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


[TOC] [part 7] [part 5] [Cutler's History]



The first newspaper issued in Seneca and in Nemaha County, was the Nemaha Courier, the initial number of which appeared November 14, 1863, with John P. Cone as editor and proprietor. It was a six-column folio, Republican in politics, its principles being evidenced by its motto: "When Freedom is in danger, all who are not for her are against her." In its first issue the editor takes occasion to say: "The Courier, as pioneer of the art preservative in Nemaha County, to-day sends greeting to all, friend and foe - Rebels and Copperheads excepted. Issued upon soil never before settled upon for a 'pry' to the "world's lever," it stands first and yet alone to herald that happy day when types first -

Were taught
To act the happy messengers of thought."

The office of publication was in Lappin & Scrafford's building on the main street, whence the paper was issued for years without change, until January 23, 1868, when it ceased to profess a protection of freedom, and began to "Protect Home Industry." On March 25, 1869, the name of the paper was changed to that of the Nemaha Kansas Courier, "vincit veritas," being taken as a motto, the principles and proprietorship of the paper remaining the same as before. On February 10, 1871, Frank A. Root and West E. Wilkinson purchased the establishment, taking the name of the Seneca Courier. On March 29, 1872, Frank A. Root withdrew from the paper, since which time West E. Wilkinson has continued its publication as sole editor and proprietor. Notable epochs in its career under its present management have been the publication in its columns of a history of the county, on July 7, 1876, prepared by George Graham, H. H. Lanham and J. C. Hebbard; and of a ten-page immigration edition, presented to its patrons on March 1, 1878. After various changes in form, the paper is now an eight-column folio, and, as ever, aggressively Republican.

The second paper issued in Seneca was the Mercury, established by the Mercury Printing Company, in 1869, the first number appearing on September 19 of that year. Its editor was Thomas S. Kames. After a precarious existence of a few weeks, it suspended publication.

The Independent Press was issued under the auspices of the Nemaha County Printing Association, with George W. Collins, as editor. The first number appeared January 1,1870. Paul Conner assumed editorial control on June 18 of the same year, the paper suspending on December 25th following. On March 8, 1871, it was revived and published by L. A. Hoffman. In August its proprietors were L. A. Hoffman & Co., and in January, 1872, L. A. Hoffman again became the sole owner. On January 19 of the same year, W. D. Wood purchased the Press, and March 14, 1873, changed its name to the Nonpareil. It ceased publication February 6, 1874.

The Seneca Tribune was started by George W. Wrenn and George W. Clawson, April I6, 1879, as a seven-column folio with Democratic proclivities. October 2, 1879, the property was transferred to, and the publication continued by, George & Adams, H. C. Adams becoming sole proprietor on December 18th of the same year. Under his management an immigration edition was issued on January 1, 1880, giving a complete and accurate description of the various townships and villages in the county, with their several advantages. On January 8, 1880, Abijah Wells purchased an interest in the paper and became its editor, the firm name being Adams & Wells. Under the new management the paper assumed a Republican tone. June 1, 1881, Andrew J. Felt, formerly of Nashua, Iowa, purchased the concern, and has since continued its sole proprietor. The Tribune is now an eight-column quarto, and a success.

The Nemaha County Journal, a monthly publication devoted principally to real estate matters, made its first appearance in August, 1879. Its proprietor, J. P. Taylor, continued to issue it but a few months when its light went out.

Seneca, and the adjacent country have always treated the press well. For its part the press has deserved nothing worse, its energy and the ability displayed in its columns having done very much to induce immigration, and to give the county the high relative place in relation to the surrounding counties which it now enjoys.

The first post office in the county was at Central City, with H. H. Lanham as Postmaster, that at Seneca not being established until December, 1858. At this time John E. Smith received the President's commission, Seneca being made a station on the overland mail route. The first post office was kept in the rear part of the present Wilson House, a building which J. E. Smith had erected for hotel purposes in the spring of 1858. In 1861 John H. Peckham became the official incumbent; during his administration in 1864 mails being received as follows: Eastern mails, tri- weekly, by overland daily coach line, received on Monday, Wednesday and Friday nights, returning on the alternate days. Western mail, semi-weekly, received by horseback from Marysville via Guittard's Station, Ash Point and Fairland, proceeding to Albany, Carson, Hamlin, Ununda, and as far as Highland, on Tuesdays and Fridays.

