Monday, March 29, 2021

Horace Seaver, Boston News Editor ( 1810 - 1889)

In my last blog post about the Boston Freethinkers and The Boston Investigator newspaper, I noted how my ancestor, Romanus Emerson (1782 - 1852) was a great friend of Horace Seaver, the editor of The Boston Investigator. Both men were Freethinkers, progressives, and abolitionists.  I decided to research a little more about Horace Seaver, to perhaps shed a little more light on how my ancestor came to become a Freethinker, too.  I enlisted a little help from genealogist Randy Seaver, who is a distant cousin to Horace Seaver, the news editor (see below for the genealogies of both men). 

Horace Holly Seaver was named for the famous Unitarian preacher Horace Holly.  His parents wanted him to go to theology school and emulate his namesake, but his faith was put to the test when he joined a debating club and had to argue in support of Christianity.  He listened to a speech by Freethinker, Robert Dale Owen, and this changed his mind about the ministry.  This was very similar to my ancestor, Romanus Emerson's life change.  He wanted to be a minister like his three older brothers, but also ended up a famous atheist in Boston. 

Seaver joined the staff of The Boston Investigator as a typesetter, but assumed control of editing when the regular editor Abner Kneeland was arrested for blasphemy in 1839.  Many famous freethinkers of the day, such as Ralph Waldo Emerson (a cousin to Romanus Emerson), William Lloyd Garrison and Bronson Alcott tried to defend Kneeland's freedom of speech, but he remained in prison for 60 days. After his release he left Boston and started a utopian community out west.  Horace Seaver then became the editor of The Boston Investigator for over 50 years, until his death in 1889.  

When Horace Seaver was still a young editor he joined a meeting of the Freethinkers in New York City on 4 May 1845 where he proposed that the title infidel be used for atheists. He returned to Boston and founded The Boston Infidel Relief Society with my ancestor, Romanus Emerson. Eventually this became a very large, progressive group in Boston.  They built Paine Hall at 490 Washington Street in Boston for meetings, and the offices of The Boston Investigator moved upstairs.  This building was named after Thomas Paine, the famous freethinker. 

The obituary notice for Horace Seaver was published in The New York Times, 22 August 1889:  "Horace Seaver, editor of the Investigator, died yesterday in Boston.  He was born in Boston in 1810, and his connection with the Investigator dates from 1837, when he contributed to that paper a series of articles that attracted wide attention. In 1838 he became editor of the paper and Josiah P. Mendum proprietor, a partnership which had existed uninterruptedly for fifty-one years.  Mr. Seaver devoted a great deal of time to lecturing, his chief theme being "Free Thought".  He was a great anti-slavery man, and was a warm friend of Wendell Phillips, Parker Pillsbury, and William Lloyd Garrison."

The Boston Investigator continued publishing until 1904 when it merged with another Boston newspaper, The Truth Seeker.  Horace Seaver's book was published before his death as Occasional Thoughts of Horace Seaver from Fifty Years of Free Thinking, in 1888.  This book is available to read online through the Google book search.  You can also hear one of the eulogies given at his funeral read aloud at Youtube    This "Tribute to Horace Seaver" was originally written and read by the famous Freethinker Robert Green Ingersoll.  


Below you can see the lineages of both Horace Holly Seaver and the genealogist Randy Seaver.  It is also interesting to note that my 4th great grandfather, Romanus Emerson (1782 - 1852) had a daughter named Emily, who married Melzar Stetson, a 2nd cousin to Horace Seaver.   I am also related to Horace Seaver through his grandmother, Mary May (b. 1657) who is related to me through her own grandmother, Hannah Morrill (my own first cousin 11 generations removed).  

Generation 1:  Robert Seaver born about 1608 in England, and died 5 June 1683 in Roxbury, Massachusetts. He married Elizabeth Ballard about 1634 probably in Roxbury, Massachusetts. 

Generation 2:  Joshua Sever born 30 August 1641 in Roxbury, and died 27 March 1730 in Roxbury.  He married Mary May on 28 February 1677 in Roxbury.

Generation 3: Lt. Joshua Sever born 18 February 1677 in Roxbury, and died 24 September in Dorchester, Massachusetts. On 27 February 1706 he married Mercy Cooke at Dorchester.

Generation 4:  William Sever born 2 September 1721 in Dorchester, and died 4 March 1782 in Dorchester.  On 1 February 1742 in Dorchester he married Patience Trescott, daughter of John Trescott and Sarah Topliff.  She was born 20 March 1722 in Dorchester and died 15 March 1799.

Generation 5:  William Sever, born 8 May 1743 in Dorchester, died 28 July 1815 in Taunton, Massachusetts.  he married first on 15 October 1767 to Mary Foster, and married second on 21 January 1771 to Thankful Stetson.  She was the daughter of Amos Stetson and Margaret Thayer.  

Generation 6: Nathaniel Seaver was born 7 February 1773 in Taunton, and died 17 October 1827 in Boston.  He marry Hannah Loker, daughter of Henry Loker and Hannah Barber on 29 September 1799 in Boston.  

Generation 7:  Horace Holly Seaver was born 25 August 1810 in Boston, and died 20 August 1889 in Boston at 2727 Washington Street.  He was married on 24 September in Providence, Rhode Island to Celinda Griffin, the daughter of James Griffin.  She was born about 1817 in Pelham, New Hampshire and died 9 April 1858 in Somerville, Massachusetts.  No children. 

Genealogy blogger Randy Seaver's lineage:

Generation 1:  Robert Seaver  (1608 – 1683)m. Elizabeth Ballard

Generation 2: Shubael Seaver (1640 – 1730) m. Hannah Wilson

Generation 3: Joseph Seaver (1672 – 1754) m. Mary Read

Generation 4: Robert Seaver (1702 – 1752) m. Eunice Rayment

Generation 5: Norman Seaver (1734 – 1787) m. Sarah Read

Generation 6: Benjamin Seaver (1757 – 1816) m. Martha Whitney

Generation 7: Benjamin Beaver (1791 – 1825) m. Abigail Gates

Generation 8: Isaac Seaver (1823 – 1901) m. Lucretia Townsend Smith

Generation 9: Frank Walton Seaver (1852 – 1922) m. Harriet Louise Hildreth

Generation 10: Fred Walton Seaver (1876 – 1942) m. Alma Bessie Richmond

Generation 11: Fedrick Walton Seaver (1911 – 1983) m. Betty Carringer

Generation 12: Randy Seaver

My blog post on Romanus Emerson "Was Your Ancestor A Freethinker?":   

Randy Seaver's genealogy blog Genea-Musings:



To Cite/Link to this post:  Heather Wilkinson Rojo, "Horace Seaver,  Boston News Editor ( 1810 - 1889)", Nutfield Genealogy, posted March 30, 2021, ( accessed [access date]). 

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