Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The 1858 Murder Trial of Mortimer Seaver - Post 11: Testimony of 12 More Defense Witnesses

I am transcribing a series of newspaper articles concerning the 1858 murder trial of Mortimer Seaver published in the Flint, Michigan Wolverine Citizen newspaper.  The series to date:

*  The 1858 Murder Trial of Mortimer Seaver - Post 1: Benjamin Phillips Testimony (10 June 2014)
*  The 1858 Murder Trial of Mortimer Seaver - Post 2: Jeremiah Slack's Testimony (11 June 2014)
*  The 1858 Murder Trial of Mortimer Seaver - Post 3: Testimony of 4 More Witnesses (12 June 2014)
*  The 1858 Murder Trial of Mortimer Seaver - Post 4: Testimony of 10 More Witnesses (13 June 2014)
*  The 1858 Murder Trial of Mortimer Seaver - Post 5: Testimony of the Victim's Wife (16 June 2014)
*  The 1858 Murder Trial of Mortimer Seaver - Post 6: More Testimony of Sarah Seaver (17 June 2014)

*  The 1858 Murder Trial of Mortimer Seaver - Post 7: Testimony From 11 Witnesses (18 June 2014)
*  The 1858 Murder Trial of Mortimer Seaver - Post 8: Prosecution Rests, Defense Starts (19 June 2014)
*  The 1858 Murder Trial of Mortimer Seaver - Post 9: Defense Testimony About Rifles and Balls (20 June 2013)
*  The 1858 Murder Trial of Mortimer Seaver - Post 10: More Defense Testimony (23 June 2014)

The article starts in the right-hand column of Page 1 above, continues on to most of Page 2, and then finishes in the 30 January 1858 edition of the newspaper on pages 1 and 2.  The first page of the 30 January 1858 issue is at http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=9AjqDp0R1qcC.

I am transcribing the articles in a series of blog posts - who knows how long this will take.  I hope my readers enjoy it.  Note that this is a reporter's summary of the trial, not the trial court transcript.


[from page 2, columns 1-2, 30 January 1858, Wolverine Citizen [Flint, Mich.] newspaper]


Lives in the town of Mundy; witness' farm is on the same east and west road, across the line, about 1-3/4 mile west from Seaver's.  Heard shots on the day Mr. Seaver was killed, as early as 7 or 8 o'clock in the morning; heard a great deal of firing; judged from the reports they were rifles; heard as many as 15 or 20 shots; the last he heard was about 9 o'clock.  The firing was in a south-westerly direction, and moving eastward in a direction toward Seaver's.

Cross-examined -- Witness has a good deal of feeling in this matter; has talked with Mr. Johnson a good deal about it; would talk of it every time he saw him; saw Mr. Thompson about it.  Witness went round a good deal, to try and find out who among the neighbors were out shooting hat day.  Pigeons were very thick about that time.


Lives on the farm east of Mr. Seaver's, adjoining.  Heard guns the day Mr. Seaver was shot; did not hear any in the place where his body was found;  the shooting was a little further north and west than where he was; heard three shots between 9-1/2 and 11 o'clock.


Lives on the east and west road, half a mile west of Seaver's.  Heard three or four guns between 9 and 11 o'clock, on the day of Mr. Seaver's death; they were south of the house, where there is wood-land.


Is wife of Charles Seaver; lives west of Mr. Seaver's, nearly half a mile, heard quite a number of guns on the forenoon of Mr. Seaver's death, - as many as ten; the firing was first west, then south, then south east - it appeared to be going east.  Witness thinks there is a wood-land along where she heard the firing.

Cross-examined -- Pigeons were flying plenty about that time.  Witness told different persons about her having heard guns; talked with Mr. Johnson about it.


Lives in Mundy, a little over a mile west, on the same road as Mr. Seaver; was at home about 9 o'clock on the 25th of September; heard firing from sunrise that morning; there was a rifle and a shot gun as he thought; they moved south of east; there is a streak of wood-land through in the direction they went, towards the place where Mr. Seaver was found.  The firing was not long in one place at a time.


Lives in Mundy, about a mile and a quarter west of Seaver's.  Was dragging in wheat on the 25th of September, and heard shots in a south-westerly direction going east; heard four guns; the firing continued to go east.  Witness heard one very loud report, which he thought to be south of Mr. Luther Seaver's farm.


