A Random Dumpster Derived Biography
George A Seib was born in St Louis Missouri around 1903. He spent all of his childhood living above a bakery in the Soulard area, across the street from THAT famous Brewery, with his close knit German family. As a gifted child he ended up at the newly built McKinley High school a few city blocks away. Going by the nickname Butch, it is said he was “capable of all he undertakes”.
He took on extra studies and went to Missouri Business School on Cherokee street in 1920 to prepare for a future of success. By the fall of that year he was at Washington University going for a Medical Degree. By all measures of trajectory and momentum he was on his way to becoming a full fledged Doctor. In 1923 everything changed.
His family moved into the mansion at 2323 Lafayette Ave. His mother Carrie had always been unusual and often spoke of ghosts and psychic experiences. His direct family were Evangelical Lutherans and instilled in him a love of science, God and the absolute freedom of everyone so he grew up surrounded by an interesting mix. This strong German community were supporters of Abraham Lincoln/anti-slavery and fought the battles of the Missouri Civil War, one which still divided St Louis Culture. George abhorred racism and worked equally within the diverse riverside neighborhood of Soulard and this sense of justice and equality would permeate his work.
In 1923 while entering a room in the Lafayette house he saw a ghostly woman walk through a wall, while his mother always spoke of these paranormal events as being possible for anyone, my theory is George was shaken by the event and while pursing an academic life, he began to question these possibilities. As a side interest he took classes under Dr. Robert J Terry of the Washington Medical School, and both would remain impressed with the other. Life then took on a side track.
As George progressed toward his Medical degree and volunteered for social experiments under Dr. Terry, he was inspired by the questions posed in the field. In a moment of fate, Dr. Terry would create one of the countries first departments of Physical Anthropology which required a medical degree and inspired by his mentor Ales Hardlicka, the first curator of the Smithsonian, Dr. Terry brought three of his favorite students with him. George at the tender age of 24 and lacking any field experience came over to the Anatomy department to be on staff by 1927. Several studies would involve George, and once his beard was photographed for 5 days straight. It was his own interest in blood physiology that was monumental. George wrote two papers on “negro” blood to prove they were the same as everyone else. He was also interested in certain small muscles called m.psoas minor that do not remain consistent in all humans and why.
He caught the attention of Ales Hardlicka who himself as a medical student was obsessed with measurement and the scientific process. This is Ales’s legacy to American Anthropology, to bring it out of “treasure hunting” and into a scientific culture where study, measurement and logic was applied universally. He is known as the Grandfather of American Anthropology and was a deeply passionate man who has largely been written out of history. His interest stayed mostly in Eugenics, New World Migration and Neandertal phases. Ales was the original Curator of the Smithsonian and they say there wasn’t a “dig” in America from 1906 to the 1940’s that didn’t bare his mark. While many of his ideas have been updated drastically, it is his interest in the Bering Strait and the excavations he did there that have added to our general scientific knowledge of human migration.
George’s mother would start her church (Independent Church of Truth) ,and began to channel poetry nightly in the mid 1930’s with prohibition having an affect on the Seib Brothers Bakery, which lay in the shadow of the Anheuser Busch brewery . George was dedicated to his work and supported by his family in those efforts. He was on the path to massive success in an academic sense with people citing his work, an important teaching position in the heart of Cahokia Country which was one of the most important Scientific adventures in America. Ales was one of those who used his work, citing his work within the movement of Eugenics and publishing George’s work in his scientific journals.
Dr. Hardlicka was very interested in the origin of species. He theorized that each continent would produce it’s own version of a human species, his of course was created in Europe. Ales had a problem, the Americas had people and no monkeys, so how did the humans get there? He conducted sponsored digs in the Bering Strait to solve this problem and rejected any notion that man had reached the Americas previous to 20,000 years ago. Dr. Hardlicka loved to hire “good german boys” who he considered superior to any other science expert. So in 1936, George Seib got on a boat and headed to Alaska.
It was the adventure of a lifetime. George was seeing the world and working with the most famous man in Anthropology. He brought a camera and took many photographs that summer. One photograph was of a small bear cub, that would find it’s way to the St Louis Zoo and entertain the children of St Louis in our famous Bear pits. Field work was difficult with sweltering heat, mosquitoes and a boss that double checked everything he did. Ales had made this trip many times over the years, looking in one hill or another for his “elongated skulled” Indians. The Smithsonian had started to distance themselves from his ideology and quietly allowed him to finish his career slowly with pressure.
Dr. Hardlicka is fairly well known in Native American circles for as they claim “the desecration of graves sites.” The concept of a European Origin of the species and the separation of races was very much on the mind of American Germans and which side of line they would stand on if the time came. Ales was counting on science to prove his unique views and knew he had to prove his theories soon before the money ran out or war broke out. It was in this environment that poor George found himself.
Little is known what happened, but after arriving home from Alaska, George would resign as a Professor at Washington University, leaving his unique position in the Physical Anthropology Field and go into private Medical Practice working largely in the Lafayette Square neighborhood for the rest of his life. A story is tossed around that on his last day at Washington University, he stole everyone’s “ashtrays’. It was the custom at the time for Medical students to cut the top of skulls off to remove the brains of fresh cadavers and then use the top as an ashtray. The rumor is a sack of these skull tops is buried in the back yard.
