The History of New York State
Book IX, Chapter I

Editor, Dr. James Sullivan

Online Edition by Holice, Deb & Pam



When General Washington, for the protection of the American colonists, ordered "lay waste all the settlements around," the Genesee Country, he unwittingly opened the door to the largest and best of the agricultural regions of New York. The "Genesee Country" of that day included all of the State west of Lake Seneca, or the original county of Ontario. A mere handful of Indians dominated the region, despite the efforts of French, and Dutch and English to dislodge them.

Bu the ruthless "March to the Genesee" of General Sullivan, in 1779, broke the Confederacy of the Iroquois. It did what was of greater import, it diffused a knowledge of a region which the fortuitous combination of soil and climate had made a garden spot and introduced a culture which bore fruit in the scores of great men and minds, who played great parts in shaping the destinies of a Nation.

The Genesee Country became the granary of New York; Genesee flow was famous. The larger cities, such as Rochester, grew up around gristmills. The more limited section, now included in the Genesee country, still remains the premier section in the growing of the cereals. But it has added to this nearly all the crops grown in a temperate climate, and to agriculture it has added manufacture on a great scale.

Most of the early settlers were from New England, and the New England mentality, transplanted to amore beneficent location, blossomed into a leadership of the State. For many years the "Canandaigua rule" controlled the politics of New York, and many of the best of this country's political ideas and laws were conceived by Genesee statesmen. Many of our great lawyers, preachers, editors and scientists are, or were, native sons. And their sons and a daughters, scattered over all part of this continent, and others, are justly proud to claim the "Genesee Country" as their mater land.

Chapter I


Monroe, the central county on the Lake Ontario border, was erected February 23, 1821. The bill establishing it provided that it be made up of the towns of Gates, Parma, Clarkson, Brighton, Penfield, Perington, Pittsford, Mendon, Henrietta, a part of Sweden, Rush and Inverness, all taken under protest from the counties of Ontario and Genesee. The population of the new county was about 80,000; the shiretown, Rochester. The county has an area of 663 square miles, the greater part of which is not only arable, but brought to such a fine state of cultivation as to make it, in spite of its medium size, the foremost agricultural division of New York State. The most noteworthy physical features are the Genesee River, with the falls which made possible the industrial Rochester, and the northern border, Lake Ontario.

Western New York was for centuries disputed territory. Holland, France, England, which under Charles II had given it to the Duke of York ()1664), New York and Massachusetts, all claimed ownership at various times. After the Revolution, the opposing claims of the two States were settled on the basis of New York having the right to govern, and Massachusetts the right of preemption in the district which is now Monroe. These rights were sold to Gorham and Phelps, and the most of them in turn to Robert Morris, who transferred the greater part to the Holland Land company. The purchasers were to acquire quit claims from the original owners, the Indians.

Oliver Phelps will always be remembered by Monroe County and Rochester for the adroit way in which he secured the most valuable part of the county from the Iroquois. The tribes were willing to cede the land east of the Genesee River, but the west must be their hunting ground. Phelps said he would build a mill and grind their grain, if they would et him have a mill yard. The liberal Indians threw in a mill yard strip twelve miles wide and twenty long, beginning near Avon and reaching to Lake Ontario, than which there is no more valuable strip of land in the county, since on it is located Rochester, and much of the population outside that city. Phelps built the promised mill on the west side of the river in 1789, the first building in the county, and the first industry of Rochester.

It must not be thought that the importance of the Rochester location was early realized, or that it had the earliest of the pioneers of the region.

Phelps opened the first land office in western New York at Canandaigua in 1789, and the first deed recorded there (It was then the county seat) for lands in the future Monroe, was September 16, 1790, and covered nearly all the present town of Charlotte. The first permanent settlement in Monroe was made in 1789 by John Lusk on 1,500 acres near the head of Irondequoit Bay. During the same year Peter Sheffer settled near Scottsville on the west. Indian Allan was the real pioneer of the district, if so nomadic a person can be called a resident of a place; he lived in many parts of this and other western counties years before Lusk or Sheffer came.

