The Seamans of Drummond Island

Drummond Island was seeded with Seamans by a grandson of Caleb Seaman in 1853. This island, located at the juncture of three of the Great Lakes, became home for a long line of descendants of Daniel Murray Seaman, an early adherent to the Mormon religion.

A hundred years later, John T. Nevill wrote a series of articles about the Seaman family of Drummond Island and these were published in a local newspaper, The Evening News. An index to the entire series of 17 articles from 1953 is here.

Installment Fourteen - Friday, August 7, 1953

The Seaman Story - No. 14

Seamans' Most Unspeakable Blow Was Ghouls' Work at Grave Back In 1919

Drummond Settlement - On the last day in November nearly 77 years ago the large and sturdy home of Dr. J. Wells Church on Harbor Island off the north shore of Drummond Island became a beehive of gay activity.

The adjective "gay" is used deliberately; it was one of Dr. Church's favorite words. He used it frequently and with gusto, and his home on one of the pincer like points of land which extend like welcoming arms to beckon troubled sailors to the island's beautiful harbor was used to "gay" parties.

But this one - on November 30, 1876 - was something extra special. A goodly portion of Drummond Settlement's population had journeyed out to Church's to see 16 year old Lillie Rosina Seaman, youngest daughter of this island's original Daniel Murray Seaman married to Charles E. Fairchild.

Dr. Church himself, who was a justice of the peace as well as a medical man and a boat builder, was to perform the ceremony - and Dr. Church was no man to overlook an opportunity for a gay time. "Grandma" Church, the doctor's good wife, assisted by their sons and daughters had the Church mansion gleaming long before the first wedding guest arrived.

Groom Disappears

"Genial Charley" Fairchild was among the first person to arrive but when came time for the all important legal function - a ceremony which would begin an entirely new and important off shoot of the Seaman family - "Genial Charley" had disappeared. They found him in an upstairs bedroom, all alone, and biting great hunks off a plug of chewing tobacco.

"Lillie", he explained, "says I've got to stop chewing once I'm married to her, so I'm having my last chew."

If Lillie Seaman actually enforced that restriction it apparently didn't mar their happiness. They lived together happily for nearly 32 years - until his death on June 11, 1908 - and they produced a family of three sons and four daughters.

"Genial Charley" Fairchild was a "down-easter". Born in Canton, Conn. Jan 27, 1852, he was taken by his parents to the Green Bay country of Wisconsin and there, in the community of Fish Creek, he met Lillie Seaman. Lillie, then in her early 'teens, had been sent by "Grandma" Seaman to live with Lillie's half-sister, Naida Chambers, so that she might attend school in Fish Creek.

Born May 26, 1860, just three years before her father's death, Lillie was six months pas 16 when she married Charles Fairchild. And Fairchild was 24 - a tall, raw-boned, good-natured man, having a prominent, sandy-colored moustache, and blue eyes peering from beneath heavy brows. During his younger day, that hair, sandy-colored like his moustache, was think and curly, and he kept it parted on the left. Later, his hair thinned out, straightened, and turned gray, although "Genial Charley" was only 56 when he died of what then was called "catarrh of the stomach".

Quarry for Lock

When Charles Fairchild and Lillie Seaman were married in 1876, sailormen were discussing a new lock to be built at the Sault. Other men had opened Drummond Island's second quarry (this island has had four or five of them) to produce rock for the new lock's construction. Charles Fairchild worked at the second quarry for a short time following his marriage, but when the owners imported Negro help, he quit and took his bride back to Wish Creek.

Thus it happened that the first and second Fairchild children - Arden and Loyle - were born in Fish Creek. Arden in April, 1878 and Loyle in January, 1880. The remaining five, Myrtle, Ellen, Earl and Merle (twins), and Fern, "baby" of the family, were born on Drummond.

It was during the year 1880, some months after Loyle's birth, that Charles Fairchild bundled up his little family, and returned to Drummond to live. Once back, he didn't seek his old job at the quarry - if, indeed, that project was still in operation. Ths Sault's second lock, the Weitzel was nearing completion by 1880, and, as a matter of fact, it was to be opened to traffic in 1881.

This was the budding era of the island's lumbering operations. So C.E. Fairchild, being a good blacksmith found work at that trade in the lumber camps which were beginning to appear almost overnight all about the huge island. Cutting of Drummond's virgin stands was beginning in a big way - and that, of course, is what lured the Baileys to Drummond Island.

Lot In Common

The Fairchilds and the Baileys had a lot in common. Both families originated in the New England states and had migrated from there to the Green Bay area of Wisconsin. Both families settled on this island during 1880 - the Fairchilds returning from Fish Creek, and the Baileys moving up from a place nearby called Bailey's Harbor. And later, principally through the marriage of a Fairchild daughter (Myrtle) to a Bailey son (Warren E.), they were to have much more in common.

Myrtle, first of the Fairchilds born on Drummond, still was in her 'teens when she married Warren Bailey in January, 1900. Warren was in his middle twenties. Both still reside on the island, and look back upon memories of ten children - five sons and five daughters.

