Israel and Margaret Seward
Compiled By Great-Great-Great-Grandson Edward K. Hine, Jr. ("Ted")
August 2005 (Updated July 2008 and March 2012)

   Israel Seward

 Born: September 3, 1795 in Vernon, Sussex Co, NJ
 Died:  August 27, 1869 presumably near Hillsboro, IL
 Cause of Death:   Unknown
Age at Death:  74
 Buried:  Oak Grove Cemetery, Hillsboro, Illinois
(GPS N 39° 09.384’, W 089° 30.036’ ± 8 feet - WGS84 Datum)

 Father:      Col. John Seward (1765-1847)
 Mother:     Mary Butler-Seward (1767-1841)
 Siblings:   Francis Seward          Maria Seward
                   Nancy Seward            Obadiah Seward
                   John Butler Seward   Emeline Seward
                   Jane Seward               Harriet Seward

Margaret Slayback-Seward
("Peggy", "Aunt Peggy")

Born:  March 27, 1797 in Lexington, KY
Died:  June 15, 1877 in or near Hillsboro, IL
Cause of Death:  Unknown
Age at Death:  80
Buried:  Oak Grove Cemetery, Hillsboro, IL
(GPS N 39° 09.384’, W 089° 30.036’ ± 8 feet - WGS84 Datum)

Father:      Solomon David Slayback, Sr.
Mother:     Sarah Hoagland-Slayback
Siblings:   Anna, Sarah, Elizabeth, Amaziah,
                  David, John S., William, Mary,
                  Solomon, Jr., Jesse, Abel



               Israel and Margaret Seward (undated image).
   From page 111 of "Obadiah Seward of Long Island, New York
      and His Descendents" by Frederick W. Seward, Jr. (1948)

        Married:  October 30, 1817 in Cincinnati,
                          Hamilton Co., Ohio

          Mary Caroline Seward-Coudy
          William A. Seward    Clarence S. Seward
          George C. Seward   James G. Seward
          Charles O. Seward   Frances H. Seward
          Henry S. Seward      Cornelia L. Seward
          Sarah M. Seward      Edward W. Seward

About Israel and Margaret Seward

Source Material

Source material regarding Israel and Margaret Seward has come from two primary sources.  First, from materials passed down for several generations from their grandson, Horace R. Coudy and, second, from a variety of historical sources, mostly relating to Hillsboro, Montgomery County, IL, and the nearby village of Butler.  Each source provides only a small bit of information but taken as a whole provide a pretty good picture of the life of Israel and Margaret.

The Seward's are credited with being the second settlers of the Butler/Hillsboro area of Illinois in 1819 (today located about 65 miles north-east of St. Louis MO) and their lives are thus very much intertwined with the history of the area.

This biography provides a summary based on these and other sources and, for the sake of brevity and understandability, I have not indicated the source reference here of every tidbit of information.   For complete source material and credits, follow this link:

Hillsboro Source Material (PDF)

Early Life

Israel Seward was born in Vernon, Sussex County, New Jersey in 1795.   He was a son of Colonel John Seward (1767-1841) who fought in the War of 1812 and the grandson of Colonel John Seward (1730-1797) who fought in American Revolution.   Nothing particular is known about Israel's childhood.  The first recorded information about him indicates that he served as a drummer boy during the War of 1812 in his father's regiment.  (Israel would have been about 17 years old in 1812.)

In 1815 Israel came west with his parents to Hamilton, Butler County, Ohio (near what is now Cincinnati).   Here, at the age of about 20 and being adventurous (a trait which would define a lot of his future life), he learned the river boating business on the Ohio River and met George Burnap (who would later marry his sister, Maria Seward, and follow Israel to the Hillsboro area of Illinois).  Israel and George are said to have worked the rivers as far as New Orleans buying and selling wares.

In 1817 Israel married Margaret Slayback in Cincinnati, Hamilton Co., Ohio.  Margaret had been born in 1797 in Lexington, Kentucky and her family had subsequently moved north across the Ohio river to Hamilton, Ohio.   (Note:  I am somewhat confused regarding the geography of this area of Ohio in in the early 1800's.  Today there are both counties named Hamilton and Butler as well as towns with the same names.)

