We’re driving through Seneca in Crawford County on Highway 27. I grew up on a farm two miles northwest of Seneca along with Dad and Mom and 8 siblings. In the mid 1800s, it was a two day stagecoach trip from Prairie du Chien to Black River Falls. Seneca was an overnight stagecoach stop. Seneca had a blacksmith shop, trading post, drug store, shoemaker, harness shop, and wagon maker. That blacksmith fellow was said to be “the best damn blacksmith in Crawford County, even if he was drunk half the time”.
When I was a kid on the farm, the term “going to town” usually meant going to Seneca. Seneca got started in 1857, when land owner Sam Langdon had 10 acres surveyed and platted. Seneca is named after a Seneca in New York State. Langdon built a hotel and the road thru Seneca became known as the Black River Road.
Going to town was exciting as a kid. There were always people walking about, greeting each other with waves, going in and out of stores. Tractors, wagons, and machinery moved right down Main Street. Main Street was actually Highway 27. Seneca had one other street. We called it “the back street”. Back street had a few houses and Ervin Walker’s garage. There was a turn off that went east out of Seneca, called Taylor Ridge. Ben Logan lived out on Taylor Ridge.
On the left side of the Highway 27 (Main Street) thru Seneca, going north to south, was the houses of Wallin, Bud Dagnon, Snell, and Doc Farrell. Dr. Farrell died in 1938 when he went out on a house call in heavy snow. He was shoveling to get to a house, and died of a heart attack.
Continuing south through Seneca on the left side was the houses of Waltz, Paulson, Kuntz, Vedvik, Brockway, Newcombe (big stone house on the corner), Briggs Café, Dick Homan (ag teacher), the bank, Kane’s IGA, Dagnon, the small barber shop, Johnson’s Grocery Store, Dagnon’s gas station, Sullivan’s tavern, and further down stood the Catholic Church. I may have some of those houses out of order, or wrong names, or skipped some. Memory has a way of doing that.
Still further south, past the Catholic Church and parsonage, was the stockyards. Most of the livestock on our Scheckel farm was purchased by buyers who sent a truck or had their own truck to load up hogs, or the beef cattle that grazed down in Kettle Hollow all summer.
Several times a year, Dad, and my brothers, Phillip and Bob, and me would load up a couple of hogs or a cow or heifer and take it up to the stockyards. Bill Berneir was the stockyard buyer and the usual ritual of haggling over price would begin and continue for 15 minutes or so, depending on whether there were other sellers coming in.
This verbal wrangling would go on over a 5 or 10 cents a pound, interspersed with talk of politics, Church doings, weather, neighbors, etc. Finally, the livestock would be unloaded, weighed, and a check written out. Dad would take the check to the Seneca Bank, which was run by Clarence Paulson. Then on to Kane’s IGA or Johnson’s Store, and an ice cream cone for us boys. When you’re a kid of six or seven, going to Seneca was a big adventure.