83. COL. THOMAS5 SEYMOUR (Thomas4, Thomas3, John2, Richard1), born at Hartford, Conn., 17 Mar. 1735, died there 30 July 1829 aged 94, for three years the oldest living graduate of Yale; married MARY LEDYARD, baptized at Groton, Conn., 15 June 1735, died at Hartford, 27 Aug. 1807, daughter of John and Deborah (Youngs).
He was graduated from Yale College in 1755, and became one of the most prominent citizens of his time. He represented Hartford in the General Assembly at eighteen sessions between 1774 and 1793, being Speaker five times, and from 1793 to 1803 was annually elected a member of the Connecticut Senate, then called the House of Assistants. He was King's Attorney, 1767, and after the Revolution, State's Attorney. He was commissioned Captain in the militia in 1773, and was promoted to Lieut.-Colonel, Oct. 1774.
During the Revolution (from Apr. 1775), he was head of the Committee of Pay Table, the labors of which fell mostly upon him, and Paymaster. As Lieut.- Colonel of the 1st Regiment of Horse, he marched in command of three regiments of light horse in the summer of 1776, to aid the Continental Army in N ew York.
He was Chief Judge of the Court of Common Pleas, Hartford County, 1798 to 1803; first Mayor of Hartford, from its incorporation as a city, June 1784, until his resignation, at the age of seventy-seven, May 1812.
He was one of the Trustees of the Grammar School. He was a member of the Second, or South, Church, as was also his wife, and in 1767 he was appointed to read the Psalm. He served this church as Deacon from 1794 until his resignation in 1809. He lived on Arch Street on the banks of the Little River; the house was pulled down in 1870, and the site was more recently occupied by apart of George S. Lincoln's iron foundry. General LaFayette stopped at his house when he was in Hartford in 1824. During the War of 1812, he was Commissary General.
“At the bar he is said to have been a smooth, persuasive, and engaging advocate; and in the various social and domestic relations he was as happy as his conduct was kind and exemplary.”
[Mrs. Seymour's father, John Ledyard (1700-1771), of New London and Hartford, said to have come from Bristol, England, was the progenitor of a distinguished line. Mary Kingsbury Talcott says that he was “a man of distinction and influence and literary culture, one of the founders of Dartmouth College” (“Memorial History of Hartford County,” Vol. 1, p. 653). His funeral sermon was preached Sept. 3, 1771, by Elnathan Whitman, of the South Church. Her brother, Colonel William Ledyard, “the Gallant Ledyard,” was brutally murdered at the taking of Fort Griswold, near New London, during Arnold's invasion in 1781; her nephew, John Ledyard, the Traveler, has a permanent place in the “Annals of Adventure.” The civilized world rang with his name but a century ago. Mrs. Fairchild, herself a Ledyard as well as a Seymour, collected much material, now in the archives of the New York Historical Society, on the Ledyard family.
Col. William Ledyard, referred to above,–“the gallant Ledyard” as he is often called,–was the “Hero of Fort Griswold,” which he defended with incomparable gallantry at the time of Benedict Arnold's Invasion of New London in 1781. The British overpowered the little garrison and swarmed into the Fort. When the British officer in command called out, “Who commands this Fort?”, the “gallant Ledyard” came forward, and saying, “I did once but you do now,” offered his sword to the officer, who took it from his hand but to run it through his heart,–an atrocity perhaps unparalleled in the history of civilized warfare– if there is any such thing. –G.D.S.]
The character and cast of thought of the “First Mayor” are illuminated by a letter written by him in 1776 to Mr. [Jedediah] Norton and the Gentlemen of the Committee of the Society at Worthington:
“Gentln–I am informed by Doctor Steele that he is a sincere professor as
well as Worshipper in the Church of England, and has for some time past paid
to the Incumbent where he attends and has his receipt accordingly. This being
the Case, hope you will not at least in this day of public calamity, put him or
his Estate to any loss or Trouble especially for the building of meeting houses,
& in a time when we are struggling for Civil & Religious Liberty tis perhaps
a pity to Compel men to pay where they do not worship.
