Seneca Faiths

We continue our drive down Highway 27, lingering a bit in Seneca, in the heart of Crawford County. Seneca was a stagecoach stop about half way between Prairie du Chien and Black River Fall. The Scheckel farm was 2 miles NNW of Seneca out on Oak Grove Ridge.

The Norwegians and Swedes in the area were Lutherans and attended the Mt. Sterling Lutheran Church in Mt. Sterling or the Utica Lutheran Church on Highway 27 a couple miles north of Mt. Sterling.     Utica Lutheran Church

The Seneca area was settled by tons of Irish folks and they were die hard Catholics that attended St. Patrick’s Catholic Church on the southern edge of Seneca. There was a white church next to the High School and I believe it was of the Congregational persuasion, but I heard it was shared with the Methodist. Later, after I left the farm and went into the military, the Methodist built a reddish looking church on or near the site of the old Ingham and Maney grocery store that had burned down.

When I was a kid, all that remained was high wall of the foundation. Free shows were held in a space close to that foundation and we were fond of walking on that wall.

There was a Catholic Church (St. Mark’s) back on Oak Grove Ridge. Originally, it was located across the road from the Joan (Martin) Floyd Sutton farm. St. Mark’s was eventually relocated into the valley called Lawler Hollow. The graves were also moved. However, some were unfortunately missed.

When I was a teenager, I worked for the farmers back on Oak Grove Ridge and while baling hay for the Inghams, I remember seeing a gravestone with the name Robinson. That grave had somehow been left out of the move and remained in the hay field.

Somebody bought that Ingham farm and was going to bulldoze over that old cemetery. Frank Fradette, who lived on the next farm told him “If you bulldoze over those graves, I’m going to put a hex on you, and you will be dead in less than a year.”. The guy was buried six months later. Well, that’s the story as told by Frank Fradette.

There was another Catholic Church (St. Peter’s) on County Trunk E which is now the Lawrence Kneeland farm. Portions of St. Peter’s original cemetery remain to this day.

We had religious instruction at Seneca High School every week on Thursdays at 11 AM. The Lutherans went to one room, the Methodists to another and Baptists to yet another. The Catholics went to the biggest room, which was the study hall or assembly room. The library was an alcove off the side of the big room. There were more Catholics than any other religion, so they got the biggest room. If all the students in the high school had an assembly, program, guest speaker, or a talk by Mr. Bailey Webster, this was the room we met in. The Baptists were few in number, perhaps three or four at best.

If a student professed no religious affiliation, he or she went to the room across from the Catholics. It was an interesting spectacle to watch all the students shuffling into various rooms. One could determine their religious attachment. At the time, I “looked down” on those “non-believers” thought they were pretty much low-life. How could you possibly not go to church?

Such were my opinions at the time. These opinions were shared by other students as witnessed by their remarks. Some students who did not go to church on a regular basis, went with the “Lutherans” or the “Catholics” just to look good. A minster or priest came to each room. Father Cosgrove was there for my high school years. A small priest, he walked around with a cigarette extending from a long cigarette holder.

Attending one hour per week religious sessions at Seneca High School during the school day worked fine. Everyone seemed happy with the arrangement. That was, until some damn fool complained to Father Cosgrove that there was a conflict of church and state. So religion instruction at the High School was stopped. Now we had to go to St. Patrick’s Church every Monday night for religious instruction.

 

 

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