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Query Number: 1502-1 February 2015

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Requested Information:

SGS President Kathie Olsen received a request for help locating descendants of a Joseph Seeley who had an interest in an oil and gas field in California as early as 1933. The oil and gas field is near Bakersfield, CA. There is also an Elsie B. Seeley, believed to be connected to Joseph in some way, either as wife or daughter. Her trust also had interest in the oil and gas field. If this Joseph has died, then there would be an inheritance for descendants.

Requester: Kathie Olsen | katherinemolsen@gmail.com

Initial Response Information:

1920 census San Francisco, San Francisco, CA
– Seeley, Joseph, age 54, b. NY, ENG, ENG, president lumber co.
– Seeley, Ella, wife, age 45, b. CA, NY, MA
– Seeley, Joseph, Jr., age 22, b. CA, NY, CA, office work for a stock broker
– Seeley, Harold S., age 24, son-in-law, widowed, b. CA, TN, US, ins. adjuster
– Smith, Eva, age 40, single, sister-in-law, b. CA, NY, MA

In 1910 in San Francisco the family included Joseph, age 44, md. 18 yrs. to Ella, age 37, borne 2 ch., 2 living, Joseph, Jr., age 12, Ruth B., age 10, Eva Smith, age 33, and Ella Teresa Higgins, servant, age 28, b. IRE. I wondered if the census taker in 1920 had been sloppy: I doubted that Harold was really a Seeley.

Next I found a marriage announcement: “The marriage of Miss Ruth Seeley, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Seeley, and Harold Gladstone Snodgrass, son of the late David F. Snodgrass, a pioneer banker of the San Joaquin valley, took place last Saturday afternoon at the home of the bride’s parents.

“Miss Seeley is a graduate of one of the private schools in this city and was a student of the University of California. Snodgrass was also a student at the University and had passed the examinations at the naval school for his commission when the armistice was signed. He is a member of the Sigma Epsilon fraternity.

“Mrs. Glenn Knight attended the bride as a matron of honor, and Walter Frederich was best man, taking the place of Joseph Seeley, Jr., who is still in France with the postal service at Chaumont. The ring bearer was Walter Trefts Jr. and the ribbon bearers were Kenneth Gerrard and Philip J. Eisenmann. Rev. Frederick Clampett read the marriage service.

“The decorations at the Seeley home were unusually beautiful. The ceremony took place in the conservatory, which had been converted into a bower of Woodwardiaferne, with an altar at one end. Tall flowering rose trees that were thick with pink blossoms were on either side of the altar. Baskets of spring flowers here and there added to the attractive effect.

“Mr. and Mrs. Snodgrass are enjoying a honeymoon in Southern California and will be absent a fortnight” (published in the San Francisco Chronicle, April 14, 1919: 6).

The next question was “Why is Harold Snodgrass widowed so soon after his marriage?” I then found another article and thank Chris Havnar for accessing both of these for me: “Daughter of Joseph Seeley Shot by Guest/Rifle supposed not to be loaded ends life of Mrs. Harold G Snodgrass/Blights Naval Romance/Dead Girl Won During War by University of California Student

“Mrs. Harold Gladstone Snodgrass, a bride of three months, was accidently shot and killed by Charles Fleishman, a guest, during a dinner party last night at the home of her father, Joseph Seeley, vice president of the Union league Club, at 152 Central Avenue. Young Fleishman and Snodgrass, who was recently discharged from the Navy, were executing the Naval manual of arms with a high-powered Springfield rifle the husband won in the service.

“Guest Did Not Know Rifle was Loaded.

“Fleishman did not know the rifle was loaded. He pulled the trigger and the bullet [ricocheted off] the wall of the living room and lodged in the neck of Mrs., Snodgrass seated in an adjoining room, severing a big artery and causing death virtually instantaneously. Mr. and Mrs. Seeley and Mr. and Mrs. Martin Fleishman and Miss Genevieve Fleishman, parents and sister of young Fleishman, were in the house when the tragedy occurred. Mr. and Mrs. Snodgrass and the Seeleys were giving a dinner in honor of Miss Fleishman and Julius Rosenthal, a young importer from China, who[se] marriage is to be celebrated this week. Other guests were Dr Alfred Roncovieri, Superintendent of Schools, Dr Louis Roncovieri, his son, and Miss Dorothy Clieve.

