Seitz Site

Enoch B. Seitz Was a 'Teacher of The Great'

These pages are from the magazine section of the Oct. 8, 1933 edition of The Herald-Advertiser of Huntington, W.Va. Unfortunately, I have not yet found any information on the writer, R.C. Hall, but I have seen a similar article he did on another individual. It appears he wrote a regular feature combining history and genealogy. The complete text is found below. A link to corrections of the article's genealogical errors can be found at the end of the article.

One of the Country's Greatest Mathematicians Was Born in Ohio, Acquired an Education Only After the Greatest Struggle, and Had Such Pupils as General Pershing and Former Governor Carroll


When a teacher has a pupil who becomes truly great it may be largely the result of the pupil's own effort or it may be partly at least the result of the inspiration and knowledge imparted by the instructor. No doubt !t is more often a result of both, with many contributing factors, while as has been said some people "have greatness thrust upon them," and it is not much due to their own effort or that of any instructor that they have reached a position which the world calls "great."

But when one teacher's pupil are found In numbers among the leadIng military and civil officers of the nation as well as among the outstanding business and professional men of the country and when numbers of these same outstanding citizens after many years love to point to him as a model gentleman and a genius in his line of study, It would seem safe to say that that instructor had more than a little to do with the success which has come to so many of his former pupils. Such an honor which has come to few. at least in so great a degree, came to a once poor Ohio boy, later known and honored throughout the educational world as one of its greatest mathematicians.

Enoch Beery Seitz was born on the 26th day of August, in the year 1846, near New Bremen, in Fairfield County, Ohio. Although he had practically no early opportunities, he came from a family that on both his mother's and father's side had already exhibited signs of true greatness and one that has since produced a number of more than ordinarily distinguished men and women.

The Seitz Family

The Seitz family came to America from Baden-Baden, Germany, in 1730. Of this family, Daniel Seitz was born in Rockingham county, Virginia, in 1791. He married Catherine Beery who was born in 1807 and who was a member of the Beery family which came to America from Switzerland, in 1720.

It may be well to mention here a third family which came to this country about the same time as the Seitz family. This third was the Kellar family which migrated from Germany also. There have been many intermarriages among these three families during the past two centuries so that It Is practically impossible to consider the family connections of any one member of either of them without getting into the history of one or both of the others. Accordingly the great names of one family are shared by the others. Thus among the relatives of Professor Seitz are Noah and Wallace Beery, the noted moving picture actors, on the one hand, and Helen Kellar, the blind and deaf prodigy, on the other. Among other present day notables who are also his relatives, may be mentioned United States Senator Clarence Dill of Washington.

When they first came to this country, the Seitz, Beery and Kellar families all settled In and about York, Pennsylvania, and the records at the county court house at York in that state. show many original entries of land made out to members of all three direct from the proprietor, William Penn. Under these circumstances -- three families of much the same ideals and nationality migrating so far at about the same time and settling near each other in a strange land -- it was perhaps natural that they should Intermarry to a great extent just these have done.

Youngest of Nineteen

But to return to the professor more immediate kindred. One member of the Seitz family pushed down from Pennsylvania to Virginia where, as we have seen, Daniel Seitz was born. While still a young man he married and had 11 children. It would be Interesting to learn more of him but since this sketch deals chiefly with his illustrious son, we must pass on with but a brief reference to him previous to his second marriage.

Daniel Seitz married for his second wife Catherine Beery, his third cousin, and shortly afterward with his bride and the 11 children by his former wife, set out for a new home in Ohio. Reaching the Ohio river they came on down it and the Hocking by boat to Fairfield county. After settling therd Daniel Seitz had, by his second wife, nine more children. Enoch Beery Seitz was the eighth child of the second set, but since the last one died In infancy, Enoch was raise as the baby In a family of I9 children.

It was not the custom, In those days, however, to "spoil" the baby of a family. At least it was not in such families as the Seitz family and In such communities as those of Fairfield county at that time. For the family was essentially a hard pioneer family with strict Ideas of duty. while the community in which it had'settled must have been not far removed from real frontier conditions, almost two decades before the Civil War.

Early Training

Enoch Beery Seitz was born on August 26, 1846, as has been said, and so could have had little advantages of early education since no efficient public schools existed in Ohio at that time. What few common schools were available were few and far between while the teachers were generally poorly prepared and the equipment negligible. Moreover, If one succeeded in preparing for higher studies, he had to go to some academy or college preparatory department to prepare for college unless he could acquire enough knowledge by himself to pass the entrance examinations, for high schools were unknown.

