Thursday, November 16, 2017

Seavers in the News - Did Frank Seaver Jilt His Girlfriend?

It's time for another edition of "Seavers in the News" - a semi-regular feature from the historical newspapers about persons with the surname Seaver that are interesting, useful, fun, macabre, or add information to my family tree database.

This week's entry is from the San Francisco [Calif.] Call newspaper dated Thursday, 13 July 1899:

The transcription of this article is:


Pretty Anita Byrne Ends Her Troubles With Poison. Brooding Over a Possible Dark Future Caused Her to Seek Solace in the Great Unknown.

In a moment of desperation, due to the threat of her lover that he was about to desert her for another, Anita Byrne, chief operator in the telephone office at Sutter and Hyde streets, committed suicide yesterday by swallowing the contents of a phial of carbolic acid. 

Her mother discovered her lying on a bale of hay in a barn in the rear of their home at 16 Bourbon place. She was still alive, but her condition indicated that she could not possibly survive the fatal draught. .Summoning a neighbor her mother had her removed to the house. Dr. C. C. Mohun was at once sent for, but despite his efforts she breathed her last several hours later. 

The man for whom the unfortunate woman killed herself, so it is claimed, is Frank Seaver, a switchboard attendant in the main office. Seaver met Miss Byrne about two years ago, while he was acting as manager of the telephone office at Sutter and Hyde streets. She fell desperately in love with him and he seemed to reciprocate her affections. Frequently they were seen together, and among the .other telephone girls it was whispered that they were engaged to be married. 

Tuesday evening Seaver met the misguided woman by appointment and they went to Oakland. They returned to this city about 10 o'clock and repaired to the Byrne residence on Bourbon place. The family had already retired and the couple sat in the parlor for about an hour. Seaver then took his departure, after promising to sec Miss Byrne "in the near future," as he expressed it.

Shortly afterward the unhappy woman visited the room occupied by her mother and. kissed her good night. It is presumed she returned to the parlor, and after brooding over her troubles determined to end her existence. 

Shortly before 6 o'clock yesterday morning her mother awakened from her slumbers and went to her daughter's room, intending to arouse her so that she would not be late at work, as she was due at the telephone office at 7 o'clock. After entering the room she was surprised to find it empty and the bed undisturbed. 

After vainly searching the house for her missing daughter Mrs. Byrne, suspecting something had happened to her, went to the barn, determined to make a thorough investigation. As she threw back the door she was horrified to see her daughter lying on a bale of hay. fully dressed and unconscious. 

By her side was a half empty phial that had contained carbolic acid. The usual farewell message was not in evidence, the foolish woman evidently concluding to die without acquainting the world with the perfidy of her lover. 

After learning the facts in the case Coroner Hill visited police headquarters and invoked the aid of Captain of Detectives Bohen in finding Seaver. He said he had visited the telephone office, where he is employed, but could get no trace of him. His object in asking the assistance of the police in locating him was to hold him until the inquest on the body was held. 

Coroner Hill is of the opinion that Seaver had jilted the unfortunate woman and after brooding over his perfidy she determined to die. 

Mrs. Byrne, the mother of the young woman, said last night that her daughter had been enjoying a few weeks' vacation from her labors in the telephone office when she took the fatal dose. 

"She seemed to regret that she had to return to work," tearfully remarked her fond parent, "as she feared that she might lose her position for some reason. She frequently spoke of the recent dismissal of several of her chums from the employ of the company and lived in fear that she would be similarly treated. I know she held Seaver in high esteem, but it did not dawn upon me that she was in love with him." 

The bottle of carbolic acid, the contents of which the .woman drank, was purchased in Oakland. 

Seaver was seen last night at the Beresford Hotel, where he is stopping.

He had not heard of the sad event and was much affected when informed of the sad case. "Why, I left her last night at her house," he said, "and there wasn't the lease indication of anything wrong with Miss Byrne. I am simply dumfounded: it seems so impossible. We spent a pleasant evening in the company of her sisters, and when I left her house at 11 o'clock I went directly home. 

"My relations with Miss Byrne have always been pure and honest. I liked her exceedingly and we were more as brother and sister. Now that this has happened  I recall something her sister said to me last night. During the evening in the midst of a general conversation she told me that Anita seemed blue; that she noticed her crying at times, refusing to explain the cause. Last night Anita received a telephone message from the office, saying that she was to report today at 12. Whether it was this or something else that worried her I do not know.  

"I can't understand for a moment why she committed suicide," iterated young Seaver. "We were always the best of friends, and this is a deep shock to me. I swear that my relations with her were none other than the most honorable in the world." 

The source citation for this article is:

"She Died for Love that was Slighted" article, San Francisco [Calif.] Call, 13 July 1899, page 14, column 4, Suicide of Anita Byrne; California Digital Newspaper Collection : accessed 27 July 2017),  accessed using

A search for Anita Byrne in the Call newspaper revealed several later articles, including one the next day that said Frank Seaver and Anita would come to work drunk, and that he was only a switchboard operator and couldn't be trusted.  An article the same day said that Anita was overworked and demented caused by the stress of the telephone office and perhaps a sister's illness. Another articles two days later noted that the coroner's jury decided she was temporarily insane when she committed suicide due to domestic worries.  And then there are no more articles.  

The coroner and the reporter seem fixated on the cause of the suicide as Anita being jilted.  Two things happened the night before - she was asked to come to work at 12 the next day, and Frank Seaver came to visit with her.  It's unknown if he was still employed by the telephone company.

What a fascinating genealogy puzzle.  Who was Frank Seaver?  I figured that he was probably aged 20 to 40 and residing in San Francisco Bay area.  Is he in the 1900 U.S. Census in California?  A search on for a person with the name and in the age group resulted in several results in the Bay area, but none that had an occupation related to telephone operators.  There is a Frank L. Seveir in San Francisco, age 28, married for one year to Jennie.  There was another Frank L. Seaver in Los Angeles aged 21, who lived with his mother and had been born in San Francisco.  There is a Frank G. Seaver, age 33, in the 1910 census in San Francisco.  He was married in 1898, and they had their first child in late 1898, so it probably is not him.

I looked through my list of persons named Frank Seaver (and variants) in my RootsMagic database, but it is incomplete, and I have only vital records and census records for most of them.  The two Frank L. Seavers mentioned above are the only single ones I can place in San Francisco before 1899.  

So I'm stuck.  Perhaps it's for the best that I cannot identify the right Frank Seaver involved in this sad case.  It may be a secret that he took to his grave, wherever that may be. 


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