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The Birth and Growth of Rochester


Ebenezer "Indian" Allen was the first settler in what is now Rochester. Allen was given the Mill Tract by Oliver Phelps in 1788 for the purpose of erecting a sawmill and a gristmill on the banks of the Genesee River. Originally the gristmill was seen as a way for the Native Americans to sell grain so that they could begin to be assimilated into white society. However, this was not to be, and Allen's mills proved to be disappointing from a financial point of view. In 1792 Allen sold his mill site to Benjamin Barton.

A series of owners followed, including Samuel Ogden and Charles Williamson (for the Pultneyville Estate). For much of this time, the mill site was occupied by Christopher Dugan.

Nathaniel Rochester

Eventually the mill site was purchased by a group of Marylanders in 1803. This group consisted of Colonel Nathaniel Rochester, Major Charles Carroll and Colonel William Fitzhugh. Although purchased in 1803, it was not surveyed and plotted by Rochester until 1811.

In 1817 the Village Rochesterville was officially so named, and the City of Rochester was incorporated in 1834. Other tracts, including the Johnson tract on the east bank of the Genesee River began to be developed. With the opening of the Erie Canal, the growth of Rochester was virtually assured.

Johnson Tract in 1820

Soon Rochester grew in size to include the areas of Frankfort and Carthage. Through a series of annexations the City's acreage included parts of Brighton, Gates and Greece by the early twentieth century. By 1916 the city had expanded to the shores of Lake Ontario with the annexation of Charlotte.

For more on Ebenezer Allen, see Rochester History, vol.1. No. 4., October, 1939, "Indian Allen's Mills" by Blake McKelvey [pdf].
For more on specific areas, see Rochester History articles on Carthage, Frankfort, Castletown, Johnson Tract, and the One Hundred Acre Tract.
For more on annexations see the following articles and books by Joseph Barnes:
The Annexation of Brighton Village, Vol. 35 No(s) 1 Rochester History (January 1973)

The Annexation of Charlotte, Vol. 37 No(s) 1 Rochester History (January 1975)

Rochester's Era of Annexations, 1901-1926 (1974)