Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Phillip Seewald--Jeweler and Clock Maker Extraordinaire

Phillip Seewald
In the possession of his paternal great great great grandson

     Before I begin, I want to acknowledge the written work and research of two family members.  I have relied heavily on their books.  One, written by my husbands maternal great great great uncle, Judge William Lang, and his book, written in 1880 and Ted's maternal uncle, Howard Lewis Smith who published his book in 1997.

     Phillip Seewald and Louisa Lang Seewald are the maternal 3x great grandparents of my husband, Ted.  Phillip was the son of Ludwig Seewald and Sophia Correll.  He was born on September 26 1799 in Sippersfeld, Bavarian Palatinate, Germany.  Louisa, daughter of George Ludwig Henry Lang and Catherine Scheutz, was born on February 26, 1802 in Bavaria, Germany.

     The immigration and gradual movement across pioneer America of the Seewalds from Philadelphia to Tiffin, Ohio is well documented in the History of Seneca County published in 1880  by William Lang, page 255-257.  As noted in the book's article, all three of Philips sons; John Louis Seewald, William Henry Seewald and John Philip Seewald, carried on the family trade of jeweler.

     At the end of the Seewald section of William Lang's book, it mentions that Philip Seewald began making tower clocks in his later years.  Lang credits Philip Seewald with the building of the clock located in the clock tower near the Seneca County Courthouse.  

     Phillip and Louisa Seewald arrived in Seneca County, Ohio in 1833 with three children.  Phillip's brother, Valentine Seewald and his family also made the journey to Ohio.  Early land records show that Phillip and Valentine purchased land in Liberty Township in Seneca County on August 30, 1833.  

     The above, typewritten piece of Seewald and Lang history, was copied from an article in the Tiffin newspaper.

     There is a question.  Did the Seewald's arrive in Tiffin, Clinton Township and then purchase land in Liberty Township and live there for an unknown amount of time before moving to Tiffin?

     I found this description of a look at the early town of Tiffin in Uncle Howards book (Smith page 8).  The early, courageous pioneers had the awesome task of clearing the land and building their homes from the trees that they cleared.  Where the family lived while this was accomplished, along with finding a food source where daily issues.      

     Both Phillip and Valentine are enumerated in the 1840 Ohio census living in Tiffin.

     During the next ten years four additional children were added to the growing family.

Known children of Phillip and Louisa Seewald:

  1.  Katherine Seewald (my husbands maternal great great grandmother), 1825-1899, married Jacob Oster.
  2.  Philipina Seewald, 1829-1877, married William Zoeller.
  3. John Louis Seewald--1831-1904, married Susan Victoria Orwig.
  4. Sophia Seewald, 1834-1837 
  5. William Henry Seewald, 1836-1914, married Mary Josephine Cornelius and Katherine Agnes Finane.
  6. Louisa Seewald, 1840-1899, married Henry C. Spindler.
  7. John Phillip Seewald, 1842-1929, married Marcella Duryee.  
     On August 28, 1837, the Seewald family suffered the loss of their daughter and sibling, Sophia Seewald at the tender age of three. I have not seen a burial marker for little Sophia; however, imagine she is buried in Greenlawn Cemetery.


     About ten years after arriving in Tiffin, Louisa Lang Seewald died on February 8, 1843 at the age of forty-three.  She is buried in Greenlawn Cemetery, Tiffin, Seneca County, Ohio.  

     The 1850 Ohio census has a listing in the City of Tiffin for Philip Seawalt, watch maker with $2,500 value of real estate owned.  

     On September 28, 1850, fifty-one year old Philip Sewald married forty year old Elizabeth Staib in Seneca County, Ohio.  

     Sophia Catherine Seewald, the ony child born to Phillip and Elizabeth, was born on September 22, 1854 in Tiffin, Seneca County, Ohio.  

The What, How And Who Of It:  An Ohio Community in 1856-1880, 1997
by Howard Smith
page 1

     My husband's, Uncle Howard Smith, wrote a well researched book regarding Tiffin, Ohio, The What, How and Who Of It:  An Ohio Community in 1856-1880.  He presents the reader with a stroll down South Washington Street, referred to as Main Street, in 1856.  One of the merchants, Phillip Seewald, Uncle Howards, paternal great great grandfather, is mentioned.  

