A small, homely man, often scruffily dressed and taciturn to the point of eccentricity, [Seth] Concklin was born in upstate New York, in 1802, and endured an appallingly grim childhood that left him with the cocky combativeness of a perpetual survivor, coupled to an indelible affinity for every underdog he ever met. His father died when Concklin was still a boy, leaving him responsible for a large, virtually indigent family. One of his sisters was given away to strangers when she could no longer be fed. To support his remaining siblings, he tramped the roads of rural New York peddling trifles. After living for a time in a pacifist Shaker community near Albany, he enlisted in the small, ill-starred republican force that sought to overthrow the British colonial regime in Canada during the so-called Patriot War of 1838-39. Later he served in Florida as a soldier in the First Seminole War, returning home contemptuous of the government’s expansionist propaganda, and with a deep sympathy for the beleaguered Indians. He hated slavery with such a passion that it was said of him that “he was a whole Abolition Society in himself,” and he served for a time as an underground conductor in Springfield, Illinois, where he may have known, or at least met, the up-and-coming young lawyer Abraham Lincoln.
Fergus M. Bordewich, Bound for Canaan: The Epic Story of the Underground Railroad, America's First Civil Rights Movement (New York: Amistad, 2006), 357.