The Seamans of Drummond Island

Drummond Island was seeded with Seamans by a grandson of Caleb Seaman in 1853. This island, located at the juncture of three of the Great Lakes, became home for a long line of descendants of Daniel Murray Seaman, an early adherent to the Mormon religion.

A hundred years later, John T. Nevill wrote a series of articles about the Seaman family of Drummond Island and these were published in a local newspaper, The Evening News. An index to the entire series of 17 articles from 1953 is here.

Installment Two - Thursday, July 23, 1953

The Seaman Story - No. 2

King Strang Had Great Influence On Life Of David Murray Seaman

Drummond Settlement - More than 120 years ago, when Daniel Murray Seaman espoused the sect of Mormonism - and unwittingly created a false impression which plagues the Seaman family until this day - Mormonism was new. It had many rocky and bloody rows to hoe.

D.M. Seaman, son of Vermont-born Samuel Seaman, and grandson of English-born Caleb Seaman, fled the Beaver Islands and came to Drummond Island in 1853 - 100 years ago this year. But his espousal of the Mormon faith occurred more than 20 years earlier - about 1832 - which was the year he married his first wife, Lovina Smith Seaman, in Brooksville, Ont.

Ordained an elder at a meeting of the Saints of Mormonism at Nauvoo, Ill, in 1838, Mr. Seaman apparently never accepted or approved the practice of polygamy. He managed to scrape by with just one wife until Lovina Seaman's death at Stockholm, N.Y. in 1840. (Mrs. Seaman's failing health had prompted the Seamans and their two small daughters, Celia and Naida, to leave Nauvoo.)

All told, Daniel Murray Seaman sired five children by his first wife. Two of them died in infancy, and the two surviving daughters were joined by a son - christened Samuel - shortly before Lovina's death. About a year later, Seaman married Miss Elizabeth Grandy, who was destined to become the venerable "Grandma" Betsy Seaman, of Drummond Island.

Betsy Seaman also was destined to present Daniel Murray with eleven more children - five more sons and six more daughters - thus swelling the number of his children to 16.

By 1841, which year DM Seaman married his second wife, Mormonism, known officially as "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints", had hoed many of its rocky rows - but there still were quite a few more rows to hoe.

Joseph Smith, Jr., founder of Mormonism, had moved his harassed flock from New York state to Kirkland, OH, where he was joined by two other great Mormon leaders, Sidney Rigdon and Brigham Young. And from Ohio, headquarters had been moved into the heart of Missouri, where real trouble was to beset them.

In the bitter cold of winter, shortly after their arrival in Missouri - but more than seven years after the first Mormon colony had been established at Independence - Smith, Rigdon, and about 12,000 of their followers were driven headlong from the state.

Refuge in Illinois

They sought refuge in Illinois, and there, in Hancock county, on the sloping banks of the Mississippi River, they rallied their contingent of refugees, and founded the town of Nauvoo. But much dissension, persecution, violence, and death still lay ahead of them.

This, then, was the Mormon town to which young Daniel Murray Seaman journeyed in 1838 to attend a meeting of the Saints, and to be ordained an elder of their faith. And this was the environment - unfriendly, tense, and explosive - into which Lovina Seaman took their two small daughters.

Whether the Nauvoo environment, which must have been made uncomfortable by dissension within and pressure without, had anything to do with Lovina's failing health is purely a matter of speculation. But, certain it is, it could have had.

In any event, the forefather of Drummond Island Seamans didn't remain in Nauvoo very long. He heeded his wife's pleading, and returned to Canada, and ultimately settled in the comparative safety of Stockholm, NY. And from this vantage point, he heard about - and fretted about - the troubles which continued to plague his church.

It can be assumed, perhaps, that one of the most distressing bits of news reached him in 1844, just three years after his marriage to Betsy Grandy. Word came from Illinois that Joseph Smith, Jr., beloved prophet and founder of the Latter-day Saints, had been waylaid and murdered by a mob in Carthage, Ill.

In February of 1844, some months before the killing of Smith, a man came into and joined the colony at Nauvoo, who, in time, was to wield a tremendous influence on the life of Daniel Murray Seaman. A squatty, red-bearded, eloquent tongued New York State man, he had made his way across a thousand miles of wintry countryside to join the Mormons at Nauvoo. Born in western New York State in 1813, he was two years younger than Daniel Murray. But he was well educated - a college graduate - and he had, at times, been a postmaster, a country editor, and ultimately, in 1836, he became a lawyer.

He was James Jesse Strang.

James Jesse Strang

Strang was a pint-sized, sloppily dressed runt - but his glib tongue, his natural rambunctiousness, and his convincing zealousness soon made him a giant. Within two weeks after his arrival in Nauvoo, he was baptized by Joseph Smith - no less - and shortly thereafter he became an elder of the church.

Thus it was that within a few months after Smith's death, Strang - shrewd, wily, and self-serving, and armed with a colossal nerve - felt himself strong enough to take over. He saw in the martyrdom of Smith an opportunity to elevate himself into Smith's lofty post in the church - and Strang was no shrinking violet when it came to feathering his own nest.

He lost little time in announcing the first of what later became frequent "visitations" and "revelations". The first one had to do with a "command" he had received from a group of angles of God who had authorized and directed him to assume the slain leader's work. He even produced a letter, supposedly written by Smith, in which Smith himself had named Strang as his successor.

All of which made little or no impression on the people he wanted most to impress. Strang presented all of his "evidence" to the Mormon Council, then headed by Brigham Young. He mustered all of his craftiness, and employed all of his eloquence in one grand effort to "sell" the Council and win his point. But Young and the Council would have no part of it. They not only laughed him "out of court", but followed through by giving him, and those of his followers who elected 'to go with him', the big heave-ho.

To Wisconsin

Strang and a sizable contingent of Mormons then went to Voree, Wis., where Strang founded a rival Mormon colony. It consoled him only slightly later to hear that Young and his followers had evacuated Nauvoo, and gone into the Rockies to establish a Mormon settlement at Salt Lake City. And that, perhaps was because Strang himself was having Gentile trouble. The non-believers around Voree were making things warm for Strang's Mormons. He began to think seriously of moving his faithful to a friendlier spot.

In the year 1847, the same year Brigham Young led his Nauvoo Mormons into the Utah mountains, James Jesse Strang made a trip across Lake Michigan on a passenger vessel, and while enroute, a storm overtook the ship. The vessel's captain took one quick look at his chart, and headed straight as a ruled line for the relative safety of Big Beaver Island's one large harbor.

Spots St. James

That's how James Jesse Strang first laid eyes on what later (named for him) was called St. James Harbor. He thought it was the most beautiful spot he'd ever seen and he told a ship-board acquaintance so.

He also made a mental note or two, which eh told no one about. He had given serious thought to moving his colony to a place such as this - far -removed from non-believing Gentiles - where he might reign over his people without interference. And the word, "reign", was the proper word. For James Jesse Strang had often thought of himself as a "king".

Just two years later, in 1849, Strang would make that move - to the very island a providential storm had revealed to him. And just three years later, one of his followers in far off New York State - Daniel Murray Seaman - would come to join his island colony.

John T. Nevill
Drummond Settlement
The Evening News
July 23, 1953