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 Nine - Friday, July 31, 1953

The Seaman Story - No. 9

Celia Seaman Hill Was a Firm Believer in the Supernatural

Drummond Settlement - Sam Seaman, remembered as "Uncle Sam'l" by the Seamans of Drummond, would provide a colorful chapter in the Seaman family story - even if it were not for the fact he was the only surviving son of Daniel Murray Seaman by D.M.'s first wife.

Burly, bearded, and headstrong - and given to chewing on pork rinds - Sam Seaman resided on this island for more than seventy years. Although Sam had two older full sisters, Celia and Naida, he was the only one of D.M.'s first set of offspring to remain on Drummond - and leave his own descendants here. More about him later.

Celia, Sam's oldest sister, was a mystic - a believer in rituals far stranger than anything she had witnessed among the Mormons on Big Beaver. Small, fair, and serious-minded, she believed sincerely in the phenomena of spiritualism. An independent thinker, she was not easily swayed. There was determination in her jaw, and fervor in her eyes, but beneath this seemingly unrelenting attitude, there was kindness.

On a terrifically cold day in January, 1875, Allie May Church, a daughter of Dr. J. Wells Church, lay seriously ill in the Church home on Harbor Island, some distance off the Drummond Island shore. Capt. Church, who also was a medical practitioner, sent for Celia. Celia walked over the ice to Harbor Island and as Dr. Church put it in his inevitable diary, "put her hands" on the sick girl, administering to her tenderly until 11 o'clock that night - the walked home across the ice.

Although Dr. Church didn't say so, it is apparent that Celia's spiritual invocations - however well intended - didn't have the desired effect; on the following day, Church's diary notation read: "Allie May worse".

Celia had met and married Ludlow P. Hill, a government lighthouse man, while she was a young girl still in the Beavers. Although there's no evidence that he shared her belief in "circles" and other things supernatural, Hill also was an independent thinker on religious matters. Old timers on the island still talk about how Uncle Lud, attending services conducted by the island's Congregational minister, was ready to rise from his seat any Sunday morning just to argue some point of theology with the minister.

Ludlow and Celia Hill produced two daughters and two sons, Addie, Eva, Leonidas, and Wallace. Addie became Mrs. Albert White; Eva married a man named Potter. Leonidas, always called Onnie, served for a time as Drummond Township supervisor, but ultimately, long after the Hills had moved off Drummond, he established the Hill Steamship Line, carrying passengers and freight between Chicago and the Sault. He and his son - Celia Seaman's grandson - were killed in an explosion on an abandoned gasoline tanker which had gone aground along the north shore of Lake Michigan a few years ago.

Youngest Skipper

Wallace Hill also became a lake captain, and once held the distinction of being the youngest licensed skipper on the lakes. As master of the steamer "Islander", Wallace frequently called at Drummond. Hence it was through him that the Drummond Island fold, particularly the younger ones, became better acquainted with the Hills and other Wisconsin relatives. Capt. Wallace Hill died about seven years ago. He was in his early nineties.

Generally speaking, Celia Seaman Hill is almost a mythical figure to most Seamans on Drummond Island today. She lived to be sixty-four, but spent most of the last half of her life in Wisconsin. She never gave up her interest in spiritualism. In fact, when death reached for her on January 14, 1901, she was buried from Spiritual Hall, in Wonewoc, Wis.

Naida Seaman's life closely paralleled that of her sister, Celia, except that Naida held none of Celia's view on the hereafter. Like Celia, Naida was at Nauvoo, Ill., and also spent several years with her parents in James Jesse Strang's "Kingdom in Lake Michigan". But Naida left the Beavers with her father and step-mother, and was with them when they came to this island on hundred years ago. She grew to young womanhood here, then went to Celia's home near Fish Creek, Wis., where she met and married Sam Chambers. Naida and Sam later moved back to Drummond.

A Fisherman

Sam Chambers, a Wisconsin man, was tall, rawboned, and bewhiskered. He would do anything to turn an honest dollar, but mostly he preferred commercial fishing, and during the 'seventies and 'eighties he maintained a fishing camp on Drummond's south shore, near a spot he called "Pat's Lake" for one of his sons. Chambers sire three sons and one daughter - Pat, Don, Harry, and Matilda - all of whom moved away from Drummond with their parents. Matilda, called "Tildy" by the Seamans, married Roy Thorp, and died in Fish Creek, February 14, 1892. She left five children of her own.

