Steven Butler's Family History Website



The Seay Family
(also spelled Sea or See)

Seay Family
Michael Seay | Mathew A. Seay | Daniel Pitts Seay | Matthew E. Seay

By Steven R. Butler

I am a Seay descendant by virtue of the marriage of my grandfather William Ollie Jenkins to my grandmother, Ida Lee Seay, who was the daughter of Matthew Elijah Seay.

Unfortunately, we do not know very much about this family. Their origins in America have been lost to history. They do not appear to have been prominent citizens in any of the places where they resided. For this reason and also because they seem not to have remained in any one place for any great length of time, particularly during the nineteenth century, public records regarding members of this family are scant.

MICHAEL SEAY (Born between 1760-70; died between 1840-50)

Michael Seay, born sometime between 1760 and 1770, possibly in South Carolina, is the earliest known member of the branch of the Seay family from whom we are descended. It is possible, but not proven, that he was a son of William See, who is listed in the 1790 federal census for Orangeburgh District, South Carolina as having a wife, two sons over the age of sixteen (one of whom could have been Michael), three sons under the age of sixteen, and three daughters, ages unknown. William See also owned one slave. If he was not Michael Seay's father, I feel confident in stating that he was almost certainly kin to him in some way.

In addition to William, there were four other individuals in Orangeburgh District, South Carolina in 1790 with the surname Seay: Anthony, John, Nicholas, and Susannah. The former three may have been brothers to Michael Seay. Because she is listed as the head of a family and because there were no males over the age of sixteen in her household, it is a fair bet that Susannah Seay was a widow.

It appears that Michael Seay was married twice, the first time about 1790, when he was twenty or thirty years old. Another researcher, Lynn Marie Francher, thinks Michael's first wife may have been a Parker.

Our first public record of Michael Seay is the 1800 federal census for Lexington District, South Carolina, which was formed from a portion of Orangeburgh District. It indicates that, in addition to himself and his wife (whose name is unknown), there were two male children under the age of ten in the household, two girls under the age of ten, and one female child between the ages of ten and fifteen. He had no slaves. Here are the names of his known children by this first marriage:

  1. Abe, born 1794
  2. Mark
  3. Keziah, born 1804, died in Hill County, Texas (married George Taylor)
  4. Luke, born 1810 (married a woman named Roe Ann)

We find no record of Michael Seay in the 1810 federal census for South Carolina but I believe he was there and was simply overlooked by the census taker.

Michael Seay was married a second time, in 1814, probably in Lexington District, South Carolina. Clearly, his first wife must have died sometime after 1800. At the time of his second marriage he was between forty-six and fifty-six years of age. His bride was Clarissa Clark, daughter of Revolutionary War veteran Gregory Clark and his wife Lurany or Lurainy Parker, of Orangeburgh District (later Lexington), South Carolina. Born about 1788, Clarissa's would have been approximately twenty-six years old at the time of her marriage to Michael Seay.

Our next public record of Michael Seay is the 1820 federal census for Rutherford County, Tennessee, in which his surname is spelled See. Nicholas See, who was named in the 1790 Orangeburgh District, South Carolina federal census, was also listed in the same county, which lends strength to our proposition that the two men were brothers.

Michael Seay is next listed in the 1830 federal census for Hardin County, Tennessee. At that time he was between the ages of 60 and 70 and had in his household two male children under 5, one male between the ages of 5 and 10, one male child between the ages of 15 and 20, two female children between the ages of 10 and 15, and one female child between the ages of 15 and 20. His wife's age was between 40 and 50, which is consistent with what we've been told about Clarissa's birth year. Here are the names of all of Michael and Clarissa Seay's known children (not necessarily in order):

  1. John Joseph, born 1815 (married Evalina Eglantine Lorrance, daughter of Hiram Lorrance)
  2. Ann
  3. Mathew or Matthew A. Seay, born March 30, 1821, died Mount Pleasant, Titus County, Texas (married Elizabeth Ann Lewis)
  4. Daniel Paul, born 1828, died in Limestone County, Texas (married Melinda Reich)
  5. Joel T., born 1838 (married Sarah Newsom)

Michael Seay was named in the 1840 census for Pontotoc County, Missippi, at which time he was between 70 and 80 years of age. Other researchers report that he died in Pontotoc County on 30 October 1843. His widow Clarissa was listed in the 1850 federal census, living with the family of her son, John J. Seay, in Itawamba County, Mississippi. In 1860 Clarissa, age 72, was living with son Daniel and family in Newton County, Missouri. In 1870 she was living with the family of her daughter Arcena Seay Cook in Titus County, Texas, where Clarissa probably died and was buried.

