1. RICHARD1 SEYMOUR, founder of the Connecticut family of the name, was baptized at Sawbridgeworth, co. Herts, England, 27 Jan. 1604/5, the son of Robert and Elizabeth (Waller) and the grandson of John and Dyzory (Porter), and died at Norwalk, Conn., between 29 July 1655, the date of his will, and 10 Oct. 1655, the date of the inventory of his estate. He married at Sawbridgeworth, 18 Apr. 1631, MERCY RUSCOE, born about 1610, daughter of Roger and Sarah of Sawbridgeworth. She married secondly, 25 Nov. 1655, as his second wife, John Steele of Farmington, Conn., who died there 27 Feb. 1664/5.
Richard Seymour came to this country in or slightly before 1639, bringing with him his wife Mercy Ruscoe, to whom he was married at Sawbridgeworth, Hertfordshire, and their son Thomas, whose baptismal record was entered in the parish registers of Sawbridgeworth. It was this eldest son Thomas who sealed his will in 1712 with the wings of the ancient family of the Seymours of Penhow.
Richard Seymour, though not an original proprietor, was one of the early settlers of Hartford. Just when he joined the little settlement near “Dutch Point” on the Connecticut river we do not know, but probably in 1639, when we find his name in the list of those “inhabitants who were granted lotts to have only at the town's courtesie with liberty to fetch woode and keep swine or coues on the common.” His lot was No. 70, on the north side, near the “cow pasture.” His house stood on what is now North Main street, near the Ely place. He also owned outlying pieces of land including a portion of the tract running westward from the bluffs of the Trinity College property to what is now West Hartford. In 1647 he was elected chimney-viewer, which calls to mind that the houses of the first settlers were thatched, as in the old England they had left behind them, and on that account were particularly exposed to fire loss, and all the more because built of wood rather than of masonry as most of the corresponding English houses of the period were. Richard's duties, then, as chimney-viewer, were allied to those of a building inspector and fire chief of our time.
The fact that Richard received an allotment of land by the “courtesey of the town” shows that, with his family, he was judged to be an acceptable addition to the group of settlers forming the original proprietors, but his status was not equal to theirs, inasmuch as they were entitled, as he was not, to their proportional shares of the extensive areas of land held in common. Thus, every original proprietor might hope to secure as of right farm land for his sons. No such opportunity was open to settlers who were landholders by the “courtesey of the town.” This situation may account for Richard's decision to cast his lot with the planters of Norwalk under Roger Ludlow. Whatever the reason (and doubtless there were many), Richard and his former Sawbridgeworth neighbors, the Ruscoes, removed about 1650 (perhaps a year or so later) to Norwalk, where he had the status of an original proprietor of the new plantation, in the allotment of which he had a most favorable location.
We find his name among the number who made the agreement with Captain Patrick and the brilliant and restless Roger Ludlow “for the settlinge and plantinge of Norwalke,” 19 June 1650. As one of the planters of Norwalk, Richard Seymour's name appears in the indenture dated 15 Feb. 1651, between the Planters and Runckinheage and other Indians. The exact date of his removal from Hartford to Norwalk cannot be fixed, but he had undoubtedly taken up his residence there before the end of 1652, and perhaps earlier. His home-lot was well-situated, directly opposite the meeting house and Parade Ground, and on the highway leading from Stamford to Fairfield. His house was only a short distance from the present roadbed of the New York, New Haven & Hartford railroad. Many of his descendants have probably unconsciously viewed the spot where their ancestor lived, while being carried past the place in a manner of which he never dreamed. In the new plantation of Norwalk, Richard's abilities were fully recognized. On 29 Mar. 1655, he was elected townsman, or selectman, as we should now say. But Richard did not live to hold this office long, since in his will, which he executed 29 July 1655, he is described “very week & sike.”
It is significant, on the social side of the picture, that Richard's son Thomas was married after the arrival of the family in Norwalk, to Hannah Marvin, the sixteen year old daughter of Matthew Marvin, Sr., “one of the most distinguished of the Norwalk fathers,” who had also removed to Norwalk with his family from Hartford, where our Thomas and his Hannah had doubtless been acquainted. Matthew Marvin, Sr., was born in England in 1600 and died in Norwalk in 1680. On coming to Norwalk (he had, as well as Richard Seymour, signed the Agreement with Ludlow) Marvin was assigned to what might be regarded as the “home-lot (No. 10) of honor” in the social system of the day, i.e., the lot next to the meetinghouse, and his estate was the second largest of the Norwalk settlers. To Richard Seymour was assigned a scarcely less desirable and honorable home-lot (No. 11) of four acres facing the “Town Street” and opposite the Parade Ground, a corner lot, and near lot No. 10 assigned to Matthew Marvin, Sr. So Thomas and Hannah, even before their marriage, were near neighbors in Norwalk.