The younger brother of Celia Seaman Hill and Naida Seaman Chambers was in his early twenties when their father, D. M. Seaman, died in 1863. It was about this time, also, that he shipped out of Drummond on a lumber schooner and sailed away to Cleveland. While there he had occasion to take meals at a boarding house close by the Cleveland waterfront, and it was there he saw and became enamored of a vivacious young lady who happened to be the daughter of the proprietor. That young lady's name was Josephine Thurston. Today she is remembered as "Aunt Phene" to the Seamans of Drummond.

Beaming with pride, Sam Seaman brought his Phene back to live on the island. His marriage looked like a natural, but, unfortunately, the two were destined to live together only twelve years. It's not quite clear how the rift between them developed - but develop it did - with the result that Sam and Phene Seaman spoke not a single word to one another throughout the balance of their lives.

During their twelve years together, however, Sam and Phene produced five children, two of whom died while infants. The three surviving children, one son and two daughters, were George Murray, Clarabelle and Rosina.

George Murray Seaman was born in Nauvoo, Ill., in 1864, which seems to lend credence to the story that Sam Seaman, during one stage of his life, sought to enter the Mormon ministry. If that is true, he gave up the idea because, in time, his familiar figure again was to be seen here and there on Drummond Island.

Patriarch

In his later years, Sam's full beard and moustache turned white, and this gave him a patriarchal appearance - and lent all sorts of color and authenticity to his stories of the jossakeeds, with their long, braided hair, and their broad brimmed black felt flat hats. He quoted the Bible frequently, as any patriarch might do, and he seldom was without a supply of link sausage, which he loved above all other meats, and which he shared generously with his young listeners.

When in his seventies, Sam began to live with his son, George Murray, who by then had married Carrie L. Anderson and had a family of his own. And he lived with his son and Daughter-in-law for fifteen years - until the day of his death, September 13, 1927.

Sam Seaman has lain in Maple Grove cemetery, here on the island for twenty-five years, but many on this island - in and out of the Seaman family - can close their eyes and see him now, sitting on a shady porch, or standing beneath one of the Settlement's un-crowded pines, where bountiful sunlight has developed girth rather than height - saying "By Thunder this", or "By Golly that", eyeing folds with steely-cool, blue eyes, and coming up with some biblical quotation suitable to the occasion.

Gone too, are his children - George Murray, Clarabelle, and Rosina - but here and there, on Drummond and elsewhere, are sizable contingents of grandchildren, great-grandchildren, great-great-grandchildren and even great-great-great-grandchildren. These people, most of them youngsters, always will have occasion to remember their bearded, story-telling forebear who fled the Mormon-controlled Beavers with his father; who lived with his parents on mystical Manitoulin; and who finally came to Drummond a full century ago.

Tragedy

Sam Seaman's daughter, Rosina, married George Richard, and that union was blighted by tragedy, too. The Richards' eighteen-year-old daughter, also named Rosina, went to the Sault where she was learning to seamstress's trade. On a day in 1908, while Rosina was at work in her room, an oil lamp upset. Rosina was burned to death.

Sam's other daughter, Clarabelle, provided the link which tied up the Seaman family with that of Harbor Island's Dr. J. Wells Church. She married George Church, oldest son of J. Wells, and presented him with two daughters and two sons - Dolores, Ted Wells, James and Naida. Clarabelle Seaman Church also raised an adopted daughter, Vera, who today lives in Cleveland as Mrs. George Geariety. Dolores became Mrs. Jack Young, of Los Angeles. Ted Wells Church today is connected with a radio network in the East, James is a resident of Cleveland, and Naida died as a young girl.

In marrying George Church, Clarabelle Seaman had married a sailorman. Long before the Church family left Drummond Island, George Church had earned the title, Captain. He moved to Cleveland, where he became a skipper for the D&C Lines, and where he ultimately died. Clarabelle herself followed him on February 12, 1942. Her mother, Phene Thurston Seaman, had preceded her in death by only eight years.

It remained for Sam Seaman's son, George Murray, to carry on the Seaman name in the Lovina Smith branch of the Seaman family. And George Murray was able to do it through his son, Floyd B. Seaman, who was born in 1891 - and who met a tragic death in a sawmill accident during the summer of 1951.

John T. Nevill
Drummond Settlement
The Evening News
July 31, 1953