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237. Nathan Perkins Seymour

237. NATHAN PERKINS7 SEYMOUR (Charles6, Charles5, Timothy4, John3, John2, Richard1), born at Hartford, Conn., 24 Dec. 1813, died at New Haven, Conn., 28 Dec. 1891; married at Hartford, 7 Sept. 1841, ELIZABETH DAY, born at Hartford, 16 Feb. 1816, died at New Haven, 7 Sept. 1900, daughter of Hon. Thomas and Sarah (Coit), and niece of Jeremiah Day, President of Yale College.

His early home was in Dorr Street, but while he was a small child the family moved to the large house in Pratt Street which was the family home for a third of a century. He attended the Hopkins Grammar School, entering Yale College in 1830 and graduating in 1834 with the appointment of Salutatory Oration.

After serving for two years as Rector of the Hopkins Grammar School of Hartford, he returned to New Plaven in 1836 as tutor in Yale College. In 1840 he was called to the chair of Latin and Greek in Western Reserve College at Hudson, Ohio, which had been founded a few years before. In 1867 he received the honorary degree of LL.D. from Kenyon College. Pie served as Professor of Latin and Greek until 1870, when he was made Professor Emeritus, and soon was appointed lecturer on English Literature.

From then until within a few months of his death, he delivered courses of lectures not only in the College with which he had been so long connected, but also before the students of the Lake Erie Seminary at Painesville and at schools in Cleveland and other places. In 1885 he delivered a course of lectures in English literature at Yale College. In the spring of each year from 1879 until 1891 he lectured at Miss Porter's School in Farmington.

In April 1891 Professor and Mrs. Seymour left the large square brick house in Hudson which he had built, their family home for nearly half a century, and went to New Haven to make their home with their son, Professor Thomas Day Seymour and his wife, at 34 Hillhouse Avenue. His death followed an attack of the prevailing influenza, and was hastened by a fall. He was buried in the Grove Street Cemetery.

Professor Seymour was the first, so far as known, to begin a study of the Seymour genealogy, which his niece Miss Talcott continued.

His life was that of a scholar, loving knowledge, shunning excitement, shrinking from notoriety. His mind was clear, strong, and accurate. In all things he was straightforward and sincere. £te was incapable of pursuing his ends by indirection. He loathed that which was selfish and mean. No man had a kinder heart. He was sensitive and refined; somewhat intolerant of whatever failed to conform to his aesthetic canons; witty rather than humorous; a born teacher, delighting in imparting knowledge; a sincere Christian, though not always willing to accept denominational formulae of belief.

His granddaughter, Mrs. Angel, gives this intimate description of him in his latter years:

He always wore black broadcloth, with long tails, and a high black stock, a high silk hat except in hot summer weather, when he had a tan colored straw–not a sailor. He was never bald, but his hair was thin and long, white, in separate tufts, as it floated about, on top and on the sides, very soft. He always moved with great energy and purpose, used his hands and fingers for gesticulating freely–never his arms or shoulders–and would talk earnestly, his head slightly on one side, his keen light eyes shining, watching; I think of him as having no self-consciousness. When he was in harmony with his surroundings, no one could be a more stimulating and delightful companion. He loved all fine poetry, lived with it, so his grandchildren were familiar with his little jokes from Shakespear: “You shall not be excused, Sir John; excuses shall not serve, Sir John”; or sonorous quotations from the Bible– “There was a man in the land of Uz.” He must have been a splendid teacher, a thrilling one. Music too was dear to him, especially Beethoven. He knew something about Harmony, theoretically, but could not play more than chords. He was much of an autocrat in his own family, with little restraint of a quick temper, but an equally quick reaction to tenderness. His first words on entering his home in Hudson were “Elizabeth”–calling his wife. Story of his wrath with a careless milkman illustrates much; a four year old grand-daughter patted his arm in the midst of his harangue, saying, “That will do, Grandpapa”–and it did.

Another granddaughter writes that when displeased with a sermon he would turn round in the pew until he almost had his back to the minister,–to the embarrassment of his family.

The following contributed sketch throws additional light on the characteristics of Professor Seymour:

The Seymour home in Hudson for half a century was a large square brick house which he built in 1843, not long after his marriage. It stood on high ground near the old “Brick Row” of the colleges facing a great field which was intended to be a college park. The entrance door with its side-lights was flanked by columns of the Greek Doric order, finely proportioned and executed in wood. The house with its four acre grounds is now (1936) much as it was when occupied by the Seymour family except that the wooden wing in the rear has been rebuilt of brick. Formerly the house was heated from seven fireplaces, in some of which wood-burning stoves of the “drum” type were installed, requiring frequent attention on wintry days. Professor Seymour usually attended to the fires himself, bringing in armfulls of hickory sticks (he used only hickory). He kept physically fit by splitting hickory logs and by walking once or twice daily to the village stores and post office, half a mile distant. He was of more than average height, of medium build and through his long life of robust health. Near-sighted, he wore gold-rimmed octagonal spectacles which rested on his forehead while he was reading. In dress, he adhered to fashions of the sixties wearing invariably a long frock coat of black broadcloth, a black satin “stock,” a silk hat and high topped boots.

