Trinty United Methodist Church Cemetery Washington Street United Methodist Church Cemetery

George Lewis Seaton: Uncovering the Legacy of an Alexandria Trailblazer


In the heart of Alexandria lies a story of resilience, determination, and profound impact. George Lewis Seaton’s life is a testament to the indomitable spirit of African Americans during the challenging post-Civil War era. His legacy, especially in the Hayti Neighborhood (pronounced haytie), is a beacon of inspiration for all who tread the streets of Alexandria.

From Humble Beginnings

Born free in the 1820s in what was then the District of Columbia, Seaton’s early life was rooted in Alexandria. His parents, George and Lucinda Seaton, were free blacks believed to have once been enslaved at the iconic Mount Vernon. Despite the societal challenges of his era, Seaton was not to be held back. He learned to read and write and meticulously honed his skills as a carpenter.

A Symbol of Success: Seaton’s Home in Hayti

The Hayti Neighborhood of Alexandria cradles a significant emblem of Seaton’s achievements: his residence at 404 S. Royal Street. More than just a dwelling, this house is a testament to Seaton’s stature and success within the community. The neighborhood, with historical houses dotting the 400 block of South Royal and the 300 block of South Fairfax Street, whispers tales of a rich past. Among these tales is the story of the Wilkes Street Tunnel. Initially constructed for the Orange and Alexandria Railroad between 1851 and 1856, it transitioned from serving railroad traffic to welcoming pedestrians and cyclists, offering them a window into history.

In recognition of its historical significance, the George Lewis Seaton House was proudly added to the Virginia Landmarks Register and the National Register of Historic Places in the early 2000s.

Historical plaque marking George Seaton’s previous residence at 404 S. Royal Street in Alexandria, Virginia.

A Life of Service and Impact

Seaton’s influence wasn’t confined to carpentry. He ventured into the political arena, attending Republican Party meetings, gracing conventions, and even securing a seat in the House of Delegates in 1869, representing Alexandria. Seaton was also a grand jury member that indicted Jefferson Davis, adding another layer to his multifaceted contributions to history.

A sepia-toned albumen photograph of a photomechanical newspaper representation showcasing the grand jury that indicted Jefferson Davis. The caption at the top of the faded image reads: [THE GRAND JURY / This is the Grand Jury that indicted Mr. Davis and was the first mixed jury ever impaneled in this country]. The photograph features two rows of men: a seated row and a standing row behind them. Notably, the image includes five African-American jurors. They are Cornelius Liggan Harris (seated, third from right); Dr. Fields Cook (standing, 2nd from left), who is interred at Bethel Cemetery, Wilkes Street Complex; John Oliver (seated, far left); George Seaton (standing, 5th from right); George W. Simms (standing, far right); and Rosina Beckley (standing, 4th from left)—collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.

But his heart was always with the community. He was instrumental in building schools for African Americans and proudly served as a trustee of the First Free School Society of Alexandria. His craftsmanship, a testament to his dedication, can be seen across Alexandria. Seaton’s touch is evident from municipal buildings to the Odd Fellows Hall, with the latter being listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Throughout his life, he remained a fervent advocate for education, championing equal rights and opportunities for African Americans.

A Legacy Etched in Stone, Yet a Mystery Remains

For all his contributions to Alexandria, the final resting place of George Lewis Seaton remains shrouded in mystery. While it is widely believed that Seaton might be buried in the Trinity United Methodist Cemetery, part of the Wilkes Street Complex, where his parents, brother, and other family members found their final resting place, there’s speculation that he could be interred at the Union Cemetery. The actual location remains elusive. His spirit is palpable as we walk the streets of Alexandria, especially when passing by 404 S. Royal Street. Each step taken near these historic cemeteries is a poignant reminder of Seaton and the trailblazers who shaped the city’s history and future.


George Lewis Seaton’s journey from a free black child in the 1820s to a pillar of Alexandria’s community is a story of perseverance, education, and unwavering commitment to the betterment of society. His legacy in the Hayti Neighborhood and beyond serves as a beacon, inspiring future generations.

Sources of Information

Pippenger, W. E. (1992). Tombstone Inscriptions of Alexandria, Virginia: Volume 1. Family Line Publications.

Bernstein, Peter et al. 2001. The Life and Times of George Lewis Seaton. Alexandria Archaeology Publications, No. 121. Printed 2003.

Pippenger, W. E. (2014). Tombstone Inscriptions of Alexandria, Virginia: Volume 5. Heritage Books.

Alexandria Times. (2021, April 29). Hayti: One of Alexandria’s first African-American neighborhoods.

Virginia MLK Commission. Year. “Biography of George Lewis Seaton.” Retrieved September 11, 2023.

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By David

Hello. My journey has taken me through various paths, from owning businesses to delving deep into the annals of history. For many years, I dedicated myself to researching and leading tours of Civil War Battlefields, bringing the past to life for those eager to learn.

In 2015, I assumed the role of Superintendent of the Presbyterian Cemetery and Columbarium within the Wilkes Street Cemetery Complex in Alexandria, Virginia. This cemetery holds a profoundly special place in my heart. It's owned by the Old Presbyterian Meeting House, where I was baptized and raised, and my parents are laid to rest. It's also the place where I will one day be buried. This responsibility allowed me to assist families during pivotal moments and opened a unique avenue for me. Most Saturdays, I lead tours within the complex, combining my passion for teaching history with the stories of the 35,000 souls resting there. To further share these narratives, I established this blog focusing on the lives and tales of those buried in Alexandria.

In addition to my work at the Wilkes Street Cemetery Complex, I am honored to serve as a dedicated Board member of the Alexandria Historical Society and the Lee-Fendall House Museum. I am a Northern Virginia Cemetery Consortium member dedicated to preserving endangered cemeteries throughout the region, representing the Wilkes Street Cemetery Complex.

If you're intrigued by history or curious about the stories that shaped Alexandria, I invite you to join me on my tours, read my writings, or connect with me on Facebook or Instagram.

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