Seneca is a city in Oconee County, South Carolina, United States. The population was 7,652 at the 2000 census. It is the principal city of the Seneca Micropolitan Statistical Area (population 66,215 according to year 2000 estimates by the U.S. Census Bureau), an (MSA) which includes all of Oconee County and which is further included in the greater Greenville-Spartanburg-Anderson, South Carolina Combined Statistical Area (population 1,185,534 according to year 2005 U.S. Census Bureau estimates).
The Upstate of South Carolina was inhabited by native clans and tribes for thousands of years before the appearance of European settlers. The Cherokee Indians were the last tribe of Native Americans to live in Oconee County in what were known as the "Lower Towns" of the Cherokee. Their villages were almost always located on large streams or rivers to insure a plentiful supply of drinking water, food, and transportation. One of the most important of the Cherokee Lower Towns was Seneca (Esseneca), located at the headwaters of the Savannah River.
In his travels through the South Carolina up country in May 1775, American naturalist William Bartram made this report: "The Cherokee town of Sinica is a very respectable settlement, situated on the East Bank of the Keowee River, though the greatest number of Indian habitations are on the opposite shore, where likewise stands the council-house.. . " During the American Revolution the Patriots built a fort at the site of Seneca town and named it Fort Rutledge, but it came to be called Seneca Fort.
On November 25, 1785, U.S. Treaty Commissioners met with a delegation of Cherokee at Treaty Oak on Hopewell Plantation within sight of the town of Seneca and signed the very first treaty between the new United States of America and the Cherokee Nation.
The modern city of Seneca was founded by Confederate veterans Col. Joseph Norton and Col. Robert Thompson on August 14, 1873. When the new city was named, the tradition established by the naming of our county, and towns in our county was used. The name of the nearby Cherokee village was adopted and the name Seneca continued to be a part of our heritage. Its location was determined by the junction of the Blue Ridge Railroad and the new Air Line Railroad connecting Charlotte and Atlanta. Governor Wade Hampton signed the charter for the town on March 14, 1874.