A One-Name Study
for the BARNUM/BARNHAM Surname
Notes for Nathan SEELEY
From Struggles and Triumphs or, Forty Years' Recollections of P. T. Barnum, Written by Himself,
The Courier Co.: Buffalo, NY, 1882. The following scene makes a chapter in the history of Connecticut, as the state was when "blue-laws" were something more than a dead letter . To swear in those days was according to custom, but contrary to law. A person from new York State, whom I will call Crofut, who was a frequent visitor at my store, was a man of property, and equally noted for his self-will and his really terrible profanity. One day he was in my little establishment engaged in conversation, when Nathan Seelye, Esq., one of our village justices of the peace, and a man of strict religious principles, came in, and hearing Crofut's profane language he told him he considered it his duty to fine him one dollar for swearing.
Crofut responded immediately with an oath, that he did not care a d--n for the Connecticut blue-laws. 'That will make two dollars,' said Mr. Seelye. This brought forth another oath. 'Three dollars,' said the sturdy justice. Nothing but oaths were given in reply, until Esquire Seelye declared the damage to the Connecticut laws to amount to fifteen dollars. Crofut took out a twenty-dollar bill, and handed it to the justice of the peace, with an oath. 'Sixteen dollars,' said Mr. Seelye, counting out four dollars to hand to Mr. Crofut, as his change.
'Oh, keep it, keep it,' said Crofut, 'I don't want any change, I'll d--d soon swear out the balance.' He did so, after which he was more circumspect in his conversation, remarking that twenty dollars a day for swearing was about as much as he could stand.
In November, 2003, Talcott Seeley sent this information: My direct ancestor, Squire Nathan Seelye, born in 1766, located his family in Bethel, CT. He was the one who changed the family surname name from Seeley to Seelye. One of his sons was Seth, my ancestor, who married Abigail Taylor and fathered the famous college Presidents Julius and Laurenus. Seth had a brother named George who decided to change the name back to Seeley! One of George's sons, named Nathan, in 1867 married one of P.T. Barnum's daughters, Pauline Taylor Barnum. (Barnum had no sons.) They in turn had two sons, one of whom was named Clinton Hallet Seeley. When Barnum died, having no sons, proposed to leave the bulk of his estate to Clinton upon one condition. Clinton had to change his name to C. Barnum Seeley in order to perpetuate the name of the great circus impresario.
From the New York Times
, Tuesday, June 27, 1916: SEELEY.—At Poland Springs, Me., June 23, Nathan Seeley. Funeral services will be held at his late residence, 25 East 29th St., on Tuesday, June 27, at 2 P. M. Interment at Woodlawn Cemetery. Relatives and friends are invited to attend.
From The Farmer
, Bridgeport, Connecticut, June 26, 1916: Nathan Seeley, son-in-law of P. T. Barnum and formerly for many years a resident of this city, died at his summer home in Poland Springs, Maine on Friday after a short illness. Mr. Seeley was married to Barnum’s youngest daughter Pauline T. Barnum who became the mother of three children, Clinton Barnum, Herbert and Jessie B. who married Wilson Marshall. Mrs. Seeley died many years ago and Mr. Seeley later married Miss Mary Ella Smith of this city who survives him with her son Alfred Seeley and his two sons by his first wife. Mr. Seeley and his family resided for many years on Waldemere Avenue at Seaside Park but later removed to New York.
From the New York Herald
, NYC, June 28, 1916: Mr. Nathan Seeley, retired New York merchant, is dead of heart disease, at his summer home in Poland Spring, Me. He was born in Bethel, Conn., seventy years ago and came to this city when a boy. He was educated in the New York public schools and Greenfield Hill Academy in Connecticut.
Mr. Seeley early showed an aptitude for business, first in wholesale drugs and naval stores and later as a manufacturer and dealer in paints under the firm name of Seeley Brothers. Among his successful financial ventures was that of obtaining control of the street railways of Worcester, Mass., of which he became principal owner. He resided thirty-nine years at No. 25 East Twenty-Ninth Street.
Mr. Seeley was one of the founders of the Downtown Club was a member of the Union League for thirty-four years and formerly a member of the Manhattan and New York Yacht clubs.
He leaves his wife, Ella Smith Seeley, and two sons, Alfred H. Seeley and Clinton Seeley.
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