“I am with very great regard
Gentlemen Yr. Friend
& h ble Se'nt
Hartford June 21 1776”
This letter, remarkable in that it was written by a Revolutionary patriot who had been King's Attorney, breathes a spirit of tolerance and real love of liberty not always found among the leaders of our Revolution and totally lacking among those hot-heads who dubbed themselves “Sons of Liberty.”
A framed autographed certificate issued by Thomas Seymour in 1802 as Mayor of Hartford, and bearing the seal of the City, is in possession of the Mayor's Office in Hartford.
The invaluable rolls of soldiers in the French and Indian War, 1755-64, were discovered and purchased by the late Judge Sherman Wolcott Adams of Hartford about 1888 after they had been removed from the old Seymour house on Governor Street, and later were acquired by the State Library. These muster rolls have been published in two volumes by the Connecticut Historical Society under the careful editorship of Albert C. Bates, Esq., who explains in the prefaces to the volumes how these papers came to be in the Seymour house, which descended from Col. Thomas Seymour to his son, Maj. Henry Seymour, in 1829, and from the latter to his son, Gov. Thomas H. Seymour, in 1846. After the death of the Governor's sister, her heirs in New Orleans, after removing what they valued, sold the house.
Col. Thomas Seymour's ledger in 1759 contains the item “To 4 Days drawing muster Rolls for England,” and other entries which show that he was employed to copy the rolls to send to England. After the British government had reimbursed the Colony, the original rolls were probably considered of no further value, and left in Mr. Seymour's hands.
A letter addressed to President Jefferson, signed by Thomas Seymour and his son Henry, along with five other gentlemen, and possibly composed by Thomas Seymour, is of considerable historical interest, and is thought not to have been printed hitherto. We are much indebted to James L. Howard, Esq., of Hartford, Conn., for the copy. President Jefferson's reply to the letter may be found in the Works of Thomas Jefferson (Federal Edition, vol. 10, p. 366).
Hartford, Cont., Dec. 20, 1806
Apprehending that communications have been made to you, tending to misrepresent the sentiments of the Republicans in this State, on the subject of the prosecutions depending before the Circuit Court in this District, for Libels against the President & administration of the General Government; we submit the following observations, expressive of the opinions of the Republicans in this Town, and of the Friends of Republican Government in this State.
The Press we consider as essential to our Liberties; its liberty inviolable. In the liberty of the Press we include, the right to publish our sentiments on every measure of the Government; to examine it freely in all its tendencies; but not to charge its authors, with motives subversive of the liberties & happiness of the Nation.
The Chief Magistrate of a free government, becomeing the servant of the people, retains the rights of the Citizen. Devoting himself to his Country, the Country is pledged to secure to the Magistrate by all legal means the character of the Citizen. Renouncing the quiet of domestic life, & submitting his official conduct to the severe scrutiny of a people, jealous of their liberties; he consigns not his reputation as a man to rise and fall with the expediency or impolicy of his measures.
