Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The 1858 Murder Trial of Mortimer Seaver - Post 2: Jeremiah Slack's Testimony

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 Trial of Mortimer Seaver - Post 1 (10 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 23 January 1858 issue is at

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 1, column 7, 23 January 1858, Wolverine Citizen [Flint, Mich.] newspaper]


Witness knew deceased, and resides about half a mile from his farm.  He was killed on Friday, the 25th of September.  Witness was on the ground before the body was moved -- to all appearance.

[With the assistance of a map, the witness described minutely to the Court and Jury the lay of the land around the spot where the body was found, being a narrow flat of some extent east and west, from which the land rose naturally, but irregularly, on the north and south; to the east the piece of woodland lay, spoken of as five or six rods distant -- having a lane and two fences intervening.]

Prisoner told witness he had been mowing some 24 rods west from where the body was found.  The ground is level between that and where the body lay.  From the place where the

[from page 2, column 1, 23 January 1858, Wolverine Citizen [Flint, Mich.] newspaper]

prisoner said he was mowing, the body could not be seen, owing to the angle of the fence.  It would be necessary to come from four to six rods north, to bring the spot where he lay in sight.  There is also a large oak tree which obstructs the view in a directl ine, and would serve to conceal a person who wanted to hide behind it.  To all appearance, the mowing where the body was found was to the east.  Witness saw the body on the ground before it was moved, that he knows of.  

Witness could not tell by looking at the body, what was the cause of death.  After getting the body into the wagon, witness went back and then saw some blood upon the ground, just under where the back of the body had been; it covered a space nearly as large as the palm of his hand.  Witness examined the body; the ball entered to the right of and close to the back bone, just above the hips; the ball was found in the left shoulder; the ball was pretty badly battered up.

After starting for the house, immediately after putting the body in the wagon, witness asked prisoner: If he was there when his father was shot -- if he saw him fall?  He answered, -- No.  Prisoner then went on to say that he was mowing on the other side of the meadow -- motioning his hand off west; that he came to where his father was, to get a drink from a jug there, and found him lying there dead.

Cross-examined -- A person would have to come north, in the neighborhood of five rods from where the prisoner was mowing to see the spot where the body lay.  Thinks there would be no difficulty in a person standing on the rise of ground south of the fences, and shooting another, where the body lay.  It was partly because of the direction the ball took in the body; that witness concludes that it could not have come from that rise.

Found Mr. Seaver's three sons, Mr. James Rice and Mr. Phillips there.  The boys were excited.  Witness went there at that time because Mr. rice told him he had heard Mr. Seaver was dead.  The body did not appear to have been disturbed.  Rice, Phillips and witness lifted the body.  Witness went back to look at the ground where the body had lain;  it was a little unlevel, his feet having been a little higher than his head.  The swath was mowed directly east; it was the last clip appeared to be cut clean out.  Saw a scythe lying on the ground.  distinctly remembers the scythe lay on the ground.  

The prisoner walked with witness to the house.  Charles Seaver may also have walked with them.  Thinks he did.  Witness may have rode part of the way to the house in the wagon; would not swear he did.  Witness was excited -- it was an exciting business.  Witness saw the ball taken out of the body; the ball was very much bruised.  Witness concluded that the ball went clear through the body in the direction in which it was fired.


We have a murder (?) of a respected man, Aaron Seaver,  in Grand Blanc, Genesee County, Michigan.  This is the testimony of the second witness who came after the man was shot but before the body was moved.

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!!  More testimony tomorrow.

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Copyright (c) 2014, Randall J. Seaver

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