This will give some Idea of the obstacles Enoch Beery Seitz had to overcome to secure an education, but there were added difficulties for him not to be observed in this picture of general conditions. His father strenuously objected to his going to college.

His father was described In the language of the day as a "Straight laced, God fearing, hard shelled Baptist," and also as a "fireside preacher" meaning doubtless that he was a sort of irregular preacher In the most conservative branch of the Baptist denomination. Thus he was doubtless a good citizen in the usual meaning of the term and a man who wished well for his family, but one who could not see the need for education and training for his children beyond what he had himself attained. Perhaps, too he was influenced somewhat by the necessity, or what be considered the necessity, of keeping his children at work on the farm.

Thirst For Knowledge

At any rate, we learn that Enoch while still a mere boy was following a plow like an old hand at the business. But we also learn that from his earliest years he had athirst for knowledge which nothing would quench. He managed to avail himself of all the knowledge of the teachers of the vicinity, but within a few years had gone far beyond them all, especially In his knowledge of mathematics. So great was his interest in this subject that he arranged a shelf on his plow and thus by "borrowed time" continued his studies while doing his work on the farm.

Enoch's mother was a more liberal and broad minded person than his father so that after the death of the latter she was perfectly willing that the boy should satisfy his great desire and attend college. AccordIngly It was soon arranged and accordingly he entered Ohio Wesleyan university, where he attracted much attention by his genius for mathematics and by which Institution he was graduated in the year 1870. His friend, Professor John S. Royer, said of him:

"Having a special fondness for mathematics, he devoted his leisure hours to the broad fields and hidden beauties of Its higher branches, delving deep Into the mine of origInal investigation, and astonishing the world by the aptness with which he unfolded the beautiful and mysterious relations of numbers."

A Magazine Writer

During his youth, Mr. Seitz subscribed to the "Schoolday" magazine which had a department of mathematics which was edited by the great mathematician Artemus Martin. Mr. Seitz displayed so great skill in solving the problems in this magazine, especially probability problems of great difficulty that he was asked what books he had and what studies he had pursued on that exceedingly difficult branch of mathematics. Astounding as it was, he replied: "I have no books on that subject, but what I know of it I earned. by studying the problems and solutions in your magazine."

Meanwhile. Mrs. Seitz had moved to Greenville, in Darke county, Ohio, and Enoch taught several terms of school In that vicinity where he endeared himself to the hearts of the people as be apparently always did wherever he went, for In addition to being a genius in mathmatics he also proved to be a skilled teacher and a young man of pleasing personality, three qualities which are seldom blended in one person. After graduating at Ohio Wesleyan university, Mr. Seitz was chosen as one of the teachers in the Greenville high school, as by that time some of the more progressive towns of Ohio had established these modern institutions of learning.

On the 24th day of June, In the year 1875, Professor Seitz married Miss Anna E. Kerlin, and about four years later, in 1879, he was elected to the chair of mathematics in the Kirksville State Normal college, at Kirksville, Missouri. It was in this position that he attained his greatest fame, as an instructor, although the full force of hisinfluence was not felt until years afterward when so many of his pupils attained positions of influence and power. It was while there, too, that the educational world seems to have come to a fuller realization of his genius as a mathematician.

Therefore a brief history of the institution, now known as the Northeast Missouri State Teachers' college of Kirksville will not be out of place.

Founded In 1867

The Northeast Missouri State Teachers college was founded, on September 2, 1867, by Joseph Baldwin and was at first called the North Missouri Normal school. it was made the First District Normal school of the state by an act of the general assembly of Missouri March 19, 1870. On the first of the following January it began work as a state institution. It will thus be seen that the school was rather in its infancy when Professor Seitz became a member of its faculty. But the firm foundation laid by him and others is still bearing fruit, for this school is still one of the leading educational institutions of Missouri.

An act of the general assembly of May 20, 1919 changed its name to the Northeast Missouri State Teachers college, while In February, 1928, It was placed on the first list of teachers colleges in the United States by the American Association of Teachers Colleges. In March of the same year it was accredited on the list of colleges and universities by the North Central Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools.

A few years ago Baldwin Hall and the old Library Building were destroyed by fire. The latter has been replaced, by the Pickler Memorial library, and was dedicated In 1925. Science hall, which was erected in 1905, was also burned In 1919, but has likewise been restored. The Friendly Little theater, the John R. Kirk auditorium and the Ophelia Parrish building are other fine structures adorning the beautiful campus of 15 acres at Kirksville. Three blocks from the campus is the college farm of 25 acres and there also Is located the stadium. The school is under the guidance of a well trained and efficient faculty some of whom were students there in the time of Mr. Seitz' professorship.