Settling in Butler/Hillsboro, Illinois

Israel and Margaret Seward are credited in a number of sources as being only the second family to settle in what is now the Butler/Hillsboro area of Montgomery County, Illinois and records show they moved there in 1819 with their first child William who was born in Hamilton, Butler Co., Ohio the year before.   It is not clear whether they initially came alone or with Israel's parents, Col. John and Mary Butler-Seward, who, even if they didn't initially accompany Israel to the area, show up living there by about 1821.   By using the word "settled" I am referring to the fact that they were among the first to move to this part of Illinois with the intent of establishing homes and lives there.  Other's had already explored the area and determined it's suitability for settlement.  Illinois had become the 21st state in 1818 and there were apparently government programs at the time which awarded land to war veterans and their descendents and it is believed that Israel and his father John used this opportunity to acquire prime farm and forest land in and around what today is the village of Butler, Illinois and the nearby town of Hillsboro about 2 miles away (neither of which existed in 1819).

The land in the Butler/Hillsboro area had gently rolling wooded hills interspaced with flat prairie land which, in the early 1800's, was covered with 6 foot tall prairie grass.    Israel and his family settled on a hill about 1/2 mile south of today's village of Butler.  Their homestead became known locally as Seward's Hill, Seward's Grove, and/or Butler's Grove (likely named for Israel's brother, John Butler Seward, who followed Israel to the area).   Today the general area where the Seward's settled is known as Butler Grove Township, a subdivision of Montgomery County.   The hill had a view in many directions and was generally wooded.   In December of 2004 and again in June of 2005 I drove the 2 mile route from Hillsboro east and then north to the village of Butler along Route 127 and it is easy to tell where the Seward homestead would have been near the top of the hill that winds up and then down into Butler just to the north of the Seward homestead.  (While there are a few structures on the hill today, unfortunately none of Israel's apparently still stand.)   I've uncovered no information which indicates how much land Israel and/or his father acquired early on but an 1874 landholding map of the area shows numerous parcels of mostly adjacent land owned by Israel (who had passed away 5 years earlier in 1869) and 3 of his sons which total about 630 acres (and this was shortly after two of Israel's sons, William and George, had deeded land to the newly formalized village of Butler which perhaps account for another 100 acres.)  It is not known how much of this land was initially acquired by Israel and his father John but it can probably be assumed that Israel inherited at least some of John's holdings upon his death and that Israel probably gave his sons each some land as they came of age.

Note:  Historical references to both Israel and his father Col. John Seward describe their homes as  being in about the same location and I've run into references that suggest that the two families likely shared the same home over the years.   One reference suggests that in 1822 Israel and his father (and their families) were sharing a log cabin.  Another suggests that later, when Israel built a much larger home, it to was shared with his parents.

Life on the Illinois frontier was rough in the early days and Israel and Margaret's first home there was a log cabin with few comforts.  There were none of the roads, stores, churches, and other amenities which local residents would take for granted in later years.  Israel is credited with having the first "span of mules ever driven about Hillsboro if not the whole county".  The Seward's would rise their 11 children at their home on Seward's Hill (10 were born there) and live on the homestead till Israel's death in 1869.   After Israel's death wife Margaret moved to Hillsboro which would have been more suitable for a widow of her age and she also apparently lived with some of her children for a time.    There are numerous stories about Indians living in the area and trading with the Seward's and other settlers in the early days.  The local tribes must have been friendly as I've found no stories of anyone having any serious problems with the indigenous peoples.

Margaret Slayback-Seward is referred to in numerous sources as "Aunt Peggy" and she was well known, liked, and respected in the Butler/Hillsboro area.    A year after Israel's death an 1870 Butler, IL census record shows Margaret living with her daughter Cornelia and husband John H. McGowan.   An 1873 newspaper article, 4 years after Israel's death and 4 years before her death indicates that Margaret "is sick at her daughter's (Mrs. Coudy) in St. Louis".

Israel and Margaret's second son, George C. Seward, is credited with being the first "white child" born in what would become Butler Grove Township, Montgomery County, Illinois in October of 1821.  Israel's sister Harriet had also settled with their parents (Col. John and Mary Butler-Seward) on Seward's Hill and her marriage to William Brown was the first marriage in Butler Grove Township taking place in December of 1822.

Civic Leadership

Israel quickly became somewhat of a civic leader on the frontier.  Records show that in 1821 he and a handful of other settlers traveled to the new state capital in Vandalia and successfully petitioned the state legislature to form Montgomery County.  Israel was appointed the first school commissioner.

