Seavey was born in Portland, Maine, on March 23, 1865. He left home at age 13 and became a sailor, and served for a short time in the United States Navy. He moved near Marinette, Wisconsin in the late 1880s, where he married Mary Plumley and had two daughters. The family later moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where Seavey fished, farmed and owned a local saloon.
In 1898, Seavey left his family in Milwaukee to participate in the Klondike Gold Rush. He was unsuccessful, and returned to the Great Lakes region around 1900. In poverty, Seavey moved to Escanaba, Michigan and acquired a schooner, which he named the Wanderer, and began a career as a pirate.
Dan Seavey did sail the Wanderer as a legitimate shipping operation, but also sailed into ports at night to steal cargo from other vessels and warehouses. Seavey also kidnapped or transported women in the illegal prostitution trade.
Seavey was notorious for altering sea lights, either by extinguishing existing lights or placing false lights. The trick, known as "moon cussing," would cause ships to sail into rocks, where Seavey's crew could easily capture the cargo from the wounded vessel.
A significant amount of Seavey's profit was made from venison poaching and theft. A company called Booth Fisheries attempted to compete with Seavey's illegal venison trade, and Seavey attacked one of their ships with a cannon, killing everyone on board.
Dan Seavey's most infamous exploit was the hijacking of the schooner Nellie Johnson. On 11 June 1908, Seavey came aboard in Grand Haven, Michigan with a large amount of alcohol, which he offered to share with the crew. Once they became intoxicated, Seavey tossed them overboard and sailed the Nellie Johnson to Chicago, where he sold the cargo. The United States Revenue Cutter Service soon gave chase in the Tuscarora. Seavey, meanwhile, had moored the Nellie Johnson and was again sailing in the Wanderer. After several days, he was captured on 29 June 1908 and taken to Chicago in irons.
Seavey was arrested on the charge of piracy, but was officially charged with "unauthorized removal of a vessel on which he had once been a seaman." Seavey was released on bond, and the charges were later dropped when the owner of the Nellie Johnson failed to appear. For the rest of his life, Seavey maintained that he won the Nellie Johnson in a poker game.
The Wanderer was destroyed by fire in 1918, and Seavey purchased a 40-foot motor launch. It’s unclear if he continued as a marshal or an outlaw, or both, but motor launches were a favorite of Great Lake smugglers when Prohibition in the United States began in 1919.
Seavey retired sometime in the late 1920s, and settled in the town of Peshtigo, Wisconsin. He died at the Eklund nursing home in Peshtigo on 14 February 1949 at the age of 84. He is buried next to his daughter in Forest Home Cemetery, Marinette, Wisconsin.
In popular culture
Dan Seavey is featured in Season 4 episode 18 of Warehouse 13, in which he fictionally hijacked a ship transporting supernatural artefacts between Warehouses, ultimately residing in a secret lair at Niagara Falls.
- "Cap'n Dan Seavey Dies at 83, Ending Colorful Career on Great Lakes". The Escanaba Daily Press. February 25, 1949. p. 2. Retrieved December 10, 2014 – via Newspapers.com.
- Bie, link below
- Sandusky, link below
- Peterson, Lana. 1995. "Dan Seavey of Garden and Fayette Was Known as the Great Lakes Pirate." The Manistique Pioneer-Tribune (22 June).
- Criminal Justice Resources :Michigan's Only Pirate Archived 18 February 2012 at the Wayback Machine
- There is some dispute about whether Seavey was able to sell the cargo. See Arrrr! Real Pirates Once Sailed On Lake Michigan. Some Even Plundered The Shores Of Chicago Website accessed 3 August 2009.
- SHOT STOPS A LAKE "PIRATE."; Revenue Cutter Captures a Mariner After Seven Days' Chase. from New York Times. Website accessed 3 August 2009
- Seavey was the only man to ever be arrested for piracy on the Lake Michigan. Criminal Justice Resources :Michigan's Only Pirate Archived 18 February 2012 at the Wayback Machine
- Roaring Dan's Rum by Great Lakes Distillery Archived 13 July 2013 at the Wayback Machine
- Bie, Michael (2009). "The Life & Crimes of Dan Seavey". ClassicWisconsin.com. Archived from the original on 2013-08-25.
- "Roaring Dan Rum by Great Lakes Distillery". GreatLakesDistillery.com. 2013. Archived from the original on 2013-07-13.