Samuel Seymour wasn’t born in Rockford. Like many of the families living in Illinois in the mid 1800’s, Samuel came from the East coast. He was born in Litchfield, Connecticut on December 14, 1829. He attended school in Massachusetts and became a teacher for a while.
In 1849, Samuel got struck with “gold fever” and he became one of the many men who left their homes in an attempt to strike it rich in California. He worked on the ship to help pay his fee for the passage. He was 20 years old and the trip around Cape Horn must have been quite an adventure. Later in life he would entertain his friends and family with tales of the journey.
Unlike most of the men who headed west for the gold, Samuel actually was successful. He would use this money to build a very lucrative financial foundation for himself.
Samuel returned to the east and that was where he met his lovely wife, Laura Lewis. They were married in New York in 1855. Samuel and Laura moved to Rockford in 1857 and Samuel started to sell insurance. He used some of the money he had made in California to invest in real estate.
Samuel and Laura did very well here in Rockford. They built several houses and seemed very happy. Samuel finally retired in 1896 and was able to live off the proceeds of his wise investing.
Laura became ill and eventually died in 1898. Samuel surprised his friends when he quickly became enamored with a Mrs. Carrier who worked for him as a housekeeper after the death of his wife. Mrs. Carrier at first rejected his marriage proposal but when Samuel had a nuptial agreement written up that gave her one of his properties, she suddenly realized how attractive Samuel was.
Today’s newspapers are filled with couples who air their “dirty laundry” for the public to see. It was really not much different at the turn of the century, here in Rockford. And so it soon was with the recently married Mr. and Mrs. Seymour. She accused him of not supporting her financially and he accused her of trying to take all his money. Samuel filed papers stating that he would not be responsible for any of her debts and he changed his will to leave everything to his nephew. Samuel called his “buxom wife a tarter” (which back then meant someone who was sharp and sarcastic in character).
Samuel actually hired a wagon to come pack up all of his belongings. It seems things got very heated when the driver tried to load some of Mrs. Seymour’s furnishings. The papers said she had to defend her home with weapons!
Mrs. Seymour stated in court when she filed for divorce that Samuel would lock her into the attic at night. He also supposedly abused her mentally and physically.
Samuel tried to settle out of court but the $2,500.00 he offered was not enough for the former house keeper.
The marriage really lasted only a couple of months but the divorce proceedings drug on for years. Finally in 1902, the divorce was granted to Mrs. Seymour. She received the houses and the property that Samuel promised in the pre-nuptial agreement. They were valued at over $7,500.00
This might have taken the wind of out some men’s sails but Samuel was nothing if not a romantic and he married a third time in 1902. On September 20, 1902, the paper announced the wedding of Samuel to Florence E. Kennish from Davis Junction. They built a new house on State Street and seemed very happy. Their relationship must have been considerably better than Samuel’s second marriage. They welcomed a baby boy in June of 1903. They named him Porter Kennish Seymour. Samuel was 74 years old when his son was born!
Samuel must have held onto some of his distrust of woman though. He passed away in March of 1906, and in his will, Samuel left no provisions for his wife Florence. He left his entire estate, worth $16,000 at the time to his infant son, Porter. Florence decided to contest the will and later was given half of the estate.
Besides leaving this colorful tale for his legacy, Samuel ‘s family has also left some ghost stories behind. His wife Laura supposedly loved her house so much she is still there. The house was built in 1882 and they lived in it until Laura’s death in 1898. They also had another house just around the corner that Samuel had built earlier. Samuel himself supposedly haunts both houses. Samuel worked hard for the money to purchase those properties and maybe he is just staying around to make sure that they are properly taken care of.
Copyright © 2014 Kathi Kresol, Haunted Rockford Events