52 Ancestors: Philander Seward #17

One of the great things about the 52 Ancestors exercise is that it points out the gaps in my family history as well as the more researched parts. As this week’s theme is cemeteries, I will write about a fairly well-researched ancestor and a cemetery I have yet to visit.

Philander Seward was born to the Reverend William Seward and Thankful Parmelee in June 1791 in Greenwich Township, Connecticut. I don’t know why his parents gave him the name Philander, but it may have been for the same reason the Right Reverend Philander Chase received it: the poem “Night Thoughts” by Edward Young. The Seward family moved to New Hackensack in Dutchess County, NY after the Revolutionary War, around 1795.

Philander married Susan Monfort, a woman of Dutch ancestry, in 1826 in the Reformed Dutch Church (RDC) of New Hackensack. He was 34 when he got married and probably spent a lot of his early adulthood running the family farm and mill. He knew how to read and write music and play the violin. He kept what is called a “commonplace book,” a compilation of memorabilia like poems, recipes, or music kept in a bound blank book. Philander titled his “Musical Deposit.” The commonplace book itself is now in the Special Collections of the University of Illinois Music Library.

Philander died in August of 1853 and was buried in New Hackensack Cemetery in Wappinger Falls. The cemetery is at the top of my list for cemeteries to visit as several members of both Philander’s and Susan’s families are buried there. There is a good photo up on Find A Grave, but viewing grave sites in context can often provide information that separate photos cannot.

Headstone saying Philander Seward died Aug 8, 1853 Aged 62 years
Headstone of Philander Seward, photo taken by Fred Saar for Find A Grave


Chris Goertzen, Philander Seward’s “Musical Deposit” and the History of American Instrumental Folk Music (Ethnomusicology, Vol. 26, No. 1, 25th Anniversary Issue (Jan., 1982), pp. 1-10). Available on J-Stor.

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