In January, 1885, J. H. Peckham was superseded by D. B, McKay who retained the office until January, 1875, when West E. Wilkinson, the present incumbent, was commissioned. The office was changed to one of the third class, under an order dated December 17, 1878, taking effect January 1, 1879. There are now daily mails from the East and West by way of the Kansas Division the U. P. R. R., and Eastern mails also received by stage from Centralia on the Central Branch, besides prompt and frequent connection with various parts of the county, away from the railroads.

The Seneca Cemetery Association was organized according to the statute in May 1863, Samuel Lappin being elected President; Thomas Cave, Vice- President; J. H. Peckham, Secretary, and B. Scofield, Treasurer. A necessary amount of land was purchased, about one mile northwest of the city, surveyed and platted and a few years later a substantial board fence put up, at a cost of about $150. The land is admirably situated, its physical advantages being all that could be asked; and while private improvements have been made, and a number of tasteful monuments erected, but little as yet has been done by the city or association beyond the enclosure of the site.

Fire Department. - A preliminary meeting, toward the organization of a fire department, was held in Seneca, December 14, 1880. On January 11, 1881, this organization was perfected by the election of the following officers: President, Simon Conwell; Foreman, A. H. Martin; First Assistant-Foreman, S. E. Gallaway; Second Assistant-Foreman; W. S. Dillon; Secretary J. L. Brockman; Treasurer, J. F. Curran. On March 18, of the same year, the Council decided to purchase hook and ladder trucks, with four Babcock extinguishers; six ladders aggregating ninety-six feet in length, ten oak-tanned fire buckets, and other accessories. These were bought, and a suitable place secured for their reception. The fire company numbering twenty-two members, are provided with neat and tasteful uniforms, and have devoted much time to practice, there having, however, been little occasion for their services up to this time. No change has ever been made in the officers.

Seneca has had no fires of importance, except those which occurred in 1860 and in 1876, by which the county each time lost a court house. The first of these was of little value; the last, costing $29,000, entailed a loss upon the insurance companies of $20,000. A fuller account of both fires will be found in that of the county.

Seneca Lodge, No. 39, A. F. & A. M. - This lodge was organized September 5, 1863, with officers as follows: Byron Sherry, W. M.; A. K. Moore, S. W.; J. H. Peckham, J. W.; L. B. Jones, Sec'y; Hiram Johnson, Treas. The lodge continued under its first charter until October 18, 1876, when it surrendered it, a new one being granted, under which the name and number of the lodge were the same. Its present officers are: Joshua Mitchell, W. M,: R. M. Emery, S. W.; N. H. Martin, J. W.; John F. Curran, Sec'y; J. H. Hatch, Treas. The present membership is about fifty.

A lodge of Royal Arch Masons was organized in the fall of 1877, with Willis Brown, High Priest; S. B. Murphy, King; John F. McGowan, Scribe; J. E. Black Secretary. Its present officers are: Abijah Wells; High Priest; Joshua Mitchell, King; Thomas Bennett, Scribe; W. P. Harrison, Sec'y.

Francis Chapter, No. 9, Order of the Eastern Star. - The organization of this chapter was effected October 16, 1878, with J. H. Hatch, W. P.; Mrs. M. V. Peckham, W. M.; Mrs. Margaret Brown, Asst W. M. Its present officers are: L. Cohen, W. P.; Mrs. Margaret Brown, W. M.; Mrs. L. Cohen, Asst. W. M.

Nemaha Lodge, No. 19, I. O. O. F. - There appears to have been a call issued by Delos Acker, J. H. Peckham and J. P. Taylor, as early as 1864, for a meeting whose object it was to organize a lodge of the above order. Nothing, however, came of it. Nemaha Lodge, No. 19, was instituted March 31, 1866, the charter being granted October 12, of the same year, to George Graham, George L. Squire, John N. Cline, Thomas D. Shepherd and Delos Acker. Its first officers were: Delos Acker, N. G.: William Histed, Secretary. Elections have been held regularly from that time to the present, with the exception of that which should have taken place June 30, 1871, during six months subsequent to which date there is no record of any meetings being held. In the court house fire of 1876 the secretary's books were destroyed. The present officers are: L. Cohen, N. G.; Henry Belshaw, V. G.; J. H. Williams, Sec'y; John Larew, Treas.

