John Mason Seelye.A pioneer family in any country is of more or less historic interest, no matter if its tenure of residence be of long or short duration. But when a family is not only among the first to settle in a country, but also continues to reside in it for decade after decade, and generation after generation, and certain of its members at all times are leaders in every movement intended to conserve the country's welfare and promote its progress, then that family becomes of special historic interest and prominence. One of the most prominent families of Kansas is the Seelye family, of Abilene, which dates its founding in America from the landing of the Puritans under the leadership of Captain John Winthrop, June 12, 1630. Captain Robert Seelye, a member of that company, was the first of the family to settle in the Massachusetts colony. He was a native of Plymouth, England, and a descendant of an Austrian nobleman, Count Cilli, of the Duchy of Styria, whose daughter, Barbara, married the Emperor Sisigmond, of Austria. Numbered among his descendants are men who achieved distinction in the frontier life of those early days, in the commercial era which followed, in the French and Indian wars, and later in the War of the Revolution. Ephraim Seelye, the grandfather of the man whose name heads this article, was a lieutenant in the Continental Line in the War of Independence and served for four years under Col. Seth Arnold, whose command was among those troops which made up the division known as the Green Mountain Boys. Lieutenant Seelye took part in a number of engagements, among the most important of which were the battles of Bennington, Bemis Heights and Saratoga. Lieutenant Seelye was born in the Connecticut colony in 1748, and died on March 20, 1840, aged ninety-two years.
John Mason Seelye, the subject of this article, is a native of Vermont, and was born on his father's farm in Bennington county, April 1, 1830, the son of Barns and Bethany (Young) Seelye, and is one of the sixth generation in descent from Capt. Robert Seelye, the founder of the family in America. The first twenty years of his life were spent in his native county, where he was reared a farmer. He obtained a good education in the district schools, and in 1850 decided to seek opportunity for advancement in the undeveloped West. Illinois, at that time in the early stages of settlement, seemed to him the place for his activities, and he journey there, first stopping at Chicago, where he was offered 160 acres of land, now in the heart of the city, for $200; an offer he scoffed at, as it was virtually a marsh and much better suited for raising frogs than farming. On July 4, 1850, he joined his brother, Danforth Seelye, at Peoria, and shortly after engaged in farming near that city, and remained a resident of that section until 1856, when he removed to Marshall county. He was occupied in farming and stock raising in Illinois until 1890, when he disposed of his interests and came to Kansas, locating in the city of Abilene. He had accumulated a comfortable fortune from his agricultural enterprise and he employed his funds in assisting his son, Alfred B. Seelye, who had established at Abilene, in 1890, a laboratory for the manufacture of proprietary medicines. This enterprise, now one of the important factors in its line in the United States, is reviewed at length in the sketch of its founder, which follows this article. Many of the preparations manufactured bear the portrait of Mr. Seelye as a trade mark.
Mr. Seelye married at Kickapoo, Ill., December 25, 1855, Miss Ellen Seely, daughter of Samuel and Delia (Richmond) Seely, who was born at Wyoming, Ill., December 31, 1837. Her father, Samuel Seely, was a native of Tioga county, New York, born in 1798. He was one of the early settlers of Illinois, removing there from his native State in 1829, was a farmer throughout his life, and died in 1863. His wife was born in Indiana, and died in 1857. To this union were born the following children: Franklin Danforth, born October 7, 1856, a manufacturer of proprietary medicines at Oklahoma City, Okla.; Albert, born March 21, 1860, who died in 1863; Alvin William, born May 24, 1863, a successful stockman of Ellis county, Kansas; Emma, born April 3, 1865, the wife of Wesley Organ, a farmer and stockman of Julietta, Idaho; Alfred Barns, a review of whom follows this article; and Jennie, born December 22, 1872, the wife of J. A. Gish, of Abilene, Kan.
Mr. Seelye retired from active business several years ago, and resides at No. 1012 Olive street. He is remarkably well preserved for a man of his age, eighty-four, and is a familiar figure on the streets of Abilene, where he enjoys the respect and esteem of all.Pages 400-401 from a supplemental volume of Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc. ... / with a supplementary volume devoted to selected personal history and reminiscence. Standard Pub. Co. Chicago : 1912. 3 v. in 4. : front., ill., ports.; 28 cm. Vols. I-II edited by Frank W. Blackmar. Transcribed October 2002 by Carolyn Ward. This volume is identified at the Kansas State Historical Society as microfilm LM196. It is a single volume 3.
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