The History of Seneca (Crotty Village), LaSalle County, IL

Transcribed by Nancy Piper

The Village of Seneca was here (Manius Township) founded and platted by Jeremiah Crotty and for a number of years was known as Crotty Village. Seneca was incorporated in 1858, and it grew rapidly until 1879, in March of which year virtually the entire business district was destroyed by fire. Courage and determination soon overcame the effects of this disaster and the town has continued as a prosperous trading point and attractive place of residence.

[History of La Salle County, Illinois. Chicago: Lewis Pub. Co., 1924.]


Seneca is pleasantly situated in the valley of the Illinois river, which is here spanned by a fine iron bridge. The valley here is wider than in the central part of the county, the bluffs seeming neither as high nor abrupt as farther west.

The town is on the C., R .I. & P. R. R., and Illinois and Michigan canal, and within a mile or two of the eastern boundary of the county. It contains some fine residences and has about 1000 inhabitants. It was laid out by Jeremiah Crotty, about 1848, and for a long time bore his name; the post office, however, is called Seneca. In 1859 it became incorporated as a village.

The present trustees are as follows: R. F. Jackson, president; Daniel Schaia, Wm. Watson, Hugh Henry, John Pricket, M. J. Hoag; Thomas Morrissey, clerk.

There are about twenty stores and shops here of various descriptions, consisting of drugs, hardware, dry goods and groceries, prominent among which may be mentioned Alex. Vaughey, D. H. Underhill, H. Bilharz and Hugh Henry.

Messrs. A. F. Jackson & Co., bankers, afford ample banking privileges to the citizens of the town.

Messrs. Watson, Walbridge & Co. manufacture The Lowry Wind Mill and do contracting and building.

Messrs. McNeal & Son carry on the carriage business quite extensively and turn our some fine work.

The warehouses of Messrs. Garden & Bruce and G. A. Griswold shipped last year from this point 900,000 bushels of grain. Mr. Griswold's house sending as much if not more grain into the larger markets than any other single house along the canal, its contributions being something over 550,000 bushels.

There are two artesian wells that furnish an abundance of water and ample provision has been made for thirsty horses and cattle.

In March, 1875, a coal shaft was sunk one hundred and ten feet to a three foot vein of coal. When at work it employs from fifty to sixty men.

There are two hotels "The National" and the "Beckwith House,", the later of which is probably the best in town.

Lodges and Associations.

Seneca Lodge, No. 532, A.F. & A.M. - Organized 1867. Present officers, C. O. Thomas, W.M.; A. F. Rogers, S.W.; Wm. Watson, J.W.; Henry Betterman, Treas.; E. R. Butterfield, Sec'y. Number of members 35. Meets the first and third Saturday evenings of each month.

Manlius Lodge, No. 491, I.O.O.F. - Organized July 29th, 1872. Present officers: Wm. M. Nickerson, N.G.; Conrad March, V. G.; S. Burwell, Sec'y. Jacob Gerbert, Treas. Number of members 34. Meets every Tuesday evening in Odd Fellow's Hall in Seneca.

Star of Hope Encampment, No. 149, I. O. O. F. - Organized Oct. 10th, 1873. E. Battle, C.P.; Wm. M. Nickerson, H.P.; Wm. Murdock, S.W. S. Burwell, Scribe; John Beffle, J.W.; Wm. M. Nickerson, Treas. Number of members, 10. Meets the second and fourth Thursday evening's of each month.

Emerald Benefit Association, St. Patrick's Branch, No 5, Seneca. - Present officers: Alex. Vaughey, Prs.; Thomas Morrissy, Vice Pres.; James Morrissy, Sec'y; Dennis Coleman, Treas. Meets the first Sunday in every month, in Emerald Hall, Seneca.


St. Patrick's Church Catholic. Organized about 1856; present edifice built 1868. There are two parishes, Highland and Seneca, each containing about one hundred families, Sunday school every two weeks in the forenoon, with about one hundred scholars in attendance. The resident Pastors have been Rev. James O''Leary, D. D., and Rev. J. P. Devine, the latter of whom died at Seneca about one year ago. Rev. P. Shudy, present incumbent.

M. E. Church .. Rev. T. V. E. Sweet, present pastor. Number of members, about 80. .Number of Sunday school members, about 80. Superintendent of Sunday school, F. 11. Robinson.

