The history of the Illinois Michigan Canal is filled with many colorful and interesting characters. One such individual is Jeremiah Crotty. He was born in Cork, Ireland on May 8, 1799. Due to prevailing financial conditions in his native country he decided to migrate to the United States. He left from Cork on the Barque George Canning. It arrived in New York on June 5, 1828. His occupation on the ship manifest was listed a a laborer. His early life was somewhat nomadic. He spent one year in New York; 8 years in Pennsylvania; and 3 years in Maryland. It was here that he met and married his wife–Ellen Blake.
From Maryland, he made his way to the Illinois Valley Region. No doubt he did this because of the construction jobs available on the I and M Canal. In 1838, he made his way to Lockport with the intention of making bids on canal construction jobs. This despite the fact that he had zero experience and zero references. Some how he was able to obtain financial backing. He developed a new technique to excavate the soft sandstone in the portions were he worked. He obtained contract work on the I and M canal between Aux Sable and Otttawa. In the period of 1841 to 1842, when work was suspended on the canal, he did contract on the Rock Island Railroad out of Minooka. Later when construction resumed on the canal, he did construction work on it. For a short period of time, he did contract work on the Northwestern Line in Elgin.
He returned to the Illinois Valley in the area that would become Seneca in 1848. He constructed a home in 1849. Contractors were Higgins and Clark (carpenters) and R. Cosgrove (masonry). In 1857, he laid out a town of the bluff. In 1858, it was incorporated as a village with the name of Seneca. He sold lots for a dollar. By 1860, there were 15 homes and 2 stores. The Rock Island Line ran through the town. Depot was built in 1854. Crotty’s son was hired as the first train agent. A smaller train line the Seneca and Kankakee also served the area.
During the remainder of his life, Crotty remained active in town business and government. He died on July 28, 1879 leaving a wife and children.
Seneca was incorporated as a city in 1957.