The "Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois" (1918 edition, page 851) reads:  “Israel Seward, although the chief organizer of the Butler Grove Community, belonged to the whole county.  As commissioner of education, the promoter of township endowment funds, through the sale of the sixteenth section of land set apart by Congress, and his occupancy of many other positions of honor and trust, places him well up in the county’s early pioneer heroes.”

Making a Living

During the rest of his life Israel would continue his adventurous ways.  (If he were around today I think we'd probably call him somewhat of an entrepreneur and/or perhaps "wheeler-dealer". )   While Israel at least partially supported his family by farming his land (and possibly selling timber from his hilltop forests to build Butler and Hillsboro), records consistently show that he was primarily in what I will call the hospitality business.   He is variously described as being a tavern keeper, inn keeper, and hotel keeper, and he operated wayside inns, boarding houses, hotels, and/or other such  establishments which provided lodging, food, and related services to travelers.   In about 1822 Israel and Margaret (along with Margaret's niece Sally Slayback who lived with the Seward's for about 6 years before marrying another local settler, Benjamin Ware) temporarily left their two eldest children (William and George) in the care of Israel's parents and spent an unknown period of time in Vandalia where they set up a boarding house where representatives in the newly relocated state legislature could stay.

The Seward's Hillsboro/Butler area homestead soon became a mail stop, stage stop, and inn of sorts on what became known as the Vandalia-Springfield Road.  There are numerous (but undated) accounts of Abraham Lincoln staying with the Seward's as he traveled on business from Springfield to Vandalia long before he entered national politics.  I'm sure the future president knew Israel long before he knew and named Israel's first cousin, William H. Seward (of New York), to the position of Secretary of State. (William H. Seward had also been Governor of New York and a Senator from that state.)

Hillsboro Academy

In about 1835 Israel became one of the initial financial benefactors ("stockholders") in what became known as Hillsboro Academy, an institution of higher learning which subsequently attracted students from all over the region and became the focus of much pride on the part of all the citizens of the Hillsboro area.   According to Horace R. Coudy, his father, Mathew Coudy, came to Hillsboro with brother Oliver Coudy as young men in an attempt get the contract to build the academy building and had to see Israel Seward about getting the work.  The Coudy brothers apparently did construct the building between about 1835 and 1837 (which stood for at least 100 years) and Mathew Coudy would marry Israel and Margaret Seward's daughter Mary in 1848.

About Hillsboro Academy

Connections with Israel's first cousin William Henry Seward and other east coast relatives

In 1846 former New York Governor and future U.S. Senator and President Abraham Lincoln's Secretary of State William Henry Seward (of "Seward's Folly" fame) visited his numerous first cousins in the Hillsboro, IL area after not having seen them since before the Illinois branch of the Seward family had left the north east for the frontier over 3 decades before in 1815.   I had been unable to uncover any reference to the fact that Israel ever met or knew his much more famous first cousin till I visited the Seward House in Auburn, NY (a historic restoration of the longtime home of W. H. Seward) in the fall of 2008.  There I found a book titled "William H. Seward: An Autobiography" which over 4 pages tells of his 1846 visit to the Hillsboro area as he traveled through the the Midwest.  As well as mentioning seeing his 5 first cousins in the area and their families, William talks of the country side and farms his relatives had created from the wilderness and mentions that everybody "spoke highly of them".

View "William H. Seward:  An Autobiography" Pages

Another indication that the Hillsboro/Butler area Seward's stayed in contact with their east coast relatives as they built their lives on what was then the American frontier was sent to me by Seward genealogist Jim Kuttler in 2009 in an emailed paragraph which reads regarding Israel's father:  "James P. Snell, in his History of Sussex and Warren Counties, New Jersey, published in 1881, says that 'when an old man, nearly fifty years ago, [John Seward, b. 1765, s/o Col. John and Mary Swezey] came on a visit with his wife to their relatives in Sussex and Orange Counties.'"  The visit would have been around 1831 when John (Israel's father) was about 66 years old and had lived in the Hillsboro area for perhaps 10 years.

A Hillsboro Seward connection to both William Henry Seward and Abraham Lincoln involves Israel's sister Harriet Seward who, after coming to Hillsboro with the family around 1820, married William H. Brown there and subsequent moved north to Chicago.  Jim Kuttler also emailed in 2009 that Harriet was "Head of the committee which decorated the Wigwam, where the 1860 Republican Convention was held. After the nomination, Mr. and Mrs. Brown held a reception at their home, 150 Michigan Avenue, for Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln. She was a warm personal friend of Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln, and was the only woman whom Mrs. Lincoln received during the early period after the President's death. [The candidate Lincoln defeated was her very own first cousin!]"  William H. Seward, who Lincoln defeated at this 1860 convention for the Republican Presidential nomination after a huge political battle, was, like Israel, Harriet Seward-Brown's first cousin.  While I have no proof, I think it possible that Harriet my have first known Abraham Lincoln from the days he stayed at her brother Israel's Butler, IL inn.