It thus appears that Richard and his family were well placed in Norwalk. On 29 March 1655, he was chosen one of the two townsmen, as we have seen. He was now about fifty years old, in the full tide of life, with a family of four boys, and one of the chief figures in the community. What was it that overtook him then? No record, alas, answers this question. All that we know is that at the end of July of this year he was “very week & sike” and making his will, which he was unable to sign save by a mark. In this brief document he refers twice to “my loving wife Mercy” and once to “my loving wife,” suggesting at least a happy relationship to his wife, to whom he had been married twenty-four years before, in Sawbridgeworth in Old England. The original will, after being duly recorded, was doubtless returned to his executors, as was the custom of the time; it has long since disappeared. The record book in which the will was copied had a quantity of ink spilled upon it, and so it happened that the copy of the will, with many others, was made in part unreadable. Did Richard, in executing his will, use the seal used by his eldest son, Thomas, in executing his will in 1712? The will itself seemingly answers the question in the negative in its concluding words, viz., “to this my will and Testament I have set my hand this 29th July 1655.” The common language, “my hand and seal,” is here contracted to “my hand.” In a time of stress such as that under which the will was drawn, the common phrasing “hand and seal” may have been contracted to hand, so the omission of “and seal” is by no means conclusive evidence that Richard's mark on his will was not supplemented by a seal. One of the two witnesses to the will was John Ruscoe, a faithful friend over many years, of England, of Hartford, of Norwalk, probably a cousin of his “loving wife Mercy,” born a Ruscoe. The date of Richard's untimely death is not known, but it seems reasonable to suppose that it took place soon after the execution of his will, 29 July 1655, when he was “very week & sike” and unable to do more than make his mark upon it.
His estate, inventoried 10 Oct. 1655, was valued at £255-09-00 - not a large, but a fair estate. Considering that Richard died at the age of about fifty years and the circumstances of his short life, the value of his estate is well above the majority of estates inventoried in 1655 or thereabout. The inventory was recorded in the same volume as his will and met with the same disaster of an overflow of ink and its top section is illegible. The only item worthy of note is “bookes” valued at £1. Comparatively few inventories of the period list any books at all. The use of the plural shows that at least there was something more than a Bible in the house. Indeed, the sum of one pound in 1655 indicates that Richard had several books, and inferentially that he could both read and write.
The next chapter in our history opens with the surprising record at Farmington of the marriage on 25 Nov. 1655, of the widow to the Hon. John Steele, who recorded the marriage in his own hand. But this does not show that the marriage took place in Farmington, rather than in Norwalk, where Mercy lived. It was very common then for the man to record his marriage where he lived, for obvious reasons connected with inheritance. The apparent precipitancy of the marriage of Richard's widow to John Steele may be remarked upon here. Steele undoubtedly knew Richard Seymour and his wife and family before they removed to Norwalk a few years earlier. Mercy, the widow, was no longer young, she had but moderate means and had four sons, of whom three were minors. She was no great “catch,” it would seem, for one of the foremost men of the Colony. Must she not have been uncommonly engaging or possessed of rare qualities of mind and heart to have led the Hon. John, even in those days of dearth of available women, to marry her and bring her back from Norwalk and her Ruscoe relatives there, with her three younger sons? Can she be blamed if it be considered who he was – “his place in the sun” – to have made a “marriage of convenience,” if such it was, though we can only speculate on that matter.
John Steele was one of the eight Magistrates appointed in 1636 by the Colony of Massachusetts Bay to govern Connecticut, before that Colony had established a jurisdiction of its own. From then until 1658 he served without intermission in the General Court or Assembly, as an elected Deputy for Hartford through the year 1645, and thereafter for Farmington. For nearly twenty years he was recorder [Town Clerk] of Hartford, and served for a time in the same capacity for Farmington, after his removal to that town. His time and energies were thus largely devoted to the public service for nearly a quarter of a century. The young Seymours, under his tutelage, must have met many of the leading men of the colony, and have acquired a considerable knowledge of public affairs.
Mercy's remarriage seems to have been a happy one. The date of her death is not known, but she survived her able and distinguished husband, who died 27 Feb. 1664/5. In his will, dated 30 Jan. 1664, he bequeathed to his “dear and loving wife Mercy Steele the house wherein I now dwell and the appurtenances belonging to it.”.
On Mercy's marriage to the Hon. John Steele, her three minor children, John, Zachariah and Richard, became members of his household in Farmington. They could hardly have been better placed in any Connecticut household of the time. It is a pleasure to record that the interests of Richard Seymour's minor children were safeguarded. We quote from Selleck's “Norwalk,” p. 154:
Richard Seymour1st. executed his will July 29, 1655, and died within the next three months. He had appointed his wife and his “faithful friend” Richard Olmsted administrators, leaving everything to his aforementioned children, and commissioning his wife to take charge of the estates of the three younger boys “until such time as they shall be fit to receive and dispose of” the same. Mrs. Steele sought the welfare of her Seymour offspring, as did also her second husband. On Oct. 13,1) 1668, thirteen years after the decease of Mr. Seymour and four years after that of Mr. Steele, the three lads, now arrived at majority, were paid the “full and just” amount due them, and acknowledged before Samuel Steele and their brother Thomas that they were “fully satisfied.” From the first [John] of this trio of youths, bereft at an age when they most needed it, of a father's counsel, but still judiciously cared for, have descended well-known New England and New York families.
