My Genealogy Hound

Below is a family biography included in Portrait and Biographical Record of Seneca and Schuyler Counties, New York published by Chapman Publishing Co., in 1895.  These biographies are valuable for genealogy research in discovering missing ancestors or filling in the details of a family tree. Family biographies often include far more information than can be found in a census record or obituary.  Details will vary with each biography but will often include the date and place of birth, parent names including mothers' maiden name, name of wife including maiden name, her parents' names, name of children (including spouses if married), former places of residence, occupation details, military service, church and social organization affiliations, and more.  There are often ancestry details included that cannot be found in any other type of genealogical record.

* * * *

NATHANIEL SEELY, who lives on the road leading from the turnpike to Whiskey Hill, in the town of Waterloo, Seneca County, is one of the representative farmers and oldest citizens of this locality. He is a native of New Jersey and was born in the town of Wantage, Sussex County, May 15, 1817. His parents were Daniel and Ollie (Mead) Seely, natives, respectively, of Massachusetts and New Jersey.

The father of our subject was a poor man and supported his family by working out by the day. He was drafted for the War of 1812 twice, but his name was never read. When a boy he had very little opportunity to attend school, as his parents needed his help on the farm as soon as he was old enough to be of any assistance. Upon attaining mature years he was married to Miss Mead, and became the father of eleven children. He died in 1835, when the subject of this sketch, who was the third in order of birth, was in his eighteenth year.

When young, Nathaniel Seely was ambitious to learn the carpenter’s trade and went so far as to apprentice himself to a good workman. His father refused to let him continue, however, as he said he could earn no more working at that business than on the farm. His father often took contracts for getting out timber, and young Nathaniel learned to hew and square the logs, thus making himself very useful about the place. He remained at home until twenty-four years of age, giving his mother his earnings up to that time. Then he purchased an acre of land, from which he hewed the timber in the cold winter weather and erected thereon a comfortable dwelling for his mother.

In 1837 an elder brother of our subject came to Seneca County, and three years thereafter Nathaniel joined him in this community, coming hither by way of the Hudson River and canals. He was, however, compelled to return to his native state in order to fulfill a contract for a piece of work, and on its completion again came to Seneca County, making permanent settlement here in the fall of 1841. He at first began working out on farms by the month, but a short time afterward was paid by the day. In August, 1842, he was married to Miss Laura Sparks, of Onondaga County, N. Y. Three years later he was enabled to make his first purchase of land in Seneca County, which consisted of twenty acres. It was covered with timber, and Mr. Seely was compelled to clear a space on which to erect his little cabin. It was then that his knowledge of carpentering served a good purpose, for with his own hands he constructed a neat frame structure, in which the family lived for many years. This piece of workmanship created quite a furor among the carpenters of the neighborhood, for they did not see how it was possible for one who had never learned the trade to construct a frame for a dwelling. They were invited to come and see it, and were compelled to admit that it was as good a piece of workmanship as they could have done themselves. After this Mr. Seely found plenty of work to do in the carpentering line, and finally was employed in moving houses, which business commanded better pay. He was a perfect genius in the use of tools, and it was not long before he was operating as a millwright, putting in water-wheels, etc.

After getting his twenty acres of land paid for our subject had an opportunity to purchase thirty more adjoining this tract, and, as on the other occasion, went in debt for part of it. To this was later added five acres, making in all fifty-five acres. As soon as this was cleared and placed under improvement he wished to buy more land, but as he was unable to do so and have the property adjoin his farm, he bought forty-three acres in the town of Waterloo. A few years thereafter his family moved to the new place and Mr. Seely disposed of the old farm at a handsome advance. As before, he was not able to purchase vacant land on either side of this tract, and for that reason he became the proprietor of his present fine estate, numbering one hundred and twenty-five and three-fourths acres. He still retains his forty-three acres, also a small tract of twenty-three acres, so that he now owns nearly two hundred acres of some of the best farming land in the county. He has made considerable money in house-moving, which business he has followed nearly all his life. He at first charged very moderate prices for moving a building, but soon realizing that he did better work than others who made that their business, he raised his price accordingly.

Mr. Seely has been quite seriously injured on several occasions, once falling from an apple tree, breaking four ribs, which never really knit. In 1894 he was hurt again, breaking several ribs this time also. At one time, when helping to raise a building, he fell and broke his right leg. During the Civil War he was on his way to enlist, when he was petitioned to stop and move a building. He complied with the request, but was injured before completing the work. He fell from the structure and struck his left heel, causing an injury which prevented his thinking anything more about army life, for a time at least.

Of the children born to our subject and his wife we mention the following facts: Daniel Joseph died at the age of nineteen years; Charles departed this life when in his eighteenth year; James is a farmer in the town of Waterloo; Rozalia married Emanuel Harpending, and they also make their home in the town of Waterloo; Thomas is still on the home farm and assists in its management; Abram L. lives on a tract of land bordering on the village of Waterloo; and Reuben F. is also under the parental roof.

Mrs. Nathaniel Seely, who died August 24, 1890, was a most estimable lady and had hosts of warm friends in this community. In politics our subject was first a Whig and voted for William Henry Harrison, although his father and brothers were Democrats. On the organization of the Republican party he voted for Fremont, and has never lost a vote since 1840, with one exception, when he was away from home in Michigan. He was reared in the faith of the Baptist Church and all his life has been an esteemed member of that society. As one of the old and prominent residents of Seneca County, we are pleased to be able to present his biography to our many readers.

* * * *

This family biography is one of the numerous biographies included in Portrait and Biographical Record of Seneca and Schuyler Counties, New York published in 1895. 

View additional Seneca County, New York family biographies here: Seneca County, New York Biographies

View a map of 1897 Seneca County, New York here: Seneca County, New York Map

Use the links at the top right of this page to search or browse thousands of other family biographies.