'Hazard Zet Forward'
Motto of the Seton's of Parbroath


William Seton of New York, 1793

William Seton, Esq., Rep. of Parbroath, of New York

William Seton was born 24th April 1746 at his mothers family's home of Hillside, Edinburgh, while on a trip to visit her family and designed to ensure that her son would be born in Scotland.  He recieved a good education and was well traveled, speaking English, French and Spanish fluently, and was sent to study for a time in San Lucar, Spain. 

He was the 2nd son and heir of London businessman John Seton and his cousin Elizabeth Seton (of the family of John Seton, Town Clerk of Burntisland, Fife, in the early 18th century, and who's son James Seton acquired the lands of Belshes, Haddington between 1715-1721 and who's son, also James Seton of Hillside was for many years, Director of the Bank of Scotland and who when he sold the estate of Belshes, he allotted to his sister Elizabeth her portion of the sale, which was at that time a considerable sum, 1600 Pounds).  William's older brother John Seton emigrated and died unmarried in the British West Indies and was buried "within the parish of St. James', Barbados, Dec 22nd, 1768", and William then became heir of the Seton's of Parbroath.

William's sisters Isabella, Jane, Elizabeth, all married Gentry: Isabella married Sir Thomas Cayley, Bart., of Yorkshire; Jane married Sir Walter Synnot, Knt, of Ballymoyer House, County Armagh, Ireland in 1770 and founded the Seton-Synnots; Elizabeth married Robert Berry, Esq., of Kirkbridge House, Yorkshire, nephew of Fergusson of Raith, Fife.  Williams two other sisters Margaret and Barbara were married into branches of the Setons:  Margaret married Andrew Seton, Esq., of the family of Barnes who settled for a time in New York, but later went to Florida after the Revolutionary War and had issue; and Barbara who married George Seton, Esq., of the Seton's of Abercorn and brother to Captain Sir Henry John Seton, Bart, and had an only daughter, Barbara Seton, "Bab".

William emigrated to New York in 1763, at the instigation of his brother-in-law Andrew Seton of the Barnes Family, and became superintendent and part owner of the iron-works of Ringwood, N.J. as well as owner of various lands in the interior of New York around 1766, which lands were referred to as the Mohawk Lands.  In 1765, he was elected an officer of the Saint Andrew's Society, and became a member of the New York Chamber of Commerce in 1768, the year of it's foundation.  In 1786, he was further elected as one of the founding members of the Saint George's Society of New York as well.

It was in New York that William began to establish his fortunes and was an active merchant in importing goods from Europe and India, with his place of business at what was then known as Cruger's Dock.  He also acquired a considerable property in Halifax, Nova Scotia, called in his old family papers as the Halifax Estate, which later became very valuable, being estimated at approx. 600, 000 Pounds circa 1890, and on which property now stands the Government Buildings of Nova Scotia in downtown Halifax.  The property in Halifax was lost during the Revolutionary War, through both mismanagement and fraud, and as the English authorities condemned Seton for his remaining in New York and not leaving with the Loyalists.  There were various attempts made to regain possession of the Estate, but all of which were denied or were simply unsuccessful.

William was a Loyalist, and the last Royal Public Notary for the city and province of New York during the War. His silver notarial seal, dated 1779, is still in the possession of his family.  At the beginning of the 'troubles' in America, he was a member of the Committee of One Hundred elected May 1, 1775, to control the affairs of the city and county of New York.  Despite the Revolution, he was strongly attached by education, friendships and family to the cause of his Mother Country in her dispute with the Colonies, but remained diplomatic in his stance between the two.  Although he lost some property during the events of the War, he was in no way molested by the American troops, and became a citizen of the Republic and was held in high esteem by all.  He continued to work at international connections, which were of great benefit to the new country, in particular that of the French Government, and was considered as a candidate for the Presidency for the new Republic.