His study, its walls lined with books, floor to ceiling, occupied the southwest corner of the second story. From its windows he enjoyed a view of the Richfield hills some ten miles westward reminding him of Connecticut. To this room his grandchildren were always received with welcome; he delighted in telling us stories of his boyhood and as we grew older pointing out the real meaning and beauty of literature, of art and of music, illustrating each in such a way as to make clear to us the abstract truths and principles of life. He was a reader of daily and weekly papers, with special interest in government poicies; I recall particularly his reading aloud from the Cleveland Leader the messages to Congress of President Cleveland, whose peculiar phraseology aroused his interest.

In dress and manners a gentleman of the old school, he was critically receptive of advanced ideas in social problems and discoveries in science and medicine. Of Christian Science he remarked that it was “neither Christian nor Science,” and of Woman Suffrage, that it would surely come whether we favored it or not.

Our Grandmother set a bountiful table, and he relished good food, saying that bad cooking caused more harm in this world than whiskey. He liked his tea but abstained from wine and liquor.

Of his parents he said that his Mother, a minister's daughter, meeting many young men studying for the ministry, preferred to marry a business man!

Throughout his life he derived great enjoyment from music. He was especially devoted to the sonatas and symphonies of Beethoven. He would like to hear a piece repeated many times on the piano, studying the themes and their development and the relation of one part to another so as to interpret the real meaning of the composer. He had a keen ear for quality of voice and for tone of instrument, once remarking that the real test of a great violinist was not in rapid and apparently difficult music, but in the quality of slow and sustained tones. His voice was rich and deep. He enjoyed singing hymns and parts of oratorio with his grandchildren, as they did with him.

After the college removed to Cleveland, he made weekly trips to deliver courses of lectures at the college and before groups of intellectual people there and in other cities. He invariably walked to the station, even in deep snow and zero weather, taking the early Monday “milk-train.”

W. E. P.

Pictures of Professor Seymour and of the Seymour homestead in Hudson, Ohio, are included herein.

Children, born at Hudson, Ohio:
i. CHARLES8, b. 20 Dec. 1843; d. 12 Apr. 1913, unm. See below.
ii. SARAH DAY, b. 30 Nov. 1845; d. at New Hartford, Conn., 15 Aug. 1934; m. 31 Dec. 1868, WILLIAM CHENEY PARSONS, b. at Brimfield, Ohio, 19 Feb. 1841, d. at Hartford, 5 Feb. 1925, s. of Edward and Clementina (Janes) Parsons. He was graduated from Western Reserve College, 1863; was tutor there, 1865-7; served in the Civil War, Battery E, Ohio Artillery. He settled at Akron, Ohio, where he was a manufacturer; removed in 1907 to New Hartford, Conn., where he and his wife are buried. Children:
I. Katharine Seymour8, b. 27 Feb. 1870; m. 20 Sept. 1930, Rev. Lee Maltbie Dean, B.A. (Yale, 1896), s. of Lee Parker and Seraph (Maltbie) ; res. Falls Village, Conn.
II. William Edward, b. 19 June 1872; m. 21 Aug. 1911, Myra Louise Matthews, dau. of Franklin and Mary (Crosby), cousin and ward of Clara Louise Kellogg. See below. Children, b. at Chicago, Ill.:
(1) Louise Kellogg10, b. 11 Mar. 1915; m. 5 Jan. 1936, Francis Rew Stanton, s. of Edgar and Harriet (Rew) of Winnetka, Ill., a graduate of Yale College, 1932, and of the Yale School of Fine Arts (Architecture), 1935.
(2) Seymour, b. 5 July 1916; student at Yale, Class of 1938.
III. Harriet Day, b. 17 July 1876.
IV. Sarah Day, b. 27 Aug. 1880; d. in infancy.
V. Charles Seymour, b. 4 Feb. 1882; d. 18 May 1909, unm.; B.A. (Yale, 1903).
VI. Robert Day, b. 21 Aug. 1885; d. 5 Nov. 1930; m. 23 Oct. 1915, Dorothy Gait, dau. of Hugh Allen and Annie (Alexander). He was graduated from Carnegie Tech., 1908; in 1918 was commissioned Lieut, (junior grade), U. S. Naval Reserve Flying Corps; was later in business at Zanesville, Ohio; buried in Akron, Ohio. Children:
(1) Hugh Gait10, b. 25 Aug. 1916.
(2) Robert Day, b. 10 Jan. 1919.
302. iii. THOMAS DAY, b. 1 Apr. 1848.
iv. HARRIET, b. 27 Mar. 1856; d. young.

