A New County

In 1817, when Rochesterville became a village, it was in Genesee County. Monroe County, which took portions of Genesee and Ontario counties, was not created until February 23, 1821. Nathaniel Rochester and Dr. Matthew Brown, Jr., had failed in three earlier attempts (1817, 1819, and 1820) to have the legislature in Albany create this new county.

The village consisted of 655 acres on the west bank of the Genesee River, including Colonel Rochester’s One Hundred Acre tract, two hundred acres in Frankfort, and additional room for expansion north, south, and west. It had approximately 700 residents.

The water power generated by the Genesee River yielded advantages for manufacturing and several flour mills, lumber mills, and other manufacturing developed around the Upper Falls. Products were shipped under the jurisdiction of the customs district of Genesee and docks such as Brewer’s Landing and Hanford’s Landing prospered because of the trade with Canada. Rochesterville’s advantage became evident as it turned into a market town, with farmers and merchants who came in from the surrounding territory to unload wanting to purchase other goods. Many of the merchants from the older Genesee settlements began to move their activities to this more favored location.

When the act passed on March 21, 1817, incorporating the village of Rochesterville, there were still rivals, such as Carthage, which thought it had the better location because of its proximity to Lake Ontario and its position at and north of the Lower Falls. The first visit of the steamboat Ontario, the first American ship on the Great Lakes, encourage lower Genesee settlers to foresee a great future which would compete with and surpass Rochesterville. Work began on the colossal wooden Carthage Bridge in May, 1818, which opened at the Lower Falls on February 16, 1819. It lasted only fifteen months and collapsed in May 1820.

But the ultimate change of fortune occurred when the legislature, in an act on April 15, 1817, authorized the route of the Erie Canal through Rochesterville. The canal opened in Rochester in September, 1823, but the fortunes of challengers were gone. As Blake McKelvey wrote in The Water-Power City 1812-1854, published in 1945, “The eleventh-hour challenge of a new rival at the lower falls was lightly tossed aside when the Erie Canal was routed across the Genesee at the upper falls.”

The Canal assured Rochester of its prominence. The name Rochesterville was changed to Rochester on April 12, 1822. By 1824, when Monroe County was formed, Rochester had become a formidable city.

Journal of the Assembly of the State of New-York [electronic resource, p132] : at their forty-first session, begun and holden in the Capitol, in the city of Albany, the twenty-seventh day of January, 1818

Laws of the State of New-York, passed at the Thirty-Ninth, Fortieth and Forty-First Sessions of the Legislature. From January 1816 to April 1818, Vol. IV , Page 84

(Click on images for a larger view.)