(A side story in relation to this tale starts in 1940. George was digging a pond for his father to fish in at the farm near Belleville Illinois, which apparently Dr George Seib was known for breeding cows. While digging, he came across a giant stone slab that he pulled away using a tractor. Inside he discovered a 7 foot tall Indian burial grave. It was not Cahokia or from a local Indian tribe. (which of course he uniquely would know.) He measured it, photographed it, and covered the slab back over. He then built the pond a few feet over marking the spot for the future. He told his family the world wasn’t ready for something like that and never spoke much about Alaska or Anthropology ever again.”)
As a young college student working his way through Medical School at Washington University, George Seib found himself with an interesting opportunity. His family, which included Carrie and George senior (parents), Edna (sister), Edward and Pauline (Uncle and Aunt by blood for both), Alma (cousin) and who knows how many others, had saved to buy a run down Mansion in the Lafayette Square neighborhood. It was a collective labor of love and they restored it to glorious wonder. The former owners, the Nasse family had also occupied the 8000 square foot house at 2323 Lafayette ave with a large family.
George would support the house financially and maintain a 80 year legacy becoming a well known Lafayette Square advocate. He was engaged to be married once, giving her a ring and making it official, however there was a problem. George loved that house as if it was a part of the family and when she insisted they buy a new house, leaving the past and mother for a new life. It didn’t work out. This is as much a part of George’s legacy as any other aspect.
In 1940 after his adventures in Anthropology, he would open his private practice in the back of the house. When the house was built in 1901 it was designed for a large family with much entertaining possibility. A dumb waiter moved from the kitchen to the 3rd floor ballroom where many a party must have occurred. As you move from the front door towards the back, the kitchen was divided in two. The left side had a massive built in oven and sink, the right side had the cabinets and storage. By 1940, the oven was replaced with a manageable gas one on the right side of the hallway and the old fashioned fireplace oven was bricked in and became George’s office. The pantry became his drug cabinet with strong locks, and patients waited in the entry hall for George to escort them back.
When his father died in 1946, George became the man of the house. He took his family on a world tour buying a car in Europe for the journey. Carrie was able to return to her little German village and see her family. She wrote a poem later that thanked her Mother as an inspiration and source for her “goodness”. It was a magical experience that renewed Carrie’s attempts at the “Good work”. The church became a focal point for the family from 1948 to 1964. George would record the services on Reel to Reel in a dedicated manner for a decade. Edna would bring her children to every service and contribute with musical interludes. The Grand Piano still sits in the 3rd floor space the church used, as is the pulpit and stage.
When his father died in 1946, George became the man of the house. He took his family on a world tour buying a car in Europe for the journey. Carrie was able to return to her little German village and see her family. She wrote a poem later that thanked her Mother as an inspiration and source for her “goodness”. It was a magical experience that renewed Carrie’s attempts at the “Good work”. The church became a focal point for the family from 1948 to 1964. George would record the services on Reel to Reel in a dedicated manner for a decade. Edna would bring her children to every service and contribute with musical interludes.
George Seib MD was an old fashioned Doctor. The Mayor of St Louis in the 1960’s lived a block over and fondly remembers George caring for sick family members at the house. It seems as if George never stopped moving. He was on staff at the Lutheran Hospital and several smaller St Louis hospitals have records of his referrals and presence. He delivered babies, took on poor patients for free, tutored kids at McKinley High and had a knack for allowing Immigrants to live in the carriage house. This man was all over St Louis, and somehow had time to run a cow farm in Belleville.
In 1964 Carrie’s health began to falter. This must have been a difficult time for the family. In 1969 she passed on from this realm, but as the remaining family says “her ghost has never been seen”. George would remain quiet for a number of years as the neighborhood became crime ridden. I imagine this as his dark night of the soul, but something clicked in the mid 1970’s. George took on the crusade of both his mother’s legacy and the house.
He bought the house next door, 2329, which the story goes, a trans-Atlantic flight was planned a few months before Charles Lindbergh’s famous one in the house. The three pilots toasted their success on a top floor and took off to cross the dangerous tides. They never returned and the house sat empty for decades, losing the roof and the floors. George fought in court and was able to demolish the old house and turn it into a garden. The carriage house was retained and various family members would live in the house over the time.
In 1975 George would use his Aunt’s Pauline’s connections in the Lutheran Church to have his mother’s poems published in a decaying publishing house called Eden Publishing, which was an offshoot of Eden seminary in Webster Groves. The family would together collect and transcribe the poems. Filing cabinets still exist filled with her channeled and English poetry.
George Seib truly dedicated his life to others. His restored gardens and house was the highlight of the Lafayette Square tours until his death in 1992. Edna would live in the house until 2000. The house at 2323 Lafayette ave would sit empty with the remaining family living in the carriage houses until it’s sale in 2016. A full restoration has been done on the house with the gardens getting a spring jolt of life. I spoke with the landscaper who is researching the original plants and configurations to honor the legacy of the former owners. The house tours will resume soon, and Carrie Seib’s philosophy and poetry is finding a resurgence in an otherwise void of cultural knowledge. All of this would not be possible without the work of George Seib.
One can look at the arch of a life and see the threads like little points of light moving backwards in time. George’s life unravels like spiral.
- 1903 to 1923 as a period of hard work and a growing into a man
- 1923 to 1936 as a teacher, an academic, an explorer
- 1937 to 1946 as a loner, out of the establishment and building his own life
- 1947 to 1964 as a a devoted son, a spiritual seeker, and healer
- 1964 to 1974 as a caregiver, mourner and occurring a dark night of the soul
- 1975 to 1992 George fulfills his destiny, he makes a mark on the community and creates a Legacy