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 Eleven - Tuesday, August 4, 1953

The Seaman Story - No. 11

Sam Butterfield, Bearded Giant of a Man, Was another Patriarch of Family

Drummond Settlement - On a day in the late 'fifties - several years after Daniel Murray Seaman brought his family to this island - a tall, bearded, giant of a man named Butterfield went to work with Sam Chambers, one of D.M.'s son-in-laws, who then was engaged in commercial fishing off Drummond Island's south shore.

Like Chambers, the new man's name was Sam too - Sam Butterfield. Then in his early twenties - large and iron-muscled - he was a welcome addition to any fishing crew.

In time, folks on the island came to know much more about Sam Butterfield - and one of the folks was Miss Lovina Elizabeth Seaman, one of D.M.'s teen-age daughters. Born in Cambridgeshire, England on New Year's Day, 1837, Sam Butterfield was the sixth in a line of eight children. Sam's father, also named Sam Butterfield, was a corn merchant, so, in 1853 when young Sam was 16, he was apprenticed to the milling trade.

Crimean War

Young Sam didn't like the milling business and quit it at his very first opportunity. That opportunity was not long coming either. It came in 1854 when Sam's father died. The Crimean War had opened the previous October, so 17-year-old Sam quit his milling job and went to Detford, where he worked in a supply yard fitting out ships for Crimean War service.

But wars end and the Crimean trouble lasted only until 1856. Sam Butterfield was left unemployed. The lure of a new and promising frontier in America still was strong in the hearts of young blooded people throughout Europe - and Sam Butterfield was no exception. He came to America on a vessel called the "City of Washington" and he landed in New York.

Very little is known of Sam Butterfield's activities between his arrival in New York and his arrival on Drummond Island - except that he visited Buffalo, and he spent some time in Detroit before heading northward to Drummond. Once here, he worked with Sam Chambers in the fishing trade for a spell, then began fishing for himself and in partnership with young Tom Anthony who had moved down from the Sault about 1875.

One day in 1862, however, Sam dropped everything else and took time out to get married. And the lady of his choice was none other than Lovina Elizabeth Seaman, then just 17. Sam himself was 25. Lovina was Daniel Murray Seaman's oldest daughter by his second wife. (There had been five children by his first wife, and Lovina was the third child by the second wife, Elizabeth Grandy Seaman. She bore the names of her father's first and second wives. Eight more children were to follow Lovina Elizabeth, the last of whom, Daniel Murray Seaman, R. was born during the year Lovina married Sam Butterfield.)

Born in New York

Lovina herself was born in Stockholm, NY in 1845. She'd been taken to the Beaver Islands by her parents, and, like her sisters and brothers - Naida, Sam, Edwin, Eliza, and Don - had been brought to Drummond Island the very same year young Sam Butterfield in far off England had become a miller's apprentice.

Highly attuned temperamentally, Lovina was a musician, a poetess, and was endowed with a golden voice. She bore Sam Butterfield three daughters and two sons - Elizabeth, Agnes, Montford, Alva, and Nona - and one of the sons, Capt. Alva Butterfield, became well known as a boat skipper on the Great Lakes. Elizabeth Butterfield, married Hugh McLarney, a big mustached Irishman, who became DeTour's first customs collector, and the McLarney's in turn had five children - Besale, Wallace, Raymond, Montford, and Florence.

Agnes Butterfield became Mrs. William H. Lewis of DeTour. Lewis was a nephew of Christine McKenzie, who became the wife of Agnes' brother, Alea. Thus his sister-in-law also was his aunt. (The McKenzie had moved to DeTour in 1887, being followed here a year later by young ??? Lewis, then only 19 years old).

Montford, called Monty, was drowned and Nona, now 78, never married. A retired school teacher, she lives today in Chicago. So it remained for Alva to carry on the Butterfield line. Agnes Lewis passed on within a few years after her marriage, and Lewis who served for many years as manager of DeTour Coal Dock, remarried. Now retired, he lives in DeTour.

Captain Dies

Capt. Alva Butterfield died in June, 1951 followed just a few months later by Christine. But hey had produced fine sons and two daughters and had lived to celebrate their 65th wedding anniversary. Of their children, Sam, Clark, and Alva live today in Detroit, and have children - even grandchildren - of their own. Dale resides in Tawas, Michi., and William is deceased, Odah, now Mrs. William Upthegrove, and Dolly, now Mrs. Glen Gutcher, both live in DeTour.

Capt. Butterfield's sister, Florence, married the late George McNamara, a wealthy Canadian in Sault, Ont. Now in her nineties she resides in Toronto.

The folks still around Drummond who knew old Sam Butterfield describe him as one of the area's best remembered characters. In his later years he gave up the arduous tasks of the fisherman to become a fish buyer, sharing a dock with Tom Sims in DeTour, and on occasion financing younger men to go out and bring back their catchers. During the 'eighties, for example, he financed young Bill Jones and Tom Melvin, then in their 'teens and purchased virtually everything bagged from the Jones-Melvin fishing boat, Pinky. On another occasion, be bought a store and bakery from William Seabrook, of DeTour, and leased it to William (John) McSpanden so that the town might have a boot and shoe store.

Sam Butterfield, like Sam Seaman, his step-brother-in-law, grew a snow-white, well-rounded, full beard, and took on a patriarchal appearance. As a matter of fact, he bore a strong resemblance to Sam Seaman facially, although he was older, taller, rougher, and a little more quick-tempered. He was said to have a critical nature and was inclined to become irascible when crossed. He disliked informality on the part of women, and often reprimanded them - good naturedly and often in rhyme - for some fancied breach of lady-like behavior.

Within his own family, Sam Butterfield bore a heavy cross. Lovina Seaman Butterfield, the mother of his five children, developed a mild form of dementia praecox. On a St. Patrick's Day, March 17, 1903 she died. Old Sam Butterfield, then in his middle sixties was among those who journeyed over to Drummond Island from DeTour to attend her funeral.

John T. Nevill
Drummond Settlement
The Evening News
August 4, 1953