The opponents of the Gen. Government in this State, under the mask of superior virtue, religion, & patriotism, have commenced and persevered in, a systematic plan for the ruin of every Individual, who holds an office under, or advocates the Government of the U States. From the President, to the lowest officer, directly or indirectly dependent on him for appointment; fro:n the Republican Candidate for Governor down to the lowest Republican Candidate for office in the State Government; a continued torrent of abuse, not only copious and uninterrupted, but irresistable in its progress has issued. Not contented with this systematic attack on character; unsatisfied by the general wreck of reputation which has marked its progress, they are determined that the bare means of subsistance shall not be left to the victims of their intolerance. With these objects in view, not only suits at Law to rob us of our property, but criminal prosecutions have commenced. While on the other hand the characters and not the characters alone, but the opinions and conduct of Federalists, from the highest Judge to the most obscure Justs. of the Peace, are not only protected, but vindicated. The motives of men, who have rioted on the mangled reputations of their political opponents, in the Genl, & State governments, are not to be suspected without fine, & to the loss of property & character, have been added the horrors of Imprisonment. Confident that no Federal Court would take cognizance of calumnies against the President & administration, and influenced by the example of Political Priests, & of men high in office, under the State government, who have descended from the Pulpit & the Bench to become the authors & retailers of the calumnies; Federal Editors, have unceasingly issued from their presses, libels as unprecedented in number and grossness, as they were unfounded in truth. While waging a war of extermination against the Characters of their political opponents, the professed friends of order in Connecticut had screened their own, by Juries openly & avowedly selected for the purpose. While, for publishing the truth of them in language not abusive, but decent, a Republican printer had been compelled to pay One Thousand Dollars; while another Printer & another Editor had been fined & Imprisoned; and while a persecuting & intolerant Majority were exulting over the distresses & misfortunes of an almost despairing minority; A Judge eminent for his talents & attatched to the Administration of his Country, by an unexpected order of Providence, is called to Preside at a Circuit Court in this District. A Grand Jury selected from among the most intelligent of our Citizens attatched to the principles which have uniformly guided the administration, but who will inviolably maintain the right of examining its measures, were summoned. Bills were found against a Judge, two political Priests, & three Federal printers, who were corrupting the taste and morals of the people. Public opinion has decided on the correctness of the procedure; moderate Federalists approve it; the violent are silent; and Republicans with a few solitary exceptions, applaud it.
Already Sir, have the public presses become less personal in their abuse, but have not nor will they become less free in their examination of the measures and principles of the Administration. Already has an Intolerant Majority softened its asperity, and a minority, despairing of Justice to itself from the State Courts, been led to anticipate from the Courts of the U States, exact Justice to its enemies.
Feeling ourselves wholly unrepresented at the seat of Government, we offer no apology for the freedom assumed; but tender you our ardent wishes for your happiness, and continued exertions, for the support & extension of Civil & Religious Liberty.
- Thos Seymour
- Jonth. Bull
- Sylvester Wells
- Nathl. Patten
- Daniel Olcott
- Thos. Tisdall
- Henry Seymour
Thomas Jefferson Esq.
President of the U States.
“In October, 1789, while on a tour of two eastern states, Washington spent two days in Hartford. Mayor Thomas Seymour, who probably looked on the town hall as his regular place of business, for he was mayor for twenty-eight years, issued a proclamation welcoming His Excellency to Hartford and pledging loyalty and support. Washington replied to Mayor Seymour's welcome with a brief expression of thanks and pleasure.”
The will of Thomas Seymour, Esq., follows:
I Thomas Seymour of the City & County of Hartford in the State of Connecticut, Esquire, being at this present time, through the goodness of God, in good health, and of sound disposing mind & memory, yet knowing the uncertainty of this life, and that I cannot tell what a day may bring forth, but that it is surely appointed for all Men once to dye.-therefore now, in the fear of God, & in whose mercy alone, through Jesus Christ, I trust for salvation & happiness after this life, do make & ordain this my last Will & Testament, as follows, to wit.
