Living

Who was this 1920’s prominent citizen of Handsboro? Here is his story

William S. Seaman is pictured with some of his family members in this circa 1920 photo.
William S. Seaman is pictured with some of his family members in this circa 1920 photo. Paul Jermyn Collection

This circa 1920 photo shows William S. Seaman (1868-1942), a prominent citizen of Handsboro (now east Gulfport), standing (left) by his home.

One of the young ladies standing by the front steps is William’s sister Emma Seaman, and the children sitting on the porch are likely his two daughters, Katherine and Sarah. Where the house was located is not known at this time, but the 1920 census shows that he resided on Cowan Road.

Seaman began his working life first as a farmer, but by 1900 he and Catherine, his wife of three months, owned a general merchandise store. After Catherine, age 26, died of typhoid fever in 1906, Seaman sold the business and began fruit farming on 80 acres of land along the north side of Bayou Bernard.

The Jan. 15, 1910, Daily Herald reported that the prosperous farm consisted of 1600 satsuma orange trees, with another 1000 just planted; 300 fig trees; and 500 hundred paper-shell pecan trees.

By 1920 Seaman had returned to the mercantile business. Whether farmer or businessman Seaman was an active civic leader. He served as Handsboro’s first alderman, when it incorporated as a municipality in 1899 (the charter was dissolved in 1920). As a member of the board of directors, Seaman helped plan the 1912 Harrison County Fair. Business-wise, he was a stockholder of the Gulf Cotton Oil and Fertilizer Works. Seaman remained a widower and a Handsboro merchant until his death at age 72.

Murella H. Powell, a local historian, writes the weekly Flashback column. Do you have a local photograph to submit to Flashback? It can be of any subject or event in the Coast's distant or recent past. Please send a description with your name, address and phone number to Flashback, Sun Herald, P.O. Box 4567, Biloxi MS 39535; call 896-2424; or email living@sunherald.com.

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