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 Seventeen - Saturday, August 15, 1953

The Seaman Story - No. 17

Original Drummond Seaman Sired 15 Children Before Naming One Junior

Whatever might be said about old Daniel Murray Seaman, Drummond Island's original Seaman, no one can say he was in a hurry to name a son for himself. Before he died in 1863 he had sired 16 children, six of them sons. And the very last one, born in April 1862, was given the name Daniel Murray Seaman, Jr.

Even so, it appears that at least 18 months elapsed before old D.M.'s last born was given any name at all. D.M.'s five preceding sons, most of them born before the Seamans came to Drummond, were named in succession Samuel. William James, Edwin, Don, and Ludlow. Three daughters, Lovina, Olive, and Eliza, had come between Ed and Don, and two more daughters, Alice and Stella, came between Don and Ludlow.

Don, born in 1852, had been born in the Mormon-controlled Beavers. Alice, Stella, and Ludlow were born on Drummond Island. After Lud, the final daughter, Lillie, came along in 1860 and then in 1862, D. M. Jr., the final son was born.

Mrs. Evelyn Brown of Riverside, CA, who is a daughter of Stella Seaman is authority for the story that Daniel Murray Seaman. Jr. remained unnamed for 18 months. When, according to Mrs. Brown, her grandfather lay sick abed, and seemed to realize that death hovered close by, he called the still nameless youngster to his bedside, placed a hand upon the child's head, and said, "Son, I want you to have my name."

That was in November, 1863, and the new Daniel Murray Seaman had been born in April of 1862. Just what prompted that most unusual delay is not evident in the records.

The Civil War was on when D. M. Jr. first gazed out upon the white blanketed fastnesses of Drummond Island. The island still had a pitifully small group of white settlers but the years immediately following the war were to see a considerable influx.

Over on the mainland in DeTour Tom Sims, who had settled in the area in 1856, and young J. Wells Church who had come down from Sugar Island in 1861, were operating stopover stations to service the ever-expanding boat trade.

Murray Seaman, as he came to be called, was born in the year his 17 year old sister, Viny, married Sam Butterfield. His brother, Ed, was 18, and his stepbrother, Sam, was in his twenties, and was married. too. George Murray was born in 1864, when little Murray was only two years old. It was on June 9 of that year, incidentally, that J. Wells Church launched the "Pioneer", the very first steamer driven tug to be constructed entirely in Chippewa county.

In the middle seventies, when Murray had attained his first 'teen year, the firm of Perry & O'Dell, Drummond Island's first lumbering concern, began operating.

It was in 1875 that Murray's brother, Ed, was married, and his niece, Nona Butterfield, was born and an early settler named Cass Newell visited folks on and about the island to collect taxes.

Just a year later, in '76, the island's second quarry was opened, by which time Cass and Doty Newell were operating DeTour's first hotel, an imposing structure called "The Lakeview."

Rough Winter

The Melvins came to DeTour in 1877 and they were to supply a bride for Murray's older brother Ludlow.

The winter of 1879-80 was rough and long and it was during 1880 that the Baileys, George Warren and Cornelia and their six youngsters, came to make such an impression on life about the big island.

In 1881, when Murray was only 19, he was made postmaster on the island, and Capt. J. Wells Church came over from Harbor Island to paint a shining new "Post Office'' sign for him. The Churchs had settled on Harbor Island in 1868 after a short sojourn in Traverse City.

The following year, the McAdam brothers, William, Tom and John, came to the island, and this was to mean much to Murray, because it was Tom McAdam's daughter, Sarah Jane, who Murray married.

The last of the original family of Seamans was stout, of medium height and with blue eyes. He wore no beard, but he had a short-clipped, pyramid shaped moustache. Whereas his brother, Ludlow, was inclined to be short tempered, Daniel Murray, Jr. was smooth tempered, and good natured, and serious minded.

Alas, unlike Ludlow, Murray produced no large family. He and Sarah Jane raised only one son and one daughter, the latter having been adopted.

Loses Only Son

With only one son to follow him, it was a cruel twist of fate that snatched that son from him. That tragedy occurred on a chilly October evening in 1908.

The year 1908, by the way, must have been a rough one for the tragedy plagued Seaman family. Charles Fairchild, Lattie Seaman's husband, died that year, and Rosina Richard, Sam Seaman's granddaughter was burned to death in the Sault.

Late in the afternoon of October 18, Murray Seaman, his wife Sarah Jane, their only son, Clyde, and a friend named James Burns started up the St. Mary's in Murray's 40-foot launch, which had been christened Clyde in honor of the 17-year-old son.

They were enroute to the Sault for gasoline and supplies, just as Murray himself and his brother Ludlow had done in a sailboat 40 years before.

About 8:30 that evening, while the Clyde, still upbound, was off Nine Mile Point, the comparatively huge freighter. John P. Donaldson, suddenly leaped out of the darkness and rammed the smaller craft. The Clyde was a new vessel, having been built the year before by Frank Payment of Sault Ste. Marie, but no small boat could withstand a collision of that type.

Murray, his wife, and Burns were rescued, but Clyde Seaman's body was not found until the following spring when it was sighted and picked up by the lighthouse tender Aspen. The death of Clyde Seaman was by no means the last time sudden death would strike at the Seaman family, but, being an only son, his loss must have been felt heavily.

Murray Seaman's daughter Leah married Louis Fountain, of DeTour, whose father, Charles Fountain, had married one of the daughters of the town's pioneer settler Tom Sims. Leah Fountain, now DeTour village clerk, is the mother of three daughters and two sons of her own.

Always Home

On a sunny afternoon in May, 1952, when this writer, riding with Goldman Lehman, descendant of another oldtime Drummond Island family, journeyed over to the island to attend the funeral of Miss Leila, we saw Leah Fountain and she made one remark which is typical of every Seaman, "You know," she said, "there's something about this island that worms its way into one's blood. It always will be home to me."

Hordes of Seamans, Seaman relatives and Seaman friends were on the island that day to bid farewell to Ludlow Seaman's oldest offspring, to watch sorrowfully as Leila was lowered into the same soil which had claimed so many Seamans before her.

It seemed as though the entire island was there plus a host of others from DeTour, from the Sault, from St. Ignace, from Engadine, from Detroit and from many other far-away places. Kenneth Baily, Leila's own nephew, carried out the funeral arrangements, and the Rev. Charles Sheldon, pastor of the island's old Congregational Church, which the Rev. George D. Strickland had built in 1877, asked God to receive another of His daughters.

After we had re-crossed DeTour Passage and returned home, we couldn't dismiss the picture of all those people at Leila's funeral. Any one of them, those who were Seamans, would have said precisely what Leah Fountain said.

Dummond Island always will be home to them.

John T. Nevill
Drummond Settlement
The Evening News
August 15, 1953