Seymour Doolittle, A Vintage Vignette

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Seymour Doolittle
A Vintage Vignette by John P. Rankin
December 26, 2007

The blacksmith that lived where Main Street intersects Sullivan Street, on the lot now occupied by Sara Whitworth’s house, was born in Connecticut on December 18, 1821. He came to Madison before 1870, but he was not found here in the 1860 census. The 1870 census shows both Jeremiah (Jared) and Seymour Doolittle as being born in Connecticut but living in Madison. Seymour was the village blacksmith, while Jared was a carpenter. Jared was five years younger than Seymour. Both Doolittles were married to women born in Alabama, with Seymour’s children shown as born in Michigan. Jared’s only child was one year old, born in Alabama. From this information, it is assumed that the Doolittles were probably brothers and lived in Michigan before coming to Madison after the Civil War.

Since Seymour was born in 1821, he was a bit old to serve in the army, but Jared could well have served in the conflict. Seymour married Indiana Pocahontas Gewin as his second wife in January of 1875. She was a postmistress for a time in Madison before the marriage. Jared married Mary Sturdivant here in March of 1867. Mary (age 15 in 1860) was apparently a sister of Madison grocer John J. Sturdivant (20) and his brother William C. Sturdivant (22). The older brothers headed an 1860 household with three more siblings under the age of 20. No parents were listed.

Little is known of Jared’s life in Madison, other than that he was born in 1826 in Connecticut and died here in 1872. He is buried in the city cemetery, and old records noted that there was a Confederate Iron Cross at his grave. The cross is gone now, but it indicated that he served the Southern army, not the Union cause. Seymour’s tombstone shows that he was a Mason, dying in April of 1911. He had a son, William G. or E. Doolittle, born in April of 1888. William, still single, appears in the 1920 census in the household of his uncle William T. Gewin. Edward P. Doolittle, a son by Seymour’s first wife (name unknown) was a brakeman for the railroad and married Josephine Neal. Edward (born in Michigan in 1851; died 1890) and Josephine are buried in the family plot in the city cemetery.

Seymour Doolittle was heavily involved in the civic affairs of Madison. On July 14, 1885, his fellow stockholders of the newly formed Madison Male and Female Academy Association elected him to serve as a trustee of the Academy. His fellow trustees were W. T. Garner, John W. Burton, William A. Russell, and George W. Wise. In records of the 1895 incorporation of Madison High School (today’s elementary school on College Street), S. M. Doolittle is listed among the trustees approved by the Alabama legislature. Other trustees were John B. Floyd, C. G. Fennel, James A. Watkins, J. A. Humphrey, Arthur H. Lewis, and Marion A. Bishop. Additionally, it appears that Seymour gave newly freed former slaves a start in business, as the household adjacent to his in the 1870 census was headed by Henry and Cornelia Seay, the prominent black family of Madison who were central figures in the establishment of churches and schools for their race in the early 1900s. Henry Seay’s occupation in 1870 was listed as blacksmith. Seay and Seymour Doolittle likely worked together in the same shop, living on the same lot in Madison, in an early time of cooperation and mutual support in the young village.

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