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Westley Carleton Seymour

Note: This information was supplied by Paul Carleton Seymour.

WESTLEY CARLETON11 SEYMOUR (Clinton Henry10, Gilbert9, Willet8, William Jr.7, William6, Samuel5, Samuel4, Matthew3, Thomas2, Richard1), born 1911 in Cannonsville, Delaware, NY, died 1986 in Sidney, Delaware, NY. Married Leone Dann, Ninevah/Oneonta NY, b. 1907, daughter of Elmer Dann of Dannville, Broome, NY.

Child (born in Sidney, Delaware, NY):
Westley Francis (“Skip”) b. 1944

Note: The following article was written by Paul Carleton Seymour.

My dear grandfather. How do I begin to describe this very cool, great gentleman? I'll attempt by starting with a collection of memories gained over the 23 years of my life that luckily coincided with his. First, I have to tell you that he was, foremost, a gregarious guy. Not like his son and grandson that followed, who evidently caught more stoic genes from the Dann's and Greene's respectively, although I have my moments. As they would say back in those days, he had the “gift of gab”. It's important to note that, as you can see by looking at the tree, he was the 6th of 7 children, who were separated by 21 years from youngest to oldest. That boggles my more modern mind. I can't even imagine that situation, being the 1st born of just 2 kids, eleven months apart.

As I recall, this shaped him in many ways. He spoke of his siblings more like cousins than as brothers and sisters, with the notable exception of his younger brother Clayton, to whom he was obviously very close. I know that because he occasionally spoke, with tears swelling in his eyes, of Clayton's death at an early age, in a car accident. He was in a car with a friend, and was just 24 years old. There seemed to be great debate over who was driving the car. The official version was that Clayton had been driving, but that both had been ejected from the car in a violent crash, I think, against a big old oak tree. Grandpa refused to believe that Clayton had been driving, as he considered him to be an outstanding driver. Suffice to say that Grandpa lost a very loved one at a young age. Photo of Clayton somewhere in Connecticut around 1933.

More memories-Grandpa loved to tell me stories when I was a “youngster” as he would call me. I cherished those moments, and I listened intently. I consider it a blessing that as a young boy I liked listening to my elders. I learned a lot from them. To continue conveying Wes, he told me about his days as a young man. He didn't lie, which as I've learned, seems to be a relatively unique characteristic of the Seymour men. He would tell me, with a distant look in his eye, while recalling his youth, that he was quite a poker player, and pool player. I know this is true, because like my father, I also loved to shoot some pool, and although I had just started playing during Grampa's final days, I was able to win money on the table at times. My Dad was a little bit better than me, and neither one of us could hold a candle to the “Old Man”. He told me a story once, that while he was in his 20's, a professional billiards player passed through Deposit, NY, which evidently was his hangout, to give an exhibition. Grandpa, being the hottest cue in town, showed up to see him do his thing. After showing his stuff, the pro accepted challenges from the crowd, which several guys took him up on, playing the best of 3 games. Of all the challengers, he only lost 1 game, that being to Grandpa. The pro was so impressed with him that he asked him to travel around the country as his partner. This brings visions to mind of Paul Newman in his famous role as the “Hustler”. Grandpa was a bit of a hustler himself. He knew exactly how to let you win, just barely, until you had the confidence to bet more heavily, at which time, you were dead. But Grandpa was a home boy. He was never a traveler, like I am. He said that he thought about it for a moment, but had no interest in life on the road.

He also told me that in his younger days, before he met Grandma, that he was a car salesman, and he augmented his commissions, playing both pool and poker, and did quite well at it. This must have been in the 30's, during the Depression. But it became a lonely life, and he wanted to settle down, and have a family. So he went to Sidney, where the old Cintilla factory was starting to do well. He took a job on the line, met Grandma Leone Dann, who had divorced her 1st husband, and had a 10 year old son, Uncle Richard D. “Dick” Curtis, and fell in love, and married her.

Grandma and Uncle Dick Curtis about the time she and Grandpa married.

Evidently, his old habits of drinking whiskey, playing poker, and shooting pool were hard to leave behind. As I knew Grandpa, he was a teetotaler. He told me that Grandma had made him an ultimatum. “Stop drinking, or I'll leave you”, as he had had a losing night at the poker table, maybe the whole paycheck, but I'm just guessing.