Seneca Lodge, No. 60, was organized, September 27, 1880, with twenty-two members and the following list of officers: W. M., T. B. Collins; P. M. W., J. C. Hart; Foreman, A. L. Stone; O., J. F. Curran; G., V. Martin; Recorder, W. Drowns; Fin., C. E. Carter; J. W., C. E. Wilson; O. W., R. M. Emery; Receiver, S. E. Gallaway. Its place of meeting is, and has been, Wilson's Hall. The present officers are: M. W., W. Jenkins; P. M. W., W. Drowns; Foreman, W. E. Young; O., J. F. Curran; Fin., C. E. Wilson; Recorder, J. C. Hart; Guide, L. J. Leeds; O. W., W. S. Dillon; J. W., R. M. Pressler; Receiver, S. E. Gallaway. The membership is now thirty, and the lodge is in a flourishing condition.

Seneca Library Association. - In preface to the history of this organization, it may be well to mention previous attempts at the institution of somewhat similar societies in Seneca. The first of these began its existence in January, 1864, lasting but a few months. It was known simply as the Seneca Lyceum, and all records of value regarding it are lost, beyond the fact that on February 23, W. F. Wells and H. P. Dryden discussed the question whether the miser exerts a more baneful influence upon society than the spindthrift.

On November 16, 1869, a preliminary meeting, with the purpose of organizing a literary society, was held in the schoolhouse, and a week later the question debated whether or not Seneca should be incorporated - the affirmative being taken by Abijah Wells, J. H. Cotton and H. P. Dryden; the negative by G. W. Collins, John Cave and Prof. Gauss. An election of officers was also held, resulting as follows: President, Thomas Moore; Vice-President, S. L. Hamilton; Secretary, J. H. Cotton; Treasurer, Alice Church; Sergeant-at-arms, H. P. Dryden. Considerable interest seems to have been manifested for some weeks, when the society ceased to exist.

The Seneca Literary and Library Association was organized, December 12, 1871, with A. Wells, President; W. G. Sargent, Secretary, and Joseph Sharpe, Treasurer. On the 19th, a constitution and by-laws were adopted, and the question discussed: "Resolved, That the cause of temperance in our midst can best be promoted by licensing the sale of intoxicating liquors" - a question which in one form or another has been under discussion ever since. This, and organizations in legitimate succession to it, lasted a number of years; a library was established, consisting of three hundred dollars' worth of books, in addition to a number of donations.

On September 28, 1878, a charter was secured for the present society, the Seneca Library Association. The library previously referred to was secured, and important additions made, it consisting at present of nearly 500 well selected volumes, in all departments of literature. The officers elected September 30, 1878, were: Edward Butt, President; P. P. Fuller, Secretary; J. H. H. Ford, Treasurer. On September 30, 1880, J. H. Hatch became President; J. H. Williams, Secretary; and Willis Brown, Treasurer. The last election, held January 31, 1882, placed in office A. Wells, President; J. H. Hatch, Vice-President; J. H. Williams, Secretary, and L. Cohen, Treasurer - these, with the following persons, constituting the board of Trustees: R. C. Bassett, Simon Conwell, J. h. H. Ford, R. M. Emery and R. E. Nelson. The society has commodious and pleasant rooms in the rear of the law office of Wells & Curran, and is now in a very flourishing condition, a decided public interest being manifested in its success.

Company D., First State Kansas Militia. - The organization of this company was perfected in the year 1878, with the following list of commissioned officers: Willis Brown, Captain; Lewis Sheeley, First Lieutenant; Edward Butt, Second Lieutenant.

In September of the same year arms were issued them by the State, the company went earnestly to work, adopted a suitable uniform of the regular United States Army Blue, drilled regularly, and soon showed fine progress in the art of military maneuvers. In November, 1879, the ladies of Seneca presented the Company with a fine stand of colors. Willis Brown being promoted to the colonelcy of the regiment, preceding his commission as General of the State Militia. Edward Butt was promoted to the captaincy, and Lewis Sheeley commissioned First Lieutenant. In the summer of 1881 the company disbanded.

Seneca Light Artillery Company. - This is both a civil and a military organization, chartered under the laws of Kansas, on July 4, 1881. The officers of the civil organization are: Secretary, A. H. Burnett, President; A. Wells, Vice- President; J. F. Curran, Treasurer; Joshua Mitchell. Those of the military company, which consists of twenty men are: Willis Brown, Captain; W. F. Troughton, First Lieutenant; C. E. Wilson, Second Lieutenant. In the fall of 1881, an armory was erected, a two-story frame building, 30x50 feet in size, in which meetings are held, and wherein is kept a six pound brass cannon, the property of the State. The members of the company are each provided with two uniforms, fatigue and dress costumes, and as an organization, possess a fine fifty dollar flag, presented by the city.

