Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Obituary #1

I have a series of obituaries to post, running from 1894 to the mid-teens. I only used articles with some information of interest to the, so low income people who were simply listed in a long seriew of names won't show up. I've tried to find some measure of interest in each entry, whether profession, place of birth, or some other nugget that tells us a little about the time. Joel Seaverns makes the grade because he was a Civil War veteran and was active in the community. And he also had a street named after his surname. Bonus points for being the street I was born on.

A couple more things. Dr Seaver was a well-known member of Secret Societies. In the antebellum years, Americans were joiners, filling the roles of Masons, Odd Fellows, Redmen, and a multiplicity of other fraternal groups. Not exactly what we think of as secret, but apparently the handshake and rituals filled the bill. The role of fraternal groups in Jamaica Plain history is outside this entry, but I do want to touch on the Royal Arcanum. I had seem the name many times in previous articles, and this one finally got me to look them up. As it turns out, the Royal Arcanum exists to this day. What I guessed, in my ignorance, was something like the Royal Order of Raccoons, was in fact a life insurance fraternal organization for working men (as explained here). Dr Seaverns' role as medical examiner for the group suddenly makes sense.

Boston Daily Globe March 2, 1894

Dr Joel Seaverns Dead.

Was Well Known Roxbury Physician and Medical Examiner in Chief for the Royal Arcanum.

Dr Joel Seaverns, medical examiner in chief of the Royal Arcanum, died at his home, 2 Dudley pl, yesterday morning.

Joel Seaverns was born at Jamaica Plain May 25, 1828. At the age of 18 he graduated from the Roxbury Latin school.

Leaving college in 1850, he spent one year in teaching, when he entered the Harvard medical school, from which he graduated in 1854.

Commencing private practice then at Jamaica Plain, he continued there until May 25, 1862, when he entered the army as acting assistant surgeon, holding this position until Dec 4, 1863, when he was appointed assistant surgeon of the US volunteers and promoted March 30, 1864, to the rank of surgeon.

In 1865 he was made brevet lieutenant colonel for faithful and meritorious service. This first two commissions were signed by Abraham Lincoln and his last by Andrew Johnson.

During his army life he was surgeon in charge of hospital ship the New World and of steamer De Molay. Before and after that time he was post surgeon at Fort Warren in Boston harbor.

Dr Seaverns had been superintendent of the schools of West Roxbury, was a member of the town council of Boston, and for years one of it school committee. He had practiced medicine in Roxbury continuously since 1866.

His acquintance with secret societies had been rather extensive, as he was a past master of Washington lodge Free and Accepted Mason; past high priest of Mt Vernon Royal Arch chapter; thrice illustrious master of Roxbury council, Royal and Select Masters, and sir knight of Joseph Warren commandery, Knights Templar. He was past grand of Quinobequin lodge, I.O.O.F. and a member of Roxbury lodge, 205, Knights of Honor.

Dr Seaverns was appointed by Supreme Regent Swain as Royal Arcanum state medical examiner for Massachusetts. In May, 1880, Supreme Regent Keyes, recognizing his ability and valuable services as a state examiner, appointed him medical examiner-in-chief for the order.

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