Chauncey B. Seeley was one of Napa’s early civic-minded residents. In 1912, he was one of the many area residents featured in the book, “History of Solano and Napa Counties, California.” However, his entry is unique as it is a verbatim quote of Seeley’s own handwritten essay—an action rarely taken by publishers.
The Seeley biography is accompanied by his photograph. His appearance is that of a distinguished yet approachable looking gentleman. The opening paragraph of his biography is the publishers’ explanation of why they chose to quote Seeley’s autobiographical essay in its entirety. Apparently, Seeley was asked to provide the publishers with “some points in his history, but when his memorandum was handed in it proved so unique in its contents we prefer to publish it just as it was written, without change of word or sentence.”
However, before delving into Seeley’s life-story, the publishers added some specific details about the 77-year-old Seeley and his accomplishments. They noted, professionally, Seeley was engaged in finance, specifically, banking. In 1879, he had partnered with a Mr. Bickford to establish the private banking firm of Seeley & Bickford. Eventually, in 1898, they agreed to a merger with Napa Savings Bank.
Politically, Seeley was quite active. He served as the Napa State Hospital secretary and treasurer—state appointed posts—for 27 years as well as Napa County Clerk for a decade. Seeley also served as a Napa city councilman for 18 years. The publishers added, “during which time he had much to do with constructing the streets of the city, in fact, (Seeley) is called the ‘father of the macadam streets.’”
In conclusion, the publishers wrote, “We may add that during the many years of Mr. Seeley’s residence in Napa he has served the interests of the people well and faithfully. (Also) Mr. Seeley is always the ‘genial gentleman’ whenever found.”
Born to New Englander parents, and “of Revolutionary (War) stock,” Seeley’s birthplace was actually in the Midwest. The settlement was known as Kirtland, Ohio and, as Seeley wrote, “where I first saw the light on February 11, 1835.” However, the Seeleys continued westward to eventually settle in southern Indiana. He continued, “Here in the then ‘far west,’ I vegetated, working on the farm when a boy and in after years teaching during the winter months and attending academy in the summer.”
By 1864, the then 29-year-old Seeley had arrived in California and, shortly thereafter, in Napa. Seeley continued, “Everything was new in those days, inhabitants were mostly ‘new comers,’ no ancestral homes were to be seen, and since most anybody could be elected to office at that time I ventured to take chances myself, and fortunately for me I won out.” He added, “I have served in some official capacity during the many years that have followed—a favor for which I am truly grateful, trusting I may have made some return to the people.”
Seeley continued, “In politics I consider principle paramount to party whenever the two shall come in conflict.” He added, “I am a friend of inventors and hail with delight every discovery in the interest of progress and the betterment of social conditions.”
Seeley concluded his memorandum with some insights into his personal life and personality traits.
He noted his wife of many years was Mary White, a Pennsylvania native, as well as he was in “excellent health...(and) am at all times sober and serene.” Seeley continued, “My enemies are all dead save one or two and with them my relations are not otherwise than most agreeable, as we pass without recognition. Am optimistic, believe there is hope for the (human) race, discouraging as appearances may seem. I never worry over the faults of others, or my own.”