CHARLES8 SEYMOUR (1843-1913) was born in Hudson, Ohio. His youthful surroundings aroused in him contradictory impulses: admiration for the intellectual culture and stern virtues of the New England atmosphere of the Western Reserve and an impatience with what he regarded as its self-satisfied provincialism. At an early age he felt the temptations of adventure and the desire for the contacts of a larger world. Nevertheless he stayed in Hudson to complete his college course, from which he graduated in 1864. He was a fine scholar, distinguished for his excellent bass voice, and a member of Alpha Delta Phi. After graduation he set forth at once to build a career in a new section, going to Knoxville, Tenn., then a small town on the edge of a frontier. There be set bimself up in a law office and within a few years disposed of the largest practice in the region relating to real estate developments and large land holdings.

Seymour perceived early the wealth of the Tennessee mountains in forests and water power and was one of the first to organize companies for their development. He represented large interests, several of the most important being English, and most of them outside of tin state. He was thus brought into personal contact with all parts of the United States and with England, which he visited generally twice a year. He was urged to run for political office and on two occasions was offered a position on the State Bench, but always refused. In Knoxville, where he kept his office until his death, he was regarded as the Nestor of the community and exercised almost unlimited personal influence.

His personality was vivid. He had uncompromising views on politics, morality, and manners, and never hesitated to express them. He had the purity of intent of Colonel Newcome and the regard for worldly conventions of Major Pendennis. His criticism was sharp and he was chary of praise. He evoked fear from those who did not know him well, but the deepest affection from those close to him. He was a “man of the world,” an excellent judge of a cigar and of whiskey, loved to meet new persons, despised physical or moral cowardice. His generosity, covered often by extreme brusqueness of manner, was unbounded.

In 1889 he was in a disastrous train wreck in Tennessee, was badly smashed up, and lamed for life. He rose against the handicap, learned to play golf and continued his active mode of living. For a decade he was subject to heart attacks which he concealed from all his friends; and he died in 1913 after a short illness.

SARAH DAY8 (SEYMOUR) PARSONS (1845-1934) was a woman of remarkable intellectual endowment, and we are indebted to a daughter for the following sketch.

In recalling the early days in the Hudson home, my mother wrote: “Father [Nathan Perkins Seymour] would stand us three children in front of him and sing with us, 'To receive power,–and riches,–and wisdom,' to the climax 'and blessing'–continuing by himself the 'Blessing and honor,' etc., of the rolling Handel chorus.” (This custom he continued in the next generation, for it is one of my earliest memories of him.) Because of his great love of music, my grandfather bought a piano and imported an English governess who kept little seven-year-old Sarah practicing three mortal hours a day; but not contented with the “Silvery Showers” standards of the governess, he threatened to have the pedals cut off if used, and as soon as possible the child was introduced to Haydn and Beethoven. This bore fruit later on, when she played her children to sleep with Beethoven sonatas–the only time the busy mother had for her music.

Being a girl, little attention was paid to her mental diet, and it was considered a joke when she was discovered reading Virgil; but her scholastic aptitude was such that, thirty years later, to help me make up missed lessons, she picked up the Aeneid and read page after page at sight, without an error! To the end of her long life, she relished problems, whether in mathematics or chess, and to the inherited love of the great in music and literature she added an intense interest in painting.

In the hustling manufacturing city of Akron, Ohio, she was a moving spirit in rousing a desire for beauty and knowledge; founded clubs; introduced good pictures into the public schools; and was president of the Womens Council of the city. She left a lasting imprint as an influence for the finest things of life. H. D. P.

WILLIAM EDWARD9 PARSONS, son of William Cheney and Sarah Day (Seymour) Parsons was born in Akron, Ohio, June 19, 1872. He attended school at Western Reserve Academy, Hudson, Ohio, Bingham School in North Carolina and Norwich Free Academy, and graduated from Yale College (Phi Beta Kappa) with the Class of 1895. He studied Architecture at Columbia University, receiving degree of B.S. in 1898 and entered the Ecole des Beaux Arts, Paris, in the fall of that year, studying under Victor Laloux until July 1901. In 1899 he was awarded the McKim Traveling Fellowship in Architecture. On returning from Paris he entered the office of John Galen Howard, Architect, New York. On being appointed Consulting Architect of the U. S. Government in the Philippine Islands, he left New York and went to the Islands in November, 1905, where he remained nine years. While there, he designed a great variety of public and semi-public buildings in Manila and in the provinces, including Court Houses, schools, hospitals, markets, prisons and parks; also the Manila Hotel, Philippine General Hospital, Manila Club, University of the Philippines. In the tropics he introduced the use of reinforced concrete for permanent buildings at a time when that material had barely come into use in the United States. While his designs generally followed the classic tradition, the use of concrete gave his work a modern expression in advance of the movement toward modernism of today. He planned the restoration of the old City Walls and Moats of Manila as public parks and playgrounds and established standards of public architecture which have been and are being generally followed. W. Cameron Forbes, Governor General, says in “The Philippine Islands”:

