Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The 1858 Murder Trial of Mortimer Seaver - Post 7: Testimony From 11 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: 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 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

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, columns 3-4, 30 January 1858, Wolverine Citizen [Flint, Mich.] newspaper]

Trial of Mortiner Seaver
For the Murder of his Father, Aaron
Seaver in Grand Blanc


Witness married the daughter of Mr. Seaver.  Knows the prisoner.  Heard from the family that he went to N.Y.  Did not know of any difficulty existing.  Is acquainted with Kate Steele; she lived at witness' house when prisoner went to N.Y., and previously.  Witness saw them ride out together.  Witness may have spoken of their marriage, but if he did there was nothing in it -- it wasn't so.  A young man called Wm. Smith worked for witness.  Witness has been acquainted with the deceased some fourteen years; has heard him scold his family and the prisoner, occasionally.  Wm. Seaver and Luther came to witness house, 

[page 1, column 4]

and asked him if he could lend him some money; he said he was going after the prisoner; witness did lend him money.  Witness carried Mr. Seaver to Holly to take the cars.


Is daughter of Aaron Seaver; prisoner is her brother; remembers the time he went to N.Y.; he was in the habit of coming frequently to their house; knows Kate Steele, she lived with witness.  Knows Wm. Smith; he lived at their house.  Her father talked with her about the prisoner and Miss Steele; the day after prisoner went, he father came to witness' house to enquire if he was there; he wanted to know where my girl was, and if she had gone away with the prisoner; he complained of her going to the Circus with prisoner in the evening; and said no decent lady would do it.


Noticed the scythe he supposed the prisoner was mowing with; it was lying on the ground; examined it the day after Mr. Seaver's death, in the afternoon.  There was but very little mowing done there;  thinks not more than one third the size of this Court House.  Went there to search for evidence that might lead to the detection of the manner in which Mr. Seaver came to his death.  Saw a mark in the ground like what would be made by setting down the breech of a rifle.  It was such an indenture as would be made by one of the prongs of the breech, the other prong resting on the root of a stump; the stump was near the angle of the fence.  Witness examined the scythe to see if the nibs were loose; they were quite tight; with all witness' strength, he could not stir them, or the scythe blade.  Witness understood the prisoner to speak of hearing the report at the bars nearest the house, in his testimony before the coroner's jury.


Resides in Fentonville; saw prisoner on the day his father was killed; had conversed with him before the coroner arrived; he said he heard the report of a gun when he was at the bars near the house; they then stood within two rods of the bars, and prisoner pointed them out to witness; he said he was coming to get a drink.  Witness examined the fence near where the body lay for marks of bullets, but did not find any.


Resides in Grand Blanc.  Knows the place where Mr. Seaver's death took place.  Went to the place where prisoner had been mowing about 2 o'clock on Friday.  He hah mowed but a small portion of the meadow.  Witness described the land.


Resides in Grand Blanc.  Knows the Seaver farm.  Talked with the prisoner at Mr. Maine's after he came back from the State of N.Y.  He said the next time, he would go and stay.  Witness thinks he used the expression -- he'd be d--d if he didn't stay the next time he went, as long as he had a mind to.  There was a number of persons there, and they were laughing and joking prisoner about Miss Steele, and his short stay in N.Y.  Witness was down where the prisoner had been mowing, about 2 o'clock on the day of Mr. Seaver's death; Miles Maine and some other persons were with him.  Witness took hold of the scythe, and hung it on the fence to keep it out of the way of the horses treading on it; did not notice whether the nibs or the scythe were loose..

Cross-examined -- Was not present when Mr. Slack found the scythe on the ground next day.


Witness was present when Mr. Slack examined the scythe prisoner had been working with; saw the marks spoken of by Mr. slack, on the side of the root; it looked like the mark that would be made by setting down the butt of a rifle.


Saw the spot where the prisoner was mowing, on the same day his father was killed; there was a very small spot mowed; saw the scythe there, and saw others take it up, shake it, and examine it; does not know who they were; witness did not take hold of it; heard the person who shook the scythe say -- "the nibs are tight."  Witness searched for marks of balls in the fences; did not find any.

Cross-examined -- Witness thinks he drove the team to the house, with the body.  Cannot tell whether Mr. Slack rode or not; thinks Luther followed the wagon up.


Knew Mr. Aaron Seaver; lived on good terms with him; lives about 80 rods west, on the opposite side of the rode; heard the testimony of Mrs. Seaver; witness circulated a petition for a new School House, to which Mr. Seaver was opposed; they had some discussion about it, and in the conversation witness might have used some such words as Mrs. Seaver ascribed to him, but witness never had any difficulty with Mr. Seaver, of any kind.  Mr. Seaver took a different side on some public matters from witness, as he had a perfect right to do, and that was all the difference between them.  Was at the house on the Saturday morning after Mr. Seaver's death.  On his way witness saw two men, one of them carrying a gun, and heard a shot; witness did not distinguish who they were.  Soon after he got to the house, prisoner came in with a rifle, which witness thought was prisoner's; thinks he knows prisoner's rifle.  Heard he had been out shooting a sheep.  Would not know Luther's rifle.


Knows Luther Seaver's rifle; saw it at the house, the night after Mr. Seaver was killed; witness handled it; there was an exploded cap on it which fell off as witness raised the hammer, from which he inferred that the gun was not loaded; prisoner's gun was there also; it had a new cap on.  Witness may have said to those around, that Luther's gun was discharged, and Mortimer's loaded; he thought so, judging by the caps.

Cross-examined -- This was on Saturday night.


Is acquainted with the prisoner; witness resided at Mr. Maine's when prisoner went to N.Y.; heard prisoner say his father didn't make a great sight by going after him; this was a week or two after he came back -- six or eight weeks before Mr. Seaver's death.  Prisoner told witness he did notl ive at home; that he lived at Charley Seaver's; did not give any reason why he did notl ive at home.  This conversation took place at witness' aunt's, at Holly; Mrs. Steele, her aunt, was present.

Cross-examined -- Mr. Kennedy called two or three times to make enquiries of witness, as to what she would testify.


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

There are 11 witnesses who testified in this post - most of them about the amount of mowing done by Mortimer, and whether his scythe was tight, plus details of what happened with Mortimer at the Maine's house.  Addison Armstrong talked about his relationship and dealings with Aaron Seaver.  The loaded status of the two rifles when people were in the Seaver house was also an issue.

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!!  There is more testimony of other witnesses, and some more witnesses are recalled.  This trial summary is far from over.

The URL for this post is:

Copyright (c) 2014, Randall J. Seaver

1 comment:

Michael F Harris said...

Just started following you. This looks very interesting. I'll be going back to the beginning.

This is a lot of work.