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Query Number: 1508-3 August 2015

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Requested Information:

Gene had found a reference to an SM Seely of New York City who’d bought a lot of land in PA in the 1860’s as an oil speculator. Gene wondered who this wealthy Seely might be.

Requester: Eugene Seelye of Knoxville, PA

Initial Response Information:

1880 census New York, New York, NY
• Seeley, SM age 55 b. MI, banker
• Seeley, Mary age 45 b. MI
• Seeley, Jane age 19 b. MI
• listed as boarders
I didn’t locate then in 1870
1860 census Coldwater, Branch, MI
• Seely, SM age 38 b. NJ, specualtor
• Seely, Mrs age 23 b. NJ
They are living in a hotel
Then I found this reference in Coldwater by Randall Hazelton, Arcadia Publishing, 2004
“Coldwater’s first millionaire was S M Seely who in 1865 made $1.5 Million from oil speculations.”
Civil War Draft
Sutherland M Seeley age 36 b. NY, horse dealer, registered in Coldwater, Branch Co. MI
Michigan Death Index
Sutherland Moore Seeley b. abt 1823 in NY to Holly Seely and Elizabeth Moore, d. 16 Oct 1899 Coldwater, Branch, MI, age 76, occupation: capitalist, married.
Then I found a biography:
A TWENTIETH CENTURY History and Biographical Record Branch County, Michigan.
Southerland Moore Seely, now deceased, was born August 15, 1826, near Middletown, Orange County, New York. He was the ninth in a family of ten children born unto Holly and Elizabeth (Moore) Seely. The father was a native of Goshen, Orange County. New York, born August 7, 1787, and was of English and Scotch lineage, although the family was es-
tablished in New England during an early period in the colonization of this county. The mother of our subject was of Quaker parentage and was born at Cornwall, New York, September 16, 1790. In the year 1829 Holly Seely, having sustained heavy losses through fire, removed his family to Newburgh, New York, and afterward to Sussex county, New Jersey, and there conducted a tannery. It was during their residence in Sussex County
that the wife and mother died in 1835. After her death Mr. Seely never attended school, and all his schooling came between his fifth and eighth years. The father afterward married again and later removed to Tunkhannock, Pennsylvania, where he also conducted a tannery. About 1832 the family came to Michigan, settling near Ypsilanti, and not more than a year later Southerland M. Seely started out in life for himself.
He left a home where he had no advantages or hope for an education and when thirteen years of age began the battle of life for himself as a poor boy. The facts of his career disclose wonderful success as he steadily made his way upward undeterred by obstacles and difficulties in his path. He became both wealthy and well informed. Going to Erie, Pennsylvania, he accepted a position as errand boy and general helper in a hotel and
after three or four months he went to Georgetown, Pennsylvania, where he remained for a short period and was again employed in a hotel. At Mogadore, Ohio, he was employed for two years in a tannery, after which he was foreman there, remaining until 1844. In the following year he went to Mendham, New Jersey, where for a short period he worked in a tannery and afterward he was engaged in the boot and shoe business with Lewis A. Thompson, who subsequently became his father-in-law. This business relation was maintained until 1852 when on account of ill health he withdrew and turned his attention to the business of purchasing western horses and shipping them to the eastern market. Soon afterward, however, he purchased a stage coach line running from Coldwater to Marshall, Michigan, and used his horses on that line. He then planned a mail route from Mar-
shall to Fort Wayne, Indiana, and in this manner extended the stage route, devoting his energies to the business until 1859, when he sold out and engaged in purchasing and selling horses again. To this he gave his time until after the outbreak of the Civil war. His next enterprise was a tannery at Coldwater, and in the winter of 1863-4 he removed to New York City, where he engaged in dealing in bonds, stocks and mortgages. That business claimed his energies for several years and he was so successful that he amassed a large sum of money. He was perhaps the most noted capitalist that has lived in Branch County. In 1871 he returned to Coldwater on account of declining health and continued his residence here until his death October 16, 1899.
Mr. Seely traveled extensively both in America and abroad and gained that culture, knowledge and experience which only travel can bring. His conversation was enriched with many interesting reminiscences and anecdotes of his journeys, and he was a most congenial companion. Though he was never a church member he attended the services of the Presbyterian church and was a very charitable man, giving freely of his means to those
who needed assistance and to worthy benevolent objects.
It was on the 7th of April, 1853, that Mr. Seely was united in marriage to Miss Sarah J. Thompson, a daughter of Lewis A. Thompson o£ Mendham, New Jersey, who was born there in 1833 and now resides in Detroit. She is a member of the Presbyterian church. Mr. and Mrs. Seely have two daughters: Annie, who is living in Coldwater; and Mrs. W. N. Wor-
cester, of Detroit.
The life history of Mr. Seely is notable in the fact that he rose from a very humble financial position to one of affluence. His business discernment and judgment were rarely at fault. He seemed to understand intricate business problems almost at a glance and he knew how best to utilize his opportunities so as to produce the greatest results. Nor was his path
strewn with the wreck of other men’s fortunes. He was just and upright in all his dealings am! the secret of his prosperity lay in his close application, his indefatigable energy and his keen sagacity. In his life he displayed the sterling traits of character of friend, father and husband, being always loyal to those with whom he enjoyed social relations, while to his family he was most devoted.
Southerland Moore Seely is SGS# 3781 (Southerland, Holly, James, Nathaniel, Ebenezer, Jonas, Obadiah). We didn’t have information on his descendants. Looking at census records his daughter Annie remained in Coldwater, didn’t marry and died in 1933. His daughter Kate married Willard N Worcester, a druggist and had 3 children. Kate died in 1938 and is buried in Oak Grove cemetery in Coldwater along with her sister Annie, her parents and an older sister Grace who died in 1863 aged 1 and a half. If you would like information on Kate’s children please contact me.

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