Baughman's History of Seneca County Ohio
Volume I
page 134

       Between Uncle Howard's and the History of Seneca County references, I can put the location of Phillip's home and shop on an old Tiffin map.  

     Tiffin was a growing and thriving community by 1859.  I was surprised at the large number of businesses and merchants listed in Frank Dildine's book.  Phillip Seewald was not the only jeweler in town (Dildine, 70).  Tiffin also was home to Heidelberg Theological College.  A personal note regarding Heidelberg.  It became Heidelberg College and most recently is now known as Heidelberg University.  My husband and I are graduates and met there our senior year.

     Fifty year old Phillip is enumerated in the 1860 Ohio census along with his wife, Elizabeth, his youngest son, Phillip and daughter Sophia.  His occupation is silver smith with the value of his real estate and personal real estate are both at $2,500.  His son, Louis and family are enumerated on the same page.  

The Tiffin Tribune
Thursday, September 17, 1874

     Sometime in the 1860's Phillip was commissioned to create a town clock.  There are written records of the Tiffin City Council paying Phillip for the rent, maintenance and winding of the clock from 1869-1874.

The Tiffin Tribune
May 9, 1867

     By 1867, Phillip's son, Louis Seewald, decided to  improve the jewelry store and moved it to a new location  across the street from the court house.  A newspaper article mentions that Louis and his father had a disagreement about the size of the store and the types of goods sold.  I am not clear about Phillip continuing to operate his shop or if he retired.    
     There is a series of articles in the Tiffin newspaper beginning in 1870 questioning the height of the steeple on the court house.  Trees in the front yard had grown to a height and the Seewald clock  was beginning to be hidden behind the foliage.  By 1873, a newspaper article questioned whether the Seewald clock should remain in the Court House steeple.  Residents thought that it should be moved to the steeple of the First Methodist Church.  The Court House was raised in 1883 and the new town clock was built by Phillip's son, Louis Seewald.  I have not been able to know what happened to the original clock when the court house was destroyed.

     Phillip was involved in several community organizations.  In 1869, several existing early pioneers gathered to organize a Pioneer's Association and Phillip Seewald was elected the vice president (Barnes48-49). In 1870, with the outset of the Franco-German War, the large number of German residents in Tiffin organized to send money back to Germany to assist the wounded soldiers and residents.  Phillip Seewald was a leading member of the organization (Smith 210).  Uncle Howard also lists Phillip as a member and one of the vice presidents of the 1876 Centennial celebration (Smith, 200).  

The Tiffin Tribune
November 2, 1871

The Tiffin Tribune
January 11, 1872

     The 1870's saw Phillip renting and selling off some of his property at the corner of Madison and South Washington Street.  At age seventy- three he also decided to build a new brick house on the rear of his lot and once built had a fall from a ladder.  

     Phillip Seewald died at age seventy-nine on October 30, 1878.  He is buried in the Seewald section of Greenlawn Cemetery, Tiffin, Seneca County, Ohio.  

     Phillip's second wife, Elizabeth Staib Seewald, died in Cleveland, Cuyahoga County, Ohio on August 24, 1900.  She was living with her married daughter's family.  Her body was interred in Greenlawn Cemetery, Tiffin, Seneca County, Ohio

 Additional Information    

     Another one of Philip's tower clocks is still in operation in Hudson, Michigan.  According to an article in the Toledo Blade, March 1, 1982, page 6, Future of Old Clock Has Hudson Wound Up, the Hudson clock was originally in Fremont, Ohio and was subsequently moved to Hudson in front of his son and namesake, John Philip Seewald's, jewelry store.

     This clock's movement was built by Phillip and his son and namesake, John Phillip Seewald in 1859 and was housed in a church tower in Fremont, Ohio.  Phillip had a brother-in-Law, Reverend Henry Lang, a Lutheran minister had a church in Fremont.  Perhaps the clock was in Henry's church tower.  The clock was removed from Fremont and taken to Hudson, Michigan to be placed in front of the younger Phillip Seewald's jewelry store.  