Famous Student

When Professor Seitz went to Kirksville, in spite of the youth of the institution, he found an enthnsiastic and capable body of students. He entered upon his work with his usual energy and the results of it are still felt throughout the country. He had in his class in algebra at one time, in the autumn of 1880, John J. Pershing who was destined to be the head of the armies of the United States In the World War, and Enoch Crowder who became head of the draft boards in the same conflict. He also had as a student at Kirksville. B F. Carroll, who later became governor of the state of Iowa, and John. R. Kirk who became president of the same institution in which he was then a student of Professor Seitz.

Meanwhile. children had come to bless the home of Professor and Mrs. Seitz. Their eldest child, Ray E. Seitz, was born on October 30, 1870; William Kerlin Seitz, born on October 19, 1879; Clarence Daniel Seitz, born on October 1881, died In 1886; and Enoch Beery Seitz, Jr.. born on July 26, 1883. All of the surviving children hold positions of Importance and show the effects of a good inheritance and the noble example and training of their parents.

Professor Seitz as time permitted continued his studies and research in the higher branches of mathematics. His greatest work was in"probabilities" In which be succeeded in solving problems hitherto considered impossible of solution by the greatest students In the mathematical world. To the School Visitor alone be furnished over 500 model solutions. The best scholars of the day pronounced them striking evidences of his genius as a mathematician and stated that his solutions exhibited originality. accuracy and beauty in a marvelous degree.

Elected To Society

It is said that many readers acquired a liking for mathematics which they would perhaps never otherwise have had through his enthusiastic labors in this line. He became a regular contributor to the "Analyst," the "Mathematical Visitor" and the "Educational Times," of London, England.

In commenting upon his rank among other contributors to the latter publication, one historian has written:

"The latter has a department sustained by the greatest mathematicians in Europe and America. In this everything Is found starlight, but our lamented friend represented a most brilliant star, standing upon the eminent plane side by side with Woolhouse, England's acknowledged mathematical champion, and In his especial branches -- 'Average' and 'Probabilitles' -- Prof. Seitz had no superior in the world."

In the year 1880. Professor Seitz was elected a member of the London Mathematical society, being the second American to receive this honor. However, he, was more interested In his work itself than in such honors for he did not even reply to the notification that he had been elected a member or the Royal Society until about two years after he received it. Such action was In line with his natural modesty and carelessness of what many people call honors and not because of a lack of appreciation for the respect in which he was held by scholars generally.

An Untimely End

The real genius of Professor Seitz was just beginning to receive just recognition when his career came to an untimely end. His predecessor at Kirksville, Professor J. M. Greenwood who resigned there to become superintendent of schools at Kansas City, Missouri, and who was In an excellent position. both because of his own ability and his knowledge of Professor Seitz to speak with authority on the subject, wrote a great many magazine articles during the decade from 1880 to 1890 concerning the great contribution Mr. Seitz made to the mathematical world. In the summer of 1883, Professor Seitz was chosen to head the department of mathematics in the University of Texas and was to have taken up this new work in the autumn of the year 1884 but did not live to enter upon it.

It is interesting to note that his mother who had shown faith in him In his youth when his father opposed his going to school lived to see his great triumph both as an educator and a scholar. During the last three years of his life she resided with him at Kirksville. After his death, she returned to Ohio and made her home with her eldest daughter In Putnam county. It Is also interesting to note that whereas Professor Seitz himself passed away at the early age of 37 years while his mother lived to be 96 years of age and his sister, who passed away but a few months ago, lacked but five months of reaching the century mark.

Scholar And Teacher

It is a proverbial saying that great scholars are poor teachers. While, of course. this is not always so, yet,the exceptlons seem to practically prove the rule. It seems that the scholar is generally unable to put himself down upon the same plane of learning as his pupil, fails to get his viewpoint and to appreciate his limited range of knowledge in the subject and consequently talks above his head. But such was not the case with Professor Seitz. Although he was one of the greatest mathematicians of his day he was able to take a class In college algebra, for instance, and make it so interesting and teach it so efficiently that practically every one in the class caught something at least of his own enthusiasm for the science of numbers.

