William G. Cutler's History of the State of Kansas


[TOC] [part 6] [part 4] [Cutler's History]



Prior to the year 1870, Seneca had no government of its own in any way separate from that of the townships: trustees being elected annually who had full control of its affairs, in common with those of the country surrounding it. On February 25, 1868, an act of the Legislature was approved, entitled an act to incorporate towns and villages, and in accordance with its provision H. H. Lanham, Probate Judge, issued a certificate on May 17,1870, duly incorporating the northwest quarter and the north half of the northeast quarter, in Section 34, Township 2, Range 12 east, as a city of the third class. The certificate further appointed as Town Trustees: James P. Taylor, Charles G. Scrafford, J. B. Meyers, Abijah Wells and John F. McGowan. These were sworn into office May 21st of the same year, Charles G. Scrafford elected Chairman, and J. H. Williams, Clerk. An ordinance of the board, approved February 27, 1871, provided for the further acceptance of the legislative act, and ordered an election for city officers, to be held April 3, 1871. At this election 180 votes were cast with the following result, certificates of election being issued to the new officers on April 5: W. G. Sargent, Mayor; George Graham, J. H. Peckham, John H:. Larew, Jacob Meisner, Mathias Stein, Council. Abijah Wells was subsequently appointed Police Judge, the Council approving the act, April 18, 1871. The city has always been well managed, having had no bonded indebtedness, and no floating debt of any moment. Following is the official roster of the town by years:

1871. - Mayor, W. G. Sargent; Council, George Graham, J. H. Peckham, John H. Larew, Jacob Meisner, Mathias Stein; Police Judge (by appointment) Abijah Wells.

1872. - Mayor, C. G. Scrafford; Council, J. F. McGowan, John Kaune, Edward Butt, George Graham, J. H. Larew; Police Judge, Frank H. Hurlbut.

1873. - Mayor, C. G. Scrafford; Council, Samuel King, A. H. Burnett. J. P. Taylor, J. C. Hebbard, J. H. Larew; Police Judge, Abijah Wells.

1874. - Mayor, D. B. McKay; Council, G. W. Williams, D. R. Magill, J. H. H. Ford, J. P. Taylor, J. F. McGowan; Police Judge, R. C. Bassett.

1875. - Mayor, J. H. Larew; Council, J. H. Peckham, D. R. Magill, G. W. Earl, A. Kelm, John Fuller; Police Judge, George Graham.

1876. - Mayor, Abijah Wells; Council, G. W. Williams, P. P. Fuller, Willis Brown, R. E. Nelson, L. J. McGowen; Police Judge, R. M. Emery.

1877. - Mayo, Abijah Wells; Council, Thomas Bennett, J. H. Hatch, G. W. Johnson, R. E. Nelson, J. E. Taylor; Police Judge, D. J. Perry.

1878. - Mayor, R. E. Nelson; Council, J. H. Hatch, D. J. Firstenberger, Samuel King, J. H. Larew. Joseph Behne; Police Judge, Joseph Sharp.

1879. - Mayor, R. E. Nelson; Council, D. R. Vorhes, J. H. Peckham, J. H. H. Ford, Thomas Bennett, George Graham; Police Judge, J. F. Curran.

1880. - Mayor, Edward Butt; Council, S. E. Gallaway, J. H. Larew, James Parsons, Simon Conwell, John Kaune; Police Judge, J. F. Curran.

1881. - Mayor, J. H. Larew; Council, J. H. Hatch, R. E. Nelson, G. W. Johnson, John Fuller, R. M. Emery; Police Judge, J. F. Curran.

1882. - Mayor, J. H. Hatch (declined to serve, Joshua Mitchell elected); Council, R. E. Nelson, J. F. McGowan, J. H. Wilson, A. L. Scoville, A. L. L. Stone; Police Judge, William Histed.


In writing something of the history of education in Seneca, it may not be out of place to extend the record - saying something of the attention paid to instruction in the county generally. The first report of school matters in Nemaha county was made in 1860, by J. C. Hebbard, the County Superintendent, to Samuel W. Greer, the Territorial Superintendent of Public Instruction. This report shows that in the county at that time, there were 180 persons between the ages of five and twenty-one years, and six organized school districts, the same number of schools being taught.