Grandma didn't play around. As I knew her she never once drove a car. She told me that once Grandpa was criticizing her driving skills, and she pulled over to the curb, got out, ordered Gramps out, and jumped in the passenger seat, leaving Gramps to do the driving. She never once drove again. She was serious. So he never again touched a single drink, and they were married for about 40 years thereafter, until death they departed.

Grandma told me stories about the days of the Great Depression, which like all who lived through it, affected them greatly. She told me stories of seeing men on the street who were obviously hungry. Although she was just waitressing in the old Hotel DeCumber in Sidney, and taking in ironing to support young Dick, she would invite some of them home for a meal. That impressed me a lot, and I find myself doing similar things for others in my lifetime. Once I invited a German man home for Thanksgiving dinner in Palm Coast, Florida, after shooting some pool with him, because although not poor, he was lonely. My 2nd wife had lived for 15 years in Switzerland, and speaks German, which he loved, and we had a very nice day together.

To her dying days, Grandma never thought anyone had enough food to eat. She was a great cook, and loved to fatten up all of her “boys” –Grandpa, Dad, Dick, Dick's 2 sons, Andrew and David, and not least, me. When we got together at Easter and Thanksgiving, my 2 cousins and me, would usually have a pancake eating contest. With Grandma ruling the kitchen with an iron hand, while Gramps scurried around following orders and providing crucial support, we would easily eat 6-8 buttermilk pancakes, heaped with butter and pure, local made maple syrup, each. It was a disgusting display of decadence that Grandpa was able to provide with his union job at the factory. He would also, routinely buy me a 16 oz. porterhouse steak, when I was about 9 or 10 years old, and cook it for me himself. I think he was trying to show me some of the finer things in life, which he learned as the son of a relatively wealthy father. He would even carve it for me, tenderloin first, and tell me I should eat that before it got cold. The traditional Sunday afternoon pot roast, and occasional leg of lamb or standing rib roast (prime rib), with mashed potatoes and gravy, and maybe creamed peas are also a great memory. I could go on and on about how they both spoiled me miserably, but I think that's a good insight for now.

Back to my original point, they had survived the times of economic disaster, and with their relative comfort, enjoyed making sure that those they loved would never have to endure any such thing as long as they were around to say something about it.

Leone Dann Seymour about 1960

That's not to say they were rich. Grandma lost her mother when she was young, and was raised by her older sisters in Oneonta

Grandma with her Mom, Elizabeth Humiston Dann, and an older sister, Ethel about 1909. She looked a lot like her Mom. Growing up without her mother was a painful memory for Grandma. Unfortunately I know nothing about the Humistons. I did a quick search and found that it's an old German/English name, so probably Anglo-Saxon.

Grandma, Leone Dann around 1913

Grandpa, being the youngest surviving son of a relatively well off family, saw nothing of the inheritance when his father died. He received a gold plated pocket knife, on a heavy gold chain, inscribed with the letter C for Clinton, from his father, which I still have. All of the other assets of Great Grandpa Clinton went to older siblings. Ironically, when Cannonsville, NY was burned to the ground to make way for the reservoir to provide water for NYC, it was Grandpa who moved the graves of his parents and brothers to the Sidney cemetery, which I assume wasn't cheap.

But he had the life that he wanted. He worked for 30 some years, almost 40, I think, with Cintilla, which then became Bendix, as a union guy back when union workers did very well for themselves. During WWII, and then the Korean and Vietnam wars, the factory, and therefore Sidney, boomed with fat government contracts to make plane and helicopter parts. Grandpa told me that he had been offered management positions, but back in those days, an hourly union employee would have been foolish to accept a salaried job, making time and a half for overtime and night shifts, and double time for Sundays and holidays. He was lucky, that way. The unions died about the same time that he retired. Like the old poker player that he was, he played well the cards which he was dealt.

He also loved nature, as did Dad and still do I. He would take me on Sunday drives in the rolling hills of Delaware County on dirt roads, with a pair of binoculars, and we would spot birds. He could also whistle like no one I ever met. Beautifully. He liked to mimic the birds, and actually could.