Nor was this merely the enthusiasm of youth. Many of his former students, looking back now after years of experience and learning, still recognize his marvelous ability as a teacher and love to pay tribute to him as a teacher, a scholar and a gentleman. For instance, the Hon. B. F. Carroll, former governor of Iowa, in a personal communication to this writer says:

"I was a student at the North Missouri State Normal school at Kirksville, Missouri, while Professor Enoch B. Seitz was at the head of the department of mathematics at that institution, and, knew him well, not only In the class room but elsewhere, and was with him at the time of his last illness. Six students were detailed to wait upon him, two each night, and I was one of the six.

An Unassuming Man

"He was one of the most unassuming, even tempered men that I have ever known, and one who by the very simplicity of his bearing commanded the highest respect. I never knew any one who In a few words could illuminate a perplexing proposition in mathematics as he could do it. His profound knowledge of mathematics never led him away from the simple method of Imparting knowledge to others who were lacking In knowledge.

"I have always felt that if his life had been spared, he would have become one of our most noted mathernaticians, as he was a great student, a remarkably successful instructor, and possessed all the elements of greatness."

As has been stated General John J. Pershing was also a student of Professor Seitz who tutored him for the West Point examinations. A few years ago a memorial high school was erected near the birthplace of the great mathematician at New Bremen, Ohio, and a memorial tablet dedicated to his memory was put in place together with his picture and a letter from General Pershing expressing his high regards for his former teacher and his sincere approval of what his old home town citizens were doing to honor him. Captain G. E. Adamson, the general's secretary, In the general's absence from Washington has sent the writer a copy of this interesting communication with permission to quote from it. The general says:

Pershing's Letter

"I am indeed pleased to learn of your plan to honor the memory of the late Enoch Beery Seitz by the erection of a tablet in your new high school.

"I remember Professor Seitz as a fine mathematician, for whom all of his pupils had the greatest respect. He not only had complete knowledge of mathematical subjects, but he knew how to teach others."

Such testimonials might be duplicated in substance many times but these from two such outstanding personages as the general of the armies of the United States and the honorable ex-govemor of the great state of Iowa are certainly sufficient, however interesting others might be.

Professor Seitz' earthly career was too short for him to give to the world in book form the result of his investigations and study, although he had amassed a wealth of material and, at the time of his death. was preparing to have published a text book on college algebra. Fortunately, his youngest son has r this material as well as hundreds of solutions of various problems which he prepared for publication and which appeared in various educational magazines throughout the country. It is the intention of this son, so he Informs the writer, to assemble all this material and present It with an endowment to his father's old school at Kirksville, Missouri, where he, his father and mother all taught and where he attended school.

Wife Also Taught

Speaking of his mother, Professor Seitz's wife was a worthy companion of so notable a man. She was a noble wife and mother but her most sterling qualities were manifested after the professor's death. He left her with a family of three boys to raise. Her great success in this as well as their good inheritanceis shown by the useful and successful lives these three have lived and the work they are still doing.

In addition to her family affairs. Mrs. Seitz in a sense took up the work her husband laid down, when a he passed away, i.e., the work of a college professo, although in a different line from his work. She became professor of psychology in the State Teachers' college at Kirksville. She held this position from 1883 to 1899. Then at an age when many people would have thought of doing nothing but retiring, she took up another line of work and took a five year course in osteopathy at the parent school in Kirksville. Her husband's remains having been brought back to his old home at Greenville, Ohio, for burial, she no doubt considered that place her real home, and after completing her course In osteopathy, she returned to Greenville and practiced her profession there until she passed away in the year 1918.

The relatives of great men and women are always interesting individuals, because of that relationship, but sometimes they are very much worth our consideration because of their own merit. It has already been shown that the relatives of Professor Seitz have in large numbers attained more than ordinary fame because of their own accomplishments.

Brothers and Sisters

So far we have considered only his ancestors but his own brothers and sisters should not be entirely omitted In a sketch of his life. Two of his brothers, Louis and George served in the Union army during the Civil War, the former died of typhoid fever In an army hospital while the latter Is still living In Los Angeles, California. He will be 92 years old next December. His sister, Saphrona Seitz Blosser, the oldest of the second set of children In the family, who was born In 1833, passed away in May 1932, thus lacking approximately one year of reaching the century mark. Another sister, Diana, married Dr. Joseph Morris of Columbus Grove, Ohio. Their child, Lizzie Morris, married Charles A. Harbaugh, chlef clerk of the budget, United States treasury, Washington, D.C. All of the brothers and sistes of both sets of children of the family, except as noted above, have now passed to their rewards.

