This page includes a very basic look of the founding and growth of Rochester. Check out

for a more detailed look at the history and growth of the city.

In December of 1778, during the Revolutionary War, General George Washington was Commander in Chief of the colonial army. He ordered a large number of troops into the Genesee Valley to destroy the lands of the Iroquois Indians because great deals of them were assisting the British. Most of the Indians wanted to remain neutral in the conflict, but the British wooed many of them with lavish gifts. These Indians assisted the British both by manpower, and by using their farms to supply food to the British army. Upon the completion of this successful mission many of the soldiers who served returned to their homes spreading stories about the lush Genesee valley, the waterfalls of the Genesee River, and the monstrous crops they had seen (and destroyed to keep food from the British).

After the war a slow migration of settlers began moving into the area. One of the people who heard about this valley was Nathaniel Rochester, (b. 2/21/1752, picture right) who made his first trip to the Genesee Valley from his home in Maryland in 1800; making it to Avon, about 20 miles south of present day Rochester. In 1803 Nathaniel and 2 partners bought a 100-acre tract near the falls (near present day downtown). In an unusual coincidence, the word ‘Rochester’ is Seneca for ‘at the falls”. His area was largely swamp at the time, and malaria ran rampant, but Nathaniel felt the land had promise; and many other settlements had already arisen in the region. He was also a slaveholder, but was troubled with the concept of slavery. In 1810 he decided to relocate permanently from Maryland to Dansville, NY (About 45 miles south of present day Rochester.) so he could set his slaves free and raise his family in a free state.

Once settled Nathaniel built a large paper and gristmill on Canaseraga Creek. He also began to survey the tract of land he had bought in 1800. He laid out the streets and lots himself and began selling the low priced lots in 1811. In 1815 he moved to a farm in East Bloomfield, and in 1818 Nathaniel moved to a house in his “Rochesterville”. He continued his prominence in the community, serving as a local bank director, and a Presidential Elector. Instrumental in the formation of Monroe County, he served as County Clerk, and in the Assembly. He was the first president of the Bank of Rochester, which he organized in 1824. However, he would not live to see his community charted as a city. He passed away painfully of an unknown illness on May 17, 1931. The ‘ville part of the name had been dropped in 1823, and on April 28, 1834 Rochester was incorporated as a city. Today it is the third largest city in New York behind New York City, and Buffalo.

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