The development of the county was naturally along the lines of agriculture, although the region was so heavily forested as to make the lumber industry the leading occupation in the early years. Monroe lies at the head of the famous Genesee country, even though it is located on the foot of the river. It had not been planted by the Indians, as had the section south. Eventually, the superiority of its soil was recognized, and the county became the granary of New York. The ameliorating effect of Lake Ontario's waters gave a frost protection above that of the southern neighbors. Fruit trees were planted relatively early, and experimental planting of vegetables tried long before even some of he older planted counties. Monroe is comparatively small in area, yet it was, according to the figures of 1920, the leading agricultural county in the State, and ranked with the first four in the United States. The value of its farms was $72,359,546, the third highest in New York, being exceeded only by a county three times as large, and another fifty per center bigger. In the production of cereals it was first, in vegetables second, in fruits fourth, in poultry fifth, in dairy production, in the upper fourth. What a variety and balance is shown in its leadership! And only one-eighth of Monroe population is rural. The primacy of the county in industry will be shown in the story of its main city.

Although agriculture has now attained a high estate, it was not until means of transportation had been provided to get its farm products to market that I even made a definite start. The natural outlet was by way of the Lake, and the markets of Canada were well supplied by its own people. Even the two halves of the county were divided by a practically unbridged river until the famous Carthage Bridge was built in 1819. The old Indian trails, slightly enlarged, were used as roads. Although stage coaches became plentiful by 1816, the movement of freight was a desperate task. Not until the completion of the Erie Canal was any great impetus given to the expansion of the industries of the county, but in a few years Monroe was paying more than an eighth of all the tolls of the waterway. The advent of the railroad was the making of the county, the power second to the canal which made for its growth. The Tonawanda road was the first, with Rochester as a station, of which the first small section was built in 1834. Not until 1841, was there steam connection with s near a place as Albany.

Meanwhile, the county had been formed, 1821, and the erection of the first courthouse had been competed the year following. The second was built in 1850, and the third in 1894. The War of 1812 had passed leaving the section untouched, although trouble seemed to be brewing for Charlotte at one time. The larger towns began to split up into parts more readily governable. There are now twenty division of the county. These with their populations in recent years are;






Brighton town




Chili town




Clarkson town




Gates town




Greece town




Hamlin town




Henrietta town




Irondequoit town




Mendon town, including Honeoye Falls village




Ogden town, including Spencerport village




Parma town, including Hilton village




Penfield town




Perinton town, including Fairport village and part of East Rochester village




Pittsford town, including Pittsford village and part of East Rochester village




Riga town, including Churchville village




Rochester city




Rush town




Sweden town, including Brockport village




Webster town, including Webster village




Wheatland town, including Scottsville village









The City of Rochester--With six-seventh of the population of the county, Rochester dominates the county and a region even larger. Of Phelps' mill yard we have heard; of the millstones of this first industry in the city, it is interesting to note that they were embedded in the walls of one of the corridors of the present courthouse with a tablet explaining their significance. In September of 1800 Col. Nathaniel Rochester and two of his Maryland friends came north to make payments on the land which they had purchased three years previously on the Genesee Flats. They were induced by their agent to visit the section which was eventuality to bear his name. They were quick to see the advantages to be garnered from the water power going to waste, and purchased, 1803, the hundred acres that had been given to Indian Allan for his work on the Phelps mill. The "Hundred Acre Tract" cost $1,750, and was the nucleus of the city of Rochester.

