William Henry Seward, U.S. Secretary of State from 1861 to 1869, and former Governor of New York, was born in Florida, NY on May 16, 1801. The 29th annual celebration of Seward’s birth was held by the Florida Historical Society, in conjunction with the Seward/Mapes Homestead Committee, on Sat., May 18. The celebration included a variety of historical presentations, the laying of a wreath at the Seward Monument on Main St. and even a “visit” from the guest of honor himself.
Following the laying of a wreath at the Seward Monument, participants moved to the S. S. Seward Institute cafetorium to learn more about Seward’s life. Inside the cafetorium there were tables displaying years of the Seward family history, in particular W.H. Seward and his numerous contributions to the creation of this country, a model of the Seward Birthplace and models of the Monitor and the Merrimac, ships that fought each other at Hampton Bay, Virginia in the “Battle of the Ironclads” during the Civil War.
The historical presentations also included a display of paintings created by first and fourth graders from Golden Hill Elementary School depicting many aspects of W. H. Seward’s life. This display is part of the Village-Wide Art Show set up by art teacher Nicholas Camia and music teacher Kristin Risedorph.
There were power point presentations showing the fourth grade historic walking tour through the Village of Florida which included the Seward Monument, Seward’s birthplace, the Seward family cemetery vault, Village Hall, Veteran’s Memorial and the fire house.
Seventh graders took a virtual tour of the Seward House museum in Auburn, NY where Seward lived at the end of his life. The “tour” included Seward’s early life in Florida, NY, his achievements as Governor of New York, as Secretary of State in the Abraham Lincoln presidency and his participation in the Underground Railroad.
The guest of honor made an “appearance” as well: re-enactors Steve Curcio as W.H. Seward and Irene Curcio as Seward’s wife, Frances, dressed in period clothing from the 1800’s, spoke about their lives and answered questions. Several members of the Florida Historical Society were also dressed in period costumes. Mr. and Mrs. Seward’s appearance was a new and successful addition to the birthday celebration.
The celebration ended with refreshments and the singing of the traditional “Seward Song” created by Dianne Leo over 20 years ago.