TOWN OF SENECA
ONTARIO COUNTY, NY
Even after the Revolutionary War the area that is now known as the Town of Seneca was the frontier. It was unbroken forest except for Seneca Indian trails. It was part of Massachusetts until 1787 when Oliver Phelps and Nathanial Gorham purchased rights to the land from the Seneca Indians for title to the territory. They came into possession of two million acres just west of the preemption line and Seneca Lake. A survey was conducted in 1788 and townships six miles square were laid out in the Phelps and Gorham Purchase.
The preemption line was the boundary between lands claimed by Massachusetts and those purchased by Phelps and Gorham. It was also the eastern boundary of Ontario County and the Town of Seneca, which were established by the New York State Legislature in 1789. At that time Ontario County comprised the whole of the state from Seneca Lake westward. The line was later found to be in error and a corrected line was surveyed in 1792.
The Town of Seneca, which originally included what is now the Town and City of Geneva, was established on January 27, 1789. It included the 9th township north of Pennsylvania in the first range of towns, plus the southern half of the 10th. These numbers were those assigned from the original survey. This is how No. 9 got its name, being in the ninth range of towns.
As soon as Phelps and Gorham got clear title the settlers and speculators began to arrive. People from New England, Pennsylvania, Maryland, England and Scotland, along with soldiers that had been with General Sullivan on his Indian campaign, began to arrive and buy land.
Dr. Caleb Benton, a speculator, purchased much of what is now the towns of Seneca and Benton.
Most of these settlers were poor farmers looking for a better life and good farm land. The rich rolling land of Seneca was just what they were looking for. To this day the main industry in the Town of Seneca is agriculture. Holstein dairy herds, corn, cabbage, beans, oats and wheat are favored by the farmers of today.