There had been a few settlers in the section prior to this purchase. A man named Farewell had built a cabin on the present Lake Avenue in 1797. Charles Harford had a blockhouse on State Street, 1807. On the west side of the river, Enos Stone, in 1810, had built a log cabin, and the next year erected the first frame house in Rochester. Title to the Colonel's hundred acres was not perfected until 1811, and the first lot sold to Enos Stone on September 20 of that year. Other lots were sold at an average of $50 each, with the condition that on it a house should be built within a year. A post office was secured in 1812, and the settlement was becoming known of Rochesterville.

Despite an auspicious beginning, the hamlet failed to thrive. The roads were mere lanes of mud, malaria prevailed, it was almost impossible to go anywhere, or get anything out or in. The Carthage Bridge, a remarkable structure for that day, helped greatly, not only in connecting the hamlet with the eastern shore, but encouraged the building of roads. The settlement became an incorporated village March 21, 1817, with the name Rochesterville; five years later the "ville" was legally dropped. The place at this time lay wholly within the town of Gates, but by 1823 had spread into Brighton. The population at the time of its incorporation was possibly 700. The Erie Canal was the greatest factor in the prosperity of Rochester, and as early as April, 1823, it was making use of it as far as Albany. The Genesee Valley Canal, put in commission from Rochester to Olean, in 1856, was of minor service to the city. It was abandoned in 1878, and its bed is now used by the Lackawanna system.

On April 28, 1834, the city of Rochester received its charter. From 1817 the place had grown from 700 to more then 12,000; there seems never to have been a period when Rochester failed to make a substantial gain in population. In 1920 the census credited it with nearly 300,000. Even during the Civil War period, when the city sent half its voting population to the front, it still grew. In 1865, a great flood threatened to wash away the principal part of the city, there was a loss of between one and two million dollars, but another increase in the number of residents was noted that same year.

An yet the city has been slow in trying to make itself attractive from the days of its muddy streets. Although the seat of some of the finest nurseries in the State, it paid little attention to the securing and planting of parks until 1888. It now has some of the largest and finest landscaped parks in the Empire State. However slow Rochester has been in starting, in the end she does things well. It would be hard at the present time to find a city more complete in utilities, institutions, benevolences, and recreational resources. In education, there never was neglect; perhaps the New England element in the early settlements account for this. The University of Rochester, the Rochester Theological Seminary, the Mechanics' Institute, St. Bernard's Seminary, the Wagner Memorial College and the Deaf Mute Institute, are among is institutions of high education.

The foundation on which the present great city of Rochester is built is its industries. In earliest days, wheat was the greatest crop of the county, and Rochesterville ground this into flour. The valley of the Genesee was the heaviest producing section in the States, and yet in 1816 the hamlet was importing wheat from Canada to keep her mills going. Lumber and whiskey were two of the manufactures of that time. After the Erie Canal had been in service a few years, there were cotton, woolen mills, and tanneries, besides many minor factories.

Today, the enlarged Rochester, with the annexed parts of Brighton, Gates, Greece, including the village of Charlotte, and Irondequoit towns, is the second largest manufacturing center in the State outside the Manhattan district. There were, in 11920, 1,367 manufacturing establishments, employing 63,792 hands, turning out products to the annual value of $351,416,000. It is the first city in the world in the production of cameras and photographic supplies. The word Kodak is known round the globe. There are no equals in this country in the quality of its optical goods. It is said to be first in the production of enameled tanks, laundry machinery, thermometers,. paper boxes, buttons, canned goods, and in the output of seeds and nursery stock. Only the cities of New York and Philadelphia exceed it in the quantity of clothing made. In boots and shoes it ranks third., And these are but a few of the manufactures; of the remaining variety of articles, even a list cannot be made that would not be out of date before it could be published.

Only the obvious has been mentioned in this brief history of Rochester. Of the intangible factors which make this city greater than its industries or prosperity, no adequate story can be written.