It is interesting and important to note too that the descendants of Professor Seitz have lived right nobly up to the high standards of scholarship and service set by him. While perhaps none of them have and may never exhibit his remarkable genuis as a mathematician all of his surviving children, and that In all of them except the one who died in Infancy, are scholars of ability and are or have been educators and educational workers. A brief mention of each Is certainly in place here.

Ray E. Seitz received a good education in his father's old school at Kirksville, Missouri, and became a school teacher. When the World war broke out, that is, when theUnited States entered it, he patriotically offered his services to his country and became captain adjutant of the 142nd infantry, 35th division. After the war he re-entered the teaching profession and is now principal of a number of consolidated schools in Normandy, St. Louis county, Missouri.

Named After Death

William K. Seitz also received a good education, but before he took his university course he taught school also. Later he entered the University of Missouri where hegraduated in engineering. After graduation, he taught in the engineering school of the University of Missouri. Few men have had wider experience as a professional engineer and in as many and widely separated places. After teaching for a while at the University of Missouri, he became city engineer at St. Joseph, Missouri. Later he was city manager of the city of Melbourne, Florida. He is now consultant engineer for over 100 cities in three states, Missouri, Kansas and Nebraska.

Enoch Beery Seitz, Jr., the youngest son of professor and Mrs. Seitz was a mere Infant when his distinguished father passed away. In fact he was but 10 weeks old at that time and still unnamed. Six young men had been detailed to escort the remains of the great mathematician back to his old Ohio home. One of these six young men was B. F. Carroll, later governor of Iowa. These young men who had been so deeply influenced by the personality of their lamented instructor urged upon his widow that she give his name to the unnamed baby. This she did.

Enoch's Record

Like his brothers, Enoch secured a good education and for 12 years taught school and was superintendent of schools in various Missouri towns. Later he was a teacher in the department of psychology, State Teachers' college, Kirksville, Missouri. In conjunction with his brother William he built an East St. Louis river front, contract price of which was 76 million dollars. Thus it seems that he inherited some outstanding characteristics of both of his parents, his mother's love for psychoIogy and his father's love for mathematics. He Is now the head of a large washing and ironing machine company in Chicago, Illinois. He has kept his father's library intact and, as already stated, has many of his manuscripts, solutions, etc.

Even the grandchildren of Professor Seitz seem to be following in his footsteps so far as a desire for an education is concerned. Perhap one or more of them may also show something of his genius yet. William Kerlin Seitz, Jr., son of William K., and grandson of the mathematician, was born in 1913 and studied at the University of Missouri. Ruth Seitz, born in 1908, and Kerlin Seitz, born In 1916, are the children of Enoch Beery Seitz, Jr., and grandchildren of Professor Seitz, the former a graduate of Radcliffe college and the latter still in his student days, of course.

Thus we see how the high standard of scholarship and citizenship set by Enoch Beery Seitz is maintained by his children and grandchildren. Let us hope that it persists down through the succeeding generations. From all accounts his was a remarkable life.

Overcame Obstacles

Harassed In youth by obstacles that would have defeated most Individuals without a struggle, he overcame them all and attained his one great ambition, an education. Endowed with a genius in mathematics far beyond that of the average scholar he freely gave to the world the benefits of his study and research. Possessing . knowledge which few had, he was able in a marvelous way to transmit that knowledge to others and inspire in them a thirst for still greater knowledge.

Known to the educational world at large as one of its greatest mathematicians, the average American may take more pride in him, at least be more understanding of him as a teacher of many of the nation's great citizens and servants. General Pershing, General Crowder, Governor Carroll and Dr. Kirk are but a few of the dozens. If not hundreds, of distinguished Americans who came under his influence.

Although, all too many Americns never heard of Enoch Beery Seitz, it is high time that historians give him the place he deserves among their discussions of the nation's great. The state of Ohio should be proud that she gave him to the world and that his remains and those of his devoted wife and mother rest in her soil. The state of Missouri should be proud that he was once associated with one of her outstanding educational institutions. And every American should be proud that the savants of proud Britain felt bound to recognize him as one of the world's greatest mathematicians. The greatest tribute ever paid him, according to this writer's opinion, was unconsciously given by his youngest son who once remarked: "What a marvelous thing it is to be born among the humble, to secure enlightenment by fairly hypnotizing obstacles, to soar into heights as yet not trespassed, to do all this in 37 years and to earn after 50 years. a remembrance of tens of thousands."

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