Saint Croix Courier, Saint Stephen, NB
September 19, 1878
A CHAPTER OF THE EARLY SETTLEMENT OF CHARLOTTE COUNTY
BY EDWARD SEELYE
The following is a copy of a biographical sketch written to a friend in New Brunswick, by the late Edward Seelye, relative to some of his race, the peculiar trials they endured at the time of the old French war, and the American Revolution, trials common to many of the loyalists who landed in St. John, May 18th 1783, which we believe will in some measure solve the problem of their indomitable perseverance in settling and improving the country. Such solution may not be unworthy the reflection of the most cultivated mind, for how often does it occur, that the contemplation of character and events lead to profound conclusions, concerning the causes and consequences of mens conduct and destiny.
About the year 1690 during the time of the French war Dominicus Jordan was the owner of Cape Elizabeth, that peninsula which now forms the Harbour of Portland, Maine, and owing to his position, a man of some influence, became a mark for the Indians who were instigated by the French to deeds of cruelty towards the British settlers. They surrounded his house in the dead of night, when he was aroused from his slumbers by their war whoop to behold his infants dashed against the wall, and himself and the rest of the family reserved for torture of the tomahawk and scalping knife. The entire family was slaughtered with the exception of two children, his little son Dominicus, eight years old and his sister six. These two children were taken from Cape Elizabeth through the woods in winter time on snow shoes to Quebec. They grew up to man and womanhood among the Indians, the boy always retaining the memory of his early home and the murder of the family, and fostered in his mind a desire and determination to return to the place of his birth, but dared not intrust his sister with his secret design lest through her imprudence his thoughts might be divulged. She seemed to have had no recollection of the place of her birth and was contented to remain with the Indians. She married an Indian chief and became lost forever to her kindred. Dominicus Jordan became an active and skillful hunter and was highly esteemed among the tribe with which he was connected, and by stratagem effected his escape.
He never spoke of having any recollection of his former home to the Indians, yet they were suspicious that he had not forgotten all, and seemed to fear he would attempt an escape and for some years after he became of sufficient age to hunt alone they would not allow him to do so, but after watching his maneuvers for a long time their suspicions were allayed by his punctual return to the encampment at night. Then he commenced to prepare for his escape by concealing each day he went to hunt a part of his lunch in a hollow tree, and also a small portion of his ammunition, and occasionally he would prolong his stay in the woods to a late hour in the night, and upon one or two occasions remained in the woods all night, until at last when his magazine contained sufficient store for the journey, he took his leave of the Indians, after a residence with them of thirteen years, sought his way back to his native place. But oh! how changed the scene. He alone of all his race stood a stranger on the spot of his once happy home, with vivid recollections of the past sat down and wept oer his dead fathers bones. In a short time however, with manly fortitude, peculiar to his race, he formed new acquaintances, married, and joined the inhabitants in their farming operations which was carried on at great disadvantage owing to the Indian aggression which still continued. A log garrison was built in which the inhabitants took shelter at night; the men were obliged to keep their firearms by their side while working in the field.
One day while Dominicus Jordan was at work in his field in sight of the garrison, he was surrounded by Indians, a hundred in number who had been watching some time for an opportunity to take him alive if possible. He seized his gun and in the act of cocking it a bullet from the Indians shot his thumb, the blood wet the powder in the pan which circumstance saved him from being taken. The Indians did not know the powder was wet and knowing his skill as a marksman they feared to approach too near while he ran towards the garrison, and as the foremost Indian neared him he would turn and threaten the Indian in their own tongue until he drew near the garrison, when with almost super natural speed and with a matchless bound sprang into the window which was raised by his faithful wife, fell on the floor with the blood flowing from twenty-one wounds caused by the Indian tomahawk which was thrown at him. The garrison windows were closed and the Indians retired to the woods and watched three days expecting to see him carried out dead, in the event of which they intended to storm the garrison. They entertained a superstitious fear of Dominicus Jordan, more than of fifty ordinary pale face. He understood their tongue and mode of warfare and after the peace they often spoke of him to the English settlers, making known their design of storming the garrison, etc. saying of him Sartain no kilum he all one devil.
Phebe Jordan was a granddaughter of Dominicus Jordan, and the wife of Benjamin Milliken who lived at Castine, Penobscott River at the time of the American Revolution, he was comparatively in affluent circumstances. An officer of the American army offered to procure a commission for him in the American service, he indignantly refused to take up arms against his Sovereign, upon which the officer demanded his sword, a gold hilt, the gift of his father, Benjamin Milliken. He took down his sword, laid it upon a block and with an axe chopped off the blade, presented it to the officer saying, You can demand no more than the execution part. The officer was vindictive and subsequently came with a band of rebels and made him prisoner, put him in irons and sent him on board of one of the sloops of war that composed the fleet of twenty-one sail that had commenced the siege of Penobscot, when the fort in progress of building was but three logs high. The British troops built the fort and fought the enemy three weeks, during which time Benjamin Milliken remained a prisoner in irons and his house was being plundered by the rebels, while his wife was in a feeble state of health, near her confinement. Their silver plate and other valuables were concealed in her bedroom, when the officer of a gang entered the house and attempted to force his way into the bedroom one of the female domestics placed her hand upon the latch of the door, the officer drew his sword and nearly severed her fingers, she stood firm holding up her dripping hand before her face, saying, There, sir, is better blood than runs in your veins. They succeeded however in plundering the house of every comfort, and then drove the cattle belonging to the estate into the kitchen and slaughtered them, leaving the offal in the floor. On the twenty-first day of the siege, three British frigates of war hove in sight. The American fleet unable to escape ran ashore, released their prisoners, sat fire to their fleet and made their escape into the woods, the night the 2d of October 1779 Rebecca daughter of Benjamin and Phebe Milliken was born. In a few days after Benjamin Milliken reached home to share the afflictions of his family. After the war Benjamin Millikens property was confiscated, and he, with his family sought a home in the wilds of New Brunswick, in a state of abject poverty, and after a few years of care and toil rested his bones in St. Patrick, County of Charlotte, no more to endure the miseries of civil war.
