C.A. Seward

1884 - 1939

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One of C.A. Seward’s first paintings was a collaborative effort with his maternal grandfather, Dr. Godfrey Bohrer.  The letter they exchanged while Seward was engaged in making this painting reveals a great deal about Dr. Bohrer and his relationship with his grandson. For in a gentle yet precise manner, he helped his grandson to make his painting as full of detail and accurate as possible.


Dr. Bohrer’s father was killed when Godfrey was only eight years old, and he left home a few years later when it became obvious that his new stepfather did not value education. He knew he wanted to be a doctor, and by 1855 he had received his diploma to practice medicine.  He enlisted in the Union Army in October 1864 and served with the 34th Indiana Infantry in the last battle of the Civil War in the very southernmost part of Texas, at Palmetto Ranch. The surrender of Lee at Appomattox on April 9, 1865, was the technical end of the war, but Dr. Bohrer describes this last fight, “It was about 4 o’clock in the afternoon of May 13, 1865, that our small force collided with the Confederates at Palmetto Ranch.” Corydon Allen, surgeon of the 62nd U.S. Colored Troops, and Godfrey, acting surgeon of the 34th Indiana, were working together under heavy enemy fire.  Bohrer continued, “I was standing with folded arms near a stack of guns, when I saw one of our men drop his rifle and clasp his hand to his leg. I knew he had been hit by the way he had dropped his gun, and found that a ball had struck his leg near the thigh. After applying a temporary bandage I sent him to the rear. He was the last of our men to be wounded and he recovered.” After the war, he returned to his family and continued his medical practice for twelve years. 


In 1873, he moved his family from a comfortable life in Indiana, and joined other veterans moving west to claim their 160 acre bounty land and a promise of a fine future. On the way, his eight year-old son died, and was buried in Missouri along the trail leading west. Dr. Bohrer took up his claim eight miles south east of Lyons, Kansas and just south of the Santa Fe Trail.  From the prairie, he cut sod and built a house, with a small barn, a hen house, and dog house all of sod. The family moved in to the house in November 1873. The main buildings had grass roofs. Some of the dimension timbers in the roof of the soddy were taken by Dr. Bohrer from a bridge over Little Cow Creek on the Santa Fe Trail.  By March 1880, he had broken 125 acres and had over 700 apple trees and other trees growing on his new land.


Later, he left this home and built a splendid house southeast of Chase, Kansas where he planted the biggest orchard in the county. He was an ardent apiarist and a founding member of the state horticultural society. Dr. Bohrer was also an ardent bee keeper and one of the founders of the Kansas State Beekeepers Association. He was also active in the National Beekeeper’s Association. At the 1870 convention in Indianapolis, Dr. Bohrer was elected Vice-President. He continued this activity throughout his life, writing numerous articles for the National Bee Journal, and giving frequent lectures throughout Kansas. In 1906, Dr. Godfrey Bohrer  gave a speech at the National Beekeeper's Convention in San Antonio. He was the oldest member at the convention, and his talk marked “the contrast of the harsh feelings between the North and the South and the present brotherly feeling of being a Union. The speech, according to the writer, was so full of feeling that it brought tears to the eyes of several old Confederates still present.”


Dr. Bohrer was the first physician in Rice County, Kansas, and served the whole western half of the county when sudden illness overtook the scattered settlers.  One day, in the early days of his residence in Kansas, he noticed in the distance, an Indian who had fallen from his horse. He went to him and found that he had broken his leg. Dr. Bohrer splinted the leg and the Indian went on his way. After that he would periodically appear at Dr. Bohrer’s house, and would lead him off for some distance, where Dr. Bohrer would find other Indians who needed medical attention.


When not given to medicine, his attention was usually centered in politics. There are few of the settlers of the seventies and eighties who did not witness the doctor riding his familiar saddle horse, "Old Blaze," from schoolhouse to schoolhouse on speaking tours. His first campaign was waged on the promise to secure cheaper flour for his constituents. In those days, Sterling, Kansas, had the only mill in the county, and it exacted a toll of one-fourth of all grain the settlers brought to its doors for grinding. Dr. Bohrer forced this toll down to one-eighth, secured by a state legislative act. Later in the Populist days, he was a bitter foe of the railroads and helped the reduce the passenger fare from five to three cents a mile. At Topeka, where he served in the Kansas Legislature in 1876 and 1877 and again in 1883 and 1884, he was known as the "swearing member from Rice," because of his picturesque and emphatically punctuated language when debate wasn't going to suit his fancy.  He never missed a Democratic or Populist convention in this district until his party became the minority. During the years of the grasshopper invasion he went to Washington as a member of the committee sent to secure relief for the people of the State.


Photographic images of Dr. Bohrer show him as a stern man,  but given his history in medicine and politics, he was probably a man of remarkable personality, although his eccentricities were not entirely concealed. Before his death he selected his own monument, had his name chiseled into the granite and had it erected on a lot in Graceland cemetery in Chase, Kansas where he was buried in 1920. His wife, Bethana, was buried there two years later.

 

22 April 1833, Brown Co.,Ohio

14 February 1920, Chase, Kansas


Education:

Eclectic Medical Institute, Cincinnati, OH 1855

Professional Positions & Honors:

   Doctor

   Farmer

Kansas State Legislature 1876 & 1883

Beekeeper &  President State Bee Keepers Association

Vice President Rice County Horticultural Society when organized in 1871











At the 1906 National Beekeeper's Convention in San Antonio, Dr. Godfrey Bohrer received a bouquet for being the oldest member of the National Beekeeper's Convention.

 

Mentor & Grandfather - Dr. Godfrey Bohrer

Images on this page (top to bottom, left to right): Seward - plaster bas relief of his grandparents, Dr. Godfrey & Bethana Boggess Bohrer, photograph of Seward’s painting “Old Soddy” depicting his grandfather’s first home in Kansas, photograph of Dr. and Mrs. Bohrer, family photograph & Bethana Bohrer with her two daughters, Hettie Ann (C.A. Seward’s mother) and Emma. The Bohrer Family tombstone.

Resources:    Hunt, Jeffrey Wm., The Last Battle of the Civil War: Palmetto Ranch, University of Texas Press, Austin (2002): 96.

  Lyons Daily News, Dr. Godfrey Bohrer interview, 1913.

  Horn, Tamara, Bees in America. University of Kentucky Press (2003): 115, referencing Bohrer’s obituary written by Franck. C. Pellett in the American Bee Journal 60, no. 3 (1920).

Return to Seward MentorsMentors_%26_Teachers.html

Descendants:

Five children lived to adulthood, two died young.  

Nine grandchildren lived to adulthood.

 

Additional information on Dr. Godfrey Bohrer may be found at:

http://www.andersonmchs.com/mortons-rifles.php