Friday, July 17, 2009

This wasn't in my database... but it is now!

The beauty of newspaper research for certain names is that you find some really interesting gems - usually not for your target person, but for others with the same name.

I went searching for "Thomas Seaver" articles on GenealogyBank, and was rewarded with 540 matches. Too many, but one caught my eye:

From Page 5 of The State newspaper of Charleston, South Carolina, dated 23 August 1897:


A Judge Shot

Woodatock, Vermont, Aug. 22 -- Thomas C. Seaver, Judge of Probate for Windsor county, was shot this morning by William W. Lawrence, while standing on the plazza of his residence, the ball penetrating his right lung, lodging, under the shoulder blade. The wounded man is reported as resting quietly tonight and the attending physician thinks he will recover, although his age, beyond 60 years, will tell against him. Lawrence surrendered himself to the sheriff after the shooting and was lodged in jail.

Mrs. Lawrence some time ago left her husband, and Judge Seaver appointed a guardian for their seven year old daughter. The judge afterward issued an injunction restraining Lawrence from interfering with the child, and incurred Lawrence's hatred.


There were several other versions of this story in the GenealogyBank Historical Newspaper collection from the Duluth (MN) News-Tribune, the Aberdeen (SD) Daily News, and the Philadelphia (PA) Inquirer. The headlines are somewhat different, but the content is essentially the same.

The New York Times, dated 23 August 1897, had more details about this incident after the first paragraph:

It is alleged that the troubles which led to the crime began early in 1896, when Mrs. Lawrence left her husband and child and applied to Judge Seaver for the appointment of a guardian over the girl, who was about seven years old. Lawrence tried, it is said, to steal the child, from those who were taking care of her under the direction of the guardian, Joseph C. Enright, then State Attorney. Judge Seaver then granted an injunction restraining Lawrence from interfering with the girl in any way. At the last session of court, Mrs. Lawrence sued for a divorce, but failed to get one because of insufficient evidence. The injunction was removed, and Lawrence got permission to see his child.

He disliked Judge Seaver ever since the guardian was appointed, and this morning he called upon the Judge and had a hot discussion with him. The Judge ordered Lawrence to leave his house and followed him to the door, where Lawrence drew a revolver and fired two shots, the first of which took effect as stated. At the jail, Lawrence was searched and a quantity of morphine was found on him.

Judge Seaver is highly respected and has been Judge of the Probate Court for many years.


So what happened to Mr. Lawrence, Mrs. Lawrence, the daughter, Judge Seaver? There are no other articles about this case in the GenealogyBank Historical Newspaper collection, nor in the Newspaper collection.

I don't have any idea about what happened with the Lawrence family.

Judge Thomas Orville Seaver (note every newspaper got the middle initial wrong) was a Colonel in the Union Army during the Civil War, and lived in Woodstock, Vermont until 11 July 1912, and is buried in the River Street Cemetery in Woodstock. There is a long biography of him, with family details in the book : Biographical Encyclopaedia of Vermont of the Nineteenth Century, published Boston, Metropolitan Pub. and Engraving Co., 1885, page 247.

Posting these two stories illustrates my point that researchers cannot rely on just one historical newspaper resource - that researchers need to plumb these wonderful resources in both online and traditional repositories.

Wouldn't that be a great story to tell to your grandchildren about great-granddad Thomas, the Civil War soldier, Judge and gunshot survivor? I hope that a descendant of Judge Seaver contacts me for more information! I've left enough "crumbs" for the "Google bread trail" here, haven't I?

1 comment:

Sheri Fenley said...

Real juicy stuff Seaver. I love the newspapers. Those pesky ancestors - They can run, but they can't hide from the people of the press!