Justus Seelye was of English descent, his wife, Sarah Stuart of Scotch descent. They were natives of Hartford, Connecticut, and at the time of the American Revolution, in affluent circumstances. Justus Seelye was offered a commission to join the rebels, he contemptuously refused, saying he would stake his life and fortune in behalf of his Sovereign, and in consequence thereof was compelled to leave his home and take refuge in the woods armed with a brace of horse-pistols, and after several hairbreadth escapes succeeded in reaching a British garrison and voluntarily listed a common Sargeant in Thompsons Light Horse Dragoons. He served through the war and was rewarded with confiscation of all his property, his real estate said to be worth four thousand dollars, and with a distressed and persecuted family sought refuge in New Brunswick, and on the eighteen day of may, 1783, landed from the transport ship Sally, at Saint John, before there was a house built within the bounds of the present city, and only one house in Carleton opposite the harbor, where Justus Seelye laid the foundation and built the first saw mill in the province of New Brunswick. His family consisted of his wife Sarah Stuart, and three sons Orange Stuart and Justus, the two former settled in Saint George, New Brunswick.
The writers father, Stuart Seelye, married Rebecca Milliken who was born at Castine as before noticed, she was the mother of 18 children of whom some mention will be made at the close of this narrative. My grandfather, Justus Seelye removed to Upper Canada with his wife and youngest son Justus. He visited New Brunswick in 1812 and at that time Canada was threatened by the United States, he refused to prolong his visit in St. George, but hastened to return, saying he must go and help defend his family and dear bought country, and when he arrived home his son Justus was drafted for actual service, his father volunteered to take his sons place and was accepted. He was employed making gun carriages, served some nine months but owing to a threatened demonstration of the enemy, he wrought beyond his strength, his once iron frame give way under mental care and bodily toil; he died in camp the night of the memorable battle of Lundys Lane. Thus passed away the spirit of a brave man, devoted to his family, his country and his God.
The writers father, Stuart Seelye, cultivated a farm in St. George, followed lumbering in the winter and by industry supported a very large family while the country was in a wilderness state, but for want of efficient schools his children were deprived of the ordinary means of education, which he lamented as one of the greatest afflictions connected with leaving his native country, but he hoped better privileges would attend his posterity. Thus he lived in hope and died in hope of a glorious immortality, the 15th of August, 1838, in the 69th year of his age.
About six years after the death of Stuart Seelye, his dwelling was consumed by fire, and the younger branches of the family, with the exception of one, subsequently settled in the United States, and our widowed mother took refuge under the roof and protection of the writer, where she enjoyed comparative repose ten years, resigned to the will of God, on the 22d of September, 1854, in the 76th year of her age, fell asleep in the arms of her Redeemer.
The three eldest sons of Stuart and Rebecca Seelye were subject to great hardships in the lumber woods from an early age. The writer camped out twenty years in succession, and in common with his two elder brothers stood in the breach of political strife, striving to maintain the balance between colonial despotism on one hand and sedition and anarchy on the other. The County of Charlotte, until recently, was one of the dark corners of the earth. Political aspirants have asserted that ignorance was the basis of loyalty to the British constitution, and owing to the influx of foreigners, enemies to the commonwealth have held seats in the House of Assembly, one in particular, while contesting a scrutiny, was expelled from the House of Assembly on the charge of altering names in the poll books and he was returned to the House the ensuing election. Such reckless conduct by the mob were some of the trials encountered by the independent inhabitants.
The late Colonel Henry Seelye was the eldest of the family, he eventually was unsuccessful in business, and moved to California, and in 1858, rested his bones on the Pacific shore. All of his family with the exception of two have settled in the States.
Philo Seelye was the second son of Stuart and Rebecca Seelye, he held the Deacons office in the Baptist Church, in St. George some thirty years, on the 9th of Jan., 1857 passed away in the 62d year of his age. His family have also settled in the United States.
The writer, Edward Seelye, is the third son, 62 years of age, he claims to have had his share of afflictions, has buried six children, two only survives, a son and daughter who with their mother remain in Saint George, New Brunswick. The writer was successful in business, built a mill in St. George at the expense of $4000, mortgaged his property to pay the bill. Owing to his integrity refused to support some political aspirants, incurred displeasure, and some of the baser sort of the community were prompted to deeds of daring and crime. The operation of the mill was conducted by his son and was the principal means of support, it took fire and was consumed. The writer sought employment in the United States, is occupied in a trifling agency business in a foreign land, which is not in unison with his British prepossessions. His misfortunes is matter of triumph for his political adversaries, whose insinuations amount to the taunting interrogation Where is thy God? Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.
We have been allowed the use of the above which was not
intended for publication, but we publish it as a valuable
contribution to the early history of Charlotte County, being that
of one of the first families to settle in the vicinity of St.
George. It will be read with interest and will be preserved
as a useful chapter in the history of the County when it comes to
be written. Editor