Gideon King bought 3000 acres west of the Genesee River on January 13, 1797, for $10,000 paid to Oliver Phelps. 220 years ago, the land that is now Rochester was beginning to be settled with East Coast families that were moving westward.
King’s Landing was the first settlement in the Rochester area other than ones by native Americans. It was in the area north of Ridge Road where Lake Avenue and Landing Road intersect. After the Revolutionary War, the land company of Phelps and Gorham had purchased Twenty Thousand acres in western New York from the state of Massachusetts. King, who was from Suffield, Connecticut, just as Phelps was, had seen this land, in 1796. Phelps referred to the land where Indian Allan’s factory was, as Fall Town in his correspondence and King began to plan, with Zadock Granger, to build a village at the “Landing Place on the Genesee River.” The Kings would build the town and the Grangers would handle the shipping and shipbuilding.
The territory was very promising. It already had a ready-built sawmill and a grist mill for processing the grain from future farms in the area. Also, Lake Ontario was no longer controlled by the British and had opened to American shipping in the summer of 1796.
Gideon brought his capable wife, Ruth Graham King, and three sons, Thomas, Simon, and Bildad, to a promising wilderness. The deeds of King and Granger were recorded in Canandaigua on March 18, 1797, and the families probably arrived at King’s Landing shortly after that day. They chose land on top of the river bank because at that spot, the river had flat ground and thirty feet of water depth. It was the only white settlement west of the Genesee at that time.
King and Granger, with help from a few other men in the area, began cutting a River Road from the chosen site to the Allan mills, along with a road at a right angle to the River Road, to reach the river bank. Today, those roads are named Lake Avenue and Hanford’s (King’s) Landing Road. Road to the Lower Falls area built where Lake Avenue is today down to Deep Hollow. They also built a bridge, later called the Main Street Bridge, over Deep Hollow. It was still shown on maps during the 1920’s, until Deep Hollow was filled in during the 1930’s.
Genesee Fever (malaria) first appeared in March, 1798, when Elizabeth Hazelton Fish, wife of Colonel Josiah Fish, died. Although she lived three miles away, a burial ground was chosen at the top of the bank above the landing, which had been set aside for public use. She was the first to be buried at King’s Cemetery, directly across Lake Avenue from today’s Eastman Business Park. At least four others died that year, as well, including Gideon King, on August 5, 1798, and his son Bildad, a month later. Many others died in subsequent years.
Gideon had been a minuteman at Lexington during the War and his older brother, Dr. Alexander King, had been a delegate to the 1788 Hartford Convention to ratify the Constitution. It’s unfortunate to realize that Gideon, the prominent leader, only lived seventeen months on this land. By 1809, all the members of the original families in the settlement, had moved away.
King’s Landing was Rochester’s first port on the Genesee River. The wharf was finished in the spring of 1798. It was the site of Eli Granger’s shipbuilding enterprise, which built Jemima, the first American-made schooner launched on the Lake Ontario, by April, 1798. By the autumn, he was taking passengers and cargo between York (Toronto) and the landing on the Genesee.
King’s Landing and the surrounding area, including the Cemetery and the bank down to the river, were “considered as lying in common in the name of the original twelve proprietors of the Twenty Thousand Acre Tract.” It remained that way into the 20th century, as the early settlers had set up the arrangement from the beginning. In the 1970’s, the City of Rochester foreclosed on it for non-payment of taxes so that the Kodak Water Treatment Plant could be constructed.
[Note: Additional information can be found in the comprehensive article, “King’s Landing, A History of the First White Settlement West of the Genesee River in the State of New York, 1797” by Helen Edson Slocum, and published by the Rochester Historical Society, 1948]