The name and accomplishments of the late John Seaton appear prominently in the history of the constructive period of the development of Kansas and the city of Atchison. Destiny and natural endowments designed Mr. Seaton to become a creator and builder; inherent ability also made him a statesman and leader of men; design and inducement led him to locate his enterprise which was the work of his own hands and brain, in the city of Atchison. In the course of time he was the gainer, becoming one of the first citizens of Kansas, and Kansas and Atchison were doubly gainers, because of him and his great work. What John Seaton wrought, in an industrial sense, will live long as a monument to his energy and enterprise; the record of right doing, honesty, plain living and his work in behalf of his fellow-men in the halls of the state legislature will live in the minds and hearts of his fellow citizens in the long years to come.

John Seaton was a builder whose vision of a great industrial enterprise in the city of the great bend of the Missouri came true in a material sense, inasmuch as Atchison will continue to benefit through the continued whirring of the industrial wheels which his genius set going. While the evidence of his handiwork is visible, and the smoke of the factory which he build will continue to be seen day after day a time goes on, the greatest reminder of Mr. Seaton's life on this earth will be the lesson which his manner of living and his strict attention to the highest duties of citizenship have left to posterity. Atchison suffered a sincere loss when his demise occurred and his departure from the realms of mortal ken created a void which could never be filled, although Mr. Seaton's work continues to exist after him.

John Seaton was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, June 11, 1834, a son of John M. and Elizabeth (JONES) Seaton, the former a native of Virginia and the latter having been born in Vermont. John M. Seaton, the father, was a soldier in the Mexican War and was killed in battle at the storming of the heights of Cerro Gordo, Old Mexico. When John was three weeks old his parents removed from Cincinnati to Louisville, Ky., where his boyhood days were spent. He was eleven years of age when his father was killed on the field of battle. He attended school until he was fifteen years of age, and then began learning the grade of a machinist. A few years later finds him working as a journeyman machinist in St. Louis, Mo. In 1856 with a cash capital of two dollars and fifty cents, John Seaton started a foundry at Alton, Ill. A natural aptitude for mechanics and machinery appliances, combined with pluck, energy and perseverance, enabled him to make a success of his first undertaking and the enterprise prospered.

At the outbreak of the Civil War Mr. Seaton offered his services in defense of the Union and was commissioned a captain of Company B, Twenty-second regiment, Illinois Infantry. His first engagement was the battle of Belmont under General Grant and Captain Seaton was in command of the skirmish line that opened this engagement. One of the precious possessions of his family at this day is the personal letter he received from the famous commander, commending him for the efficient manner in which he performed the task allotted to his command. He served for one year and then resigned his commission and returned to Alton to take charge of his business. After the war Mr. Seaton remained in Alton in charge of his foundry until 1872, when her removed to Atchison with his entire force of fifty employees. He was induced to remove westward by the fact that si months previous to the time of his removal to Atchison, the city had voted $10,000 in bonds to any man who would establish a foundry. He accepted the offer and the result was one of the most beneficial industries ever located in Atchison. The Seaton foundry gave employment to over 200 men, and he built up an industry which today stands without a peer in its line in the West. The secret of Mr. Seaton's success lay in the fact that every detail of his business received his direct supervision, and he insisted that only first class work be turned out by his factories. For over eighteen years this captain of industry carried his dinner pail with him to the foundry and worked side by side with his men. He continued doing this after he had attained to a position of wealth and affluence which enabled him to own a home at the seashore at Orient, L. I., and could have retired from active work at any time he chose. None but the finest finished products were allowed to leave his establishment, and the name of Seaton and the output of his plant are not over the West for the excellence of the finished manufactured materials and for their absolute reliability. In addition to general architectural work, he filled orders for the Santa Fe, Missouri Pacific and Ft. Scott and Gulf railroads, such as casting locomotive wheels, smoke stacks, steam cylinders, etc., all known as locomotive finished material products. The business of his large establishment in Atchison was built up until it amounted to over $250,000 annually, and the plant covered an area of 700x400 feet. Mr. Seaton was in business continually from 1856 until the time of his demise, January 12, 1912.

The activities of this noted citizen of Atchison were not confined entirely to his business, but he took an active and influential part in civic and political affairs after his advent in Atchison. His career showed that he possessed statesmanship ability of a high order. For a period of eighteen years, Mr. Seaton was a member of the Kansas State legislature and so great was his influence in the house and so long and distinguished was his service that he became known throughout the state as the "Father of the House." His name is associated with many of the important measures enacted into law by the state legislature, among them being the binding twine factory law, which act is responsible for the establishment of a plant for the manufacture of binder twine at the state penitentiary. He probably did more for the success of the "Douglass House," during the legislative trouble of 1893 than any other member of the Republican body. As a citizen and a legislator he enjoyed the respect and esteem of the people of Kansas without regard to political affiliations. He was opposed to the dominance of "trusts and monopoly," and it was his firm conviction that the great corporations were devoid of feeling of a personal nature.

April 9, 1857, Mr. Seaton was married to Miss Charlotte E. TUTHILL of Alton, Ill., and this marriage was blessed with five children: Mrs. Lillie M. HENDRICKSON of Atchison; John C. in California; Mary, wife of Dr. W. H. CONDIT of Kansas City; Mrs. Nellie Taber (Seaton) BYRAM, deceased, and George L., married Amy COX of Weston, Mo., and resides on South Furth Street, Atchison; John C. Seaton married Gertrude HICKMAN, of Coffeyville, Kan. And resides in Kansas City and Los Angeles, Cal.; Mrs. Charlotte E. (Tuthill) Seaton was born in Alton, Ill., November 10, 1840, a daughter of Pardon Taber Tuthill, who was born and reared on Long Island, N.Y., and was a scion of one of the old American families. The great-great-grandfather of Mrs. Seaton, John Tuthill, known as Pilgrim John Tuthill, came from England with early settlers to Long Island. The home built by Pilgrim John on Long Island in the early part of the eighteenth century is still standing in good state of preservation. The ancestral home of the Tuthills is located in the village of Orient, Long Island. On the maternal side an ancestor of Mrs. Seaton, named Capt. Andrew ENGLIS, commanded a company in the Revolution and was a great patriot. Pardon Taber Tuthill was a pioneer in Alton, Ill. He was a contractor and builder and in his later years devoted his time and talents to horticulture. He was continually experimenting and developed several new varieties of fruit. He was blessed with a scientific mind and became famous as a horticulturist.

John Seaton was a member of John A. Martin Post, No. 93, Grand Army of the Republic, the Loyal Legion and the Knights of Pythias lodges. Through him the Enterprise Theater was rebuilt and remodeled in Atchison and he was always found in the forefront of public movements to advance the interests of his home city. Socially Mr. Seaton was a genial approachable, unassuming gentleman, whose pride was manifest concerning his Civil War record and the fact that he had amassed wealth and attained a leading position in the civic life of his adopted state through his own efforts and built up his fortunes from the ground. He was a man of undoubted integrity and was a noble character whose demise was sincerely mourned by the whole city of Atchison. He was a kind and indulgent husband and father. In his passion Kansas lost one of her most useful citizens. His was a life well spent in behalf of the city and state where his name will long be remembered and revered as one of the honored pioneers of a widely known city and great state which he helped to create.

Taken From:

History of Atchison County, Kansas

by Sheffield Ingalls - 1916

Submitted by:

Clemi Higley Blackburn, September 2003