This little chair isn’t particularly important or valuable but I’ve always liked it. It’s made of four pieces of pierced metal, with smooth curved edges that slot together to form a rocking chair which stands 4 inches tall. I’m not even sure what it’s made out of – it’s just a little metal chair.
According to my mom, it was made by Andrew Seger, my step-great-great-grandfather. Although he died in 1930, the year before Mom was born, his widow lived with her daughter (Mom’s grandmother) right down the street from them until 1939. The little chair may have been made for my grandmother, who was his step-granddaughter.
He was born on 12 July 1841 in New York City to German immigrants Henry and Frances Seger. They lived on the Lower East Side of Manhattan where Henry was a shoemaker; Andrew was the second of thirteen children and also worked as a shoemaker.
He enlisted in the Union Navy in May 1863 and served on the USS North Carolina, USS Monitor, and USS Roanoke, working as a coal heaver for a year. He reenlisted in June 1864 and served another three years as a coal heaver on four different ships, ending again on the USS North Carolina. This was hot, dirty, and dangerous work requiring men to haul buckets of coal from the bunker to the ship’s boiler, and Andrew emerged from his service with damage to his optic nerve and catarrh, an inflammation of mucus membranes. Although he worked as a shoemaker for a few years following the war, by 1890 he was an invalid and unable to work at his trade. He was 49 years old.
Andrew married Margaret Ashley in Manhattan on 23 December 1869 and they appear together in the 1870 census. Margaret worked as a housekeeper and died childless in January 1878, according to Andrew’s pension records and her New York City death certificate. He married again to Margaret Brookmire Morrison in 1880 in Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania, and they were together for 50 years. Andrew died at the New Jersey Home for Disabled Soldiers & Sailors in 1930 at the age of 88.
But there are mysteries. How and why did he get to Pennsylvania when he was a New York City shoemaker? Andrew Seger doesn’t show up in New York City directories in the 1870’s; perhaps he was an itinerant and left his wife behind to wander. Her death certificate doesn’t list a husband’s name and she was employed as a housekeeper; perhaps she was working to support herself in Andrew’s absence.
The family story had been that Margaret Morrison married him after her first husband died, and that both husbands had fought together in the Civil War. That can’t be right because her first husband Charles was in the Army and Andrew was a sailor! We do know they were married on 18 February 1880 in Wilkes Barre by a Presbyterian minister. Unfortunately, Margaret Morrison was already married at the time to her soldier husband, who was a patient at Danville Hospital for the Insane. Whether Andrew knew of her first husband’s situation is another unknown but it seems unlikely she could have kept that secret for 50 years.
Even Andrew’s military service is confusing in spite of a lengthy pension file. He is listed as “Andrew Seger alias George L. Sylvester,” which is still another mystery. I haven’t found actual enlistment papers but all documents in the pension file include both names. Maybe he lived as George Sylvester when he wasn’t being Andrew, though I haven’t found anything to prove that yet, either.
The one thing he left behind was the little metal chair. Whether he made it or not, and at what point in his life he was able to do so, Andrew Seger is worth being remembered.