The story of the Seward Merrill Lemont family is one of pioneer travels and business acumen. Seward Lemont was born in Cumberland County, Maine, January 21, 1834. He was one of a long line of Lemont’s from that state; the furthest back I could find was Thomas Lemont, born in Ireland, and who died in Maine in 1756. Seward’s father, Samuel Springer Lemont, married Georgianna ‘Dolly” Merrill. Both parents lived a short life, Samuel dying in 1843 and Dolly in 1844, leaving three young children. These three are found living with their maternal grandparents in the 1850 census of Cumberland County – Seward Merrill, aged 60, a bridge builder; his wife, Dolly, 57; their children Sarah E., 34; James, 28, a lawyer; and Mary T., 18. Grandchildren Seward M. Lemont, 16, clerk; Alvah S. Lemont, 13; and Georgianna A. P. Lemont, 11, rounded out the household, along with Dolly’s sister, Eugenia Prince, 60 (or possibly sister-in-law). All were born in Maine.
Seward Merrill Lemont married Emma Fredericka Bleyle, October 25, 1859, in Clark County, Indiana, and in the 1860 census of that year, in the same county, lived with Emma’s parents – Frederick Bleyle, 50, a hat merchant born in Germany; Eliza, 41, born in New York. Bleyle children Frederick, 16, born in New Jersey; Elizabeth, 13, born in Connecticut. Seward was 25, a merchant, Emma was 20, born in New York. Evidently this family moved frequently.
By 1870 Seward and Emma had settled in Louisville, Jefferson County, Kentucky. He was 36, a merchant, Emma was 31, and they had two children, Jessie, a daughter, 8, and son Seward, 3. In 1880 in addition to the four family members, Emma’s parents, Frederick, 72, and Eliza, 60, lived with them.
By 1900 daughter Jessie had married Dr. Philip Barbour, who lived with the family; Jessie was 35, and three children rounded out the Barbour family – Ruth L., 7; Margaret F., 50 and Philip L., 3. Seward was 67 and Emma, 61. Son Seward, 30, also lived in the household, single.
Seward Merrill Lemont lasted only 3 years after this census – he died October 10, 1903. The following obituary lists all his accomplishments.
The Courier Journal, Louisville, Jefferson County, Kentucky
Sunday, October 11, 1903
Seward Merrill Lemont, one of Louisville’s sterling citizens, died yesterday morning at 10 o’clock, after an illness of two years. During that time he realized that his end was approaching, but with that indomitable will which was a part of the man he faced the inevitable without a murmur.
Mr. Lemont was born in Portland, Maine, January 21, 1831, and was in his seventieth year. He passed his youth in his native city and when still a boy took to the sea, making voyages along the New England coast and to the Caribbean Sea. Returning to his native place when but eighteen, he then came west and began his business career wit the Jeffersonville, Madison and Indianapolis Railroad, the second railroad west of the Alleghany mountains. His ability and business acumen rapidly advanced the young man, until when but twenty he was general ticket and freight agent of the road, a position similar to the present general passenger and ticket agents of modern railroading. While occupying this position young Lemont issued the first through all-rail ticket ever sold between Louisville and New York City, as also the first direct through bill of lading between these points. When but twenty years of age he attended the first annual meeting of the general passenger and ticket agents of the country, an event which took place in New York City, and was probably at the time of his death the oldest official in that line in the country.
Retiring from the railroad business in 1857, he came to Louisville and at first engaged in the business of transferring passengers and freight from this city to Jeffersonville, then the terminus of the J. M. and L. Railroad, afterward becoming president of the Louisville Transfer Company, which continued that branch of business. About that time he became interested in the grain and commission business and for many years conducted one of the leading houses in that line in the city.
While thus engaged he was prominent in establishing the Louisville Board of Trade and was among the charter members of that organization. After the war Mr. Lemont took an interest in promoting the sleeping car business of the south and practically fathered that branch of modern activity, remaining connected with the Southern Sleeping Car Company, which operated cars over the Louisville and Nashville system at first and afterward extended its connections to include the entire south as far as Atlanta and New Orleans, until that company was merged with the Pullman Palace Car Company, with which concern he remained connected as a stock-holder until his death.
Mr. Lemont was among the original stockholders of the Ohio Falls Car and Locomotive Works; was one of the founders of the Globe tannery, of this city – he was its vice president at the time of his death – and was president of the Louisville Cold Storage Company. In 1880 he took up an interest in the Mt. Adams and Eden Park inclined railway, at Cincinnati, and was the first man to push a street car over the height of that city, as he was the first to introduce the electric light west of the Alleghenies. He was also interested in other Cincinnati manufacturing concerns, and held large interests there for some time, although always retaining his residence in this city.
In the early seventies Mr. Lemont became – with the late W. F. McCormick – interested in Southern pine lands, the two controlling the Muscogee Florida Lumber company until it was merged into the Southern States Lumber and Timber Company, an English syndicate. Upon the failure of that affair, the United States Court appointed Messrs. Lemont and McCormick receivers of the plant, which comprised four great sawmills and owned some 400,000 acres of land in Florida and Alabama. Later he reorganized the affairs of the bankrupt company and erected the South States Lumber Company, of Pensacola, Florida, of which he remained the present and active head until the last.
Possessed of a remarkably clear and judicial mind, Mr. Lemont commanded the respect of his business associates, as he always received the admiration and love of those who were so fortunate as to be thrown into more intimate relations with him. He was a wide and careful reader, a deed thinker and a calm and unprejudiced reasoner. He owned one of the most extensive and best-selected libraries in Louisville, and was informed on all topics. He was a delightful companion and a charming host.
Although himself a Unitarian in belief, Mr. Lemont had long affiliated with Calvary Church, of this city, having been a pewholder for perhaps forty years, and for much of that time he was vestryman.
In 1859 he married Miss Emma Bleyle, of Albany, New York, who, with two children – Mrs. Philip F. Barbour and Mr. Seward F. Lemont, survives him.
The funeral service will take place at the family residence tomorrow afternoon at 2 o’clock. The curial will be in Cave Hill Cemetery.
In the 1910 census for Jefferson County, Emma, her children and grandchildren continue to live at the house on Fourth Street. Emma died November 24, 1918, in Manhattan, New York County, New York.
Jessie Lemont Barbour and her family continued to live in Louisville until her death November 28, 1940. Her brother Seward died in Nevada, California, April 21, 1932.