Ellen Fairchild died at seventeen, and Merle, one of the twins, died while an infant. The surviving twin, Earl, grew to maturity, married, and fathered four daughters of his own. A resident of Chicago, he died in August, 1946 on Drummond Island. Earl, enjoying a Drummond Island vacation, had gone boating with his wife and his brother, Arden. A heart attack took him instantly.

Arden, eldest of the second generation Fairchilds, still lives on Drummond. He married May Shannon, and became the father of six sons and four daughters. Like his own parents, Arden Fairchild produced twin sons, christened Lyman and Lloyd. Loyle, second oldest in the family, married the former Joyce Shine, and fathered four daughters, two of whom survive, are married, and have children of their own.

Dies In Explosion

Fern, youngest child of "Genial Charley" and Lillie Seaman Fairchild, has survived two husbands. The first, Ellis Moser, was killed instantly in an explosion in 1926. The second, Robert Newell, died of a heart attack in 1946. She has two sons and two daughters by her first marriage, and had one son - Bobby - by her second. Bobby was drowned in 1942 at the age of seven.

Fred Moser, one of Mrs. Newell's sons by her first husband, compounded the union between the Seaman and Fairchild families by marrying Audrey Seaman, a daughter of the late Floyd B. Seaman, and a great-granddaughter of Sam Seaman, who was a half-brother of Lillie Seaman, Fred's grandmother. Both are direct descendants of this island's original Daniel Murray Seaman, but through different wives. The fact that Fred and Audrey are grandson and Great-granddaughter, respectively, is accounted for by the fact that Sam Seaman was nearly twenty years old when Lillie Seaman, youngest daughter of D.M's second wife, was born.

The Fairchild children - Myrtle Bailey foremost among them - were hardest hit among all the Seaman descendants when in 1919 the Seaman family suffered its most unspeakable blow, a shameless occurrence which followed the death of Lillie Seaman Fairchild.

Mrs. Fairchild, widowed since the passing of "Genial Charley" in 1908, lost her health and remained ill for some years. Finally, during a terrible hot spell in July of 1919, she died. The casket bearing her remains was carried by hand from the chapel to the Fairchild home - the same old structure still resided in my Mrs. Newell. In due time, it was lowered into a grave in the tiny family burial ground behind the old house.

Thunderstorm Breaks

Scarcely had the grave been filled in - and a mound of soil placed over it - before the skies darkened, the wind whistled, the tall trees rustled and bent, and a thunderstorm broke an brought with it heavy rain which fell periodically for two days.

Lillie Fairchild was buried on Sunday. During the night following her burial, while gust-blown rains pelted the Fairchild home, and occasional thunder shook the settlement, neighbors heard and tried to quiet a dog whose barking was persistent and disturbing.

On Monday morning Fern Newell observed that the convex mound atop her mother's grave had sunken, presenting no more than a depression in the earth where the mound had been. She consulted the man who had dug the grave and who had filled it in and he explained that the heavy rain must have caused the earth to settle. Fern herself shoveled more earth onto the grave, thus recreating the mound.

Some weeks later, however, children found a small button on the ground near the Fairchild home. They took it to Fern for inspection and she identified it as one of the ornamental buttons off her mother's casket. Inasmuch as the casket had been carried some distance through the streets of the Settlement, she decided it must have fallen off somewhere along the route.

Ghastly Meaning

Three months passed before the real and ghastly meaning of that small button, that barking dog, and that sunken grave became apparent. Buster Bailey, then a small boy, spotted a human emerging from the sand of a beach a few hundred feet from Lillie Fairchild's home. Buster, a son of Fern Newell's sister, Myrtle Fairchild Bailey, ran for help.

Men hurried to the scene with shovels - and Myrtle Bailey came along with them. She took one quick look at the small emaciated hand extending above the sand and screamed, "That's my little mother's hand! … That's my little mother's hand!"

Myrtle Bailey, stunned into hysterics, was escorted tenderly from the scene while men went to work with the shovels. The body of Lillie Seaman Fairchild had been removed from its casket at the bottom of the grave, carried to the beach and severed at its middle! Only the upper half of the body, with the tell-tale hand which eventually emerged from the sand as if to tell the world about an unspeakably grisly crime, had been buried by the ghouls. To this day the lower half has not been found.

Thanks to a bit of detective work by Walter (Badger) Stevenson, a Drummond Island character of that time, a few young people ultimately were arrested and jailed temporarily, for the crime. It was believed at the time that those arrested were mere tools of the real offenders. As a matter of fact, there were reports that a doctor operating from some unknown Canadian hideout, had paid the grave robbers - and that portion of the body severed and never found would seem to bolster such a theory.

Following this atrocity, feeling boiled everywhere about Drummond Island. It could have been fortunate for the young people involved - those regarded as "tools" of a person or persons elsewhere - that some time elapsed between the finding of Mrs. Fairchild's dismembered body and the uncovering of their part in the crime.

John T. Nevill
Drummond Settlement
The Evening News
August 7, 1953