Imprimis–That all my just Debts & funeral expenses shall be paid by my Executor, hereafter named.–
Item,–I give unto my Dearly beloved Wife Mary, the entire use and improvement of my Homestead, mansion House, & out Houses thereon–also, the use of all my household goods & furniture–a good Cow & Horse, & pasturing the same–& the sum of two hundred dollars, to be paid to her annually by my Executor–all, in lieu of Dower, during her natural life–
Item, as I have already given to my eldest Son Thomas Y. Seymour, by deed of gift, & otherwise, his full portion of my Estate, of considerable value, in which he expresed himself contented. so I give him nothing further at present–
Item, whereas I have done much for my son William Seymour, & he has had a full portion of my Estate, in money & payments made for him, therefore, it is my will that, he have nothing more, least it might deprive those of my Children, who have had little, of their just proportion–
Item, and whereas, I have given to my Son Edward Seymour, by deed of Gift Gift [sic], a considerable portion of my Estate, value six thousand dollars, at least, & the use of my Store a number of years, free of Rent; in addition to which, it is my will, & I do now give to him the said Store, & the platt of Ground on which it stands, near the south end of the great Bridge, with the priviledges & appurtenances, and to his heirs forever–
Item, I give to my dear & only Daughter, Mary Juliana Chenevard, all the Household Goods,furniture & plate, remaining in my House, upon the demise of her dear mother, excepting thereout, the Portraits of her Parents, & my Mohogany Desk & Book Case–and I also give to her one thousand dollars, to be paid to her by my Executor hereafter named, within six months after my decease, which I advise her to put upon Interest, for her own use–
Item–and whereas I have paid & advanced considerable sums of money for my youngest Son Ledyard Seymour, who has been unfortunate in Business–therefore it is my will, not to give him any further at present, but to leave it to the discretion and affection of his Brother, my Executor hereafter named, to assist him, as far as he may judge it to be just & proper–
Item–I do give & bequeath unto my Son Henry Seymour, & to his heirs forever after the demise of his dear mother, my House & Homestead, containing about three Acres, together with all the rest, residue and remainder of my Estate, real & personal, not before given & devised; to enable him, (especially) to render his dear mothers life comfortable, and happy,–to meet & fulfill the other obligations enjoined upon him in this my will, as also, to make him equal to what has been done for his other Brothers, he, haveing as yet, had very little of my Estate, or other advancements–
and lastly, I do appoint my said Son Henry Seymour to be the sole Executor of this my last Will & Testament, hereby revoking all other, & former Wills & Testaments, by me made–In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand & Seal in the City of Hartford, this 20th day of August, in the year of our Lord, 1807–
Signed, sealed, published, & pronounced, in presence off–
- Elisha Shepard
- Elisha Babcock
- Jona Wells Babcock
- Tho. Seymour [seal]
Mayor Seymour in executing his will employed the seal charged with the two wings conjoined in lure, to be seen on the original will in the files of the Hartford Probate District. This is the same seal used by his father in executing his will in 1765, as before stated and as illustrated in the back pages of this volume.
I Thomas Seymour Esqr, (now of sound mind and memory) upon reviewing my last Will and Testament, above written–ever remembering the decease of my beloved Wife, which hath since happened,–the variant circumstances of my Family, and the cares & burthens, which of course will attend my said Executor in the execution of his trust–and more especially, for what he hath done and suffered, in years past, in administering upon the two Estates of Captain John Chenevard, & his Son John Junr deceased, in which my daughter & her Children were much interested–I do now therefore, in consideration of the Above premises, subjoin and Annex the following Codicil to my said Will, & in alteration thereof, as follows, to wit– –Imprimis–I do hereby revoke the Legacy of one thousand dollars made to my said daughter, & exonerate my Executor from the payment thereof, and in lieu of the same, I do give to her one hundred dollars, to be paid within one year after my decease, and all my silver plate, and household furniture, (except as before excepted), as also excepting the mirror, & small prints now kept in the lower south east room in my House–