[The Past and present of La Salle County, Illinois : containing a history of the county, its cities, towns, &c., a biographical directory of its citizens, war record of its volunteers in the late rebellion, portraits of early settlers and prominent men, general and local statistics, map of La Salle County, history of Illinois, Constitution of the United States, miscellaneous matters, etc, etc.. Chicago: H.F. Kett & Co., Ottaway & Colbert, printers), 1877. Page 331-333]

The Village of Seneca

Seneca is situated in the southeast comer of the township and is about one and one-half miles long and one mile wide. It is conveniently located on the Illinois River bottom, in a bend of the river. The valley at this point is somewhat wider than at other points on the river, and the bluffs are not so high. The greater portion of the village, or at least that portion containing most of the residences, is situated between the river and the Illinois & Michigan Cana1. The Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad passes through the village, and the Kankakee & Seneca Railroad terminates at this point.

Seneca Village was founded and laid out by Jeremiah Crotty, and for a number of years it took the name of Crotty Village, and even to this day the little settlement on the bluff where Crotty first located is called "Crotty Town."


Seneca was incorporated as a village in 1858. The present officers are: President of the Board, D. Shaide; Trustees, T. Craven, W. H. Harney, II. Henery, J. Prickett and P. Timmins; Police Magistrate, S. Burwell; Marshal, P. Meagher; Night Police, D. Heaton; Clerk, Frank Timmins; Treasurer, A. Vaugher.

The village grew gradually and was in a generally prosperous condition until March 29, 1879, when a disastrous fire occurred. Nearly all the business houses were swept away, nineteen in all. Both sides of what is now the business street were left in a charred and ruined condition. The loss was estimated at $50,000. The owners of these building's were 'men of push and energy so they immediately went to work and at the present writing that portion of the village over which the angry flames swept is now rebuilt by large, handsome brick structures, so that while the fire was undoubtedly a means of great individual loss, it has proved a benefit to the village in the end.

The village at present (1886) has a population of between 1,200 and 1,500 inhabitants, and is under the best public improvement of any village in the county; is out of debt with a surplus in the treasury.


In 1882 the Kankakee & Seneca Railroad was completed. This gives the merchants of Seneca a direct eastern route over which to ship their grain, etc. Also they have the competition of two railroads and the canal. These advantages enable the merchants to pay high prices for grain, the result of which is that there is more grain shipped from Seneca than any other point in the county. Of late years the annual shippage has averaged between 1,000,000 and 1,200,000 bushels.

The elevator north of the canal and west of the bridge was built in 1862 by John Armour, who operated it for a time. It was then operated by Bruce & Armour for some years, when it came into the possession of James Armour, who continued in the business until 1873, when N. J. Rulison bought it and conducted it for four years; he then sold out to G. C. Griswold, who operated it until 1882, when N. J. Rulison again purchased it and has had control of the business ever since. The elevator has five dumps and a. capacity of 100,000 bushels. The elevator on the south side of the canal was built in 1851 by D. O. Underhill, and the business was conducted by H. L. Hossack, afterward by Bruce & Gardner, and then again by Hossack. N. J. Rulison finally purchased it and still operates it. From time to time the elevator has been repaired and additions made so that now it has seven dumps and an enormons capacity. From the two elevators Mr. Rulison ships annually about 750,000 bushels.

The elevator near the depot was built in 1882 by Graves & Johnson, and is still owned and operated by them. It has five dumps and a capacity of 50,000 bushels. The firm ship annually nearly 400,000 bushels.

The lumber yard, now owned by Robinson & Ellis, was established in 1870 by Robinson & MacEwen. In 18'72 MacEwen withdrew from the firm, and Ellis became a partner. The yard is situated on the south side of the canal and covers about three acres. The firm handles annually about a million and a quarter feet of lumber.

The brick and tile business was begun in 1882 by J. J. Crotty. A large building, 40 x 112 feet in size and three stories high, was erected, and since then a wing building 25 x 60 feet in size and two stories high has been added to the main building. The entire works cover about four acres. Three kilns are operated and sixteen men are employed. About 250,000 brick and 700,000 feet of tile are annually manufactured.

