie, for my heart aches for him. But tell him for me that where it is all thorns there will be crowns and flowers by and by. Tell him not to worry over Leota, for she is being taken good care of and will come out all right, and he will be happy, and not to worry over Gertie, for if she doesn’t want to live with him there are lots of ‘other pebbles on the shore,’ as Poor Charles said to Agnes.

“Oh, dear, I have so much worry over the living that I don’t have time to think over the ones that have gone. But before long we will see them all and the old things will have puttered away and will know as we are known. Now, my dear children, do the best you can for your poor old mother. I don’t know what to _____ you. * * * I am sorry that Billie and Gertie can not make it up, for I know he will worry so much. When I look around and hear people say that their children are all living in their homes and they go to see them, it makes my blood run cold. I have gone through so much and worked so hard all to have comfort in my old days, and now, as it seems, all is crushed and gone have anything no homes. O my God, why did everything turn from me?”

The Billie referred to is a brother of the murdered woman, at whose home she was slain. Gertie is his wife, who has separated from him and who has possession of their daughter Leota.


Maggie, who seems to be a friend of the murdered woman and to whom the latter wrote almost at the last moment of her life, refers to the attempt of Seely to abduct his daughter Helen and tells how the scheme was frustrated.

The letter is dated at Portland, January 2, 1901, and is in part as follows:

“I was awful glad you got out of it as well as you did. Say, when he caught hold of Helen, I grabbed him by the coat sleeve and pulled him loose. Oh he has got it in for me big, but he never showed up any more. Your father was down to see Fred. He wanted me to come down and tell them all about it but I did not have time. It all went so smoothly there wasn’t much to be told. * * * How is little Helen? I will never forget how she looked. The poor little creature. Mary, you may know how I feel. I can’t find where my babies are to give them any thing for Christmas.



On the table at which Mrs. Seely was seated last night when she was shot was found a letter written on two large sheets of commercial paper which were affixed to a pad. These were taken possession of by Deputy Coroner Henry Quellen. The person for whom the missive was intended in unknown.

No name was signed to the letter and there is an abrupt termination to it as if the writer was unexpectedly compelled to discontinue the unsavory recital.

There is no doubt that the missive was written by Mrs. Seely, because the penmanship is of the same general style as that of Mrs. Seely’s printed in the foregoing and addressed to “Maggie” in Portland.

“The Edith referred to is Edith Bowles of Portland, also referred to in the letter of Mrs. Seely.

The letter makes scorching charges and is unfit for publication.

Murderer’s Body

Chief of Police Hodgkins this afternoon received the following dispatch from Portland, Or:

“Chief of Police Hodgkins, Oakland: Have body of F.M. Seely held until you hear from friends here.

Chief of Police:

Oakland Tribune, Monday, February 11, 1901 page 3


The inquests on the deaths of Frank M. Seely and his wife, Mary Seely, will be held jointly tonight. It is not expected that any new facts, aside from those given of the horrible murder and suicide of Friday night, will be advanced.

The body of Mrs. Seely was yesterday shipped to Cloverdale, Ore., the home of her parents, Mr. and Mrs. J.H. Drummond. Mrs. D.B. Ladd, a sister of the murdered woman, accompanied the remains.

The body of Seely has also been prepared for shipment in accordance with instructions from the Order of Railway Conductors of Oregon, of which Seely was secretary. The body will probably be sent to Portland.

As to the unfortunate, little child, Helen, who was made an orphan through her father’s awful crime, it is said that friends are caring for her. The child will probably be provided for, since the father’s life was insured.

W.H. Drummond, the brother for whom Mrs. Seely was keeping house has abandoned the cottage on Franklin street, the scene of the murder. The horror of the scene has proved too much for him.

Oakland Tribune, Tuesday, Evening, February 12, 1901, Page 3


At the inquest held last night on the bodies of Frank M. Seely and Mary M. Seely, the Coroner’s Jury returned a verdict of murder in the case of the wife and suicide in that of the man, who killed his wife. No additional light was thrown on the tragedy. Both Bodies have been shipped to Oregon for interment.

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