Item, I give to my Son William the use of my House upon the North Bank of mill river, during his life, but not to let or lease to anyone, and the remainder to my Son Henry & his heirs forever–Item,–I give to my Son Ledyard, all my wearing Apparel (my great Coat excepted)
Item, I give to my grand Daughter Mary Ellery Seymour Eight Mohogany Chairs,
In Witness where of have hereunto set my hand & seal this 15th day of October, A. Dom: 1821–signed, sealed, published, & pronounced– in presence off–
- James Wells
- Thos. Seymour [seal]
- Charles Babcock
- John Thomas
Probate office District of Hartford Sept. 19th 1829
Personally appeared Elisha Shepard One of the subscribing witnesses to the last Will of The Hon. Thomas Seymour, and made Solemn oath that he saw the Testator subscribe, and declare the same to be his last Will & testament and that he executed the same in his presence & the presence of the other subscribing witnesses, and that they all attested the same in the presence of said Testator and at the time of Executing the same he appeared to be of sound and disposing mind
Also Chs, Babcock one of the subscribing witnesses to the Codicil & made oath as above–
before me – John Russ Judge of Probate
A delightful picture of the “First Mayor” in his old age is presented in the following letter written from Painesville, Ohio, to Prof. Nathan P. Seymour, in 1876, by the Mayor's granddaughter, Mrs. Mary Eliza7 (Chenevard) Comstock, daughter of the noted beauty, Mary Juliana6:
[p.1] – Painesville April 13th 1876
I wanted to tell you an incident in the last days of my grandfather, Thomas Seymour King's atty first Mayor of the City of H–. He was ninety-four years of age when he died in 1827. It was his habit to rise very early and go down the bank of the little river, on which stood his office, and dip his head and neck into the river, then rush back to his room to make his toilette for breakfast. [p.2] When the river was frosen he broke a hole in the ice, performing the same ablutions the year round. I remember a summer day the last time perhaps that he came to see me in Asylum Street, cane in hand, he took the hand of my little daughter and placed in it a pair of sleeve buttons each crystal set in pure old gold, “Saying these are for your name Mary Ledyard–the name of your great grandmother.” The sweet loving look has always remained in my memory. Mrs Bailey is the owner of the precious buttons–Mary Ledyard Bailey. [p.3] When he was fast failing and quickly closing away his mortal life, my mother attended him, his only daughter long a widow. He roused all of a sudden, “saying Julia I have lived a long and temperate life and tryed to set you all a good example”–then seemed nearly gone. She said do you know me father, no reply came, “Father do [you] know the Lord Jesus Christ? Oh yes 1. have known him a long time” came with emphasis, from his dying lips. Dear Mr Spring was my Pastor then, 1. went to him to attend the funeral. He said he never saw so fair, dignified and beautiful an [p.4] object as he lay in his coffin. Such reminiscences to me are very sweet. 1. have to thank you for indulging me, in listening with so much interest to my old time legend–all facts–and not exaggerated. if I find any old papers that I think will interest your son or add anything to his researches, I will send them. There was an obscurity with regard to the grandfather's mother. his father was Thomas J, but G W Seymour tryed to find some notice of her, and asked me if I knew, but nothing more was said at the time, which seems rather singular
My love to Mrs S[eymour]
Yours truly, M. E. Comstock
|Children, born at Hartford:|
|171.||i.||THOMAS YOUNGS6, b. 19 June 1757.|
|172.||ii.||WILLIAM, b. 28 Dec. 1759.|
|173.||iii.||EDWARD, b. 14 Feb. 1762.|
|174.||iv.||HENRY, b. 25 Dec. 1764.|
|v.||MARY JULIANA, b. 6 Feb. 1769; d. at Hartford, 8 June 1843 ae. 74; m. at Hartford, 20 Nov. 1794, CAPT. JOHN3 CHENEVARD, JR., b. at Hartford, 12 Dec. 1769, d. there 19 Apr. 1808 ae. 38, s. of Capt. John2 (John Michael1) and Hepzibah (Collier). Children: 1. John Michael7, b. 20 Nov. 1795; d. 30 Oct. 1870 ae. 75, unm. 2. Mary Juliana, b. 30 July 1797; d. 21 Mar. 1798. 3. Mary Eliza, b. 2 June 1799; m. 19 May 1817, Dr. John Lee Comstock, the author of Comstock's Philosophy. 4. Margaret Juliana, bapt. 18 Mar. 1802; m. 2 Apr. 1820, Dr. William H. Morgan. 5. William Chandler, b. 3 May 1803; lost at sea, Sept. 1824 ae. 25.|
|175.||vi.||LEDYARD, b. 2 Aug. 1773.|
|vii.||SAMUEL, b. 30 Aug. 1776; bur. 9 Oct. 1776.|
MARY JULIANA6 SEYMOUR (1769-1843), daughter of the “First Mayor,” was a celebrated beauty, and noted as the original of the “character” Juliana eulogized by Noah Webster, the lexicographer. We reprint in full his description, hoping that Juliana was not so idealized by the writer as to be
| “too pure and good
For human nature's daily food.”