The mutilated first volume of Fairfield Probate Records (page 6) contains the recorded copy of Richard Seymour's will; the original is not in the files. We have no autograph of Richard Seymour and hence we do not know his own spelling of his name. The surname is diversely spelled in various records pertaining to him and his sons, but in those days spelling was largely phonetic and hence the spelling employed by the early scribes is not significant. By the time of his grandsons, the standard spelling of the name seems to have been generally accepted.
[The will of Richar]d Semer (1655)
[ ] being very week & sike [ ] gods pon[?]
mercy in [ ] doe leve this as my [ ] doe first
will and [ ] dust of weh it was [made and my soul into the]
hands of God that gave it [and I doe will and] bequeath unto my Loving wife
Mercy [Seamor] my whole Estate: viz: my house & Lands Cattle and [all]
my moveables: Except that it is my Will that [my] Eldest sonn Thomas should
have two steeres [ ] year old and upward and my best cartt:
thease [to] receive soen after my decease:
It is alsoe my will that my other three sons John & Zachary [and] Richard
receive out of this Totall estate the sum of forty pounds each of them viz:
fourty pounds to John and fourty pounds to Zachary and forty pounds to
Richard: duly and faythiully to be payd to them severally at the age of twenty-
one years: Unles the Executors of this my Will shall see cause to doe it soener:
It is alsoe my Will that my loving wife should have the dispose of my three
sons John Zachary & Richard untill such time as they shall be fit to receive and
dispose of ther Estate: It is alsoe my will and apoyntment that my loving Wife
Mercy: togather with my faythfull freind Richard Olmsted be the sole Executors
and Administrators of this my Last Will and Testament the aforesaid Legasies
and all Lawfull debts and demands duly discharged by my loving wife Mercy:
It is my will that shee posses and enioy all the rest of my Estate. to this my
will and Testament I have set to my hand this 29th July 1655:
In the presence of us
Thomas Handford the marke of Richard f Seamer
25 octobar 1655
The Court haveing examined the will of Richard Seamor they doe approve
William Hill: Secretary
The top section of the inventory also has suffered and is partly illegible.
|In w[earing apparel]||[08-05-00]|
|In Chest[s, wooden ware and] other mov[eables]||[06-05-00]|
|In Iron Tools and nayles||[03-02-00]|
|In hempe and flaxe||[02-10-00]|
|In butter and cheese||[02-10-00]|
|In a Cart plowe & dr[ag]get tackling||-03-00|
|In Cowes and Calves||[35-00-00]|
|In steeres and heifers||[21-00-00]|
|In a mare and fole & a yong hors||[28-00-00]|
|In sort hoggs||[17-00-00]|
|In smaller hoggs and Piggs||[20-05-00]|
|In armes and ammunition||[03-02-00]|
Apprised by us Mathew Campfeild Richard Olmsteed 25 Octobr 1655 William Hill Secretary
The Court haveing examined this Inventory of Richard Seamors they doe approve therof.
The receipt of the three younger sons reads as follows [Fairfield Probate Records, vol. 2, p. 33] :
Octobr 30: 1668 Received by vs John Semer Zackery Semer Richard Semer of Mr John Steele deceased the full and Just sum of sixscore pounds sterling: that is to say forty pounds each of vs vpon the Aco of ye legasies due to vs by the last will of or Honored father Richard Semer deceased and we doe acknowledg that it is a full and compleat acomplishment of ye aforesaid will Respecting our selues and doe by these presents fully wholy compleatly acquit and discharge ye aforsaid Steele and alsoe ye Executor and ye Executrix of ye estate of ye aforesaid Semer all and every of them ther heirs Executors Administrators and assignes from any or all demands from or by our selues our heirs Executors Administrators & assignes respecting the premises or from any person from by or vnder vs aknowlidging that we are fully satisiyed as aforesaid and doe by these prsents wholly discharge ye aforesaid persons respecting ye prmises - as witnes or hands
|Witnes hearof||Zackery Semer|
|Samuell Steele||Richard Semer|
|Tho: Semer||John Semer|
This is a True Coppy acording to ye origenall Transcribed p me Willm Hill Clarke
That the four sons of Richard Seymour made a place for themselves in their respective communities, may be gauged by the fact that their combined inventories at death amounted to well over £2,000, which of course makes no allowance for property bestowed on the children of some of them before they died.
|2.||i.||THOMAS2, bapt. at Sawbridgeworth, co. Herts, Eng., 15 July 1632.|
|ii.||MARY, bapt. at Sawbridgeworth, co. Herts, Eng., 9 Jan 1634/5; bur. there 3 Apr. 1635.|
|iii.||MERCY, bapt. at Sawbridgeworth, co. Herts, Eng., 8 July 1636; no further record of her has been found.|
|3.||iv.||JOHN2, b. probably at Hartford, Conn.|
|4.||v.||ZACHARIAH, b. at Hartford, Conn., abt. 1642.|
|5.||vi.||RICHARD, b. at Hartford, Conn.|