Twenty years later, in 1880, the county, with a school population of 4,473, had eighty-six organized districts, with ninety schoolhouses. The schools giving employment to one hundred and thirty-three teachers. The total valuation of school of school property at this time was $57,904. As early as 1864 a teachers' association was organized, with T. D. Shepherd, President; Abijah Wells, Secretary, and William Histed, Treasurer. This, in a somewhat different form as to object and method, is still existence, and has done good work.

The first school taught in the county has already been noticed; the first in Seneca was one taught by Miss Addie Smith in the hotel building, erected by John E. Smith. This was in the fall of 1858, a select school of which there is no further record. The school district was not organized until some years later. The School Board of this, the eleventh district, advertised on April 21, 1864, for proposals for building a one-story brick schoolhouse in Seneca, the contract being let early in May, to L. J. McGowen and George Monroe. This building, 24x50 feet in size, and erected at a cost of $1,700, was first occupied in the spring of 1865, the school then being under the charge of Abijah Wells and Miss Kate Webber. The building was used for the purpose for which it was designed until 1869, when it was found totally inadequate to the increased demands of the school population. The board, forseeing this, advertised in April, 1868, for bids for a new and much larger edifice, the contract for which was let to C. G. Scrafford, and the building completed the year following, the old schoolhouse being sold to the Catholic Society for church purposes. The new building, as originally erected, was of stone, 45x561/2 feet, two stories in height, and with a bell tower and pinnacle sixty-six feet in height above the surface.

In 1879, an addition was built, of the same height as the main building, and in harmony with its design; 30x60 feet in size, the completed structure making not only one of the largest, but one of the handsomest buildings in Northern Kansas. Its entire cost was about $25,000.

On the 12th of September, 1870, the school was graded into three departments: primary, intermediate, and high school. In the spring of 1871 a German department was added. The school is now under the principalship of D. F. Hoover, and embraces the above mentioned departments.

The first sermon preached in Nemaha County, in all probability, was by Elder Thomas Newton, of the regular Baptist Church, who came from Illinois in 1854. For a number of years he ministered regularly to the settlers, first at Central City and afterward at Seneca. Following him, as regards the ministerial profession, was Elder Thomas R. Newton, who arrived in 1855. The Methodists gained a foothold in the county in 1857; the Catholics in 1859, the Presbyterians a few years later, and the Congregationalists, as an organization, in 1866. There are now in Seneca five religious societies: the Universalists, Baptists, Congregationalists, Methodists and Catholics, all but one of which have church buildings, commodious, handsome exteriorly, and well fitted up. The combined membership of the societies is about five hundred.

Baptist Church. - The first society of this denomination was the Central City Baptist Church, organized at Central City, August 1, 1857; the members at that time being Thomas and T. R. Newton, H. H. Lanham and their respective families. The first pastor was Rev. T. R. Newton, he and Rev. Thomas Newton alternating as leader of the little flock, for several years, and being succeeded by Rev. Robert Turner. A small church building was erected, afterward used for a schoolhouse. On September 12, 1875, the society united itself with the Seneca Baptist Church.

The Seneca Regular Baptist Church was organized April 25, 1866, in the schoolhouse. The constituent members were Elder Thomas Newton, H. M., Ursula M., John C. and Mary J. Newton; H. H. Mary Ann and M. S. Lanham; Roseanne Cordell, Eli Story and Silas G. Wicks. The pastors have been as follows: Rev. T. R. Newton, April 1866 until his death in January, 1867; Rev. Thomas Rice, to 1868; Rev. Robert Turner until 1870. From 1870 to 1875 a hiatus occurred, Rev. J. S. Henry assuming the pastorate in 1875 and retaining it for one year, there being no incumbent from 1876 to 1879. At that time Rev. E. F. Strickland took charge of the congregation, retaining it until 1880, from May of which year to October, 1881 there was again a vacancy. The present pastor is Rev. D. H. Cottrell. From 1866 to 1875 the society worshiped in the schoolhouse and in private residences; from 1876 to 1881 they made use of the Universalist Church building; under the present pastorate returning to the schoolhouse. The church membership is about forty.

