Grave Thursday: William Seward

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

william-seward-post-assassination-attempt-seward-house-museum

Burial Location: Fort Hill Cemetery, Auburn, New York

william-sewards-grave-bill-binzel

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.

Blood stained sheet

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.

seward-lincolns-indispenseable-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

Categories: Grave Thursday, History | Tags: , | 10 Comments

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10 thoughts on “Grave Thursday: William Seward

  1. judith Breitstein

    Just thought it would be interesting to add some things about Olive Ridley, his “adopted daughter”.
    Judi Breitstein

  2. judith Breitstein

    Sorry. That’s Olive Risley

  3. William P Binzel

    Dave — Thanks for the credit for the pictures, but I am sincerely happy that you were able to use them in your dedicated efforts to expand information and knowledge on Lincoln’s assassination. PLEASE keep up the good work! — Bill Binzel

  4. William P Binzel

    Dave – I am happy to provide the photo; but more than that, I am most appreciative of your on-going efforts to report and expand the knowledge of Lincoln’s assassination and those associated with it. Bill Binzel

  5. Richard Sloan

    great photo of the scarred Secty of State! Thax to both Mr., Binzel and to Dave for it! (Is it the same pic as the cropped head shot in Lattimer’s book or a diff’t one? (I can’t put my finger on my copy of the Lattimer book.) About Seward’s death: I have heard that his casket was placed aboard the same railroad car as Lincoln’s casket, for its transport to wherever it went from for burial in AUburn, and that the family accompanied it. Does anyone know anything about this, it’s exact route, and who accompanied the body?

  6. Again, a grand post, Dave! Wonderful photo of Mr. Seward. I have only seen the headshot of this showing his face. He appears to be such a fragile man – however this was certainly not the true impression of this feisty guy! Thanks for highlighting Seward House in Auburn – it is such a wonderful site – if I lived in beautiful Auburn, I’d love to volunteer there! Their website is also wonderful with lots of information and informative podcasts. Please visit this grand museum if you get the chance!

  7. Rich Smyth

    I would just like to say that is a great,great photo of the grave. Good job Bill!

  8. Hi Richard. I believe the Lincoln railroad car was used to carry the body of Frances Adeline Seward to Auburn in June of 1865. I think the Lincoln car was housed in Omaha in 1872 when William Seward passed.

    • Tim Kelly

      Hey Roger do you have the date the Lincoln Train Car is sold to Union Pacific Railroad. There is accounts they are trying to sell the car even as it’s headed to Springfield. In 1872 it would have been with the Colorado Central Railroad who bought it for $3,000 and it’s meeting it’s demise.(later destroyed in fire) CC RR purchased it from Franklyn Snow who purchased from Union Pacific RR for $2,000. The story is that William Seward is the one who ordered the train car built originally. Is that true? Maybe that’s what he referring too. Thanks.

  9. Hi Tim. The date I have is April 16th, 1866. That is the date Edwin Stanton approved the sale of the car to the Union Pacific. I also have that Ward Hill Lamon purchased the car for the Union Pacific because he was “determined to bid any amount to keep it away from speculators.” Lamon bought the car at an auction on April 11th, 1866, for $6850. I cannot help on your William Seward question as I have not read that he ordered the car be built.

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