“Whole Company Hysterical When Policeman Arrives

“The whole company was hysterical with grief when policemen entered the home to investigate the tragedy. The shooting took place a few minutes before midnight. The guests assembled early in the evening to celebrate the betrothal of Miss Fleishman and Rosenthal. As a final bit of the evening’s entertainment young Snodgrass exhibited the high-powered rifle he had won and went through the evolution of the manual of arms. ‘Let me try it,’ young Fleishman asked. The rifle was handed to him. Mrs. Snodgrass had gone to an adjoining room for a moment. Fleishman brought the rifle to his shoulder. He pointed it at the wall and, laughing, pulled the trigger. There was a report. A look of wonder and fear came to the young man’s face. There was a moan from the next room.

“Husband and Parents Find Young Woman Dead

“There her husband and her parents found the lifeless body of Mrs. Snodgrass.

“Mrs. Snodgrass was 19 years old. Hers was a romance of the war. When Snodgrass, formerly a student at the University of California, was in a training camp for naval officers last September the engagement of the young couple was announced.

“Snodgrass sailed away. He returned and was discharged from the service last April and the marriage took place at the home of the Seeleys April 12. Mrs. Snodgrass was Miss Beatrice Ruth Seeley. She attended the University of California and was prominent socially there and in this city. Snodgrass is a son of the late Mrs. David Snodgrass of Bushnell Place. He is a member of the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity. Seeley is president of the Wendling-Nathan Company, wholesale lumber dealers of 110 Market Street. One night during October 1918 Seeley met 27 children singing patriotic songs on O’Farrell Street.

After listening to the school children sing for a short time, Seeley gave to the woman that was caring for them $1350, with instructions to buy a Liberty bond for each child” (Published in the San Francisco Chronicle, July 27, 1919: 1).

An article in the next day’s paper gives further details, including the fact that young Fleishman was only sixteen years old. Apparently, he and Snodgrass thought that all cartridges had been removed from the rifle, not realizing that one remained in the magazine. The young men looked in the barrel, which was empty, but did not know that upon closing the rifle a cartridge was automatically loaded. Fleishman was charged with manslaughter and remained under arrest until the findings of the coroner’s jury were announced.

I also found death certificate transcriptions and obituaries for both Joseph Seeley and Joseph Seeley, Jr., on the SGS website. They indicate that Joseph was president of Italo Petroleum Corp. as well as Wendling-Nathan. Joseph’s death certificate indicates that his wife is Elsa, though she appears as Ella everywhere else, including her own death certificate. He died in 1936.

Joseph, Jr., died in 1946. His obituary mentions his wife, Dorothy, but no children. Chris found an earlier marriage for Joseph, Jr., to Maybelle May Mansfield in 1923. They are together in the 1930 census, but Joseph, Jr., is divorced in 1940.

There is an Elsie B. Seeley listed in CA vital records, but she does not seem to be related, having been born in MO in 1892.

I have not been able to identify Joseph in any census record before 1900.

1900 census, San Francisco, San Francisco, CA
– Seeley, Joseph, b. Jun. 1866, MI, unknown, MI, blacksmith, md. 3 yrs. to
– Seeley, Ella, b. Nov. 1872, CA, NY, MA
– Seeley, Joseph, b. Nov. 1897; Beatrice, b. Mar 1900, both b. CA, MI, CA
– Davis, Charlotte, b. Sept. 1878 CA, WV, LA, black servant

We would love to discover the origins of Joseph. Was he born in Yonkers, Westchester, NY, as his death certificate says, or in Michigan? Who were his parents?

Perhaps he had siblings with descendants who would benefit from the oil and gas trusts. If you have any leads, please get in touch with me or Kathie.

Responder: SGS Query Editor