On the far western edge of Newton County, Seneca has a rich history. Often known as "The Border Town" or "The Little Town on the Border", Seneca is the subject of local historian and writer Larry James' latest book, Seneca, Missouri: The Border Town -The Early Years."
James compiled the book - which he says is about 50/50 photographs and text - with support from Shoal Creek Heritage Preservation. James has compiled numerous book on Neosho history and of the surrounding communities.
"Seneca was the last town in the entire county that I hadn't covered," James said, noting that this book proved to be the most challenging. "This was probably the hardest one to do. All of the papers from the early days in Seneca have disappeared - there's nothing. The first ones microfilmed is like in the Sixties. I had to go through lots and lots of newspapers. I read all of the Neosho papers and then I was able to get online and go to some digital papers from different persons."
The 142 page book retails, like all James' other historical volumes, for $15.
It is available at the Neosho National Fish Hatchery Gift Shop, at Mitchell's Drug Store on the Boulevard, Mitchell's Downtown Drug Store, at the Newton County Museum and at the Neosho Area Chamber of Commerce office.
The book has history dating back to the earliest settlers in the 1830's and into the late 1930's era.
Seneca has been it's own unique place. I mean, I think partially because it was away from Neosho.
Seneca was on the state line and further away. They had the railroad come through and that was one of the things that started it. The railroad helped build it. The town was totally self-sufficient for a long time, James stated. "They had the biggest mills in the whole county in Seneca and pictures are in there. You name it, they had it. I just can't believe all they had when you start looking at these different businesses and things."
James noted that Seneca suffered several major floods and fires in those early years. "I don't know of any other town that size that had so many disastrous floods and fires," he said. Those events are included in the book.
"I tried to locate everything I could locate on Seneca," James said. "I covered everything I could and I had a lot of pictures I had saved over the years."
The book offers the most comprehensive history of Seneca to date, filled with hard to find photos, stories and historical detail.