MATHEW ALEXANDER SEAY (1820 OR 1821 - 1911)

M. A. Seay in old ageMathew A. Seay was a son of Michael Seay and his wife Clarissa (Clark) Seay. He was born on March 30, 1820 or 1821, probably in Rutherford County, Tennessee. By the time he was ten years old, his family had removed to nearby Hardin County, Tennessee.

Both Rutherford and Hardin counties are located in the western portion of Tennessee, where the famous frontiersman David Crockett, who at that time had not yet risen to national fame, also settled. We have no reason to believe that the Seays knew Crockett personally but they surely knew of him. It's not improbable that when he was running for a seat in the state legislature and later, for Congress, they may have caught a glimpse of the man as he "speechified" while standing on the stump of a tree. If you know anything at all about the life of Crockett, you may imagine that the life experience of the Seay family was probably not dissimilar. They must surely have lived in a log cabin and its not unlikely that Matthew Seay's father, Mike, had to go into the forest to hunt wild game to feed his family. No doubt, young Matthew accompanied his father on hunting expeditions when he was old enough. Clearing the land of trees to make a field for crops was another chore in which the young boy may also have taken a hand.

Matthew's father, Michael Seay, died about 1830, probably in Hardin County, Tennessee.

About 1845, at the age of twenty-four, Matthew A. Seay was married to Elizabeth Ann Lewis, the fourteen-year old daughter of Samuel Lewis, about whom we know virtually nothing, apart from his name. Elizabeth Ann was born November 6, 1831 in Tennessee, possibly in McNairy County.

Together, Matthew A. Seay and his wife Elizabeth had at least seven children, who were as follows:

  1. Daniel Pitts Seay, born November 30, 1845 or 1847 (1847 is probably correct)
  2. Malocky or Molocky Ann Seay, born about 1846 (later married a man named Cline)
  3. Dorothy Elizabeth Seay, born about 1849
  4. John Seay, born about 1851
  5. Ruth C., Seay born about 1853
  6. Tom, born about 1854
  7. Adela (?) J. Seay, born about 1858
  8. Smith Seay, born September 7, 1863

All the children, so far as we know, were born in Tennessee.

The family of Matthew A. Seay was listed in the 1850 federal census for Hardeman County, Tennessee. At that time, the household consisted of Matthew and Elizabeth and children Ann, age five, Daniel, age three, and Elizabeth, age one.

In 1860, the Seay family was still living in Hardeman County. By that time the family had increased to include all the children previously named.

During the Civil War, Matthew's sixteen-year old son Daniel enlisted in the Confederate army, serving as a private in Company E, 16th Tennessee Regiment, Bell's Brigade, Buford's Division. In 1863, Mathew himself served in Co. D, 2nd Mississippi State Guard, but his military record shows he went AWOL or deserted.

It appears that sometime after the war, the family of Matthew A. and Elizabeth Ann Seay removed to neighboring Mississippi. There, they took up residence in Itawamba County or Lee County, both of which are in the northeastern section of the state. It was probably here, on July 15, 1869, that Matthew's son Daniel married Maria Elizabeth Dancer, the daughter of a neighbor, Elijah Dancer. (See Dancer family.) In the early 1870s, Maria Seay died and Daniel remarried. His second wife's name was Martha Ann Knowles.

It appears that sometime around 1880, or perhaps a little later, Matthew A. Seay and his wife Elizabeth removed to Texas, settling in Titus County, which is located in the eastern section of the state. It was here, apparently, that they spent the remainder of their lives.

M A Seay grave marker

Elizabeth Ann (Lewis) Seay passed away about 1907. Matthew A. Seay lived only a few years longer, dying on November 27, 1911. They are both buried in Union Hill Cemetery, in Mount Pleasant, Titus County, Texas, where they share a double marker. Their youngest son, Smith Seay, who died in 1918, is buried beside them, along with several (apparently) of his own children. See Google Maps Location.

