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Query Number: 1608-1 August 2016

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Requested Information:

Mike is working on a series of books about the Victoria Cross and says that his 9 volume set will cover all of the VC recipients with details of their deeds contained within the narrative of the wars and battles where the deeds took place. He is also including a biography of each recipient and this is where he wants the help of SGS. He states that the details of William Henry Harrison Seeley’s personal life are very limited within the public domain, and he thought that we may have access to a more detailed biography that we would be willing to share.

Requester: Mike Robson | mike.mikerobson@gmail.com

Initial Response Information:

We have information about William (see photo below) in the Veterans section of our website:
William Henry Harrison Seeley
Birth: May. 1, 1840
Death: Oct. 1, 1914
Burial: Evergreen Cemetery Stoughton Norfolk County Massachusetts,
First American citizen to win the Victoria Cross, Great Britain’s highest award for valor, and still the only American to have won the award outside of World War I. Seeley was an Ordinary Seaman in the Royal Navy during the bombardment of the fishing port of Shimonoseki, Japan, 6 September 1864. Choshu, a large samurai domain in western Honshu that was, at the end of the Tokugawa period, a hotbed of anti-foreign xenophobia, had been attacking British, French, and American ships, and, in 1864, Western ships, in retaliation, bombarded Shimonoseki. In the action, Seeley, serving on the HMS Euryalus, distinguished himself by carrying out a daring reconnaissance to ascertain the enemy’s position, and then, although wounded, continued to take part in the final assault on the battery. The Choshu samurai, making the best of a bad situation, signed a treaty and settled down to study Western strategy, tactics, and technology. These events were part of the inspiration for the Tom Cruise film “The Last Samurai.” He was presented his medal at Southsea on September 22, 1865 together with Thomas Pride and Duncan Gordon Boyes.
In a listing of those receiving the Victoria Cross I found:
• Name: William Henry Harrison Seeley
• Birth: 1 May 1840 at Topsham, Maine
• Death: 1 Oct 1914 at 26 Barrows Street, Dedham, Massachusetts
MA Marriage Index
• William H Seeley (farmer, widower, age 60), b. about 1840 at Topsham, ME, son of Dayton A Seeley and Lucy J Johnston, married on 1 Oct 1900 at Sharon, MA to Mary E. Moore Silver, widow of _____ Silver, age 60 b. Pittston, ME to John E Moore and Emeline Jackson
MA Death Index
• Lucy J Seely b. about 1823 at Milford, ME to Benjn and Sally _____, died 1 Dec 1881 at Stoughton, MA aged 58
• William Henry Harrison Seeley (retired sailor), age 74, b. about 1840 at Topsham, ME to Alden A Seeley and Lucy Johnson, died 1 Oct 1914 at Dedham, MA
1880 census Stoughton, Norfolk, MA
• Selee, William age 39, laborer b. ME, ME, ME
• Selee, Mary age 31 b. MA, NH, NH
• Selee, Willie G age 10, Minnie G age 9, George G age 5, all b. MA, ME, MA
• Selee, Lucy J age 57, mother, seamstress, b. ME, ME, ME, widow
1870 census Stoughton, Norfolk, MA
• Seeley, William age 31, b. ME, works in woolen mill
• Seeley, Mary S age 21 b. NH
• Seeley, William G age 1, Minnie G age 3 mos (b. Feb 1870), both b. MA
• Seeley, Lucy J age 48, b. ME, works in woolen mill
• Seeley, Alden age 25 b. ME, works in last factory
1865 census Walpole, Norfolk, MA
• Seeley, Lucy J age 43 b. ME, housewife
• Seeley, Mary A age 19 b. ME, worsted work,
• Seeley, Alden A age 21, seaman
1860 census Sharon, Norfolk, MA
• Saley, Dayton A age 45, blacksmith b. MA
• Saley, Lucy, age 36 b. MA
• Saley, Boadice age 18, Alden age 16, both cotton spinners, Nancy A age 14, Betsy age 9, all b. MA
• Johnson, Martha age 26, Hellen M age 23, both cotton weavers b. MA
1850 census Milford, Penobscot, ME
• Seely, Dayton A age 34 b. New Bruns.
• Seely, Lucy J age 27 b. ME
• Seely, William H H age 10, Boadicea age 8, Alden A age 7, Mary A age 4, Charles E age 1, all b. ME
1840 census Topsham, Lincoln, ME
• Sealey, Dayton: 1 male under 5, 1 male 5-10, 1 male 10-15, 1 male age 20-30; 1 female age 15-20
1830 census Topsham, Lincoln, ME
• Seeley. Joseph: 1 male under 5, 1 male 15-20, 1 male 50-60; 3 females age 5-10, 1 female age 15-20, 1 female age 40-50
NH Death Record
• William Seeley (husband of Anna Seeley age 75), born about 1869 at West Stoughton, MA to William Seeley (born ME) and Mary Stedman (b. Stoughton, MA), died 25 March 1940 at the County Farm, Brentwood, Rockingham, NH, aged 71 years, 5 months, 13 days
I also found marriage records for William Henry Harrison Seeley’s siblings Alden, Boadicea and Mary Ann, all naming Dayton and Lucy Johnson Seeley as their parents and records for William H H Seeley’s children William G., Minnie and George.
It seems likely from the census information that Dayton, father of William H H Seeley is a son of Joseph Seeley but I couldn’t find any proof. If you can find any information on the ancestry of Dayton Seeley please contact me.

Responder: SGS Query Editor