     The Seneca County Courthouse and clock tower were razed early this year (2012) following protests by local groups and even a failed request to the Ohio Supreme Court.  There was a quote by a local resident that I found in a Toledo Blade article, "Watching the 107-foot clock tower of Seneca County's 1884 courthouse come down piece by dusty piece Thursday, the resident conceded most people considered the tower ugly." "I wasn't too fond of it either, but the original one was underneath it and it could've been brought back," he said.  I know  Aunt Betty said that the clock that was destroyed was not the Seewald clock; however, recent research shows that the clock hidden underneath was the one built and designed by Louis Seewald in 1883.

     I have been working lately on my husband's Seewald genealogy and it was amazing to learn just how many descendants of  Philip Seewald continued his business in jewelry and clock making.  The Seewald's fanned out across America and generations have provided new customers with beautiful articles of jewelry and time pieces.

     There is a wonderfully informative biography in the Lang book, pages 255-257.  Judge Lang was well acquainted with Philip Seewald, his brother-in-law.  I especially wanted to crop and post the section regarding Phillip's character and physical appearance.

Other spellings of Philip Seewald:  Phillip Seewald, Johann Phillip Seewald.


Barnes, Myron Bruce.  Between the Eighties Tiffin Ohio 1880-1980, Seneca County Museum Association, 1982.

Baughman, Abraham J.  History of Seneca County Ohio, Volume I, The Lewis Publishing Company, New York-Chicago, 1911, page 134.

Dildine, Frank.  From Wilderness to City History of Tiffin and Seneca County, Ohio, Seneca County Genealogical Society, 1999, page 70.

Lang, William.  History of Seneca County From the Close Of The Revolutionary War until July 1880, Transcript Printing Company, Springfield, Ohio, 1880.

Smith, Howard.  The What, How And Who Of It:  An Ohio Community in 1856-1880, 1997.

Updated:  November 2022
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© 2012, copyright Linda Hughes Hiser


  1. My dad was JUST telling me how my 2 or 3x great grandfather Seewald made the tower clock in Tiffin! I sent him this link, and we have a lot to add! My name is Dana Funk, my dads name is Russ Funk, his mother was a Seewald. Are you and your husband in the Toledo, OH area? Email anytime, I'd love to pass along the email! Missdana419@aol.com

  2. Did Philip in your research go to Amarillo? If so then I am of this Seewald line.

    would love to compare trees.

    wendellmk@hotmail.com My Maternal Great Grandmother is Agnes Seewald

  3. Philipp is my 5th Great Grandfather. Thank you very much for this information. I was able to find the book your reference and believe I may have found his military record from when he was in the Bavarian army, also mentioned in that book. I also ran into this: http://www.senecacountymuseum.com/ Which seems to show a picture of Philipp as well as a secretary he crafted. I have also found records of a Philipp Seewald who as in the 55th Ohio Infantry but am not 100% convinced it is our Philip. He is listed as a musician and I have not seen any reference to support he had every been a musician much less one in the military.

  4. My great grandfather (my fathers mothers father) was named Phillip H. Seewald. He was born in Ft Smith Arkansas. He and his wife Pink Adams Seewald moved from old Tascosa Texas to Amarillo Texas and were pioneers in this area. He was the first jeweler/watchmaker between Denver and Dallas. He died here in Amarillo in the 1930's.

  5. Hi All. I believe I have a portrait of Philip Seewald along with a tall clock (grandfather's clock) he build in my home in Virginia My great aunt was Cora Seewald...my maternal grandmother was Katherine Horton (Bunn) of Tifton Ohio. Cheers! Jonathan Lyle

  6. Ms Hiser, I found your blog after doing research on My G. Grandfather, whose law office was in the same building in Amarillo as P.H. Seewald. I have a photo of the three men in front of the building taken in Amarillo in 1892 and you are welcome to a copy if you want. Paul Martin

  7. After trying to bully my grandson into adopting an antique China closet & my antiques, I googled Seewald Jewelry Store in Amarillo. I have a beautiful & perfect specialty plate, white China with gold bands around the edge & a script capital “S” painted. These plates were gifts to patrons on the opening day of the store. My family ladies were friends of Agnes & Edith & I met them many years ago.

  8. I would love a copy he is my great great grandfather!

  9. I think I may have a couple old men’s pockets watches from your family I currently found in my grandfathers things. I was curious to know for sure possibly? Thank you