Seay grave markers

DANIEL PITTS SEAY (1845 OR 1847 - 1929)

Daniel Pitts Seay, the oldest son of Matthew A. and Elizabeth Ann (Lewis) Seay, was born on November 30, 1845 or 1847 (1847 is probably correct). His place of birth is uncertain In later life, Daniel himself claimed to have been born in Itawamba County, Mississippi, yet his parents were enumerated as residents of McNairy and Hardeman counties, Tennessee in the 1850 and 1860 censuses, respectively. Moreover, all census records through 1880 give Tennessee as the state of his nativity. If he was born in Mississippi, it may have been while his mother was there visiting friends or relatives or perhaps during a brief period of residency by his entire family.

According to family lore, after the Civil War began and after Union troops arrived in Tennessee, "the Federals came and tore up the house & a book Daniel Pitts had won at school. He said he would kill as many Yankees as there were pages in his book." Another time, "he drove [an] ox-team to town [where the] feds got [his] flour and meal. He went back to get [a] knife."

In October 1863, when he was a month short of his sixteenth birthday (if 1847 is the correct year of his birth), Daniel P. Seay enlisted for service in the Confederate army as a private in Company E, 16th Tennessee Cavalry, Bell's Brigade, Buford's Division (a.k.a. Wilson's 21st Tennessee Cavalry), which took part in the infamous "Fort Pillow Massacre," April 12, 1864 (see picture below). D. P. Seay's precise role in this incident (if any) is unknown.

Battle of Fort Pillow, 1864

On one occasion, according to family lore, at the crossroads near Memphis, when the Confederates were surrounded by federal soldiers, Dan and three other men escaped by riding their horses through enemy lines, with only "one man hurt."

In another story, Dan and his comrades captured a Union officer, together with his "horse & his gun," and personally delivered their prisoner to General Forrest, which made him feel "as big as the Gen. himself."

According to family lore, Dan had a "spirited horse" that "carried him into enemy lines," where he was captured. Afterward, he was "held in [Fort] Delaware Prison," on Pea Patch Island {in the middle of the Delaware River), from which he escaped, apparently with some other prisoners, by tearing up some floorboards. Then, carrying his clothes on his head, he "swam 7 miles to the other side." After escaping, he "saw [a] big house and went to [the] back door & asked for food." The man who answered told him to hide in a nearby plum thicket and he would bring him food. After what seemed like a long time, the man "came with [a] basket of fried chicken & biscuits & they ate until their tongues got tired."

According to Dan's service record, he deserted on June 22, 1864 at Tupelo, Mississippi.

Although we are uncertain whether or not they lived there earlier, it appears that after the war, the Seay family did indeed remove to Mississippi. It was there, probably in either Lee or Itawamba County, that twenty-two year old Daniel P. Seay was married to twenty-five year old Maria Elizabeth Dancer on July 15, 1869.

Maria Dancer, born October 13, 1844, was the daughter of Elijah and Margaret Dancer, probably neighbors of the Seay family. Tradition holds that the Dancers were wealthy and that Mr. Dancer looked upon Daniel Seay as being an unfavorable suitor for his daughter's hand. When his daughter married young Seay over his objections, so the story goes, she was disowned. To date, no evidence has been found either to substantiate or to refute this tale.

Daniel P. Seay and his wife Maria had only two children together: Matthew Elijah Seay, born July 5, 1870 in Lee County, Mississippi; and a daughter who died in infancy, whose name is unknown.

The marriage was short. Maria (Dancer) Seay died in Lee County, Mississippi on January 5, 1875. According to family lore, she died while giving birth to a little girl named Annie, that apparently did not survive either. Tradition holds too that during her final illness (the nature of which is not known to us), she was cared for by a young friend, Martha Ann Knowles. It has been said that Maria wanted Martha, after her (Maria's) death, to marry Daniel and take care of the children. Whether she confided this wish in Martha or in Daniel (or both) is unknown, if indeed the story is true, which it may be. It is certainly not implausible.

Whatever the case may be, Daniel Pitts Seay did marry Martha Ann Knowles, on July 4, 1875. This was almost six months to the day following his first wife's death. It was also only one day short of Martha Ann's sixteenth birthday.

We do not know the names of Martha Ann's parents but her father was an English immigrant. Her mother was a native of Mississippi.

