Seymour is, like Allerton, indebted for its existence to the railroad which was built through Wayne County in 1870. It was laid out by J. C. Fox, William Wade, Hiram Evans and H. S. Rogers, who gave every alternate lot to the railroad company, in order to get their good will, advertising, etc. Several names were suggested for the new town. Three-quarters of a mile west of the town site is a tall cottonwood tree, now inconspicuous from a second growth of timber, which has been a landmark for the farmers ever since the first settlement of the county. The “lone tree” was referred to in giving directions to travelers and known to all within thirty or forty miles. It was the point of rendezvous for many a wolf hunt and picnic party. Many, therefore, favored the name of “Lone Tree” for the town, and though this failed of selection, its memory is perpetuated in the name of the only newspaper published here—the Lone Tree Press. While discussing names, and when “Lone Tree” seemed on the eve of being adopted as the name of the town, Dr. Rogers made the remark that the chief engineer of the railroad and the then Governor of New York were both named Seymour. Mr. Fox then spoke up and suggested, “Yes, and Seymour is the name of the best town in Indiana, too.” Thus the name was selected.
The first house erected on the town site was a dwelling and store put up by John Keller, March 24, 1871. It has been since burned. Others built soon after and the town went ahead very rapidly in the spring of 1871. Among those who located here were eight or ten from Genoa, then a promising village in Monroe Township, but which has since put on the sleep of death. At the close of the first season there were not less than 300 people. Then came a period of comparatively slow growth. By the census of 1875 the population was 408; by that of 1880, 501; and in 1885 the State census reports 710. The development of the coal industry has recently added a considerable population of miners, with their families, so that the place can reasonably claim about 900 at present writing, with excellent prospects for speedy growth in the near future.
Seymour was incorporated in January, 1874, and made to include the following territory: West half of the southwest quarter of section 13; southeast quarter of section 14; east half of the southwest quarter of section 14; east half of the northwest quarter of section 23; northeast quarter of section 23, and the west half of the northwest quarter of section 24. At the election held to decide for or against incorporation, held February 28, 1874, forty-five votes were cast for incorporation and four against. April 13 following, the village elected its first officers, as follows: Mayor, T. J. Frost; Recorder, A. F. Thompson; Councilmen, John Potter, W. C. Browning, D. J. Stipe, H. S. Rogers and John Jamison.
The present (1886) officers are: Mayor, J. R. Matkin; Recorder, W. J. Harlow; Treasurer N. C. Michael; Assessor, H. S. Rogers; Street Commissioner, William Cain; Marshal, Samuel Rickert; Councilmen, L. F. Thatcher, G. W. Harbert, Robert Vance, N. C. Michael, E. K. Clark and J. H. Morrison.
The first justice of the peace in Seymour was Moses McNally, who moved his office into town from the country in the spring of 1874.
The first birth in Seymour was that of a son of C. A. Conger, named Bert, born October 11, 1871.
Seymour was made a postoffice in the spring of 1871, and L. M. Stoops was appointed the first postmaster. His successors have been D. R. Rightenour, E. K. Clark, K. P. Morrison, J. H. Ware, J. C. Fox and M. G. Cain, the present incumbent.
This town has suffered severely from fires, but has rebuilt in each case with commendable energy and promptness.
The first fire was in the spring of 1872, when a hardware store, a dwelling, some lumber and a lumber office were destroyed.
The devouring element next visited Seymour, June 18, 1874, when Peter Dowell’s barn and four horses were consumed.
In November, 1880, Union Block, containing five buildings, was burned.
This was followed in February, 1881, by a fire which swept away M. V. Stitsel’s meat market, the postoffice, Lowry’s clothing store, Freese’s jewelry establishment, Miss Ridgeway’s millinery shop, Strickler’s hardware store, Mize’s billiard hall, King’s general store, Weimer’s grocery, McCoy’s drug store and Brown’s law office.
These formed a long row of buildings south of the square. They were soon rebuilt, but, with others, were again destroyed, August 9, 1884, in the greatest conflagration of the whole series. The sufferers this time were Harbert’s general store, the postoffice, Stitsel’s meat market, Ernest’s drug store, Freese’s jewelry store, Carson & Young’s furniture establishment, the town hall, Carson’s barber shop, Smith’s harness shop, Gaddis’s restaurant, Weimer’s restaurant, McCoy’s drug store, Coad’s law office, Ruby & Bradley’s clothing store, Lewis & Son’s hardware store, Morrison’s clothing store, King Brothers’ general store, Clemens’s furniture store, Keller’s drug store, Armstrong’s grocery, Kerby & Brenneman’s saloon and Armstrong’s flour store. The total loss this time was $75,000.
The village owns a good hand engine and a hook and ladder outfit. A volunteer fire company may be said to exist, but there is no regularly sustained organization.
Several weekly papers have been published here, but never more than one at the same time. First was the Sentinel, early in 1873; then followed the Ensign, Headlight and Enterprise, after which Seymour was without a paper until the Lone Tree Press was established by L. W. Lewis, the present editor and proprietor.
The first lawyer here was John Jamison. He and David H. Kerby are now practicing. The first physician was W. H. Ernest, who is still here. Other physicians now resident are Hugh McCoy, George A. Morrison and Edgar H. Jones.
April 2, 1872, the citizens of Seymour petitioned to be made an independent school district. This was voted on April 18, and carried by an unanimous vote. May 2 the following directors were chosen: John Jamison, William Wade, C. A. Conger, Jr., J. C. Fox, Z. Double and J. D. Stull. These met for organization and John Jamison was chosen President; H. S. Rogers, Secretary, and T. J. Frost, Treasurer. The old district school-house was sold and $1,800 of bonds was voted for a new structure. The contract was let September 2, to Nelson Rogers, for $1,950.