Brighton, located on the east bank of the Genesee River, southeast of the center, was formed by a division of Smallwood into Brighton and Pittsford, March 25, 1814. It lost territory to Rochester in 1834, and Irondequoit in 1839. Orange Stone opened a tavern in the region in 1790 near the Council Rock. Proximity to Rochester makes this district a gardening area, raising vegetables as one of the main crops; nursery stock ranking next in importance. Tryon town, where Judge Tryon opened the first real store in the county in 1799, was expected to become the great port of the region, until the lake traffic decided to use the river.

Chili, formed from Riga February 22, 1822, lies southwest of the center of the county. It is strictly an agricultural town. The first settlement was made by Joseph Morgan, in 1799. The green nursery farm is one of the "sights" and a principal industry. Hamlets in the township are: Chili, North Chili, South Chili, Chili Station and Clifford

Clarkson, formed from Murray, April 3, 1819, lost to organize Union in 2852. It is a general farming district, retarded in growth by its failure to be on either canal or early railroad. It is supposed that the pioneer of the town was Moody Freeman, although James Sayres was, in 1804, the first settler on the Ridge Road, the natural entry way for settlers. Clarkson village is the rural center of the township.

Gates, formed as Northampton, March 30, 1802, changed the name ten years later. From its were organized Parma and Riga, in 1808; Greece, in 1822, and part was taken in the erection of Rochester, in 1817, and again since 1910. Until the last division there was some manufacturing being done the town, but it now is a farming community. The pioneer of the region was Isaac Dean, who came in 1809. The presence of Rochester has prevented the growth of any large villages.

Greece, formed March 22, 1822, from Gates, lies along Lake Ontario, north of Rochester. It is probably the largest town in the county, even after the loss of its main village. The first settler was William Hencher, 1792. The numerous small streams and bays, with the surrounding districts, were once the favorite hunting grounds of the Senecas; they are now the favorite summer regions of many of the city dwellers. Charlotte, at the mouth of the river and main lake port, once a rival of Rochester, has been absorbed by the latter city.

Hamlin, formed from Clarkson, October 11, 1852, as Union, received its present title in 1861. The pioneer of the town was Aretas Haskell, 1810. Salt making was one of the early industries, but manufacturing has never had much place in the occupations of the town. Agriculture is now the main interest. Hamlin, East Hamlin, Thomasville, East Kendall, are the names of some of the hamlets.

Henrietta, formed from Pittsford, March 27, 1818, is a distinctly farming town. Settlement began in 1806, when Jesse Pangburn arrived. Maj. Isaac Scott received 900 acres, in the southwest part of the town, for military services, and tried to start a settlement in 1790, but abandoned it two years later. The principal villages are: Henrietta, West Henrietta and Cedar Stump.

Irondequoit, formed from Brighton March 27, 1839, has Lake Ontario for its northern boundary and the Genesee river for the western. The first settler was William Walker, locating in 1791. The first permanent colonists were either Dunbar a mulatto, 1795, or John Parks, who came in 1797. The French had a camp here a century prior to any of these persons. It is now a market gardening region, one of the choicest farming towns in the county.

Mendon, formed from Bloomfield May 26, 1812, lies on the southern border east of the center. The first settlement was made by Zebulon Norton, of Vermont, in 1790, at Honeoye Falls, where he built the first mills. The place bore Norton's name for many years, but has now become the incorporated village of Honeoye Falls. Other villages are: Mendon, Mendon Center and Sibleyville.

Ogden, formed from Parma, January 17, 1817, is he premier what growing town in the county, both in the length of time it has been a leading crop, and in present production. The pioneer of the district was George W. Wiley, who located in 1802. The hamlets of the town are: Spencerport, Adams Basin, Ogden Center and Ogden.

Parma, originally a part of Northampton (now Gates) was set up as a town April 8, 1808, and included Ogden until 1817. It lies on Lake Ontario, west of the center, and is noted for its fine orchards and fruits. Three Atchinson brothers, were the first to located in the section, 1796. The present settlements in the township are: North Parma (formerly Unionville), Parma Corners and Parma Center.