Though financially ruined at the close of the Revolution, he founded the once famous mercantile house of Seton, Maitland & Co., and was similarly the first Cashier and Officer of the Bank of New York for which he was nominated to become the first President, though he declined out of 'political consideration'.  His enterprising nature, however, soon restored his fortunes, and he was noted as a considerate and generous man, hospitable and keeping an exemplary house at his residence at Hanover Square, and much given to entertaining.  In addition to his residence in the city, he acquired, in 1784, the property which at that time was a country place several miles from the heart of New York, in Bloomingdale, on the west-side of the island of Manhattan about where 78th St. is now, and called this place or estate, Craigdon (Cragdon or Craggdon), as a country retreat, and which is preserved now as a Public Park, called Seton Falls.

William Seton was twice married, 1st, on the 2nd of March, 1767, to Rebecca Curzon, eldest daughter of Richard Curzon of the family of John Curzon of Waterperry, Oxfordshire, of the Curzon Baronets (by which his son became heir-of-line), and had four son's and one daughter:

  1. William 'Magee' Seton, his heir who married Elizabeth Ann Bayley and had 5 children: two sons, William Seton his heir and Richard Bayley Seton who dsp while traveling to Africa; and three daughters, Anna Maria who died young, Rebecca who died a nun, and Catherine who also became a nun, and became Mother Catherine Seton and died in old age sp.

  2. James Seton, an Lieutenant in the 74th Highland Regiment in Halifax, later a Major in the American New York Militia in the failed War of 1812 with Canada.  He married Mary Gillon Hoffman of New York and had a son and heir, Alfred Seton who had issue, and four daughters.

  3. John Seton, who married a Miss Wise of the family from Alexandria, Virginia and had two daughters.

  4. Henry Seton, a Lieutenant in the US Navy, dsp.

  5. Anna Maria, who married the Hon. US Senator John Middleton Vining, of Delaware and had two sons.

William married, 2nd, his wife's sister, Anna Maria Curzon, on the 29th of November, 1776, at Brunswick, New Jersey in the Presbyterian Church there.  By his second marriage William Seton had 2 sons and 6 daughter's:

  1. Samuel Waddington Seton, highly educated, traveled to China and was married at the death bed of a clergyman, Superintendent of the Public Schools of New York, dsp.

  2. Edward Augustus Seton, who settled in the Louisiana Territory and married late in life and had 1 son who was a Lieutenant in the Confederate Army, and who was killed in a battle before Richmond, Virginia in 1862, sp.

  3. Charlotte, married Gouverneur Ogden, Esq. who was a partner of Alexander Hamilton and who founded Ogdensburg, N.Y.

  4. Elizabeth, married James Maitland, Esq. of the noted Scottish family.

  5. Mary, died young unmarried, sp.

  6. Rebecca, died young unmarried, sp.

  7. Henrietta, known as Harriet, died young unmarried, sp.

  8. Cecilia, the youngest child, died young unmarried, sp.

All of the Seton's of Parbroath of New York were distinguished as being tall, and of "good looks", for their love of learning which was hereditary of the Seton's, and for their strong family attachment.  William Seton himself was noted as a large and handsome man, of dignified presence and benevolent features and extremely neat in his personal appearance.  His family portrait, painted shorty before his death, was done by the American artist, Gilbert Stuart.  He suffered intensely from pain in his final year, resulting from injuries sustained from an accidental fall at the entrance to his home on the 25th of January 1798, died prematurely in his 52nd year, on the 9th of June, 1798 and was buried in Trinity Churchyard, where it was written at his death:

"Perhaps there never was an instance of any person being so universally loved and lamented, Nearly 500 people attended him to the grave, chiefly dressed in black, with every mark of unaffected sorrow...".

William's oldest son and heir, William Seton (commonly called William Magee Seton), was born at sea on his parents return to America from a visit to England, aboard the ship Edward, on the 20th of April, 1768.  One of his sponsors at Baptism in the Protestant Episcopalian Church on the 8th of May, 1768, was the wealthy merchant William Magee of London, and for which William later assumed his godfather's surname as a middle-name upon receiving an inheritance from him.  William was himself educated in England at the age of 10 years, at the private College of Richmond near London.  He left his studies at sixteen and traveled for several years throughout Europe and was given to Poetry and Music, and was noted as a skilful player of the violin and was the only owner of a genuine Stradivarius in New York at that time and which passed to Richard Seton.