He loved cars, which seems to have come from the Cuyle family, and this was definitely passed on to both his son, Skip, and grandson, Paul as well, and maybe to you. He always had a big Chevy, in my time (1960's and 70's) Impalas and a Monte Carlo, always with a monster V-8, which he always maintained meticulously at Whitaker's Garage. He told me another story that during WWII, he had bought a hot Pontiac, before his Chevy days. He was the king of the road around Sidney in that thing. After he had had it for a while, some Air Force Officer came knocking at the door offering to buy it from him. Grandpa was suspicious about why this guy wanted to buy it so badly, and eventually got the story out of him, (remember, you can't bullshit a bullshitter) and it turned out that the car was some sort of Air Force experimental car shoehorned with an airplane motor. Grandpa always loved a good story, and decided that having such a special car, and the story behind it, was worth more than the profit the Gov't was offering, so he kept it. Good for him.

Lastly, Grandma firmly instilled in me a strong lack of fear of death. She was a remarkably spiritual person. Both she and Grandpa read the Bible every night in bed before going to sleep. It wasn't something sporadic, it was a large part of their lives. They didn't go to church, which they viewed as completely unnecessary. They taught me that the Church was a business, more than anything else, and they never found it necessary to visit any particular building in order to believe what they were sure was true. Faith shouldn't cost money. Anyway, I learned from Grandma that there definitely is something beyond this terrestrial life that we lead, although I'm not sure what it is, I am sure that there is something. I guess like Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Constitution, “a creator”. I personally believe that we may be like caterpillars. Existing in our limited 3 dimensional world, with death providing the metamorphosis which allows us to experience a 4th, and maybe more, dimensions. Like a butterfly, maybe, after living as a grub.

She taught me this lack of fear through the following. First, and I say this with all seriousness, she was a proven “water witch”. It might have gotten her burned at the stake a couple of short centuries earlier. Recall the story of the hermitess in Ridgefield? As you'll note later, I'm the son of an above average intelligent man. As such, I don't believe anything that I can't see, and touch, with my own hands or eyes as the case may be. One day, when I was about 10, after a fair amount of pestering from me, they began to tell me some more stories. One was that Grandma had been hired by a local farmer to find water on his land, in order to drill a well. Drilling at random on several acres can be quite costly, and he'd heard of Grandma's unique gift, and paid her to locate his future well, which she did. Even as a young boy, I was very skeptical. I was sitting there thinking, “yeah, right, show me”, which I in fact said. They exchanged a quick glance, and then Grandma started issuing orders. Gramps, as always, complied. He went out in back of the house, down near the Susquehanna River, and with his trusty pocket knife, cut off a Y shaped switch about 3/4 of an inch thick at the base, and diminishing in width outwards, so flexible. According to her, it had to be from a willow. We then went into the back yard, and she held the 2 sections of the Y shaped branch in each of her hands, palms up, at the very ends.

The thicker part of the branch extended out about a yard. Remember that I'm quite skeptical, but also fascinated. She then started to slowly walk across the back yard, with her arms extended, holding the branch in front of her, sticking about 3 feet out. As she walked, at a certain point, the end of the branch, out in front of her, started to bob up and down slightly. She said, “here it is” and stepped a foot or two forward. As she stepped forward, the end of the branch, which was not in her hands, bowed markedly downwards. I was very carefully watching her hands, as a true skeptic would. Her hands were as steady as a rock, but the opposite end of the switch was moving a lot and finally bowed down at almost a 90 degree angle. Trust me when I tell that my jaw dropped. It was completely impossible scientifically. I was truly shocked, but I'll understand if you still remain skeptical. I would be too, but I saw it with my own eyes. If you happen to believe the story I just told you, it will make it easier to believe the stories that follow.

I found in my Dann research that an ancestor of Leone's was actually tried for witchcraft in Connecticut! Here's the story and the link:

“[Clason Memorial of Stamford, Connecticut, in 1654, by William B. Lapham, 1892] Elizabeth was tried at Fairfield, Connecticut, in 1692 for witchcraft. She was found not guilty. An account of this trial is found in the article, “Elizabeth Clawson…Thou deservest to dye” by Ronald Marcus, Stamford Historical Society, Inc. Stamford, Connecticut, 1976. The following was taken from that article: A large contingency of Elizabeth's friends shared the same strong faith in her innocence by subscribing their names to an affidavit attesting to her good character. Despite the wide-spread belief in the existence of witchcraft and the punishment prescribed for its practice, these residents of Stamford stood firm. The testimony to the good character of the accused Elizabeth was a valiant act, perhaps something unique at that time in Connecticut history. “Oer neighbour Stephen Clason haueing desired us whose names are under writen: seing here is such a report of his wife raised by sume among us: that we would speak: waht we know conserning his said wife and her behauiour among us for so many yeers now know al whom it may consern that we doe declare that since we haue known our said neighbour goodwife Clason we haue not known her to be of a contentious frame nor giuen to use threatning words or to act malisiously towards her neighbors but hath bene siuil and orderly towards others in her conuersation and not to be a busybody in other mens conserns: giuen under our hands in Stanford: 4th June: 1692.” (Signed by her neighbors but not by her son-in- law, Francis Dann and daughter, Elizabeth Clason Dann.)”

Elizabeth Clauson was Francis' mother-in-law. That's not a joke, by the way. On or about the same day that I found and included this article, I also read an article here (Colombia) in an on-line newspaper, in which people in this, and other parts of the world, still believe in witches. A woman who reads palms, and communicates with the dead was run out of her village and almost killed by an angry mob after 5 women who she had recently performed some service for suddenly fell to the ground and started convulsing. They burned down her house after finding a Ouija board, and she had to be escorted out by police to avoid being hung. This is not in the 1600's, but the year 2010! Unbelievable……

I had to think a while before even sharing this, but I decided that since it's a fact of my life, I should share it, and if you happen to think I'm nuts, then so be it. Grandma and I had an almost perfect telepathy. We could communicate without talking. Even from great distances. It's something that I've also had with a few other very close people in my life as well, but never so completely. It's something impossible to describe, but I know that it exists, and that we weren't so unusual, and there's a certain percentage of the population that knows exactly what I'm talking about. If you've experienced it, then you know what I mean.

Last, but not least, Grandma had a weak heart. She suffered multiple heart attacks starting when she was about 60, and had 3 or 4 major attacks before she died. She was clinically “dead” 3 times, and had what we call “after life experiences”. Again, if I rely on science, which I'm apt to do, I'd be on the side of, well, the brain continues to function, and coupled with adrenaline, etc, can do some strange things. But after the willow switch incidence, and the fact of the telepathy, I'm more apt to think about some other reason. She had 3 different “deaths”, each with a more advanced version of the story. The fact that she was clinically dead is without question. Flat-lined and electronic paddles. The first was pretty basic. She saw a bright light and had a deep desire to reach it, then THUMP, back to the real world. On the 2nd, she actually had a conversation with a warm voice, about her life. The last was longer and more elaborate. She was on a beautiful crystal lake, and rowing a boat to the other side, and she was extremely serene and happy. When she told me these stories, she was very calm, and looked me in the eye, and said, “Paul, you don't have any reason to fear death, I don't, it's something wonderful, but of course, in your time”. Or something to that effect. And so, I don't, which is a huge advantage in life, ironically enough. Instead of fearing death, I've always been much more afraid of dying with the regrets that go along with an un- lived life.

You should take a look in the appendix at the Dann family tree. dann_tree.xlsx It's another pioneer, colonial American family that settled at least two towns in New York, and at least another, being the Town of Abington, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania. The first to arrive in America was Francis, who came from Barbados, after his father, John Dan was an early English settler from Cumberland County, England of that Island around the same time that Richard Seymour went to Hartford. Francis landed in Stamford in the late 1670's, about 40 years after it was founded. The Seymours and Danns, then, were neighbors in CT, about 300 years before Wes and Leone married, as Stamford is in Fairfield County near Norwalk. Jonathan Dann was a founder of North Norwich, NY in 1794. One of his sons, who was my GGGG Grandfather Philip Dann, then settled Danville, NY in Broome County, which is next to Delaware County, in the 1840's.

Danville, NY I discovered by accident, is where Clara Barton was living when she founded the American Red Cross. After traveling the world, and becoming a famous nurse, why she settled at the crossroads of Danville, NY is a mystery to me. She also brought about the US ratification of the Geneva Convention while living there. I urge you to read her biography at the link, she was a very interesting person.

OK, back to the Seymours.