Daniel P. Seay and his second wife Martha Ann had at least four children together, whose names were as follows:

  1. Samuel Seay, born about 1877 (later married a woman whose first name was Edna)
  2. Alice Seay, date of birth unknown (later married Luke Loveless)
  3. Mark Seay, born September 1884
  4. Nina Seay, born March 1887 (later married Oscar Norrell)

In 1880, the family of Daniel Seay was living in Lee County, Mississippi, where he made his living as a carpenter.

In 1883 Daniel Seay sold his eighty acre farm in Lee County, Mississippi and moved his family to East Texas, where they first settled in Bowie County. After two years, they moved again, this time to Lamar County, where Daniel P. Seay would remain for the rest of his life. There, they lived on a farm that was located near the community of Blossom, in the eastern section of the county. At around this same time (1880) Daniel's father and mother settled in Titus County, Texas.

D. P. Seay family

D. P. Seay family posing in front of their home near Blossom, Texas, probably 1890s. From left to right: Mark, Alice, Martha Ann (seated), Samuel, Daniel P. (seated), Nina.

Daniel P. Seay, his wife Martha, and two of their youngest children, Mark and Nina, were enumerated in the 1900 federal census for Lamar County, Texas. They were also listed in the 1910 census for Lamar County, which reveals that the property on which the family lived was rented.

In 1914, Daniel P. Seay applied for and received a pension from the State of Texas for his service in the Confederate army during the Civil War, despite the fact that the War Department could find no record of his service in the 16th Tennesse Cavalry (probably because the unit was also designated the 21st Regiment). At that time he gave the value of his home as $335 and his "other" property as worth $450. The amount of the pension is unknown.

The last federal census in which Daniel P. Seay was enumerated was the one for 1920. At that time the household consisted of himself and his wife Martha, their son Mark M. Seay, a grand-daughter, Winnie, and two grandsons, Dan Tom and Mark A. Seay. The children's mother, no doubt Mark M. Seay's wife, was not listed. Perhaps she died after the birth of the youngest child, Mark A., who was then only ten months old. The other two children were also very young, less than five years old.

Martha Ann (Knowles) Seay died on January 1, 1928 at her home at Blossom, Texas. Afterward, Daniel went to live with the family of his son, Mark M. Seay, at Post Oak, Red River County, Texas. It was there that Daniel came down with influenza. which worsened into pneumonia, resulting in his death on January 9, 1929. He was eighty-one years of age. A day or so later, he was buried beside his wife of fifty-two years in Red Oak Cemetery, not far from Blossom, the community where they had lived for all but the first ten years of their marriage. See Google Maps Location.

D. P. Seay grave marker


M. E. SeayMatthew Elijah Seay, born July 5, 1870 in Lee County, Mississippi, was the eldest child of Daniel Pitts Seay, a Confederate veteran, and his first wife, Maria Elizabeth (Dancer) Seay. The couple's only other child, a girl, died in infancy.

When he was four years old, Matthew's mother died. Six months later, on the day before Matthew's fifth birthday, his father remarried. By coincidence, the boy's stepmother, Martha Ann (Knowles) Seay, was born on the same date, July 5, in 1859.

Matthew E. Seay had two half-brothers and two half-sisters from the marriage of his father and Martha Ann Knowles. They spent their childhood, apparently, on their parents' farm in Lee County, Mississippi, the seat of which is the town of Tupelo.

About 1883, Daniel P. Seay moved his family to Texas, settling first in Bowie County. After two years, they removed to Lamar County.

On April 8, 1894, when he was twenty-three years old, Matthew E. Seay was married in Upshur County, Texas to eighteen or nineteen-year old Margaret ("Maggie") Elizabeth Ward, daughter of Morris Ward, Jr. (See Ward family.) We do not know how they met.

