Each week we are highlighting the final resting place of someone related to the Lincoln assassination story. It may be the grave of someone whose name looms large in assassination literature, like a conspirator, or the grave of one of the many minor characters who crossed paths with history. Welcome to Grave Thursday.
William Henry Seward
Burial Location: Fort Hill Cemetery, Auburn, New York
Connection to the Lincoln assassination:
As Abraham Lincoln’s Secretary of State, William Henry Seward was targeted by John Wilkes Booth in his plot to eliminate the heads of the United States’ government. On the night of April 14, 1865, Booth assigned his conspirator, Lewis Powell, to break into Secretary Seward’s home located near the White House in order to assassinate him. Despite stabbing the Secretary several times and bringing carnage to the rest of the household, Lewis Powell failed in his assassination attempt. The attack left Seward with a permanently disfigured face evidence of which can be seen in the image above. Despite the horrors of that night and the loss of his friend, Seward remained in his position as Secretary of State during the administration of Andrew Johnson. It was during this continued service that Seward facilitated the purchase of a large chunk of land from Russia. The purchase, known in its day to some as “Seward’s Folly”, resulted in the United States acquiring the territory, and later state, of Alaska.
In his last few years, William Seward toured not only America but the world, using his contacts from his days as Secretary of State to visit China, Japan, the Middle East, and Europe. When in the States, Seward resided in his home in Auburn, New York which he had inherited from his father-in-law in 1851. Upon his death on October 10, 1872, William Seward was buried in the family’s lot in nearby Fort Hill Cemetery.
Since 1955, the Seward house in Auburn, New York has operated as a museum, telling the life story of one of America’s great statesmen. I highly recommend you visit their website, SewardHouse.org, and befriend them on social media. They provide wonderful bits of history about the life and times of William Seward. If you ever visit their museum, be sure to see their piece of blood stained linen, a poignant relic of the night Lewis Powell tried to end the Secretary’s life.
If you are interested in learning more about William Seward, especially about his life beyond the assassination attempt, I highly recommend the book, Seward: Lincoln’s Indispensable Man by Walter Stahr.
My sincere thanks go to assassination researcher Bill Binzel for sending me images of the Seward family graves in Auburn, NY and for allowing me to use them for Grave Thursday. For more images related to the attempt on William Seward’s life, visit the Seward Assassination Attempt Picture Gallery.
GPS coordinates for William Seward’s grave: 42.924505, -76.571807