Thursday, June 26, 2014

The 1858 Murder Trial of Mortimer Seaver - Post 12: The Defense Testimony Ends, and the Prosecution Rebuttal Testimony

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 1858 Murder Trial of Mortimer Seaver - Post 9: Defense Testimony About Rifles and Balls (20 June 2013)
*  The 1858 Murder Trial of Mortimer Seaver - Post 10: More Defense Testimony (23 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 2, columns 2-3, 30 January 1858, Wolverine Citizen [Flint, Mich.] newspaper]


Witness picks out Luther's gun; has repaired this gun; has known gun eight or ten years.

On his cross-examination, witness stated he was a farmer, but could repair guns, and had fixed other guns.


Thinks the guns are just in the same condition as when he gave them to Mr. Johnson.  Heard guns the forenoon of the day his father was killed, through the woods in that neighborhood - south, south west, and south east; some were rifles and some were shot guns.

Cross-examined -- Was at work that forenoon, within four rods of his own house; thinks it was not far from sundown, when Mortimer and witness started for Grand Blanc.

The Court here adjourned till 8-1/2 o-clock next morning.

Saturday, January 23d.


Witness produced the scythe used by his father, at the time the body was found dead; his father was five feet ten inches in height; witness thinks he examined the scythe soon after the body was found; the scythe had the appearance of being partially whetted.


Witness examined the scythe soon after the body was found; it was about one o'clock P.M.; the scythe had the appearance of being whetted about two-thirds of the way down from the heel to the point.


The scythe had the appearance of having just been whetted when witness examined it.


Witness thinks that the bullet found in Mr. Seaver's body has the appearance of having struck something before entering the body. [Witness here weighs in a pair of scales the ball found in the body, with balls cast for rifles owned by the prisoner, and Luther Seaver.] They do not correspond in weight; the bruised ball is 2 dwts. heavier than a perfect ball cast in the mod belonging to prisoner's rifle, and 5 dwts. and 6 grains than a ball cast in Luther's.  Witness does not think that a ball loses much of any weight in being shot, even when it enters wood.


The pistol belongs to witness; heard Mr. slack's testimony; witness examined the stump where Mr. Slack thought a rifle had been put down; saw a wagon track there; witness let prisoner have the pistol twice.

The defence here closed their testimony.


By stipulation of Counsel, Mr. Davis read the following statement in writing from Dr. King, whose presence in Court was prevented by sickness:

"GRAND BLANC, January 23, 1858.

At the time of the post mortem, I had conversation with Mortimer Seaver, in which he told me that he came to the house to get some water, and then returned to the field, where he found his father lying as if asleep; and without touching him, he returned to the house and told his mother that his father was shot.  I asked him what made him think his father was shot.  He replied that he did not known, but that he did think he was shot.
                                              J.W. KING."


Lives in the town of Grand Blanc; has hunted considerable. [Witness exhibited a number of balls -- all one kind of bullet, cast in the same mold -- to show the effect produced on them by shooting.  Showed one which had been fired at five rods distance in to seasoned oak; another shot at 17 rods distance into seasoned hickory; a third, which after striking oak had glanced upward and lodged in a board.]

Witness had proved by experiments in several States, that a ball loses weight in being shot; there is more or less loss caused in the weight of balls by striking against a hard substance. [To prove this, witness exhibits two balls cast in the same mold, one having been shot into wood and cut out -- the other not having been used.  The balls were put in scales, and the weight varied considerably.]

Cross-examined -- It is customary with hunters to put down the square end of the ball first, in the gun; witness always does so.  

Witness was not acquainted with Mr. Seaver; has a rifle; does not know how many cuts in it -- it may have six; witness was cutting corn on the 25th of September; lent his rifle to Henry Pettengill in July; got it

[page 2, column 4]

back from him in October; saw it in the mean time; saw it two weeks before the 25th of September, and the Sunday after, in the town of Flint; could not say positively where it was on the 25th of September.


Has been in this country, a number of years, and shot a good many deer, but never paid attention to the effect produced on balls shot into trees.  Was at the house, and one of the jury, on the 25th of September; heard Mrs. Seaver say that the guns stood in the wood-house until Mortimer took the rifle and hung it up.

Cross-examined -- Mr. Bishop was present, and Mr. Kennedy, and perhaps Judge Smith; there were a number of others.


Witness did not state to Mr. Kennedy and Mr. Tupper, that she heard the report of that heavy gun, she was knitting and reading a newspaper, and had been sitting there half an hour.

Cross-examined -- Witness had got ready to knit, but did not knit a stitch that day.


Mrs. Seaver did tell witness that she was knitting and reading a newspaper, and had been sitting there half an hour.

Cross-examined -- When she said so, it might have been 9 o'clock at night, or later; there was not a crowd present.


When witness went out to see the ground where the prisoner had been mowing, and hung the scythe on the fence, Mr. Maine said something about cattle on the other side hurting themselves, which caused witness to take it down again; and witness thinks he put it on the ground, with the blade under the fence.  Has had some experience as a hunter; has always seen hunter put the neck of the ball in first, when loading; thinks the concavity often seen in bullets is caused by their striking a hard substance.


Was dragging wheat about half a mile west of where Mr. Seaver was shot that forenoon; heard shots south west of where he worked; pigeons were then plenty.


Was plowing the forenoon of the day Mr. Seaver was shot, about a half mile south east; the wind was in the south west; could not remember hearing any shots ion the direction of Seaver's.  Gunners would not be likely to be hunting deer at that season; pigeons were plenty.

Cross-examined -- Heard guns to the south, early in the morning.


That forenoon, witness was cutting up corn, a little less than half a mile north east of where Mr. Seaver was at work, did not hear any reports.


Was plowing that forenoon, half a mile south east from where Mr. Seaver was shot; has no recollection of hearing any guns except early in the morning.  Pigeons were plenty.


Was at work that forenoon half a mile off in a north east direction; heard no guns that forenoon; pigeons were very plenty.


Cross-examined -- Heard of a deer being killed right north of witness house within a week; heard of Charles Seaver killing a 'possum last fall.

Counsel for the People have closed the evidence for the prosecution.


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

This part of the trial has the end of direct testimony by defense witnesses, and the rebuttal witnesses for the prosecution.  The emphasis in this portion seems to be on the damage to a ball when fired into something, who heard gunshots in the forenoon and where they were located, and if pigeons were plentiful.

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 defense rebuttal testimony is next, followed by closing arguments.  We're almost done!

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Copyright (c) 2014, Randall J. Seaver

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