Seneca Band. The organization of a brass band was effected in November 1875, with A. Harden as Leader, a position which he yet retains. Various changes have been made in the membership, the band, as at present constituted, being as follows A. H. Gehr, Eb. Cornet; W. W. Felt, First Bb. Cornet; F. E. Jacks, Second Bb. Cornet; J. W. Larew, First Eb. Alto; N. R. Boulton, Second Eb. Alto; J. H. Gleason, First Bb. Tenor; W. N. Snyder, Second Bb. Tenor; B. C. Weaver, Baritone; F. Smith, Eb. Tuba; F. Doty Snare Drum; W. S. Nash, Bass Drum and Cymbals. The Seneca Silver Cornet Band, a defunct organization was constituted in 1869 with L. A. Hardon as Leader, and Anton Coblitz, John Norton, E. C. Gibbons, J. W. Stickney, J. B. Meyers, George Graham, W. S. Nash and Clarke Smith, as members. It continued in existence but a few years.

The Seneca Orchestra is a comparatively recent organization. Its leader is A. H. Gehr; its other members being: J. W. Larew, Second Violin; J. H. Gleason, Bass; F. E. Jacks, Cornet; J. C. Hart, Flute; __ Weaver, Trombone. The orchestra is provided with good instruments, and is in excellent practice.

Seneca Board of Trade. - An organization, under the above name, and consisting of the principal citizens of Seneca; was elected on March 17, 1882, a preliminary meeting having been held on the 14th of the same month. The election of officers resulted as follows: President, J. H. Williams; Vice-President. J. H. H. Ford; Secretary, Leopold Cohen; Treasurer, J. F. Curran. It was instituted "for mutual benefit, and the encouragement of every local enterprise, to induce and encourage immigration and manufacturing industries to locate in Seneca, to work for low rates of freight, to encourage home patronage, and the maintenance of home manufactures and home institutions," and for various purposes in accordance with the objects above indicated.

But little work has as yet been accomplished beyond that, which must necessarily precede any thing definite, the awakening of public interest in the prosperity of the city. In July, 1882, a committee was appointed, consisting of William Histed, A. Wells, George A. Marvin, C. G. Scrafford and M. Mathews, to devise ways and means for holding a County Fair some time in the fall of 1882. The sum of $2,300 was almost at once raised by subscription for the purchase of land suitable for fair purposes; the land was bought, William Histed, Willis Brown and George W. Williams being appointed as trustees of the same, in behalf of the owners, those buying the land, holding it subject to the acceptance of the county upon repayment of their investment.


Lappin & Scrafford's private bank was established in 1870; the firm as above mentioned erecting a substantial and handsome brick building, for banking purposes on the north side of Main Street. After a successful business of several years duration, other capital became interested, and in January 1875, the affairs of the bank were wound up, the concern being succeeded by the State Bank of Kansas.

The State Bank of Kansas, succeeding to the business and location of Lappin & Scrafford, was organized in December. 1874, with a capital stock of $100,000, and Samuel Lappin, President; Edwin Knowles, Vice-President; Willis Brown, Cashier; Simon Conwell, Secretary; the four officers with C G. Scrafford, constituting the Board of Directors. The bank went into operation January 25, 1875. In January, 1876, Samuel Lappin and C. G. Scrafford withdrawing, Edwin Knowles was elected President and D. B. McKay, Vice-President; the latter taking C. G. Scrafford's place on the board. D. B. McKay was afterward superseded by Edward Butt, who, as Vice- President gave way to D. J. Firstenberger; Edwin Knowles retains the Presidency, and no change has been made as to Cashier since the bank was established. The Assistant Cashier is George Black. The present Board of Directors are: I. T. Hosea, Edwin Knowles, Willis Brown, D. J. Firstenberger and George W. Williams. The amount of capital stock is the same as upon organization.

The Nemaha County Bank was organized in the month of July, 1881, commencing business March 1, 1882, with a capital of $50,000, and with the following officers: E.. J. Emery President; J. A. Hatch, Vice President; J. H. Johnston, Cashier; the Board of Directors consisting of the above officials, together with L. Cohen and T. W. Johnston. No change has been made in the management.

The first hotel in Seneca was also its first business house of any kind. It was a double log house, with a wide hall in the centre; erected in 1857, by John S. Doyle, for Finley Lappin. One end of it was used by the owner for hotel purposes, the other end by Downing & Stewart, as a grocery store. It was situated on the site of the present city drug store, and was only used as a hotel for a few years.

