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William Perry Seymour was born on November 12, 1839 in the Parish of St. John, Bristol in Gloucester, England. When William was less than one year old he accompanied his parents on their migration to Australia. Upon arrival he was left in the care of his grandmother, with whom he lived until he was eighteen years of age. In 1856 William joined his uncle, who was a ships officer, aboard the transport ship “Kangaroo” making two voyages to the Crimea in 1857 and another with the artillery to Sardinia. During his trips William came made contact with a number of famous individuals, including Sir John Russell the Sultan of Turland, Florence Nightingale, the Prime Minister of England, Sir John Russell and was witness to the funeral of the Duke of Wellington.

William remained with the “Kangaroo” even after she was converted to an emigrant ship, in 1857, and accompanied a group of Dutch emigrants to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Upon arriving in Pennsylvania William left his ship and travelled to America’s western frontier, where he met ”Deerfoot” and “Longboat”; noted Indian foot runners on the Rio Grande River. Returning to New York in 1859 William unsuccessfully sought passage back to Australia and home, eventually shipping out as a seaman on the Union ship “Liberty”, bound for New Orleans, Louisiana. In New Orleans William was witness to one of the south’s largest slave markets, owned and operated by America’s largest slave owner and trader; a black man from New York who owned several plantations and sold more slaves on the open market than anyone in America.

Leaving New Orleans, William travelled to Illinois by a Mississippi steamboat, and traversed the first bridge over Niagara Falls. He worked on a farm in the locality for a time, witnessing the election campaign of Abraham Lincoln.  On August 1, 1861 while living at DuQuoin, Illinois, William like many men of his age, was said by himself and his family, to have enlisted as a private in the 12th Illinois Infantry Regiment under Brigadier General Garfield; who later became President of the United States. Accepting his and his families testimony that he did in fact enlist in the 12th Illinois Infantry, his enlistment is recorded as being that of William P. Seymour. William was inducted into Company G and participated in action at Donaldston, Pittsburg Landing, Corinth and other locations, and was said to have eventually been taken prisoner by the Confederate Partisan Ranger “Ham’s Guerrillas”. In route to a Confederate prison, his prison train was side-tracked to make way for the internment train of General Stonewall Jackson; transporting his body home after being killed in action. William was said to have remained a prisoner of war for some three months before being released in a prisoner exchange. He was said to have then reenlisted with the 193rd New York, under Colonel Van Paton, with whom he was said to have remained until six months after the conclusion of the war. There is no military record, however, of any William P. Seymore having ever served in the 193rd New York or any other branch of the service other than the 12th Illinois Infantry; and military records reveal William P. Seymore who served in the 12th Illinois Infantry deserted the Union Army on March 27, 1863 and was never  heard of again.

After the war William travelled to the state of Oregon where he found work in logging camps and sawmills, and it was there he discovered an invention called the “springboard”; used by loggers to stand on as they cut massive trees. It was such an impressive device that upon his return to Australia, William took knowledge of the invention with him to share with Australia. In 1881 William was home sick to see his family and signed aboard the barque “Leota” at Pudget Sound, working his way back to Melbourne, Australia.

After 40 years of separation, William finally rejoined his family. His father had become associated with the Railway Department, working his way up to a position of authority. William always said that the town of Seymour, Victoria was named after his father, but  local history relates Thomas Mitchell named the hamlet after British parliamentarian Lord Seymour; son of the 11th Duke of Somerset. William spent three years in Victoria, however, following the construction of the telegraph line and indulging in some mining; before leaving in 1884 for the Richmond River where he became involved in cane growing, contracting and working as a ferry man. Eventually William settled down at Broken Head, New South Wales and also owned land at Jiggi.

William met and married Virginia Hodgkinson from Ballina in 1884 and resided at Dry Dock South Tweed, working as a farmer and a boat builder on Boyd’s Bay. Virginia died five years later, in 1889. After Virginia’s death William married again, to a Mrs. Peterson on the Richmond River; but she too died before William, in 1915. William Perry Seymour died at St. Margaret’s Hospital on Tuesday night on February 18, 1938, at 98 years of age, and was buried in the Tweed Head Cemetery in grave No. 3/1/2001, row 21. His headstone inscription reads; SERVED IN CRIMEAN 1857,  U. S. A. CIVIL WAR 1861 – 65; he is buried next to his son in No. 5 . That left Mr. William Henry Seymour, his son, a boat builder at Boyd’s Bay, the only surviving relative at the time of his death.

 

“Border Star”, newspaper, Obituary, July 1, 1938 

Adjutant General's Report

Bill Bainbridge, New South Wales

Illinois: Roster of Officers and Enlisted Men

National Archives, Microfilm number M539 roll 81

National Archives, 12th Illinois Inf. Company Roster

“Tweed Daily”, newspaper, Obituary, June 30, 1938

Tweed Head Cemetery records

 

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