The Seneca Coal Mining Company sunk a shaft in the northwestern part of the village in 1881. It is 127 feet deep and the vein of coal is three feet thick. The company employs about thirty men and mines on an. average 10,000 tons in a year. Besides supplying mostly the home trade coal is shipped to Kankakee and Marseilles. The members of the company are E. T. Rill, Thomas Craven, H. Tattersall and Henry Barnes. E. T. Hill is President and Thomas Craven, Secretary of the company.


Jackson Brothers, druggists, established a private bank in 1866, and continued in the business until 1874, when it came into the possession of A. F. Jackson & Co. This firm continued in the business for some years, and was succeeded by Hamilton) Holderman & Co., who conducted the business until Dec. 10, 1882, when Hamilton withdrew from the firm, and the bank is now under the control of Holderman & Leland. Their correspondent in Chicago is the Commercial National Bank. The building occupied by the firm was erected in 1878.


The first newspaper established in Seneca was the Record, Sept. 3, 1878, by A. J. Lukins. Since then it has frequently changed editors.


Seneca, for a small village, has been very well supplied with lawyers. Perhaps the first man to practice law in Seneca was William S. Jackson, now of Streator, who came in 1866. He has been followed by Robert Nixon, C. H. R. Thomas and F. F. Fisher.

D. W. H. Underhill was the first physician to practice in Seneca, and he has been followed by Drs. William McCamp, J. B. McGorisk, K. Clymer, W. M. Hanna, Furgeson, C. A. Kennedy, W. A. Kuttar and D. H. Cronyn. The recent physicians are: Drs. W. H. Underhill, G. G. Wilcox and T. M. Gromgold.



The first school-house was built in Seneca in 1857 or 1858. Previous to that time school had been kept in vacant rooms. This school-house was used until 1865, when a school-house containing one room was built on the corner of Lincoln and Commerce streets. In 1872 it was raised one story, thus making it a building of two rooms. This house answered the purpose until 1884, when the present magnificent structure was erected at a cost of $10,000. It is of brick and contains four rooms. The location, on the corner of Scott and Commerce, is a most excellent one. The grounds are spacious and filled with beautiful shade trees. The building belongs to District No.9, which was organized in 1864. The school property is valued at $12,000, and the library and apparatus at about $300. The school costs on an average about $2,500 annually. George R. Furr is the present Principal, and is assisted by Misses S. L. Moss, Maria Byrne and Nellie Vanghey. The members of the present board are: H. Bilharz, O. H. R. Thomas and P. .Meagher, of which board Bilharz is President and Tholnas is Secretary. The attendance is something over 200. The school is comparatively well graded, and much interest is manifested in it by the citizens.


St. Patrick's Church, Catholic, was organized about 1856, and a small building on the top of the bluff was erected in 1858 and was used until 1867, when the present building was erected at a cost of about $12,000. It is a handsome structure, 50 x 100 feet in size. At first the church was supplied by the pastor at Morris, Father Devine, and the first resident pastor, Dr. James O'Leary, succeeded him, and during his pastorate the building of the present church was commenced, and was completed under Father J. P. Devine, who returned and succeeded O'Leary and remained until his death, Aug-. 1, 1874. He was buried beneath the left altar in the church, and a tombstone was erected over his remains by his congregation, thus showing the high esteem in which he was held. Rev. P. Sheady then took charge of the work and remained for seven or eight years, and was succeeded by Father Major, who remained but two years. Father J. F. Donovan then took charge of the parish and still remains. Opposite the church a neat parsonage was erected in 1872. The church numbers about 200 families. The Altar Society numbers about fifty, and during' the present year has erected an altar at a cost of $500.

The Methodist Episcopal Society was organized about 1865 and worshiped at first in the school-house. Rev. Henry Adams was the first minister, and he was followed by Rev. Davids, who was succeeded by the Rev. Hallowell, under whose pastorate the present church was built. Rev. Hallowell, Messrs. Batton and Lammey were the building committee. It cost much more than the designers intended, and the society became badly involved. Notes were given for about $2,000. Mr. Lammey was forced to pay these notes, and he took the church as payment, but afterward sold it to conference for $1,100. It has since been remodeled and repaired, and is at present a very handsome edifice. The ministers that have acted as pastors since the Rev. Hallowell's time have been: Revs. Smith, Roads, White, Sullivan, Sweet, Chiperfield, Edmonson, Caldwell, Haley, Linn and Alling. The society numbers between thirty and forty. The Sunday-school numbers about 120, under the superintendency of F.M. Robinson.