In the summer of 1858, John E. Smith built what is now the kitchen, and the rooms over it of the Wilson House; calling it Smith's Hotel. In 1860, he built the front on Main Street, and continued as landlord of the establishment until the fall of 1879, when he leased it to J. Q. A. Jeffreys, who retained it for one year, when the property was sold to P. Joseph Assemacher. In November, 1880, T. B. Collins took possession, and in 1882 P. Joseph Assemacher built a fine brick addition at a cost of $3,000, leasing the entire building to Charles E. Wilson, the present proprietor, who changed its name from the Collins House, under which it had been run for a time, to the Wilson House. The hotel has eighteen rooms for guests.

The Union House, a frame building, was erected by Edward Ingram, in 1860; a brick addition being put to it in 1862, and another at the end of the first in 1878. At the owner's death, in 1875, the hotel passed into the hands of John Shumway, who called it the Sherman House. Its next proprietor was C. R. Fairchild, the house taking his name. James Martin, who succeeded Fairchild, named it the City Hotel, and no change in the appellation was made by Levi Petty, who was the next proprietor. In 1879, C. E. Wilson became a partner of Petty's, subsequently buying the entire building, remaining landlord of the hotel until July 1882, when he leased the house to H. G. Stites; under Wilson's management it was called the Wilson House, resuming the name of City Hotel when Stites took possession. The house contains thirteen rooms.

The Seneca House was erected by John Kaune in 1871; it is a substantial frame building, containing twelve rooms, and is under its original proprietorship.


Seneca Mills. - The first mill at, or in immediate propinquity to Seneca, was a sew-mill the machinery of which was purchased in Massachusetts, brought to St. Louis by rail, from St. Louis to Atchison by river, and drawn by ox teams from Atchison to a site, just southeast of Seneca, in the spring of 1858. Its owner was John E. Smith, who continued to operate it for several years, It being finally sold to Bolivar Scofield, who moved the machinery to Marshall County, and resold the mill site to Newton & Lanham. This firm in 1864 moved a saw and grist-mill which they had been operating at Central City to Seneca; putting in a wool carding machinery in 1865, which they ran until 1866, when H. H. Lanham withdrew from the firm, the property passing to H. M. Newton and J. C. Newton. In January, 1867, the Newton Brothers sold the mill to D. A. Starkweather and L. Sheeley, the machinery being moved away shortly subsequent. The Seneca mills, as at present constituted, were established in 1871, by Knowles & Son, of Galesburg, Ill., who received financial encouragement to a large amount from the citizens, and notably from the firm of Lappin & Scrafford. The engine, of sixty-horse power, and the machinery were moved from Galesburg to Seneca, and several run of burrs at once put in. In the winter of 1881, improved machinery was purchased, and the capacity increased, there being now four sets of stones. The mill, under the superintendency of J. W. Bergen, does custom and merchant work, and furnishes employment to six men.

Seneca Foundry. - In 1881 W. M. Butler and W. F. Troughton, entered into a copartnership, under the firm name and style of Butler & Co., establishing the Seneca Foundry. They erected a building on Main street, 30x60 feet in size, put in a fifteen-horse power engine, and began work in November of the year mentioned. From five to ten men are employed in general contracting and job work.

Keystone Barb Wire Works. - The manufacture of the L. T. Lostenwing patent, barb wire. was introduced into Seneca in 1879, by O. A. Marvin and W. R. Tyler, who erected a wood frame building on Main street, and put in five barbing machines, and two barb manufacturing machines. These they have continued to operate from the first. The patent covers a four pointed barb on a single wire. The product of the establishment is about 1,000 pounds a day.

Seneca Creamery. - In the fall of 1880, a creamery was started on Main street, in Seneca, by W. H. Fosmer, who continued as proprietor for some months, the establishment passing into the possession of John. A. Gilchrist, in the summer of 1881. A building was erected during the same season, about two miles north of the city, and fully fitted up, the creamery being managed according to the Davis & Fairlam system. It has a five-horse power engine, by which the oscillating churn is operated. Its capacity is 3,000 pounds of butter per day; its usual product being about 1,000 pounds. The actual cash value is $3,600.

Seneca Elevator. - This institution was established during the winter of 1877 and 1878, by W. W. Stewart, who erected a building adjacent to the railroad, 24x30 feet in size, with an engine room contiguous, 12x24 feet. All machinery, other than the engine, is in the basement. The storage capacity of the elevator is 6,400 bushels. In 1879 it was sold to Ferdinand Cleve, subsequently passing into the hands of Gregg Brothers, of St. Joseph, Mo., its present proprietors, represented by William Scott, manager.

[TOC] [part 7] [part 5] [Cutler's History]