William Seton

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William Seton III (b. in New York, 28 January 1835; d. there, 15 March 1905) was an American author, a novelist and popular science writer. He was a Roman Catholic from one of America's most distinguished Roman Catholic families. His paternal grandmother was Elizabeth Ann Bayley Seton, the first American citizen to be canonized by the Roman Catholic Church.


He was educated at St. John's College, Fordham, at Mt. St. Mary's, Emmittsburg, Md., and at the University of Bonn. He traveled extensively abroad before entering a law office in New York.

Soon after his admission to the bar he answered Lincoln's first call for troops in 1861. Disabled for a time by two wounds received in the Battle of Antietam, where he fought as captain of the Forty-first New York Volunteers, French's Division, Sumner's Corps, he returned to his father's home, Cragdon, Westchester County, New York, but went back to the front to be captain of the 16th Artillery in Grant's campaign against Richmond.

His alma mater, Mt. St. Mary's, conferred on him the degree of LL.D. in 1890.


After the war he devoted himself chiefly to literature, publishing two historical novels, "Romance of the Charter Oak" (1870) and "Pride of Lexington" (1871); "The Pioneer", a poem (1874); "Rachel's Fate" (1882); "The Shamrock Gone West", and "Moire" (1884). About 1886 he went to Europe for serious study in paleontology, psychology, etc., and thereafter usually spent the greater part of each year in France in such pursuits. His forte was presenting scientific matters in attractive English. He issued a brief work, "A Glimpse of Organic Life, Past and Present" (1897). He was a frequent contributor of scientific articles to the "Catholic World". "The Building of the Mountain", a novel, was in the press at the time of his death.


His father was William Seton II, captain in the U. S. Navy, son of Elizabeth Ann Seton; his mother was Emily Prime. Burke's Peerage (1900) recognized him as the head of the Seton family of Parbroath, senior cadets of the earls of Winton in Scotland.

He outlived by ten years his wife Sarah Redwood Parrish, a Philadelphian Catholic convert from the Society of Friends. He is buried with the Setons at Mt. St. Mary's, Emmitsburg, Maryland.


Further reading[edit]

  • Morrison, John L., "William Seton: A Catholic Darwinist", The Review of Politics, Vol. 21, No. 3 (Jul., 1959), pp. 566–584, Cambridge University Press for the University of Notre Dame du lac, JSTOR