Seward

Seward Mountain, High Peak number twenty-four, was named after a former governor of New York and important figure in Civil War history. William Henry Seward succeeded Governor Marcy in 1839, notably removing the Democratic Party from power. A founder of the Republican Party and leading antislavery politician, Seward was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1849 and ran for president in 1860. Though he was a front runner for the Republican nomination, his “radical” antislavery views caused many party leaders to doubt his ability to win over swing state voters; thus the party chose the more moderate Abraham Lincoln.

In 1861, Lincoln appointed Seward as his Secretary of State, where Seward served until 1869. As Secretary of State, Seward managed international affairs during the Civil War era, playing a huge role in discouraging other nations from recognizing the legitimacy of the Confederacy. He adamantly fought for British neutrality and effectively put an end to the construction of Confederate ships on British soil. After the Civil War, Seward successfully negotiated the 1867 Alaskan Purchase for $7.2 million, ending Russia’s presence in North America.

Seward Mountain also goes by a second name: Ou-kor-lah, a Iroquois-Mohawk word meaning “great eye.” This name was inspired by a distinct white spot on the Seward Range (also home to Mount Emmons, Mount Donaldson, and SeymourMountain), as noted in the first published description of the peak. While Colvin credits Emmons with naming this peak, Emmons never officially claimed authorship (though considering Emmons’s pattern of naming peaks after New York governors, it seems likely he was involved in the naming process).

The 4,361-foot summit of Seward Mountain welcomed its first visitors- Colvin and his guide Alvah Dunning- on October 15th, 1870. Colvin documented the entirety of this trip in his journal, crafting a narrative that was later published in the Twenty-Fourth Annual Report to the New York State Museum of Natural History. With barometric measurement of Mount Seward as their main objective, the duo battled brutal rain and cold as they slowly and arduously bushwhacked their way to the summit. On the evening of October 14th, they were treated with a dazzling display of the Aurora Borealis, which Colvin sat and admired for hours. Colvin’s measurements put Seward at 4,462 feet above sea level- about a hundred feet over the actual elevation, but still much more accurate than Emmons’s initial estimate of 5,100 feet.

View of the Seward Range from Ampersand Mountain
The Seward Range, as Viewed from the Summit of Ampersand Mountain

“Biographies of the Secretaries of State: William Henry Seward (1801–1872).” Office of the Historian, United States Department of State, history.state.gov/departmenthistory/people/seward-william-henry.

Colvin, Verplanck. “Ascent of Mount Seward and Its Barometrical Measurement.” Adirondack Explorations: Nature Writings of Verplanck Colvin, edited by Paul Schaefer, Syracuse University Press, 1997, pp. 87–117.