E. H. OWEN SEELEY is one of the oldest settlers of Schuyler county and resides in Rushville. He was born at Thetford, Orange county, Vermont, December 15, 1811. His father, Luke Seeley, was born in the same town October 15, 1792. The grandfather, Sheldon Seeley, was a native of New England and it is supposed was born in Vermont, at least he was one of the pioneers of Thetford where he followed agricultural pursuits. At a very early day he went to Ohio, prospecting, but was taken sick while there and died near Sandusky. His wife was Deborah Bowker, a native of New England, who died at Thetford at the age of about ninety years.
Luke Seeley was reared and married in his native State. Upon reaching manhood he engaged in mercantile pursuits, which he continued in Vermont until 1818, when he removed to Franklin county, New York, and there lived on a farm for about one year. He then moved to Malone, New York, and engaged in merchandising, conducting at the same time a cabinet shop and employing a foreman to carry it on. In 1828 he came to Illinois to look at his piece of land in the military tract, but then went back to New York in September, 1830, and returned to Illinois with his family. He started on the 12th of September, and journeyed with a two-horse team to Buffalo, thence by lake to Cleveland, thence by team to Columbus, Ohio, where he remained until the 27th of October, and then with a company of fourteen families made the overland journey by team to Schuyler county, and after forty days on the road arrived at Rushville. He located on land just north of Rushville, but one year later moved to the village and started the first nursery in Schuyler county, which he conducted successfully until his death October 15, 1856. His wife, and the mother of our subject, was formerly Miss Electa Owen, a native of Milton, Vermont, and the daughter of Elijah Owen. She died in Rushville, May 10, 1834. Both parents were substantial citizens, good neighbors, and enjoyed the high esteem of all who knew them.
Our subject, E. H. Owen Seeley, was educated at Malone Academy. One of the friends of the family, Dr. Waterhouse, had lost his only son and he expressed his desire to have our subject go to Burlington, Vermont, and study medicine, and to this the father assented. It was considered necessary that he should have a Latin education and accordingly he secured a Latin grammar, Cicero's Orations, Ainsworth's Latin and English Dictionary, the Iliad of Homer and the Bucolics of Virgil in two volumes; but at this juncture, on the eve of his departure, and after his father had procured him a suit of sheep's-gray clothing, his mother objected to his going, and instead thereof he entered a shop to learn the cabinet trade, but he still had his books that he had purchased, and in 1830, when he came West, he traded his books for a rifle, as it was evident that he would have much more use for that instrument of death in the wilds of Illinois than for his classic, Latin works. Soon after his arrival here, he bought the lot on the corner east of the court house, and in 1831 began undertaking. The first person he buried was the fourth body consigned to the cemetery at this place. When the cholera swept the town in 1834, taking off thirty persons or more, himself and one other person conducted all the burials. For many years he was the only furniture dealer and undertaker in the city. He continued an active business until 1878, but since then has been mainly retired.
On the 26th of September, 1839, he married Catherine A. Haskell, a native of Troy, New York, whose father was Joseph Haskell of New Hampshire. Joseph Haskell was left an orphan at an early age, and upon arriving at adult years, went to York State, where he followed blacksmithing. In 1831, accompanied by his wife and family, be came by team to Wheeling, West Virginia, and then by the Ohio, Mississippi and Illinois rivers to Beardstown. He did not settle on the land he had previously bought in Schnyler county, but established himself in Rushville, then a little hamlet. He bought the land now occupied by the courthouse and erected thereon a frame dwelling, in which the mother of Mrs. Seeley taught the first school in the village. Mr. Haskell followed the trade of a mason and resided here until his death, October 2, 1864. The maiden name of his wife was Clarissa Pier. She was born in Poultney, Vermont, March 5, 1792, and died August 10, 1879 in Rushville.
Mr. Seeley has always been a Democrat, and in 1847 and 1848 was Assessor and Treasurer of this county. He visited every house in the county and made his returns in ninety days. From 1857 to 1861 he served as Postmaster. To himself and wife were born six children: Charles, Albert, Frank, Dora, William L. and Ella. Dora died at the age of five years. Mrs. Seeley joined the Methodist Church at the age of ten years and has been a consistent member ever since. She has in her possession the manuscript of a history of Rushviile written by her mother several years ago.
Biographical Review of Cass, Schuyler and Brown Counties, Illinois, Biographical Review Publishing Co., Chicago, 1892, pages 184-185.
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