Monday, June 20, 2011

Amanuensis Monday - True Mortimer Seaver's Funeral Difficulties

Genea-blogger John Newmark (who writes the excellent TransylvanianDutch blog) started a Monday blog theme many months ago called Amanuensis Monday. What does "amanuensis" mean? John offers this definition:

"A person employed to write what another dictates or to copy what has been written by another."

The subject today is an interesting newspaper article, published in the New York Times newspaper on 8 February 1889 (accessed on the New York Times archive site, which provides no page number).  The transcription of the article is:



"The funeral of T. Mortimer Seaver, the well-known member of the Produce Exchange, and equally prominent as a Freemason, which took place from the Church of the Blessed Sacrament yesterday, was attended with a decidedly unpleasant complication which did as much as anything has within the last few years to define the opposition of the Roman Catholic Church to Freemasonry. Mr. S
eaver, until about a month ago, was a Universalist by inclination, but even to this belief he was not a devotee, his friends declare, the merchant not identifying himself with any congregation. Mrs. Seaver was a Roman Catholic, and when she learned that her husband's disease was necessarily fatal within a very short time, she south for one of Mr. Seaver's friends, a priest of the Community of St. Paul, whose house is in Fifty-ninth-street, near Ninth avenue.

"This priest was Father Clarence E. Woodman. Mr. Seaver had known him for a long time before he was ordained and maintained social relations with him after he had become a member of the Paulist Order. Upon Mr. Seaver being informed he had little longer to live, Father Woodman began instructing him and finally baptized him and admitted the sick man into the church. Before he was admitted in full communion, however, Mr. Seaver was obliged, according to the regulations of the church, to disown all connection with the Freemasons and declare that he no longer recognized their ritual. Mr. Seaver died Monday after receiving the blessed sacrament from the hands of his friend and confessor, Father Woodman. It was designed to hold the funeral last Wednesday from the Church of the Paulist Fathers, but as the interior was undergoing extensive alterations, and the only available place was the Sunday school room in the basement, Mrs. Seaver took Father Woodman's advice, and arranged for funeral services to be held in the next parish, that of the Church of the Blessed Sacrament, at Seventy-first-street and the Boulevard.

"Funeral notices to this effect were published in all of the newspapers. The following day the members of Kane Lodge, No. 454, of which Mr. Seaver was a member, saw the notice, and that night Master R.M. Morgan and Secretary H. V. Penoyer, called on the widow and offered her their brotherly assistance. Mrs. Seaver apparently forgot to tell of her husband's conversion, and the next morning the regular notice of the lodge, signed with the Master's and Secretary's names, appeared appended to the regular notice, declared that Mr. Seaver's funeral would occur in Father Taylor's church, and inviting members to be present.

"Father Taylor saw this and at once called upon Mrs. Seaver and informed her that under no circumstances should the funeral take place from his church if the dead were regarded as a departed Freemason, and that the members of the lodge, as suck, could not take part in the services. He, however, made this provision: He would officiate at the services if he received written permission from Archbishop Corrigan that he could do so, but not otherwise. A relative of the family at once went to the Archbishop's palace, but that church dignitary was out of town. He then called upon Vicar-General Donnelly and placed the case before him, promising that the Freemasons should not participate in the funeral. Mgr. Donnelly accompanied the relative to Father Taylor and gave him permission to proceed. The services after considerable delay, therefore, took place yesterday.

"There were representatives of the Produce, Consolidated, and Mercantile Exchanges, the New York Athletic Club, the Union Boat Club, Kane Lodge, and various other organizations, but the Freemasons entered the church by twos and threes. At the solemn mass of requiem which was held Father Taylor was celebrant. He was assisted by Fathers James H. McGeau of St. Peter's Church and James T. Byrnes of the Church of the Blessed Sacrament. The burial was in Calvary Cemetery. Father Taylor alluded to the episode from the pulpit during the services. He said that Mr. Seaver had become a member of the Roman Catholic Church before his death, and that therefore he had been obliged to "sever himself from many of the societies to which he formerly belonged." Thus no one in the audience, save the family and the Freemasons present, were aware of the narrow escape the funeral had of being indefinitely delayed. The Kane Lodge is one of the largest and most influential in the city. It has a membership of nearly 1,200."

The information in this article interested me, since I know very little about Freemasonry or the Roman Catholic Church.  The article was apparently published because of the difficulty in getting a funeral conducted because of a conflict between the two organizations. 

Interestingly, I could find no obituary of this man, T[rue] Mortimer Seaver (1839-1889), a son of True Worthy and Mary (Murphy) Seaver, husband of Jane A. --?--, and father of Francis M. Seaver and Arthur Harlan Seaver.  I found a notice for the funeral, and a mortuary notice, on GenealogyBank dated 6 February 1889, but I found no obituary with information about the family on Google News Archive, Chronicling America, or GenealogyBank.  There may be an obituary in the local and regional newspapers that are not yet digitized.

My interest in True Mortimer Seaver is esoteric - he is a Seaver from New England, and I collect information about Seavers from New England.  His grandfather was, apparently, Elliott Seaver (ca 1795 - after 1850), who married Sarah Payne before 18185, probably in New Hampshire.  I don't know who the parents of Elliott Seaver are, and am curious!

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(c) 2011. Randall J. Seaver. All Rights Reserved. If you wish to re-publish my content, please contact me for permission, which I will usually grant. If you are reading this on any other genealogy website, then they have stolen my work.

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