The Baptist Society was first organized at Brookfield, and was afterward removed to Seneca in 1864. The first pastor in Seneca was the Rev. S. Knapp, who remained for some time and commenced building a church, but left before it was completed. Rev. Arnold next came, and completed the church in 1864 or 1865. The next pastor was the Rev. A. R. Newton, who came and remained but one year, and was succeeded by Rev. E. P. Savage, who remained a few months, when James Harper was called to the work and remained three years. Then for six years the society was without a pastor. Rev. J. R. Murch came in 1879 and remained one year, and after him the pulpit was supplied with theological students from Morgan Park Theological Seminary, and is at present without any services. The membership at present is about twenty-five. The society has always had a Sunday school, which at present numbers thirty scholars, under the superintendency of Miss Moss.


Seneca Lodge, No. 532, A. F. & .A. M. -was chartered Oct. 1, 1867, with the following members: C. Hill Duck, W. M. Hanna, H. Bilharz, T. E. Wendell, D. Horrom, G. W. Raymond, B. F. Newport, E. Carpenter, W. S. Jackson, W. M. Nickerson, S. L. Carpenter, W. R. Batton and B. T. Drake. The .present officers are: C. H. R. Thomas, W. M.; J. C. Ferrin, S. W. ; John Prickett, J. W.; D. H. Underhill, Treas.; W. M. Nickerson, Sec.; D. :Maxon, S. D.; Thomas Craven, J. D.; F. S. Maxon, Tyler; F. W. Kuhrt, S. S.; G. Garden, J. S. The present membership is twenty-eight and the regular time of meeting is on the first and third Friday evenings of each month .

Manlius Lodge, No. 491, I O. O. F., was organized July 29, 1872, and chartered Oct. 8 of the same year with the following members: Samuel Burwell, S. J. Cook, W. M. Nickerson, J. W. Ellis, N. J. Nelson, J. Hess, J. M. Lammey, F. M. Robinson and D. G. Frary. The first officers were: S. Burwell, N. G.; W. M. Nickerson, V. G.; N. J . Nelson, Sec. The present officers are: G. A. Willmarth, N. G.; C. N. Rolph, V. G.; S. Burwell, Sec., also Per. Sec.; John Beffel, Treas. At present the lodge numbers twenty-nine and meets every Tuesday evening in the hall over the bank, but formerly met in Armour's hall.

Shabbona Lodge, A. O. U. W, was organized Aug. 20, 1885, with sixteen members. The officers are: C. H. R. Thomas, M. W.; J. C. Ferrin, F.; J. L. Shaw, 0.; H. D. Teall, Rec.; C. A. Morey, Fin.; N. J. Nusbaum, Receiver; R.A. Stewart, Guide; F. M. Thomas, I. W.; W. A. Graves, O. W. The lodge meets on the first and third Friday evening's of each month.

Division No.8, A. O. H., was instituted in Novem ber, 1880, with ten members. The first officers were: A. Vaughey, Pres.; James Morrisey, Rec. Sec.; John Heaton, Treas.; D. P. Cahill, Fin. Sec. The present officers are: A. Vaughey, Pres.; J. Broderick, V. P.; F. 'I'immins, Rec. See.; P. Timmins, Treas.; D. P. Cahill, Fin. Sec. The present membership is thirty-five and the regular time of meeting is on the first Sunday of each month.

Assembly No. 3,082, Knights of Labor, was organized Feb. 27, 1884, with thirty members. The members meet in the Armory hall on the first Thursday, and the first Sunday after the 20th of each month.

Seneca Post, No. 324, G. A. B., was mustered in August, 1883, with twenty-five members. The :first officers were: F. M. Robinson. Com. ; John Graham, S. V. Com.; John Kane, J. ·V. Com.; J. W. Ellis, Adjt.; D. H. Underhill, Q. M.; C. H. R. Thomas, Surgeon, The post is, at present, thirty strong and meets on the second and fourth Friday evenings of each month in G. A. R. hall. The present officers are: J. W. Ellis, Com.; A. Hurin, S. V. Com.; T. A. Cuddigan, J. V. Com.; D. H. Underhill, Q. M.; S. Burwell, Adjt.; C. H. R. Thomas, Surgeon.

1886 history Page 358-367

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