1906– Port Arthur
Nestled between Wolseley and Van Horn streets at the end of city limits, sits a stately home.
It is comprised of three floors overlooking Lake Superior and the Sleeping Giant, it boasts a spiraled turret, an open porch accented with dental molding, leaded glass windows, two wood-burning fireplaces, a grand staircase, maple hardwood flooring, a butler’s pantry, a six-foot cast-iron claw foot tub, porcelain sinks, wooden pillars, cased doorways and accents of many beautiful glass light fixtures throughout.
Present Day – Thunder Bay
284 North Court Street has had many great secrets and many great owners. Our family (Franków) can go back two generations with family memories, stories and photographs all taking place within the confines of those four walls and one grand turret. However, I decided I wanted to dig deeper, to learn more about our beloved home and the secrets it holds. Together with my dad, we set out on an archival adventure.
My dad knew the original owner of the home was a man with the surname “Sayer”, or something along those lines, and that he was a Boilermaker.
I decided to venture to the City Archives and look through Henderson’s City Directories. I knew my grandparents purchased the house a few years after WWII ended, so I grabbed books 1909 (first directory for Port Arthur/Fort William) – 1955 and started to investigate.
The 1909 version of Henderson’s Directories is different from the latter. I couldn’t search by street name, so I went with what my dad’s memory recalled and searched for “Sayer”. I didn’t find anyone listed under this name; however I did find a “Daniel J. Seyler” (Ahoy Matey!).
I focused on this name entirely based on his listed profession: Boilermaker. However, his address was that of Algoma Street, which didn’t make a lot of sense considering 284 North Court was built 4 years prior to this particular City Directory.
After going through all of the City Directories, I formed a list of all of the owners of the house. My list was surprising; it was fairly short; from 1906 to present day, the house has only had about 4 full-time owners, and the majority kept the home in their family.
I naturally, I had to Google Daniel Seyler after my trip to the Archives.
My first hit, a newspaper article from The Gettysburg Times, 4 Dec 1936 titled:
“Many Vets of War of 61’ Live in Foreign Countries”
The article details Senator Rice, chairman of the Pennsylvanian State Commission, mailing out questionnaires to all surviving Veterans of the Civil War, in hopes for a reunion slated for 1938. It continues with information regarding a few of the Veterans living abroad.
The first name mentioned… “Daniel J. Seyler. 284 Court Street, North, Port Arthur Ontario Canada”.
I’m pretty sure this is when I almost fell off my chair.
A Civil War Veteran lived in our house?
No wait! A Civil War Veteran built our house?”
Then I felt a pang of dread, and the sudden racket of Dixie entered my mind.
“Oh my God.
What if this guy was a Confederate Solider?”
And this is when I poured myself a large glass of wine, and dug for more information.
Of all the places in the entire world, what was this Civil War Veteran doing in Canada, this far north?
I pressed on; looking through Civil War documents through a website called Fold3 (a direct child site of Ancestry.com).
If you happen to have a world membership with Ancestry, you are able to access Fold3 resources. This site is really only beneficial to those with history or relations regarding American military campaigns.
I found three documents on Daniel Seyler. Thankfully each document indicated he was Union Army.
Civil War Service Index – Union – New York
Compiled service records of volunteer Union soldiers belonging to units from the State of New York during the Civil War, compiled 1899 – 1927, documenting the period 1861 – 1866.
New York, Civil War Muster Roll Abstracts, 1861-1900
Abstracts from original muster rolls for New York State infantry units involved in the Civil War. With this weird description written:
“Borne on muster in roll only. Investigation fails to elicit further info. There is another Daniel Seyler in this co”.
Which is true, I indeed found another Daniel Seyler with the middle initial “m”. I later discovered he had died during the war.
Pension applications for service in the US Army between 1861 and 1900, grouped according to the units in which the veterans served. It looks like his pension information was filed while he was living in Port Arthur.
After finding Daniel’s Civil War documentation, I learned:
- He was born in Germany
- He wasn’t very tall (5’3)
- He was a tradesman before the war (Boiler Maker)
- That I wanted to learn more about this German-American Soldier
My dad and I decided the Thunder Bay Public Library would be our next stop. Before heading to Brodie Street Library to sift through microfiche, I checked online and visited the Thunder Bay Public Library Collections.
If you navigate through the Indexes & Directories, David Nicholson has managed to organize notices for births, marriages, and deaths as published by the Thunder Bay Sentinel, Fort William Daily Times Journal and Port Arthur News-Chronicle. This was extremely helpful in finding any articles pertaining to the Seyler Family.
What we Found:
- Daniel’s Birthday Announcement
His Photo & Death Announcement:
What We’ve Learned
- Daniel Seyler was born in September 29th, 1846 in Bavaria, Germany. He sailed to the United States as a young boy with his parents.
- When the Civil War broke out, he enlisted with the 7th New York Infantry (Union Army) from 1863 – 1865. Daniel fought in the famous Wilderness Campaign, which led to the fall of Petersburg. He was only 20 years old.
- He moved from Pennsylvania to Stevens Point, Wisconsin and from there to Ashland, Wisconsin – eventually residing in Port Arthur for the rest of his life.
- His wife pre-deceased him, and he had six children, 4 daughters and 2 sons. (His son Lester, would inherit 284 N. Court after his father’s death).
- Daniel owned and managed Port Arthur Boiler Works – located on Fort William Road.
- His family attended Trinity United Church
- After a Seyler family member passed away, their bodies were shipped back to be buried in the family plot in Ashland Wisconsin.
When my dad was renovating the 2nd floor of the house, he found crumpled up newspapers within the walls, most likely used for insulation.
The funny thing about these newspapers were, they were Religious in nature AND from Ashland, Wisconsin. Isn’t that hilarious? It all makes sense now!
Never in a million years would I have ever guessed a Civil War Veteran lived in our little city.
Not to mention our very own house.
More Court Street Stories to come!
Anything to share? leave a comment.