Methodist Church. - As early as the year 1857, Rev. Leonard Nichols was appointed to what was then known as the Kansas and Nebraska Circuit, Seneca or some point in the near vicinity being one of the places visited by him in the line of his regular duty. He served one year. In 1858 Rev. James Lawrence was pastor in charge, and Rev. Williams Robbins, assistant. The first camp meeting in the vicinity was held during this year near Seneca. In 1859, the church was organized, Rev. Asbury Clark becoming its pastor, in connection with other duties he performed in surrounding towns. For years the organization made use of private residences and of the schoolhouse for church purposes, and finally, upon its completion in 1869, of the Universalist building. In 1877, the society erected a handsome edifice, in a convenient location, and with a seating capacity of 216. Its cost was $3,150. This church building was dedicated June 10, 1877, the Rev. D. J. Holmes officiating. The pastors have been as follows: 1859-'60, Rev. George A. Riack; 1860-'61, Rev. Asbury Clark; 1861-'2-'3, Rev. A. G. Channel; 1864, Rev. H. G. Murch; 1865-'6, Rev. J. S. Griffin; 1867, Rev. T. H. Hawley; 1868, Rev. T. B. Gray; 1869-'70, Rev. T. B. Bracken; 1871-'2, Rev. D. T. Rodabaugh; 1873, Rev. L. L. Lence; 1874-'5-'6, Rev. J. A. Amos; 1877, Rev. Nathaniel Taylor; 1878, Rev. W. R. Kistler; 1879, Rev. William Holman; 1880-'81, Rev. R. E. McBride; the last mentioned being the present incumbent.

Presbyterian Church. - The first Presbyterian Church of Seneca was organized June 14, 1863, Hiram Johnson and Demmon Miner being chosen Elders, and J. C. Hebbard, clerk. The only further record of the church known to be in existence, is the following petition, showing the constituent members and the objects of its organization:

"Believing it to be a duty we owe to God, to our fellow-men and to ourselves, to 'let our light shine,' and labor efficiently for our own and others' spiritual elevation, as a means to such an end, we, the undersigned, residents of Seneca and vicinity, do desire you, the Rev. Charles Parker, to organize us into a Presbyterian Church, on Sunday June 14, 1863." (Signed) J. C. Hebbard, J. W. Tuller, Lizzie P. Tuller, Leora Loveland, Henry P. Dryden, Sarah S. Dryden, Demmon Miner, Elvira Johnson, Eliza Williams.

The membership of the Presbyterian Church, up to 1867, was a follows: June 14, 1863, Hiram Johnson, Mrs. Elvira Johnson, Demmon Miner, Henry P. Dryden, Mrs. Sarah S. Dryden, Mrs. Leora Loveland, Miss Eliza Williams, J. C. Hebbard; December 18, 1864, C. S. Knox, Mrs. Jane S. Knox, Mrs. Martha Grover, Miss Harriet Grover; April 1, 1865, Mrs. Rosetta N. Hebbard, A. O. Loveland, Alfred Chilson, Mrs. Mehitable Chilson, Miss Sarah O. Chilson, James N. Weir, Mrs. Mary Jane Weir, John H. Sherman, Mrs. Angeline Boyd; August 5, 1866, Mrs. Francis S. Chilson; October 8, 1865, Mrs. Isabella Smith; February 10, 1866, Josiah Boston, Mrs. Elizabeth Boston, Mrs. Semantha Scofield, David Neal, Mrs. Nancy Neal; November 17, 1866, Mrs. Mary J. Hensel, Mrs. Jane Hornbeck, Miss Marcia McKay.

The Rev. Mr. Nash was sent out by the Board of Missions and ministered to the society for a few months, but the church soon became disorganized, and its members united themselves with other denominations. In 1867 an effort was made to secure a new membership which should be permanent, by the erection of a church building to be known as the Presbyterian, but to be used by all denominations in common. The sum of $2,050 was subscribed, but the Universalists, desiring the honor of the name, offered to do even more for the common cause, and finally built the church, used for many years by the Baptists and Congregationalists. No combined effort has since been made to establish Presbyterianism in this immediate vicinity, most of the members of that organization belonging to the Congregational church.