Mr. Parsons brought to the Islands a fine sense of proportion, thorough training and unusual industry. He designed and secured the adoption of his plans for the construction of many beautiful buildings, all of which were in excellent taste. The Architecture of his time will stand as a permanent monument to the American Administration in the Islands. His lines were always simple, proportions harmonious, colors agreeable, and the useful purposes to which his plans were to be put were never lost sight of in mere architectural beauty.

He was charged with the interpretation of the Burnham Plans for Manila and Baguio, extensive development of both cities having been achieved during his stay in the Islands. Says Charles Moore in his book, “Daniel H. Burnham” :

Within three days after the plan of Manila was approved, work was begun. Happily, the task of construction was entrusted to William E. Parsons, a young American architect, who had eight years of continuous service before a policy of retrogression in the Philippines caused his resignation. At the time of his appointment, in November 1905, Mr. Parsons had but recently received a diploma from the Ecole des Beaux Arts and had entered upon private practice in New York City. Under the terms of his agreement with Commissioner W. Cameron Forbes, Mr. Parsons had general architectural supervision over the design of all public buildings and parks throughout the Islands. Thus he became the interpreter and executant of the Burnham-Anderson plans; and he also did private work. It is not possible to praise too highly the fidelity with which Mr. Parsons carried out the spirit of the plans, the judiciousness of the modifications he made in them, the simplicity, directness, and good taste which characterize the many and varied buildings he designed, the ability with which he solved problems both old and new, and the judgment he displayed in all his dealings with both officials and people.

Mr. Parsons resigned in 1914 and associated in practice with E. H. Bennett in Chicago and since 1922 has been a member of the firm of Bennett, Parsons and Frost, Architects, planners of Civic improvements in Chicago and other cities including St. Paul, Phoenix, Palm Beach and Pasadena, the last named comprising a group of public buildings at the City Center. In 1918 he planned Camp Knox in Kentucky. He was Consulting Architect for Puerto Rico in 1924-26, making several trips there, planning the Ocean Boulevard and Rivera Park in San Juan, and making a general plan of extension for the University of Puerto Rico.

Mr. Parsons designed the New Botanic Gardens and Conservatory and (he Enlargement of the Capitol Grounds in Washington by extending the grounds from the Capitol to the Union Station. This project covered an area of twelve city blocks, involving the razing of many old buildings, the location of a new avenue (Louisiana) connecting the Union Station Plaza with Pennsylvania Avenue, the relocation of street car lines, and the construction of the great terrace and fountain, beneath which a large garage for Members of Congress was built.

He served from 1929 to 1937 as Advisory Architect for the Federal Commission for the George Rogers Clark Memorial on the site of Fort Sackville in Vincennes, Indiana. He was responsible for the general plan of the grounds with streets and approaches, the placing of the Memorial structure and statues of Vigo and Father Gibault. The Memorial, now a national monument of first historic importance, stands on the banks of the Wabash River covering an area of twenty-five acres, within which is preserved the old Catholic Cathedral. The river wall and the bridge approaches also were built from his designs.

Dr. Charles Moore, Chairman of the Commission of Fine Arts, says in “Personalities in Washington Architecture,” 1937–“The Fine Arts Commission recommended Mr. Parsons first to Governor Towner to plan the government buildings at Puerto Rico, then to the Indiana Commission on the rejuvenation of Vincennes in connection with the George Rogers Clark Memorial, and finally to the Committees of Congress, charged with the removal of the Botanic Gardens and the extension of the Capitol grounds. The completion of these plans marks a fine record of progressive achievement on Mr. Parsons' part.”

The William Wrigley Memorial, Santa Catalina Island, California, was executed from Mr. Parsons' designs, and the Apex Building in Washington is among the later projects of his firm.

In 1938 Mr. Parsons received an appointment as Associate Professor of Architecture in the Yale School of Fine Arts, where he will teach in particular city and regional planning.

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book/237.nathan_perkins.txt · Last modified: 2018/01/06 14:21 by jims