SELEE (Seeley), PEET (Peer, Peter), artisan, businessman, and militiaman; b. 4 June 1766 in the American colonies, probably in Connecticut; m. first Rebecca Peet, and they had at least nine children; m. secondly 22 Jan. 1833 Hannah Whooley (Woolley), a widow, and they had no children; d. 25 Nov. 1844 in Elizabethtown Township, Upper Canada.
A trained blacksmith, Peet Selee reputedly emigrated from Connecticut “with a company bound for the Bay of Quinte.” All that is certain about his movements, however, is that he settled in Yonge Township in 1789. Possibly he had been attracted there by a number of Connecticut Selees in the Johnstown District. He farmed and, as one of the area’s earliest blacksmiths, he utilized the surrounding woods for charcoal, probably producing the simple iron implements needed by settlers. He apparently prospered and, according to an 1879 account, he participated in at least two partnerships: one with Caleb Seaman, another blacksmith; the other with Daniel Jones, an early Brockville mill proprietor. About 1805 Selee and others erected a sawmill on a creek near by in Elizabethtown Township. He then moved to the site, where he resumed forging and engaged apprentices.
During the War of 1812 Selee was in various local militia detachments. In 1821, however, his wartime loyalty – he had taken the oath of allegiance in 1801 – was questioned; it was alleged that he had conducted a clandestine ferry operation across the St Lawrence River and speculated in American land. One magistrate claimed in his defence that Selee had served during the war “without suspicion of aiding or assisting the enemy.” The issue, however, did not die and four years later a legal suit was brought against him, unsuccessfully as it turned out, for the utterance of “seditious words.”
Following the war Selee had expanded his enterprises, adding by 1818 a tavern, inn, and mercantile store to his milling and forging operations. To a limited extent he also speculated in unsettled lands in nearby townships. Although Selee worked as a blacksmith and miller until his death, after 1819 he gradually reduced his local landholdings. In 1825 he sold a major portion of them to his son Truman. By 1832 the tavern and store were closed but Selee continued to operate the sawmill, the site of which became the hamlet of Selee’s Corners. Following his death his wife Hannah inherited most of his estate, including his prized blacksmith’s tools.
AO, MS 519, Thomas Smyth to Joel Stone, 14 Sept. 1821; RG 1, C-IV, Elizabethtown and Yonge townships; RG 21, United Counties of Leeds and Grenville, Elizabethtown Township, census and assessment records, 1797–1845; RG 22, ser.12, 1–8, esp. 4: 62–63; ser.17, box 3, road report no.19; ser.18, boxes 1, 6–7; box 10: 4. Leeds Land Registry Office (Brockville, Ont.), Abstract index to deeds, Elizabethtown Township, concession 4, lot 32; North Crosby Township, concession 2, lot 23; Deeds, Elizabethtown Township, concession 4, lot 35, no.T212 (will of Peet Selee, registered 26 May 1845); Will of Justus Seelye, registered 9 July 1831 (transcript). MTRL, D. W. Smith papers, A9: 239–42. PAC, RG 1, L3; RG 9, I, B7, 6. “District of Luneburg: Court of Common Pleas,” AO Report, 1917. “Journals of Legislative Assembly of U.C.,” AO Report, 1913. “A record of marriages solemnized by William Smart, minister of the Presbyterian congregation, Brockville, Elizabethtown, Upper Canada,” ed. H. S. Seaman, OH, 5 (1904): 217. Brockville Recorder, 5 Dec. 1844. T. W. H. Leavitt, History of Leeds and Grenville, Ontario, from 1749 to 1879 . . . (Brockville, 1879; repr. Belleville, Ont., 1972). “Memoirs,” New England Hist. and Geneal. Reg. (Boston), 108 (1954): 311.