A school census taken at that time showed thirty males and fifty-nine females of school age.
The school-house was completed in four months, and was first used January 13, 1873. It is a two-story frame. A few years later more room was needed and the house was almost doubled in capacity by the addition of a wing. There are now four school-rooms.
L. M. McNeff was the first teacher employed, receiving a salary of $40 per month. The five teachers now employed are: Fred King, Principal; G. W. Frame, Grammar Department; Rose Harlow, Third Primary; Sadie Bradley, Second Primary, and Rose Perkins, First Primary.
The annual expenditures for school purposes approximate $4,000. The last school census showed of school age 140 males and 155 females, or a total of 259. The present School Board includes John Jamison, L. F. Thatcher, Hugh Miller, Z. Double, A. Weimer and Jasper Stevens.
The Methodist Episcopal Church was begun in the spring of 1874, and cost when completed $2,000. Rev. Philip Volmer was the first pastor. His successors have been Revs. Gibson, Wood, John Harned, P. W. Brady, Charles Brewer, C. W. Shipman, R. W. Matheny and John Harned. The last named is now here for the second time. The church here has about 140 members. A. E. Clemens is superintendent of the Sunday-school, which has an attendance of about 100.
The Presbyterian Church was organized and the church was built in the spring of 1874, at a cost of about $2,000. Rev. D. R. Hineman was the first pastor. Among his successors have been Revs. Henry Cullen, Putnam, McClure, David Steward and E. J. Nugent. The last named was the last regular pastor. At present no services are held. The society has thirty-eight members. L. W. Lewis is superintendent of the Sunday-school, which is held regularly.
The Christian Church was completed in the autumn of 1874 at a cost of $2,500. The pastors have been Revs. F. Walden, S. Downing, S. A. Hoover, J. H. Carr, William Hartley, J. H. Hickman and J. A. Shepherd, who is here now. Others have preached here for short times. The membership is about sixty. John Jamison is superintendent of the Sunday-school, the average attendance in which is about fifty.
The Baptist Church was built in the spring of 1880 and cost $1,850, including furnishing. Revs. A. W. Sutton, W. Stevens and C. Lippett have filled the pulpit here. At present writing no services are held. The membership is thirty-eight. E. K. Clark was the last superintendent of the Sunday-school. The church has no debt.
The following are in operation:
Myrtle Lodge, No. 355, A. F. & A. M., organized in the fall of 1873; the present membership, seventy; time of meeting, Tuesday evening on or before the full moon of each month.
Cryptic Chapter, No. 34, R. A. M., removed hither from Corydon in 1876; present membership, fifty-four; time of meeting, Monday evening after the full moon of each month.
Lone Tree Lodge, No. 352, I. O. O. F., organized in 1875; present membership, 106; meets every Saturday evening.
Seymour Encampment, No. 17, I. O. O. F., organized in 1882; present membership, twenty-seven; meets twice a month.
Trust Lodge, No. 127, Daughters of Rebecca, organized in 1884; meets twice a month.
Seymour Lodge, No. 134, K. P., organized in May, 1884; present membership, twenty-eight; meets every Friday evening.
William Kellogg Post, No. 186, G. A. R., organized in June, 1882; present membership, fifty-five; meets twice each month.
Seymour Assembly, No. 3,143, Knights of Labor, organized in April, 1884; present membership, fifty; meets every Tuesday evening.
The coal mining industry bids fair to be a grand thing for Seymour, and has even now assumed respectable proportions. It is due principally to the faith of L. F. Thatcher, who first had the requisite faith and courage. He and his associates, under the name of the Seymour Coal Company, commenced work in 1883, and employ about fifty men, on an average, the year round. The largest amount of coal mined here in one day has been 2,850 bushels. The product is all disposed of, to the railroad.
The Occidental Coal Company, composed of twenty-three stockholders, residents of Seymour, commenced operation in the autumn of 1884. It has employed as many as seventy-five men at one time. From 1,600 to 1,700 bushels are mined here daily, part going to the railroad and part to supply local demand. John Jamison is President of this company; W. H. Ernest, Vice-President; C. A. Conger, Treasurer, G. W. Harbert, Secretary.
The following firms are in business in 1886:
E. K. Clark, drugs; Mrs. S. J. P. Gorges, millinery; Miss Mary Ridgeway, millinery; J. M. Level, meat market; E. Bradley, grocery; Conger & Michael, general store; Perkins & Son, grocery; G. W. Wisehart, Seymour House; John Ware, clothing; E. H. Armstrong & Son, drugs; Rogers & Morrison, insurance; Carson & Givens, furniture; M. A. Holsouser, clothing; W. T. Ruby, clothing; G. W. Smith, harness; T. S. Gaddis, restaurant; A. H. Keller, drugs; G. W. Harbert, dry-goods; G. I. Evans, dry-goods; E. F. Martin, hardware; S. Lewis & Son, Farmers’ and Drovers’ Bank; A. Wiemer, restaurant; H. McCoy & Son, drugs; I. H. Morrison, Meat market; J. W. Carson, barber shop and news depot; Clemens & Son furniture; Miller & Vance, grocery; Peter Dowell, Dowell House; S. Lewis, lumber; Seymour Elevator Company; W. M. Armintrout, livery; Gump & Cochran, livery; Wiley Gunter, blacksmithy and machine shop; J. Husher, blacksmith; T. C. York, washing machine factory; John Root, shoe shop.
Transcribed from the Biographical and Historical Record of Wayne and Appanoose Counties, Iowa – Originally published 1886, Inter-State Pub. Co., Chicago, IL