Knows the prisoner; remembers when Mr. Seaver was shot; saw the prisoner at church on the Sunday previous, at 5 o'clock in the afternoon; the meeting lasted about an hour; he came on foot, and was with Mr. Waterous' young people.


Knows the prisoner.  He was at church on the Sunday referred to by the last witness; he went with witness, her brother and sister.  Prisoner had been in the company of witness' family, at their house, from one o'clock in the afternoon; they went to church at half past four; the meeting was at five, at the Halsey School House; prisoner stayed through the service.  The school house is two miles from Seaver's in a south-easterly direction.

Cross-examined -- Prisoner is witness' cousin.  This occurred on the Sunday before Mr. Seaver's death.


Lives at Grand Blanc, at Mr. Thompson's.  Does not know the prisoner.  The day before Mr. Seaver was killed, witness was riding to the mill, when he met a young man with a gun on his shoulder, going from the direction of Grand Blanc towards Holly.  Did not know the man, and would not know him again; he was a young man of small size; he told witness his halter strap was down, and came over and fixed it.  the man was shooting pigeons; witness saw him shoot at pigeons before he came up with him; witness told him where he would find a flock of pigeons.

Cross-examined -- Mr. Johnson made enquiries of witness in regard to this matter afterwards.  Witness told him what had occurred.  Did not know Mr. Johnson.


Witness was employed by the prisoner's brothers, to collect evidence for this trial.

In the course of his enquiries, witness asked prisoner if he had met any one on his way home, after leaving Tupper's, when he bought the ammunition.  Prisoner told him he had met a boy that he did not know, driving a mare and colt;  that prisoner had spoke with the boy, and fixed his halter strap for him, and that the boy told him where he would find pigeons; prisoner described accurately the appearance of the boy and horses, and from that description witness found James Lynch, the boy who has just left the stand.

Witness took charge of the guns now in Court by request of Mr. Wisner; they were delivered to witness by Charles Seaver, together with the pistol and bullet molds.  Took them a few days after the prisoner's arrest; the guns were brought into Court in the same condition in which witness got them; they had never been undone from the blanket they were rolled in since witness took possession of them.  

Witness testified to the creases on the ball, the cuts in the rifles, and the balls cast from the molds, to the same effect as the evidence of Messrs. Cumings and Stanton.

Cross-examined -- The guns were not kept under lock and key; they were under a bed in a spare room in witness' house.  The molds were locked up in a bureau drawer, and witness kept the key of the drawer.


Witness lives a little over half a mile east of Seaver's.  Saw Mortimer's team go by in the direction of Grand Blanc the evening before Mr. Seaver was killed; there were two persons in the wagon; it was just dark at the time.

Cross-examined -- Was not sure of Mortimer being in the wagon; they were driving fast; at a rate that would taker them probably about five minutes to go the half mile.

Saw prisoner going towards Grand Blanc on foot about four o'clock that afternoon; he had a gun with him; he was about two miles from Grand Blanc when witness saw him.


Heard Mr. Slack testify about a stump; was on the ground where the stump is; saw a wagon track over the root; is positive it was the track of a wagon; saw the marks of both wheels; the track could be traced for a rod or more.  Witness knew Mr. Seaver and family well; never heard of any difficulty in the family. Know Alvah Kennedy; met him at a school meeing since Mr. Seaver's death; he said the prisoner shot his father; the words he used were: "Morty is the guilty boy; he will be bound over soon."  Witness replied, "Mr. Kennedy, this is a serious charge, and a charge you ought not to make under the circumstances."


Well - we have a murder (?) of a respected man, Aaron Seaver,  in Grand Blanc, Genesee County, Michigan.

This part of the defense testimony is to try to add to the knowledge about the several issues from earlier testimony - who else heard gun shots on the day of the death, movements of Mortimer, and Mr. Johnson's testimony about keeping the guns.  Finally, we hear who convinced the district attorney to file charges against Mortimer.

Aaron Seaver (1793-1857) is a second cousin, six times removed to me.  Our common ancestors are my 7th great-grandparents, Joseph Seaver (1672-1754) and Mary Read (1680-????).

Stay tuned!!  The cross-examination continues with more witnesses.  We're almost done!

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Copyright (c) 2014, Randall J. Seaver

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