The original is found in “An American Selection of Lessons in Reading and Speaking. Calculated to improve the minds and refine the taste of youth. To which are prefixed Rules in Elocution, and Directions for expressing the principal passions of the mind. Being The Third Part of a Grammatical Institute of the English Language. By Noah Webster, Jun.” Hartford, Printed by Hudson and Goodwin, 1801. Her daughter Mary E.7 (Chenevard) Comstock wrote in 1880 that “my mother” was Webster's “model” for his “Real Character .”
Mary Juliana's portrait, illustrated in this volume, is a miniature in the Yale School of the Fine Arts by Col. John Trumbull, one of the foremost portrait painters of his day,-a son of Gov. Jonathan Trumbull of Connecticut. On the back of the miniature, in Col. Trumbull's handwriting, the following memorandum appears:
| Seymour, Julia, daughter of Thomas Seymour, Esq.,
of Hartford, Conn. Painted at Lebanon by J.
From this it appears that the beautiful young woman was painted two years before her marriage to Capt. John Chenevard in 1794. She went to Lebanon (the seat of the Trumbull family and the residence of the Governor) to have her miniature painted. The next year, Col. Trumbull painted, in Hartford, a miniature of her brother, Capt. Thomas Youngs Seymour, Yale 1777, the “beau Sabreur of Saratoga.” These two miniatures are among the most admired of all of Col. Trumbull's paintings in this field of portraiture.
MARY ELIZA7 CHENEVARD, daughter of Capt. John and Mary Juliana6 (Seymour) Chenevard, born at Hartford, Conn., 2 June 1799, married 19 May 1817, Dr. John Lee Comstock, born at Lyme, Conn., 25 Sept. 1787, died at Hartford, 21 Nov. 1858. Mrs. Comstock was a woman of unusual charm, tall and spare, brown-haired and blue-eyed. Several charming letters written by her on family (Seymour and Ledyard) matters are included in the late Mrs. Charles S. Fairchild's manuscript material on those families, and her recollections of her grandfather, the First Mayor, have been quoted on an earlier page; two pictures of Mrs. Comstock are reproduced herein.
Dr. John Lee Comstock was a physician and a very popular writer of text-books which had, for the time, enormous sales,-books on philosophy, chemistry, botany, mineralogy, astronomy and physiology, as well as a history of Greece and a history of the Hindoos. His book on philosophy sold over half a million copies in this country, and his books were widely translated, some of them being used in the schools of Prussia. Dr. Comstock served as Assistant Surgeon in the War of 1812. He was the first to patent a process for waterproofing cloth and leather by the use of rubber.
The children of Dr. John Lee and Mary Eliza (Chenevard) Comstock were:1) 1. John Cheneuard8, b. 1 May 1818, d. at Hartford, 2 Feb. 1862; graduated from Trinity College, Hartford, in 1838, and was a captain in the First Conn. Regt. at Bull Run, dying soon after. 2. Samuel Lee, b. 30 Apr. 1821, d. 12 Aug. 1841, from accidental discharge of his gun. 3. Stella L., b. 22 May 1824, d. 5 June 1858. 4. Mary Ledyard, b. 15 Feb. 1827, m. Rev. Nathaniel P. Bailey. 5. Jane Ellery, b. 8 Feb. 1830, m. William Matthews. 6. Julia Seymour, b. 24 June 1833, m. her second cousin, Stephen Edward Fuller. 7. William Allen, b. 24 July 1836, d. 24 Sept. 1838. 8. Edward Morgan, b. 8 Sept. 1839, d. 22 Jan. 1840.