Israel and the California Gold-Rush

Around 1839 Israel built a substantial "mill" [for grinding grain] not far from his home south of Butler.  It was apparently to large for the local demand and Israel eventually found himself in "financial embarrassment".   But being resourceful and not easily discouraged, Israel found a way to repay his financial backers and reinstate his good name in the community.   Stories tell that he headed to California for the 1849 "gold rush" and, upon his return, paid back virtually all his debts.  It is not known exactly how long he spent in California but 1850 census records show him (and his son Clarence) in El Dorado Co., California (between Lake Tahoe and Sacramento) working as a "hotel keeper" and "gold trader" while the same census shows his wife Margaret and other children still living on the family homestead near  Butler, Illinois.  Ten years later the 1860 census shows Israel again living on his Butler homestead with Margaret.

Religious Life

Margaret is recorded as having been one of the two initial members of the Presbyterian Church of Hillsboro when it was formed on March 10, 1828.   Israel is said to have joined "later".   Thirty years later In 1858 Margaret and Israel became charter members of the Butler Presbyterian Church (I assume because it was closer to their home).  It is said that Margaret always wore a white cap except on Sunday's when she wore a black silk one.


Israel and Margaret had 11 children, 10 of whom survived till adulthood.  Half of the surviving children stayed in the Butler/Hillsboro area of Illinois and the other half eventually moved elsewhere.   It is interesting to note that both of Israel and Margaret Seward's grown daughters would marry members of the Coudy family (see the biography of Mathew and Mary Coudy).  In 1848 Mary Margaret Caroline Seward married Mathew Coudy and in 1858 Cornelia Louise Seward married Alexander Coudy, Mathew's nephew.  For more about the Seward children, click on this link:

About the Seward Children

Newspaper Articles

In June of 2005 I found the following newspaper clippings in the Hillsboro Public Library.  They were included in a loose-leaf notebook with other clippings about early citizens of the area.  The notebook was labeled only "Montgomery County News, Late 1800's".  No publication dates for individual clippings were available.

Interesting Writings about the Sewards

In 1937 a tribute to the Sewards as early Butler, Illinois pioneers was presented to the Butler community at a school alumni gathering.   The heartwarming and priceless text of "Toast to the Butler Pioneers" has survived and provides a fascinating look at the Seward's early days in the Butler/Hillsboro area.

Butler Pioneers

The book "A Woman's Story of Pioneer Illinois" by Christiana Holmes Tillson includes some passages with references to Israel and his father John Seward and their families in the early 1820's.

View Book Passages

An article in the Montgomery County News (February 5, 1873) by A.H.H. Rountree contains an interesting passage about the Sewards.

Rountree Passage

Information From Family Sources

In 1938 and again in 1939 Horace R. Coudy visited Hillsboro, IL to learn more about his grandparents, Israel and Margaret Seward.   Follow this link for interesting information passed on by Horace R. Coudy and his brother Upton S. Coudy regarding the Seward's and life in pioneer Illinois.

More About Israel and Margaret


The following two quotes provide a good summary of the lives of Israel and Margaret Seward.  The text in brackets [ ] has been added by me.

From the Montgomery News (Hillsboro, IL), September 8, 1905 by "Old Bill Loper":

Israel Seward and his wife 'Aunt Peggy', whose pictures appear at the bottom of the first page, are two historical characters of Montgomery county.  John Seward, Israel Seward's father, was one of the first county commissioners of this county.  He was an uncle of the Hon. W. H. Seward, President Lincoln's Secretary of State.  Israel was a man of great energy and decision of character, and was a progressive man.  He owned the first span of mules ever driven about Hillsboro if not in the whole county, and he and his brothers used the first span of horses driven with check lines ever used in the county.  He kept a "tavern" on the Springfield road just south of Butler, at which Lincoln, Douglas, and many other men who afterward became distinguished, used to stop.  He died in 1871 [actually 1869], leaving his widow, 'Aunt Peggy', surviving him several years.  "Aunt Peggy" was a well known woman, loved and revered by all who knew her.  She was very charitable and used to ride for miles to relieve cases of destitution that needed immediate help.  She hastily killed a chicken, and mounting her horse, picked the chicken as she rode to the place where relief was administered.  There are many living today who remember her whole-souled hospitality, her matronly dignity and her uniformed kindness to everyone.  Peace to the ashes of these old pioneers!

