THOMAS SEYMOUR (1735-1829), YALE 1755, MAYOR OF HARTFORD (FIRST MAYOR) (1784-1812)
Unfortunately the portrait of the First Mayor has long since disappeared. The author has failed to find any inventory of his estate, and there is no personal description of his appearance but that of Dr. Samuel Spring (1792-1877, pastor of the North Church) who officiated at his funeral, and who told his granddaughter Mary Eliza (Chenevard) Comstock that “he never saw so fair, dignified and beautiful an object as he (the First Mayor) lay in his coffin.” This brief description occurs in the charming letter of the First Mayor's granddaughter to Professor Nathan Perkins Seymour, dated April 13, 1876, at Painesville, Ohio.
In the First Mayor's will, this occurs: “Item, I give to my dear and only Daughter, Mary Juliana Chenevard, all the Household Goods, Furniture and Plate remaining in my House upon the demise of her Mother, except thereout the Portraits of her Parents, and my Mohogany Desk and Book Case ….” The reference to the “Portraits of her Parents” can refer to nothing other than to portraits of her father and mother. We know, therefore, that there was once a portrait of the First Mayor. The companion portrait of his wife, Mary Ledyard, is now one of the chief treasures of the Connecticut Historical Society, to which it was presented July 10, 1885, by his granddaughter, Mary Ellery Seymour, sister of Governor Seymour. His portrait, alas, disappeared long ago. Miss Talcott searched in vain for it. She once told the author that she was informed that when Governor Seymour, the First Mayor's grandson, was a little boy, he got hold of a family sword and slashed his grandfather's portrait. Miss Talcott thought that quite likely the mutilated canvas was taken from its frame and rolled up. She thought, indeed, that it might have been sent to New Orleans with other family effects when the old house was dismantled; and the Honorable Henry W. Seymour searched for it there, but without success. The author also made such inquiries as he could in Hartford regarding it, and Mr. Bates overhauled the collections of the Connecticut Historical Society without finding any trace of it. And in all probability the mutilated canvas has long since been destroyed. Within two or three years, a life-size profile drawing in charcoal, purporting to be a portrait of the First Mayor, was offered to the author, who, however, suspected its authenticity, and consequently rejected it.
In his will (executed 1821), the First Mayor left “all Household Goods, Furniture, and Plate” with certain exceptions to his daughter, Mary Juliana. Eight years later, he confirmed these gifts to her in a codicil to his will. As no inventory of his effects can be found, we are unable to say what the item “plate” covers. The author would be surprised to learn that there was any amount of “plate” in the house, inasmuch as there is nothing to indicate that the First Mayor put on any style, so to speak; and the author has discovered only two articles of “plate” which belonged to him–a sugar bowl and creamer. The word “plate,” therefore, as used in his will, the author judges, was used conventionally and with no unusual significance.
The First Mayor was buried in the “South Yard” where many members of the family were interred. The wreckage of these Seymour family memorials is painful to see. Strangely enough, there is no monument there to the First Mayor of Hartford–the First Mayor, who served the city for twenty-seven years. There is in that wreckage a small upright brown stone monument bearing the name “Seymour,” and perhaps intended for a family monument; but there is no inscription on it indicating that it was intended as a memorial to the First Mayor. So far as the author knows, there is no memorial to the First Mayor of Hartford except in so far as his fine tall-case clock, presented to the city by Newton Case Brainard and Morgan Bulkeley Brainard in memory of their father, Mayor Leverett Brainard, may also be considered in a sense a memorial to the First Mayor.
It may be hoped that before another hundred years passes, Hartford with its great tradition may erect some memorial to its First Mayor, at least a suitable tablet in the old State House where he had his offices. Further details of his career may be found in the body of this book, pages 153-161, and in Dexter's “Yale Biographies and Annals,” second series, pp. 378-379.
We get just a last glimpse of him through the eyes of his granddaughter, Mrs. Comstock, who in her letter elsewhere quoted, wrote:
“I remember a summer day the last time perhaps that he came to see me in Asylum Street, cane in hand, he took the hand of my little daughter and placed in it a pair of sleeve buttons each crystal set in pure old gold, 'Saying these are for your name Mary Ledyard–the name of your great grandmother.'”
In these words we have a touching picture of the old gentleman with his cane, more than likely the very staff preserved in the Municipal Building and used in the historic ritual of the installation of the mayors of Hartford.