Together, Matthew E. Seay and his wife Maggie had the following named children:

  1. Ernest "Jack" Ward Seay, born January 23,1895
  2. Otis and Robert Seay, twins who appear to have died in infancy
  3. Willie Dell Seay, born February 11, 1898 (later married Ed Kelsey)
  4. Sidney Marshall Seay, born May 13, 1901
  5. Ida Lee Seay (the author's grandmother), born December 25 or 26, 1903 (later married William Ollie Jenkins)
  6. Nellie Inez Seay, born December 10, 1905
  7. Maude Irene Seay, born October 5, 1907
  8. Matthew E. "Buck" Seay, Jr., born April 4, 1910
  9. Maggie Eunice Seay, born October 12, 1913

Maggie Ward SeayThis family moved quite a bit, probably as a consequence of Matthew E. Seay's occupation: house carpenter. The first child, Ernest, was born in Gorman, Texas, a little town West Texas (Eastland County). The second, Willie, was born in Big Sandy, Upshur County, Texas. We do not know where the twins were born. Sidney Seay was born in Blossom, Lamar County, Texas and according to at least one source, so was her younger sister Ida Lee. Another source says Ida Lee was born in Wilburton, Choctaw Lands (later Latimer County), Oklahoma Territory (later the State of Oklahoma). We can be reasonably sure that Nellie, Maude and Buck were born in Wilburton. Maggie was born in Mount Pleasant, Titus County, Texas.

In 1919, Matthew E. Seay, a carpenter by trade and then living in Wichita Falls, Texas, invented and patented a bevel square (see picture below). It is not known, however, if he realized any financial benefit from it.

ME Seay patent drawing

By 1920, when the fourteenth census of the United States was taken, the family had returned to Lamar County, Texas but the stay, apparently, was a short one. With all but perhaps their two youngest children married, Matthew E. and Maggie Inez Seay moved to the Trinity Heights Addition at just about the time it was annexed to Dallas in 1923. Their first address, it appears, was 2511 Idaho Avenue (see photo below). In the 1923 city directory, Matthew's occupation is given as "architect." The 1924 and 1925 directory listing identifies him as only a carpenter.

>The Seay house on Idaho Street

In the 1924 directory, he took out an ad.

ME Seay ad

By 1924, the couple had moved to 905 South Beacon Street in East Dallas, where Maggie Inez Seay died on January 18, 1925. She was forty-nine years old.

In the same year his wife died, M.E. Seay built a high school in Ropesville, Texas (no longer standing) and a grocery store at 805 Hobson Street in Trinity Heights (still standing). (see photos below)

Ropesville High School

Hobson Avenue grocery store

Between 1927 and 1928 Matthew E. Seay built the $125,000 Ritz Theater in Wellington, Collingsworth County, Texas, where his daughter Maggie Eunice was living with her husband, Robert F. Calcote, and family. Another married daughter, Sidney Copeland, also lived in Wellington. At the time of its construction, the Ritz boasted a state-of-the-art sound system for the then-new "talkie" motion pictures which just starting to be made.

Ritz Theater, Wellington, Texas
Photo by Billy Hathorn (Wikimedia Commons)

On October 1, 1929, while living in Oklahoma City, Matthew E. Seay married fifty-seven-year-old Iowa-born Lena Seay of Dalhart, Texas. In 1930 they were living in Sand Springs, Tulsa County, Oklahoma. On November 21, 1933, presumably while visiting one of his daughters or perhaps on another building job, M. E. Seay died in Wellington, Texas. He was sixty-three years of age at the time of his death.

His obituary, which appeared in the November 23, 1933 issue of the Wellington Leader, misidentified him as "Matten E. Seay." It read:


Following the death of of Matten [sic] E. Seay, 63, here at 3:45 Wednesday morning, it was announced that he would be shipped to Dallas for burial, having resided in Dallas for some time and only having been here for 21 days.

Mr. Seay is survived by his wife [Lena] of Dalhart; E. W. Seay of Overton; Mrs. R. B. West of Lutie; Mrs. E. S. Copeland of Wellington; Mrs. Ollie Jenkins of Muskogee, Okla,; Mrs. W. C. Ray of Loco; Mrs. J. F. Prince of Loco; Mrs. Robert Calcote of Wellington; Matten [sic] E. Seay, Jr. Also two sisters, Mrs. Nina Nowlin of Paris, Texas; Mrs. Alice Lovelace of Paris; two brothers, Sam C. Seay and Mark Seay.

The body will be shipped by Goodson Funeral Home to Dallas, where interment will be made.

Both Maggie Ward Seay and Matthew E. Seay are buried at Oak Cliff Cemetery, 1300 E 8th St, Dallas, Texas 75203. A double monument marks the site of their final resting place, which is located near the far southwest corner of the graveyard. See Google Maps Location.

M. E. Seay grave marker


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