History of Seneca Township

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Seneca Township was first settled by European-Americans in 1835 and officially became a township in 1850. The township was named for the Seneca Indians in New York State, where many of the early settlers were from.

The north and south branches of the Kishwaukee River run through the township, joining in the southwest quadrant and continuing to flow westward. Kishwaukee is an Indian name meaning “clear waters” or “the place of sycamores.” The township land can generally be described as gently rolling and productive. However, early in the 1800’s the west side was heavily timbered, thus providing good hardwood for buildings and fuel for area residents.

Originally Seneca Township had no towns located within its boundaries. At one time, Franklinville boasted several stores, a school, and post office (called Belden). At that time there was hope for growth in Franklinville, but when the railroad came to McHenry Coutny it went to Union first, thereby discouraging the growth of Franklinville. At present, portions of the township that have some subdivision housing are annexed to the towns of Marengo and Woodstock. There are also small clusters of houses throughout the township, as well as many five, ten and twenty acre lots with houses.

In Seneca Township, as in so many areas in the county, there were once many cheese factories, pickle factories, and a saw mill. At one time there were seven schools in the township. Now, due to consolidation, there is only one school (Westwood Elementary). There are two cemeteries: the “pioneer cemetery” on South Street Road and another on Franklinville Road, believed to be the first in the township. Seneca Township’s first church, now a private residence, still stands next to this cemetery.

Although Seneca Township is still considered a very productive agricultural area, one major change over the years has been the loss of dairy farms. At one time virtually every farm had a milk producing dairy herd. At present, there are only three dairy farms in the township that market milk.

Thus far, Seneca Township has enjoyed a high quality of life, maintaining reasonable rates of growth and careful use of land resources. Stewardship of the land is vitally important in any society, whatever its size. A sound land use plan can preserve for future generations the quality of life that Seneca Township residents now enjoy.