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Seneca Township

Seneca Township History
Transcribed from the 1885 History of McHenry County by Anne Kunzen

Seneca, one of the center townships of the county, is joined on the east by Dorr, on the south by Coral, on the west by Marengo, and on the north by Hartland.It is one of the finest townships in the county; the land is rich, gently rolling and under a high state of cultivation.In early times the west side of the township was heavily timbered, supplying building material and fuel in great abundance.The majority of the first houses in the township were built of oak procured from this belt of timber.

The township was named for a tribe of Indians in New York, from which the State came many of Senecaís early settlers. E. Pettit made the first claim in this township in 1835. It is now known as the Sponsable farm. Mr. Pettit remained here but a short time when he sold to Mr. Sponsable.

In 1835 John Belden made his claim where he now resides. He came here from LaPorte County, Ind., and is one of the public spirited men of this section of the country.

Jedediah Rogers came in 1835 and made his claim where O.S. Tanner now lives. He was a native of Vermont.

Russel Diggins moved from St. Lawrence County, N.Y., to Seneca Township in 1836. His wife died soon after coming here; she was the first person who died in this township.

A Mr. Woodward made a claim east of Mr. Diggins and remained only during the year 1836. His wife died in the fall, and not being able to secure the services of a minister, R.G. White conducted the services by reading a chapter in the Bible and offering a prayer. The funeral sermon was to be preached on the following Sabbath by Rev. Whitman, of Belvidere. On this day the neighbors came from near and far not only to hear a good band, but imagine their surprise when they learned that he was not present to hear the address to the mourners, but had gone with his hired girl to DeKalb County to visit some friends.

Robert G. White came from Bond County, Ill., to Seneca in the spring of 1836. He built the first saw-mill in this corner of the county. He died in 1871, honored and esteemed by all who knew him.

Eli Craig came to Seneca in 1836.In 1838 he was elected Constable, and had the honor of arresting two thieves who broke into the residence of Samuel Smith and procured $600. Mr. Craig remained only a few years in the township, when he moved West.

Amos Damon came from Ohio in 1836. Silas Chatfield, a Captain in the war of 1812, came here from Ohio in 1836; he died April 2, 1866.He had been wounded while serving his country and drew a Captainís pension for years. Joseph Hanna came from Virginia and settled here in 1836 and died in 1850.

Solomon Baldwin came here in 1836, from Washington County, N.Y. He made several claims for himself and sons and afterward sold to different parties. To C.R. Read he traded a tract for a store. He died August 1870.

Christopher Sponsable came from Seneca County, Ohio, in the fall of 1836. He remained in the township till his death, which occurred Nov. 9, 1854. His family consisted of 12 children.

Whitman Cobb, formerly from Cazenovia County, N.Y., settled here in the fall of 1836.A few years afterward he moved to Jo Daviess County, where he remained several years and then returned to Riley Township, this county, where he died Feb. 2, 1866.

Ephraim Rogers came from Rutland County, Vt., and settled here in the fall of 1836 and died Nov. 6, 1867.

M. Dickenson settled in Seneca in 1837, and the same year came John Ackerson and Peter Deitz, the latter was a lawyer by profession and practiced some here in an early day. Clark Wix and Spencer Flanders also came in 1837.
Leander Bishop came from New York State and is still a resident of the township.
John White came from North Carolina and died in Marengo in the year 1869.

William Sponsable came from New York State and resided in Seneca till about the year 1864. It is said he died insane. His daughter Caroline was the first white child born in the township.

Salem Stowell came from Vermont and remained only a few years, when he moved to Minnesota, where he died.

The residents of the township at present are chiefly from the Eastern States, a large percent being from Vermont.

Vermont street, running north and south through sections 21 ands 22 was so named by the parties who settled on it, all being from Vermont except a Mr. Mead who owned forty acres.

The following comes from the "History of McHenry County, Illinois", 1922:

The first burial place was between Woodstock and Franklinville. Franklinville Cemetery was laid out in 1839 by the common consent of the pioneer settlers, but especially by the members of the Methodist Episcopal Church. Mrs. Lazarus was the first to be buried at that place.

The first school in Seneca Township was taught by Mrs. Stevens, the wife of G. B. Stevens, at their residence, one mile south of Franklinville, in 1840. The first schoolhouse was erected in Franklinville. The earliest religious meetings were held at the home of G. B. Stevens in 1839, by Rev. Leander Walker, and he and Rev. Nathaniel Jewett preached alternately every four weeks at private residences until 1849, when the Methodists built their church at Franklinville.

A Mr. Lockwood opened a store on section 22, and began trading with the neighboring farmers, and after one year he exchanged his store for one owned by a Mr. Robinson of Geneva, Ill. Robinson was in time succeeded by Harley Wayne, who in 1843 took in George T. Kasson as a partner. Kasson bought out Wayne and formed a partnership with U. T. Hyde, and they opened a second store.
Norman Brebhall was the first blacksmith to kindle his glowing forge in the hamlet.
In 1843, through the efforts of "Long" John Wentworth, then congressman from this district, a post office was established at Franklinville, which at first was called Belden, and Sylvester Mead was appointed postmaster. He was followed by H. Wayne, and he by G. T. Kasson. The office was abandoned in 1866, and for six years there was no post office, but in 1872 Carrie Deitz was appointed as postmistress. Franklinville is now served by rural free delivery.
The community still known as Franklinville has a Methodist Episcopal Church, a charge out from Woodstock; a store and blacksmith shop. In its early days it had high hopes of becoming the seat of justice and ranking among the best places of the county, but time changes the best laid plans of men.

[Transcribed by K. Torp]


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