Margaret Seward's Obituary - From the Hillsboro Democrat (Hillsboro, IL) , June 22, 1877:

MARGARET SEWARD - Wife of Israel

Another of the old residents of Montgomery county has passed away.  One by one the men and women who laid the foundation of the social and political fabric of the great State of Illinois are dropping out of our midst.

Margaret Slayback was born in the State of Kentucky, but removed at an early age to Ohio, where she was united in marriage with Israel Seward.  They soon removed to this state and settled upon the old and well-known homestead near Butler, Illinois, where they lived till the death of Mr. Seward, several years ago.  Since that time, Mrs. Seward has been living with her children, spending most of her time with her daughter, Mrs. McGowan, of Butler.  She had enjoyed fair health for a lady of her age, and when taken with her last sickness no one had any suspicion of its fatal character till a few hours before her death.  She was sick but a short time.  She quietly breathed her last at the residence of her son-in-law, Mr. McGowan, in Butler on the 15th of June.

Her funeral took place from the Presbyterian Church in Butler, of which she was a member, and her remains were deposited by the side of her husband in Oak Grove Cemetery in this city.  [Hillsboro]

Mrs. Seward was seventy-nine years of age in last April [actually 80 the previous March].  She was the mother of ten children, all of whom arrived at full age, and nine of whom are yet living.  [The Sewards actually had 11 children, one died young.]

There are few living among us who have witnessed a greater change in the condition of society in Illinois, or seen more of that major growth which raised this State since 1819 from the feeblest to the fourth in rank in a union of 31 states.   Mrs. Seward always took great delight in reciting the privations and planning of the pioneer times.  Before the days of railroads her house was a noted stopping place for the prominent men of the day, in traveling to and from the capitol.   Lincoln and Wm. H. Seward, the latter of whom was a first cousin of her husband, slept at affirmed times under her roof.

Final Resting Place

Israel passed away on August 27, 1869 at age 74 and Margaret on June 15, 1877 at age 80.  They are buried in adjacent graves in the old Seward family plot in the Oak Grove Cemetery, Hillsboro, Illinois.

Israel's Obituary

Note:  The second and third gravestones from the left in the photo below are the same ones as the two shown in the photo at the left.   Sometime between when the two photos were taken (1939 and 2004) the capstones (tops) of the two monuments were removed, likely by vandals.

Final resting place of Margaret (left) and Israel
(right) Seward in the Oak Grove Cemetery,
Hillsboro, Illinois
  (1939 photo saved by grandson Horace R. Coudy)

More About The Oak Grove Cemetery

The Old Seward Plot, Oak Grove Cemetery, Hillsboro, Illinois.  From left to right:
Capt. James G. Seward (1834-1864, Israel's son),  Margaret-Slayback Seward (1798-1877, Israel's wife), Israel Seward (1795-1869), Margaret M. Seward (?-1848, wife of Israel's son Charles), Mary Butler-Seward (1767-1841, Israel's mother), Col. John Seward (1765-1847, Israel's father).
Photo by Ted Hine - December 2004
(GPS N 39° 09.384’, W 089° 30.036’ ± 8 feet - WGS84 Datum)

Other Seward, Slayback, and Coudy Settlers of Early Butler/Hillsboro, Illinois
While Israel and Margaret Seward are credited with being the second settlers in what is now Butler Grove Township, Montgomery County, Illinois, many of their close Seward and Slayback relatives followed them to the area in the early 1800's.  The Coudy brothers arrived in about 1835.  For more information:
Seward Descendents List
Click here for a list of Seward descendents as I currently show them for my branch of the family as of March 2012.


Source Material and Seward Genealogical References

Material for this biography has come from a number of different sources most of which are documented in the following:

  A 1948 book by Frederick W. Seward traces the history of the Seward family in the United States starting with Obadiah Seward.

Hillsboro Source Material (PDF)


Obadiah Seward Book (PDF)


To view just excerpts from James R. Kuttler's book regarding Israel Seward, his father John, and his father John:

About the 2 John Sewards and Israel