The Bizarre Story Of Mary Tallman 1832-1899

Authors note: From real-estate transfers I had known for a number of years about Mary being married to a “Peck”, but, until Feb of 2016, who he was, remained a mystery. It also ties together the story of a quilt passed from Ruth ‘Tallman’ Fenner to her daughter Mary to my parents that had belonged to Spiddy ‘Vandermark’ as my parents had no idea who Spiddy was. Mary Peck eventually moved back and lived with Ruth until she was committed to a home as an incompetent.

First the background information needs to be provided in order to start this bizarre story. Mary Tallman married her childhood sweetheart from Dutchess County John J. Losee and settled on a farm in Chautauqua County, New York. John, was a volunteer in the Union Army, and like tens of thousands of others would lose his life in the conflict. Mary had a farm near Laona in the Town of Pomfret, her brother James worked it until his marriage to Martha Vastbinder in 1872. She then had a hired hand until she sold it to her brother in 1885.

Seeley or Sealey Peck was born in Connecticut and settled on a farm near Phelps, in Ontario County, New York, near the head of Lake Seneca. He was married to Spiddy Vandemark who died August 18, 1871; they had one daughter Mary “Libbe” E. b. 1846 she died December 8, 1878.

Story: I’m making an assumption but, either she made the connection to Seeley through her Newton relatives who also lived in Junius near Phelps, or maybe, an ad placed in a newspaper for a companion. Such practices were common in the 1800’s for widowers and lonely bachelors. In late summer or early fall of 1879 she began a correspondence that consisted of twenty-seven letters between them. Eleven of them contained enough financial arrangements to satisfy her into marrying Seeley. The wedding took place the 9th of March 1880 at the home of her sister Ruth at the corner of Spring St and 5th Street in Jamestown. The ceremony was performed by the Rev. Emory Jones of the Methodist Episcopal Church. It’s known that her sister Ruth, brother-in-law James Fenner and sister Charlotte Tallman attended. They left immediately following the ceremony for Phelps. In her letters she asked for suitable compensation, because her current income consisted of a pension from the loss of her husband John in the Civil War. If she remarried she would have to forfeit the pension. Shortly after returning from the wedding they went into Phelps accompanied by her uncle William H. Newton and William Vandemark to draw up a Will by Attorney Spence in Phelps. William Vandemark was named as Administrator and William Newton was witness. The following year her Aunt, Jane Ann Newton (William’s older sister) was to marry her third husband William Anson Collamer of Waterloo, New York. Apparently the Tallman’s were made aware of it, and Mary invited them to be married at their residence in Phelps. The wedding took place on 2 June 1881, officiated by Rev. M. Wheeler of the Methodist Episcopal Church. Now the bizarre part, what happens next and of course no one except Mary and Seeley know the facts. He committed suicide by hanging himself June 6th four days after Jane’s marriage. Of course she immediately applied for her portion of the Estate, but, was also immediately sued by William Vandemark for what he stated as her abuse of Seeley causing him to commit suicide. I assume, William being the sole relative and executor wanted the Estate. The suit had continuance until May of 1883 when Judge Charles Dwight awarded in favor of Mary the plaintiff. William chose to appeal the case which eventually wound up in the New York Court of Appeals under the title Mary L. Losee vs William Vandemark. On April 14, 1885 the court upheld the award in favor of Mary. The case has since been used numerous times as a reference in similar legal circumstances.


Waterloo Observer 6-22-1881 Coffin-Collamer Wedding

The Buffalo Evening News, Friday, May 25, 1883

Waterloo Observer, Wednesday, June 22, 1881

Waterloo Observer, Wednesday, March 25, 1885

Copies of the testimony and eleven letters admitted into evidence from the NY State Library & Archives in Albany.

William Henry Newton b. ca. 1818 was a farmer living near Junius, NY. He was the youngest of 11 children by David & Charlotte (Wooley) Newton and brother of Sally Ann Tallman and Jane Ann Collamer.

Rev Emory C Jones

Rev. Emory C. Jones 1833-1886 buried in Lakeview Cemetery, Jamestown

Rev Martin Wheeler

Rev. Martin Wheeler 1818-1892 buried Resthaven Cemetery, Phelps


The key evidence was EXHIBIT No. 2 the letter dated Oct. 7, 1879, Phelps, that is partially detailed in the Newspaper clipping above. He described his fair value worth and what he would bequeath to her. The other key pieces were the testimonies made by Charlotte Tallman and William Newton.

Collamer’s were farmers and neighbors of Newton’s near Junius. (1)

Phelps, Junius & Waterloo sit with a triangular area, all within about 10 miles of each other.

William Henry Newton died between Aug 1894 and April 1895 his wife was Julia Ann Burnett Aug.1820-15 May 1908.

Personally, the most interesting aspects of these letters are the bits of information of what’s happening in the time period. In each of hers, she always asks about her maternal relatives (both Newton & Collamer (1)) making the quote “No kindred is to me as my Mother’s.” Reference’s to seasons, apparently 1879 was a dry year, there’s mention of crops and dairying. The Nov 4th letter was election day; winter may be coming early with 2-3 inches of snow. She mentions the “6-year Panic” 1873-1879 may be coming to an end; about her own small farm and possibly renting or selling it.

(1) 3 Newton girls and 1 Newton boy married into Collamer’s and Tallman’s: Anor, Jane Ann, Sarah Ann and Abraham.

One thought on “The Bizarre Story Of Mary Tallman 1832-1899”

  1. I’m not a Tallman relative but I am related to Sealey Peck. It is amazing that a quilt owned by Spiddy still exists! Would love to see it – maybe you could add a picture of it to this article? Do you know if she made it herself?

    Sealey, Spiddy, their daughter, Libbie, his brother, Hiram, his father, John, and many other relatives are buried in the South Lyons Cemetery

    The correct spelling of his name is “Sealey”. It is a family name for the Pecks’ and there have been several relatives with that name.

    Here is an article about Sealey’s death, although they refer to him as “Selah” Not sure why he is referred to as Selah, maybe Sealey is a nickname? I have always been curious where the name came from and just assumed it was a maiden name of some relative. The 1850 census gives his name as Sealey and his wife as Spiddy, and those names are also on their gravestones The brick house referred to in the article that Sealey built still exists.

    Also, here is an article about the Vandemarks in Junius:

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