Monday, January 26, 2015

Mary Waller Seager and her Husband Richard Watson Seager and Other Threads of Family History By Pat Kinsella Herdeg

I was trying to come up with another story to tell about our Taylor-Baker Family. A while ago, my sister Sue had given me a Reader’s Digest story about how families who knew their history, their family stories that made them uniquely ‘them’,  tended to be more resilient as adults. Perhaps knowing all of the hardships of earlier generations helped them when they faced their own sorrows, perhaps knowing the adventures their ancestors braved made them braver as they plunged forward.

And, Mom had sent me a letter tracing her theory on how her mother got some of the Waller-Carson journals. With the letter, she sent a news article and in it, a town historian recounted the importance of journals—sometimes they are the only places that earlier births and funerals were written about. How true, I thought. I have found many deaths not found in newspapers from Cordelia and Emma’s journals.

So, searching for what to write about, I looked through Cordelia’s diaries, focusing on January as we just had our first true snow storm of the season (nine inches with perhaps two feet in two days to round out our ‘beginning of winter’). I did find references to sleigh rides and snow, but in January of 1892, I found Cordelia writing about her sister Mary’s death.

Cordelia’s sister, Mary Waller (six years younger than our Cordelia) married Richard Watson Seager. Mary died on January 9th, 1892 in St. Paul, Minnesota. Here is from Cordelia’s diary:

Sunday, Jan. 10th: How true it is that we know not what the next moment may bring. While Daniel was teaching his class (Sunday church school class), a telegram came with the, to us, sad news that dear Sister Mary had “gone home”. Lord, keep my heart from breaking.

Monday, Jan. 11th: A sad, sad day, & yet I know it is well with her. I weep over my loss. They lay the precious form away this p.m. & I am there in spirit & see it all.

Jan. 12th: Go up home for a change. The dear children divert my mind. Little Clara preaches me a little sermon I shall not soon forget & I can but smile through my tears. “A little child shall lead them.”

Jan. 13th: Letters come with details. So her death had no fears. To die was going home. In deep sorrow our hearts are comforted. Thy will, O God, be done.

Jan. 14th: Must take up the burden of work, & keep hands & thoughts busy. Go to evening meeting—with a full heart. Sympathy of kind friends is appreciated.

Jan. 15th: A lovely day, & sleighing perfect. The jingling of bells is almost constant. Daniel draws wood. I go on with guilt & have pleasant memories. Write notice for paper.

Jan. 16th: Wash out a few things, & prepare for Sabbath. I keep very busy & rejoice that I am able to do so. Think much about dear Sister.

 Richard and Mary Seager had four children, two girls and two boys. As I googled to find out more facts, I came up husband Richard’s obituary in 1913. He was ‘a musical composer of note’ and was most famous for his cantata of Queen Esther. Wow! Intriguing! I can see that Richard WAS a singing teacher and musician in the census’ over the years, but now Mary Waller Seager springs to a more full picture in my mind—she must have spent her life surrounded by music.

Looking further, I can see Richard’s cantata—‘Esther the Beautiful Queen’.  Thanks to the Boston Public Library trying to put as many of their and all Massachusetts libraries and historical societies items on line, you too can see it:

The cover of the music shows that Richard worked on this cantata with other people, but one website implied that Richard’s changes made it the popular show it became. He certainly gives precise notes—on page three of the booklet, he goes into specifics: “In the course of the first evening, ascertain, as far as possible, the quality and caliber of voices adapted to various solo parts, but don’t positively assign any solo parts till sure you are right” and “Don’t try to go through the book at any one rehearsal” and “One week before the concert commence the advertising. It pays to ‘pay the printer’.” 
 Page from 'Esther the Beautiful Queen'

So, both Sue and Mom’s ideas came together, adding yet more levels to our family history as we know it—by digging into Mary Waller Seager’s death, I found more of our family’s history I had never known. A composer in the family! 


1 comment:

Susan Kinsella said...

Pat, I love how good you are at genealogical detective work and what wonderful finds it results in! With all the musicians in the family, this adds another delightful dimension. Thank you!