An Original Article by

Frank Dennis

    Alfred Seelye Roe was one of four children of a Methodist minister, Rev. Austin M. Roe, and his wife Polly Catharine Seelye, and a great-grandson of Capt. Daniel Roe, an officer in the Revolutionary War. Born in Rose on 8 June 1844, he attended Falley Seminary in Fulton, NY, then taught school in Middleville, Herkimer County, NY, his fathers home, until January 21, 1864, when he enlisted in Company A of the New York 9th Heavy Artillery, a unit composed mainly of men from Wayne County. He was captured by the Confederates at the battle of Monocacy, Frederick Junction, Md., on July 9, 1864. He and his comrades walked some 200 miles under guard to Staunton, Va., before being taken in a freight car to Danville, Va., where they were imprisoned for nearly 8 months, being released on February 19, 1865. His experiences as a prisoner are described in detail in his history of the regiment.

    Following the war, he attended Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn. Upon graduation in 1870 he moved to Ashland, Mass., where he was principal of the high school until 1875. He taught at the Worcester (Mass.) High School from 1875 to 1880, then served as principal until 1890. From 1892 until the time of his death he was Supervisor of Worcester evening schools. However, he was also active in politics, being elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives for three terms (1892-95) and was a State Senator from 1896 to 1898. He was an active member of the Sons of the American Revolution and the G.A.R., as well as a number of other organizations, in Worcester.

    His duties as a teacher and legislator did not prevent him from writing. In addition to "Rose Neighborhood Sketches", he authored a history of the 9th New York Heavy Artillery, mentioned above, as well as histories of the Massachusetts 5th, 10th, 24th, 29th and 39th. At the time of his death he had nearly finished writing the history of the 1st Massachusetts Heavy Artillery; the book was completed by Charles Nutt. He was literary editor of the Worcester Evening Gazette, and contributed many columns to the "Clyde Times" his "hometown newspaper". Many of these dealt with fond reminiscences of friends prompted by the reading of their obituaries. He didnt confine himself to funereal eulogies, however; also included were articles on the pioneers still living, such as that on Hudson R. Wood on the latters 90th birthday in 1911. For a short time (1891-92) he was editor and publisher of "Light", a weekly journal of news and literature published in Worcester.

    In addition to teaching, lecturing, writing, and serving in the legislature, Roe was active in the temperance movement, the Methodist Church, and the Y.M.C.A. As a member of the G.A.R., he served as commander of the George H. Ward Post 10 and as Department Commander of the State of Massachusetts, and was active on the national level. He served as president of the Worcester County Mechanics Association, and was literary editor of the Worcester Evening Gazette.

    Roe was frequently called upon as an orator at historical celebrations both in Massachusetts and in Wayne County, including Memorial Day exercises, and the reopening of the Rose Methodist Church in 1889.

    He returned to Rose at least once a year, with the exception of two years when he was in Europe or California. During summer vacations he interviewed the residents, beginning in 1886 with school district number 7 his native district on the eastern side of the township. These "neighborhood sketches" describe the inhabitants and provide information on their forebears and offspring, as well as on those who had previously lived in the homes they occupied. He begins his travels with, "Starting from the extreme northern part of the district, we have, on the west side of the road, first, the home, or what is left of it, of Joseph Seelye, who died February, 1854, an old man of seventy-seven years." (p. 1). The story continues until all the residences in the district have been visited. On publication of this report in "The Clyde Times", Roe was urged to continue with other districts, and eventually visited every home in the township, in the course of which, "I have walked and ridden above one thousand miles." (preface, p. iii) On completing his sketches of all 12 districts, plus portions of two adjacent districts in Sodus and Huron, he bowed to popular demand and combined the previously published sketches with information on historical background, local organizations/churches, a list of veterans of the Civil War, cemetery records, and the address that he delivered in Rose on the centennial of the founding of Wayne County July 4, 1889. This became "Rose Neighborhood Sketches", published in 1893.

    Alfred married Nora Metcalf of Ashland, Mass., and fathered four children, two of whom died of diphtheria while still young. Daughters Annabel C. and Harriett E., both of Worcester, survived.

    Roe died suddenly on January 16, 1917. Flags were lowered to half-mast at the GAR Memorial Hall in Rose, Mechanics Hall, and the Worcester City Hall. F.H. Closs, Sr., a lifelong resident of Rose, in a eulogy published in the "Times" (18 January 1917), summarized his accomplishments well:

    "As a soldier, he belonged to the Grand Army of the Republic, and by that organization was highly honored. As a legislator and educator, he belonged to Massachusetts. As an orator he belonged to the United States. As a boy, friend, kinsman and historian, he belonged to Rose. His loyalty to the town of his nativity is worthy of all praise."

    In a brief biography published at the end of his history of the First Massachusetts Heavy Artillery Regiment, one reads, "The melody of his voice and his exquisite phraseology always won his audiences, aroused their enthusiasm, brought conviction and made him the foremost orator of the city and one of the foremost of the state. Has any man among us made better use of his gifts and ability than Hon. Alfred S. Roe?"


Closs, F.H. 1917. Alfred Seelye Roe. Veteran, Statesman, and Educator Passes Away at his Home in Worcester, Massachusetts. The Clyde Times, January 18, 1917.

Rice, F.P. (ed.) 1899. The Worcester of Eighteen Hundred and Ninety-Eight. Fifty Years A City. F.S. Blanchard, Publisher, Worcester, Mass. (photograph of ASR p. 258, biography p. 733-734.)

Roe, A.S. 1893. Rose Neighborhood Sketches. Published by the author, Worcester, Mass.

Roe, A.S. 1899. The Ninth New York Heavy Artillery:A History of its Organization, Services in the Defenses of Washington, Marches, Camps, Battles, and Muster-Out and a Complete Roster of the Regiment. (MSL: 523.7 9th R64)

Roe, A.S. 1907. The Twenty-Fourth Regiment, Massachusetts Volunteers 1862-1865. Regimental Veteran Assoc., Worcester, Mass. [MSL: E 513.5 39th R64]

Roe, A.S. 1909. The Tenth Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry 1861-64. A Western Massachusetts Regiment. Tenth Regiment Veteran Assoc., Springfield, Mass. [MSL: E 513.5 10th R64]

Roe, A.S. 1911. The Fifth Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry In its Three Tours of Duty, 1861, 1862-63, 1864. Fifth Regiment Veterans Association, Boston, Mass. (MSL: E513.5 5th R64)

Roe, A.S. 1914. The Thirty-Ninth Regiment, Massachusetts Volunteers 1862-1865. Regimental Veteran Assoc., Worcester, Mass. [MSL: E 513.5 39th R64]

Roe, A.S., and Charles Nutt. 1917. History of the First Regiment of Heavy Artillery, Massachusetts Volunteers 1861-1865. Regimental Association. (MSL: E513.7 1st R6)

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Created: 3/21/03
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