Congregational Church. - this society was organized in Seneca, on December 2, 1866, its charter members being Reuben and Harriet Cone, E. W., Emily and T. A. Cone, George and Mary J. Graham, Keziah Mitchell and Lizzie P. Tuller. In 1870, a handsome frame edifice was erected, at a cost of $4,000; the dedicatory services being held on Christmas day of the year mentioned. The pastors of the church have been as follows, in the order mentioned: Revs. W. C. Stewart, George Bent, R. b. Guild, A. G. Bergen and G. C. Louckridge, the last named being the present incumbent. George Graham acted as Chairman as the time of organization, and was, until his death, a leading and valued member of the society. The membership of the church is fifty- five.

Universalist Church. - Preceding the year 1867, Seneca had no church buildings, and no combined or energetic effort had been made toward the erection of any. On April 30th of that year a church meeting, in which all the denominations represented in the community took part, was held to consider the matter of building a church. A previous canvass had resulted in getting subscriptions for the purpose to the amount of $2,050; it being understood that the edifice was to be known as the Presbyterian Church, but was to be used in common by all the denominations. At, or immediately subsequent to this meeting, the Universalists offered to pledge $1,600 additional to the $2,000 already subscribed, if the previous subscription should be transferred to them, and consent given that the name 'Universalist' should be substituted for 'Presbyterian,' the church to be used by all, but to be the property of the former organization, when instituted. To this proposition to the Presbyterians and others freely consented, and a new subscription paper was drawn in accordance with the above conditions.

On May 2, the Universalists met and organized their society, electing five trustees, as follows: C. G. Scrafford, J. H. Peckham, William Histed, J. P. Taylor and D. B. McKay. During the same month a contract was let for the erection of a church building, and a site purchased on the south side of Main street, in an excellent location. On October 20, 1867, the stone work was completed, and on January 1, 1868, the building occupied for the first time, the occasion being a donation offered to Mr. Ballou, the Universalist pastor. Soon after, this work was temporarily suspended for lack of funds, the edifice not being altogether finished until nearly eighteen months later.

The first services in the church were held July 17, 1869, Rev. G. W. Skinner, of Leavenworth, preaching morning and evening, since which time, and until very recently, it has been used by the Methodists, Baptists and Congregationalists in common with the organization owning it. The building is of stone, is 39x55 feet in size, thirty-two feet from foundation to gable, with a belfry thirty feet in height additional. It is lighted by size windows, and is, altogether, a commodious and handsome edifice. Its entire cost was about $7,500.

The pastorate of the Universalist organization has been occupied successively by Rev. J. H. Ballou, Rev. R. M. Bartlett, Rev. A. Barnes, Rev. Joseph Wilson, and lastly by Rev. J. F. Rhodes, who has filled the position satisfactorily since. The church membership is abut fifty.

St. Mary's Catholic Church (Wildcat). - A society, as above named, was organized in 1859, at Wildcat settlement in Richmond Township, about four miles northwest of Seneca. It comprised John P. and Joseph Koelzer, Mrs. Margaret Draney and family, P. J. Assenmacher, Thomas Morgan, John Koch, Frederick Shumacher, Thomas Carlin And M. Rogers. During the same year a frame building was erected 18x50 feet in size, this being enlarged in 1864, and again in 1880, it[s] present dimensions being 35x75 feet. It has a bell weighing 1,800 pounds, cast in St. Louis, and costing, delivered in Seneca, $514. The Rev. Peter Augustine was the first priest, the Rev. Ferdinand Wolf, O. S. B., now having charge of the eighty families, which comprise the congregation. In 1861 a small school building was erected near the church, the school being conducted by the Sisters of St. Benedict.

St. Peter and St. Paul Catholic Church. - This society was instituted in 1869, principally through the efforts of Mathias Stein, who contributed largely toward the purchase of the district brick schoolhouse in Seneca, during the same year; the building, in connection with a block of land, costing $1,000, and being used for church purposed without material alteration until 1880. In the year mentioned a large frame addition was built, prior to which time a parsonage had been erected. The following reverend fathers have had charge: Rev. Father Pemine M. Koumly, O. S. B; Rev. Timothy Luber, O. S. B; Rev. Thomas Bartol, O. S. B; Rev. Emanuel Hartig, O. S. B; Rev. Thomas Bartol, O. S. B. In connection with the church is St. Ann's school building, erected in 1877 at a cost of $4,000. It is a preparatory school under the charge of the St. Benedictine Sisters. From three to five teachers are employed, and the average attendance of scholars is about fifty.

[TOC] [part 6] [part 4] [Cutler's History]