Thursday, June 12, 2014

The 1858 Murder Trial of Mortimer Seaver - Post 3: Testimony of 4 More 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 Trial of Mortimer Seaver - Post 1 (10 June 2014)

*  The 1858 Murder Trial of Mortimer Seaver - Post 2: Jeremiah Slack's Testimony (11 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 2, column 1-2, 23 January 1858, Wolverine Citizen [Flint, Mich.] newspaper]


Witness resides in Grand Blanc; his farm adjoins Seaver's; was present and saw the body before it was taken away; is acquainted with the grounds. [Witness described the grounds, corroborating the evidence of previous witnesses.]  Witness saw the body laying it on its back.  Mr. Phillips and the two Seavers were there when witness came; Slack and Luther Seaver arrived soon after.  Could see no evidence of the cause of death until the body had been removed.  Helped to put the body in the wagon.

Cross-examined -- The head of the body lay a little east of south when he saw it -- the feet in an opposite direction.  The team was driven by Luther Seaver.  The prisoner was there at the time, but witness does not remember whether he went up to the house with them.  Did not hear Mr. Slack have any conversation with prisoner.  Saw prisoner weeping; he was excited, as were all the rest.

Direct examiniation resumed -- Mr. Slack might have had conversation with the prisoner, and witness not know, or remember.


Witness was acquainted with the deceased.  Knows prisoner.  Lives in Grand Blanc, two and a half miles from Seaver's.  Was at the house between two and three o'clock on the day in question.  Saw the body.

Was present at the post mortem examination.  The ball entered directly under the rib, on the right side of the back bone; it cut the main artery of the heart; went in the upper rib on the left side, and lodged in the left shoulder, pretty near the surface.  The ball was considerably battered.  Heard prisoner sworn before the inquest.

[Counsel for the defense here objected to parole evidence of what was sworn at the Coroner's inquest, when the written depositions might be procured.  The Court sustained the objection, and the examination of Mr. Kennedy was not continued.]

The Court here adjourned till 8 1-2 o'clock tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 20th.

The forenoon was occupied by the Court with other business, owing to the absence of witnesses.  In the afternoon this trial was resumed.


Witness resides in Grand Blanc.  Is a Justice of the Peace.  Was acquainted with Aaron Seaver.  Was called upon on the 25th of September last to hold an inquest on his body.  It was holden at the house of deceased.  A Coroner's Jury was called and witnesses sworn.  Their testimony was not reduced to writing and transcribed by them.  Saw where the ball entered the body; it was about half way up, on right side of back bone, and near the bone; the ball went nearly in a direct course, obliquely to the left collar bone.  Drs. King and Fairbanks extracted the ball.  Witness produced a ball and identified it.  The ball is now in the same condition it was when extracted.

[The ball was examined by the Jury, and taken charge of by the Court.]

Cross-examined -- The prisoner, Charles Seaver, and Luther Seaver were present at the post mortem examination; and Mrs. Seaver was in the house.  Prisoner was called upon to give testimony.  Witness made note of the testimony given on the inquest, but owing to infirmity in his shoulder, was not able to reduce it all to writing.


Witness is in her eleventh year -- will be eleven next February.  In September last was living at Mr. Aaron Seaver's; lives now at Mr. Ames'.  Remembers when Mr. Seaver was dead; was at his house when he was killed; heard the report of a gun that day; it was in the forenoon; Mrs. Seaver and the witness were in the kitchen at the time.

Mrs. Seaver had been spinning that forenoon, and just when they heard the gun, she had sat down to knitting.  Witness did not go out when she heard the shot.  Is acquainted with the prisoner; has known him over two years; saw him the day Mr. Seaver was killed; prisoner had been up to the house to get a drink of water; had no conversation with him at that time; he stayed only a few minutes; do not know where he went then.

Saw him again soon after, when he came up to the door yard and said his father was shot; he said this to his mother -- Mrs. Seaver.

Witness was sent by Mrs. Seaver to tell Charles his father was shot; Charles is prisoner's brother.  Witness went and told Charles, and then went to Mr. Phillips' to tell the same; witness then came back home.  

When prisoner came up for a drink, he came into the house at the west door, into the new kitchen; it is not usual to come in at that door; the well is on the east side of the house.  Prisoner did not sit down either time he came to the house.  When he came to tell his father was shot, there was no one else there but Mrs. Seaver and witness, nor when he came - as he said - for a drink.

Saw prisoner since he has been in jail; It was in December.  He told witness not to say any thing -- "to keep my head shut."  Witness recollects prisoner going off to the State of New York, this last summer -- four or five weeks before the murder; he was gone about a week; his father came back with him; do not know what Mr. Seaver went to N.Y. for; suppose he went to N.Y. to bring back prisoner.  Two or three weeks before Mr. Seaver was killed, witness heard prisoner say he "would see two or three years fron now, who would be jawed, and who would not."

This was said in the room where witness was; his father and mother were not there.  Saw the prisoner the day before the death, take his gun and go out with it; witness does not know where he went.

Cross-examined -- Lived two years at Mr. Seaver's; no one was present but prisoner and witness when he spoke of "jawing". 

Does not know whether he was speaking to witness or to himself then.  Knows of no difficulty between prisoner and his father, except scolding once in a while because he would not do as his father wanted.  There was about five minutes between his two visits to the house.  Witness heard as many as three guns fired that day; one report was louder than the other; Mrs. Seaver remarked what a loud gun that was.  Soon after this, prisoner came to say his father was shot;  he was crying, and came running.  Witness talked with Mr. slack and Mr. Kennedy once about the shooting. 

 Witness came to Flint on the 17th of December; was subpoenned.  When witness saw prisoner in jail, also went there with Johnson's boy.  

Prisoner's gun stood in the Wood House; saw it stand there about one hour after Mr. Seaver's death.  Does not know whether it was there in the forenoon or not.  Luther Seaver has a gun; can't tell where that was.  There were two other guns in the house - shot guns, saw a pistol with prisoner one night.  He appeared to feel bad after the death.  

Witness was there when the wagon came up; Mr. Phillips, Mr. Slack and Mr. Rice were in the wagon.  Witness heard the first gun about 9 or 10 o'clock; heard the second not a great while after; and the third not long after the second; they all seemed to come from the same direction.


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

The first five witnesses described the aftermath of the shooting, and then the girl Mary Munger described what occurred inside the house before and after the shooting, and her conversations with the prisoner earlier.  She also described how the prisoner went to New York for some reason, and his father went to bring him back home.

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 -- to be continued tomorrow!

Copyright (c) 2014, Randall J. Seaver

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