Penfield, formed from Boyle March 30, 1800, lost territory in the organizing of Webster in 1840. The Irondequoit Creek, which flows along part of the western boundary, was the seat of many early mills. Lebbeus Ross and Calvin Clark settled in the town in 1801. The name given the section honors James Penfield, one of the first to erect a mill. The main settlements are: Penfield Center, East Penfield and Penfield village.

Perinton, formed as Northfield from Boyle, May 26, 1812, changed to the present title after the first settler, Glover Perrin, who build his cabin in the region in 1789. It is the south town of town on the east line. The sandy loam, which is its characteristic soil, is used with profit in the growing of vegetables and early crops. The principal village is Fairport, incorporated April 30, 1867. It is not only an important mercantile center, but has a number of industrial concerns. In 1920 the population was 4,626.

Pittsford, formed from Smallwood, march 25, 1814, is one of the east central interior towns. Agriculture is the main vocation of the township. The settlement of the district began in 1789 by Israel and Simon Stone. John Lusk was a squatter several years prior to this. A former busy lumber town, its present interests are almost wholly agricultural. The main village is Pittsford.

Riga, originally West Pultenay, was formed from Pultenay, April 8, 1808. The town is a part of Phelps' "mill yard," and became one of the best of the agricultural sections. James Wadsworth, an agent for the Pultenay estate, was responsible for its settlement in 1805. The villages of the township are: Churchville and Riga Center.

Rush, formed from Avon (Livingston County), march 13, 1818, lies east of the Genesee river, and has long since passed through its timber period to farming. In the western parts are extensive flats. The first of the pioneers to locate permanently, was Col. William Markham, in 1799, although a log cabin had been erected and a clearing made eleven years earlier by John Ganson, one of Sullivan's soldiers. Ganson and his brother are said to gave built the first grist mills in all the region. the State Industrial school is located in the township.

Sweden, formed from Murray April 2, 1813, lies in the central part of the west border. It is not only a splendid farm section, but one of the largest industrial centers outside Rochester. Nathaniel Poole and Walter Palmer started the first settlement in 1807, on the old Lake Road, cut through in 1802. (As late as 1811, the noted Ridge Road was little more then a wagon trial through the woods.) Sweden Center and West Sweden are hamlets. The village of Brockport, the second largest in the county, is the principal mercantile and industrial center of the western part of Monroe. It was incorporated in 1829, had the charter revised in 1852, and adopted its present charter in 1872. The iron industry was started in the village of 1828, and in 1844 Cyrus McCormick started to make reapers. In 1881 a show factory was established, and in 1893 pianos were first made. Since this date, a variety of factories have located. One of the well-known education institutions of the place is the Brockport Normal School. In 1920, the population of Brockport was 2,980.

Webster, formed from Penfield February 6, 1840, is the northeastern corner, county of Monroe. With Ontario on the north and Irondequoit Bay on the west, it is one of the most favored, agriculturally, of the county divisions. As a summer resort section, it is becoming increasingly popular. Caleb Lyon, in 1805, was the first of the pioneers who settled this district. He built the first saw and grist mill of the town. West Webster, a hamlet, and Webster, incorporated 1905, population about 1,300, are the principal settlements on the township.

Wheatland, formed from Caledonia, Livingston County, as Inverness, February 23, 1821, changed six weeks later to the present title. One of the interior town, its east border is the Genesee. Agriculture is the principal occupation of the community. When peter Sheffer, who made the first permanent settlement, in 1789, arrived, he found the notorious Indian Allan already on the spot with a sixty-acre clearing and cabin. Sheffer bought Allan, at a rate of $2.50 an acre. The principal villages of Wheatland are: Scottsville, Mumford, Garbuttsville and Wheatland Center.


The History of New York State, Lewis Historical Publishing Company, Inc., 1927

This book is owned by Pam Rietsch and is a part of the Mardos Memorial Library

Transcribed by Holice B. Young

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