Portrait below of Richard Bayley Seton (1798-1823). His oval profile portrait, watercolor on ivory, of Richard Bayley Seton, signed vertically right hand side behind subject's shoulder "Coltellini" (Constantina Coltellini, Naples, Italy, active circa 1819). Portrait measures 2 3/4" H x 2 1/4" W. Overall – 9 1/4" H x 8 3/4" W. Richard Bayley Seton (1798-1823) was the son of William Magee Seton and Elizabeth Ann Bayley Seton, the first American-born Roman Catholic Saint. Richard joined the US Navy in 1822, was assigned to the USS Oswego, and died at sea off the coast of Liberia the following year at the age of 23.

William Magee Seton married Elizabeth Ann Bayley in 1793, and she was later to become the first American Catholic Saint, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton.  William and Elizabeth had five children, two sons and three daughters, though after the death of his father, William Seton Sr in 1798, they assumed care for William's seven siblings and he assumed control of the family Seton shipping business.  However, due to his own ill-health he poorly managed the business and it failed.  In 1803, due to a developing tuberculosis, he and Elizabeth went on a voyage to Pisa, Italy in which he had hoped that the mild and beneficial air would have been been a remedy for his condition.  However, he was placed in quarantine by the Italian Government for almost a month.  In Italy, they became acquainted there with the Catholic Chevalier Philip Filicchi and his family, although William died after his release two weeks later from quarantine at the Filicchi home in Pisa on Dec. 27th, 1803, and was buried in the Cemetery at Leghorn in a modest tomb next to Smollett's. 

William Magee Seton and Elizabeth's oldest son, William Seton III, was a Lieutenant in the United States Navy and traveled heavily. He was recognized by Burke's "Peerage " as the head of the ancient family of the Setons of Parbroath, senior cadets of the Earls of Winton in Scotland.  He married Emily Prime, July 17th, 1832 and had nine children, two if which died young (George died in infancy). Of their children:

  1. William Seton, born the 28th of January, 1835, he educated at the Jesuits College of Fordham and later at Mount St. Mary's, Emmittsburg, Maryland with private tutors.  He was a Latin scholar and studied Law, as well as French and German.  During the US Civil War he became a Captain in the 4th New York Regiment (where he was twice severely wounded at Antietam and acquitted himself with great gallantry) and later a Captain in the 16th Artillery.  After the Civil War he devoted himself to literary pursuits and married Sarah Redwood Parrish on January 3rd, 1884.  They had an only son, William, who died in infancy.  He was a frequent contributor to periodicals and journals, and published "Romance of the Charter Oak" "The Pride of Lexington; a Tale of the American Revolution " ; and other works.

  2. Henry Seton, a Lieutenant in the 26th Rifle Battalion under the Duke of Wurtemberg of Austria, and later Captiand and 2nd Lieutenant in the American Army.  He married Ann Foster, daughter of Major-General John Gray Foster, April 27th 1870 and had two sons:  John Seton, who after studying and Mount St. Mary's College and visiting Europe twice, died unmarried sp., in Emmittsburg; and William Seton, a graduate of Seton Hall College who was a doctor of Medicine.

  3. Robert Seton, born August 28th, 1839, was educated at Mount St. Mary's College and studied Theology and Canon Law in Rome.  After  being named a Protho-notary Apostolic, was Rector of of Saint Joseph's Church in New Jersey.  He later took his Degree of Doctor of Divinity at the Roman University of the Sapienza and was a trustee of Seton Hall College.  He was highly published, and his History of the Seton's of Scotland and America is one of the cherished histories of the House of Seton.  He became Archbishop Robert Seton of New York, and dsp.

  4. Emily, educated at Sacre Coeur in Paris, died young, unmarried, sp.

  5. Elizabeth, educated at Sacre Coeur in Paris, a writer.

  6. Helen, educated at Sacre Coeur in Paris, a nun in the Order of Mercy, died unmarried, sp.

  7. Isabella, educated at Sacre Coeur in Paris, and at the Trinita dei Monti in Rome, married Thomas Jevons, Esq., April 19th, 1870, and had four children, Reginald Jevons, Thomas Seton-Jevons, Ferdinand Talbot Roscoe Jevons and Marguerite Jevons.


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