This Year, Alaska Celebrates Seward's Day On March 25th... But Who Was William Seward?

MARCH 25TH, 2024 IS SEWARD'S DAY  William Seward Was Almost Murdered On His Way To Buying Alaska  COPPER RIVER COUNTRY JOURNAL COMMENTAR...


William Seward Was Almost Murdered On His Way To Buying Alaska 


William Seward (Wikipedia) 

The town of Seward is named after William H. Seward, a dour-faced politician who, 
in the various photos and statues of him that are scattered around Alaska, seemed almost as strange-looking as his boss, Abraham Lincoln. 

Seward was a rumpled, pixie-like man. For him, every day was a "bad hair" day. 

Yet, he was famous. William H. Seward was the negotiator for the United States who bought Alaska in 1867 from the Russians for 22 cents an acre. 

(If you've every wondered what your property is historically worth, this means that the land everyone in the Copper Valley now lives on has an original and official sales value. It has already been bought and sold at least once in the past, and was evaluated at 22 cents.) 

Many Americans thought the United States paid too much.  

Scoffers blamed the purchase on William Seward. They called the expensive, frosty, isolated U.S. territory "Seward's Folly" or more relevantly, "Seward's Icebox." 

Yet every spring the people of Seward – and the rest of the state – celebrate "Seward's Day," commemorating the purchase of an Alaska that otherwise might still be a remote part of Russia. 

The day Alaska was purchased was a big one. But, hidden in the mists of history was an even more terrible and defining day for the puckish William Seward. And that anniversary date is April 14th. 


On April 14th, 1865, two years before the acquisition of Alaska, the President of the United States was shot and killed while watching a play with his wife from box seats in the balcony of a stuffy little theater in Washington, D.C. 

John Wilkes Booth (who was a well-known actor at Ford's Theater and who could freely go anywhere he wanted within that theater), came after Abraham Lincoln with a gun. He shot him from behind. 

But Lincoln wasn't the only target. Booth had accomplices, who fanned out across the city to make similar preemptive strikes on other U.S. leaders. 

As Booth took care of Lincoln. a man named Lewis Powell was sent to murder William Seward, the Secretary of State. And another Confederate was dispatched to kill Andrew Johnson, the Vice President. 

William Seward was lying in bed the night the assassin struck. Travel was tough back in the 1860s, even in urban centers. The automobile wouldn't be invented until 1886, twenty years later.

But you could get hurt out there on those dirt roads – even before there were car wrecks. 

When Lewis Powell rushed into his home, William Seward was trying to recover from multiple broken bones suffered over a week before in a horse carriage accident. His jaw and right arm were broken, and he had cracked his head. He was hardly in a position to fight back.

Powell carried with him a large knife. It was night when the would-be killer made his way into Seward's house, found Seward in his bed, and began hacking at the man's face. For good measure, he also stabbed several other people, including some of Seward's grown children. 

Seward did fight back, and he survived, despite the fact that he was stabbed repeatedly in the face and neck. 

And then he went on to buy Alaska. 

Statue Of William Seward At Anchorage Loussac Library (Photo by Country Journal) 

By the time the small Alaskan coastal city of Seward officially incorporated in 1912, all those gruesome details about Mr. Seward and his trials had blessedly been smoothed over. 

William H. Seward was important. He had bought Alaska. He deserved to have both a town and a day named after him. Seward is that town – and this is that day. 


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