Monday, June 23, 2014

The 1858 Murder Trial of Mortimer Seaver - Post 10: More Defense 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 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 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, column 7 and page 2, column 1, 30 January 1858, Wolverine Citizen [Flint, Mich.] newspaper]


Thinks the cavity spoken of, in the ball, would not affect the position in which the end would strike -- would not change its projectile direction.  Has never know a ball, however defective, to change ends before striking; ?????? ?? to the rotary motion given the ball by the principle upon the barrel of the a rifle is cut.  Has killed deer at 25 or 30 rods distance; saw one shot through at 40 rods; a ball from his own rifle went clear through a deer at about 20 rods distance.

There would be difficulty in shooting through a deer at 60 rods distance, if the ball did not striek any of the larger bones.


Corroborated the testimony of Mr. Cumings by similar evidence.  About 30 rods is a common distance for an ordinary rifle to kill a deer.  At 40 rods distance the ball might go through a deer or not, according to circumstances.

Cross-examined -- Has experimented on the subject in the State of N.Y., with the view of testing the effect of defective balls on shooting.


Lives in Grand Blanc.  Is a surveyor.  Made the map produced from actual survey. (Witness described the map to the jury).

Made it at the request of Mr. Seaver's family.


Witness resides in the City, is familiar with the use of rifles; has examined the ball taken from the body; judges it was shot from a six creased rifle; thinks it was not shot from either of the rifles in Court, because one is a seven and the other an eight cut rifle; thinks it never was run in any of the molds produced.


Witness exhibit the pants worn by Mr. Seaver, at the time of his death; also the two scythes used on the ground, and a number of whet-stones; likewise the vest and shirt worn by his father, and pointed out the bullet holes.  He picked out his father's whet-stone and placed it in the right hand pocket of the pants, where his father was accustomed to carry it.  When placed completely down in the pocket no part of the whet-stone could be seen.  Witness said that Mortimer's scythe had been in use four or five seasons.  There were no other guns about the house that he ever saw, except those produced in Court.


Witness identifies Mortimer's gun and Luther's.  The one she points out as Luther's was the one Mortimer took out when he went to Grand Blanc; he brought the same back.  The next week after Mortimer's arrest, was the last time she saw the guns

[page 2, column 1]

until they were brought into Court.  They were given by Charles to Mr. Johnson, by direction of Mr. Wisner; has not seen them since.


Is brother to the prisoner. [Witness picks out his own gun.]  Witness saw Mortimer on his way back from Grand Blanc, the day before his father was shot; saw him getting a rest for the rifle, preparatory to shooting, and witness asked him not to shoot till his horse got by; thought the horse might be scared; heard his shot immediately after witness had passed;  heard him shooting both before and after he saw him; the sun was then an hour or an hour and a half high; witness was going to Grand Blanc.  When witness was coming home, he met Mortimer and Charles, with Mortimer's team, going towards Grand Blanc.

Remembers when his father's body was put in the wagon; Benjamin Phillips drove the team; Mr. Slack was in the wagon, holding a hat over the face of the corpse.  Mortimer and Charles and Mr. Rice walked up with witness; heard no conversation between Mr. Slack and Mortimer; witness' age is thirty-one.  Mortimer is nineteen.  Never heard of any serious difference between Mortimer and father.  That afternoon, saw Mortimer's gun in the north east corner of the shop; it had a cap on the lock; witness handed the gun to Mortimer to bring up; he took it and went towards the old kitchen; witness did not see what he did with it; the guns in Court are the same that were then in the house; witness brought his own rifle from N.Y.  Identifies the pistol in Court; has seen it round the house; supposes it belongs to Gustavus Chappel.  Witness remembers the time the water in the jug tasted bad; it was about the 8th of September.  Heard his father tell that it made himself and Mortimer very sick; and that both vomited.  Witness identifies his own bullet-mold, also the scythe snaths.  Mortimer was the favorite of his father; he humored him more than he did the other boys, and did not make him work as hard as he did the rest; does not recollect his father ever whipping Mortimer but once; thinks Mortimer was very much attached to his father; they went out together more than witness or Charles.  Have heard father speak of giving Mortimer his farm, in Mortimer's presence; it is worth about $20 an acre.

There was a span of horses on the farm, that were called Mortimer's.

Cross-examined -- Witness passed Mortimer on the road, near James Rice's; heard three or four shots that evening; witness has been at home all the last summer.  There was about a ton of hay to be mowed on the flat, at the time of father's death.  Mr. Slack might have had some talk with Mortimer, and witness not hear; thinks Mr. Slack got into the wagon before it started.

[Judge Smith took the stand to correct a mistake he made when giving his testimony.  He had stated nthat the post mortem investigation was going on at the same time with the examination of witnesses at the inquest.  That was incorrect; the ball was extracted before the inquest commenced.]


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 - the power of the rifles, the trip to Grand Blanc the night before, the clothing of the deceased, and brother Luther's testimony which had not been heard previously.  Finally, Judge Smith corrects his testimony!

A rod is 5-1/2 yards, or 16-1/2 feet.  Therefore, 20 rods is 330 feet, about a football field distance.

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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