I should also note that Gramps was a devout member of the Masonic Lodge. One of his dying wishes was that I should have his Masonic ring, which of course, I still have. Regrettably, to date, I haven't explored membership, but I still might one day. If it was that important to him, then I should respect his death wish, and maybe become a member, or at least learn more about it.

I think I've painted fairly well what great people Wes and Leone Seymour were. To this day, I cherish the memories, and wish they were still here to share life with, and to laugh. The old house at 41 Bridge Street, Sidney, New York, was always a warm, safe haven, both when I was a kid, and later when I was a young man, and needed to regroup and find my way. Keith Robinson, my dear old best friend from Bridge Street, where are you? Remember the daily baseball game after school at the Willow Street park? Those were the good times, weren't they?

Old postcard of 41 Bridge Street around 1900. During my childhood the old round porch started to rot after a hundred or so tough winters. The cost in the early 1970's to build a round porch was quite a lot more than a plain old rectangular one. It broke all of our hearts, but we got used to it.

That skinny little tree in front, in the far right of this photo taken around 1900, was about 4 feet in diameter when we were kids. We used to rake the leaves into a pile and jump into it, which was an old ruse used by adults to get kids to do the raking chore.

Grandma and Grandpa on the porch. Goodbyes were really, really hard.

Grandma and me on the porch during a trip I made up from Florida on a break between semesters in College during 1986. I used to drive the 280Z up from Jacksonville to Sidney, 1080 miles exactly from driveway to driveway. I would usually start out at 5 AM and drive straight through to about 8 PM. Of course, not wasting much time, and dodging the state troopers with a radar detector.

Here's a photo of the 280Z in front of Great Aunt Carrie's (Dann) house in Oneonta, NY- This was a cool old house, which at this time Aunt Carrie, about 90 years old but sharp as a tack, had modified in order to rent out several rooms on the second and third floors to college students. Out back there was a stable built for about 5 horses instead of a garage, as the house was built before the days of cars, and never converted, I guess.

Photo out behind the barn of Grandma and Grandpa's house, going down to the Susquehanna River. Dad (Skip) planted the big horse chestnut tree as a small boy.

Gramps was a big fan of the old west, and I used to love to sit up and watch an old western movie on TV with him. Here's a favorite photo of mine taken in Ocala, Florida. After we moved to Florida, and since Grandma and Grandpa were retired, they would come down and spend the winter months near us. This picture was taken at Six Gun Territory, an Ocala Wild West theme park, where we would get off to on many occasions. There was an imitation little town, and there would be a daily gunfight, with stunt men falling off roofs, etc. We must have seen the same show 10 times, but never got tired of it. This photo is proudly displayed in my home to this day.

Mom used to cut my hair. What can I say….I'm not sure which bowl she used for this one……Trust me though, the other kids at school didn't have the guts to say anything about it. Another thing I see in this picture, Grandpa liked to always be dressed well. Here we are, in Ocala, Florida at 95 degrees and extremely humid. I remember many times around this time that on the local news it would be reported that Ocala was the hottest city in the nation. And even so he's in a soaked to the skin pair of wool trousers, and decent shirt with wing tips on. Usually, instead of a baseball cap, he would be in a dress hat, a la 1940's. This is a trait that definitely wasn't passed on to either Skip or me. We're the jeans and T-shirt variety.

Another picture of gramps and me playing Jarts or Lawn Darts a few later while I was visiting them in Sidney for the summer where the weather was more reasonable, out in back of the barn. He and I were an unbeatable team to the great frustration of the neighbors. It seemed like Grandpa could make a ringer whenever the score got close. Some of the old hustler in him, I guess. Not long after this photo was taken, the US Government, in its infinite wisdom, outlawed Jarts. Unbelievable. I'm sure Gramps was tossing around in his grave. I can't even imagine what Capt. Matthew, or Samuel, or William would think about the US Government trying to tell them what game they could or couldn't play in their own back yard. In fact, I would have liked to have seen the face of the poor bureaucrat who drew the short stick and had to go and tell Capt. Matthew, for example, that he'd have to stop playing jarts now or he'd be arrested. Hah! But in the 1970's-80's and unbelievably up to today, Americans actually swallow that kind of garbage. Amazing……What happened????

Here we are, breaking the law…somebody call the cops. Oh well, I guess we got away with that one. On to the next generation.

book/westley11.txt · Last modified: 2011/07/05 09:44 by paulseymour