New York Books - Monroe County
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New York - Monroe County

Click on these titles to check out books on this county.
A Panoramic History of Rochester and Monroe County, New York
Blake McKelvey
Rochester and Monroe County: A History and Guide
Federal Writers' Project
Landmarks of Rochester and Monroe County: A Guide to Neighborhoods and Villages
Paul Malo
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Other County Resources

Books on County Genealogy and History

Descendants of Nathanial Rochester

Frederick Douglas Museum and Cultural Center

Map of Monroe Co. (1895)

Monroe Co. GenWeb Project

Official Monroe Co. Website

Monroe Co. Newspaper Extracts 1818-1922

Official NY State Website

Official Rochester Website

Rochester Early History

Rochester Genealogical Society

Rochester Museum and Science Center

Rochester's 1873 Time Capsule

Monroe County, New York is home to the third largest city in the state -- Rochester. The county was created in 1821 from portions of Ontario and Genesee Counties and has been the dominant center of the Genesee Valley ever since. Today, Monroe County is comprised of 19 towns, 10 villages and the City of Rochester with a combined population of approximately 750,000 residents and a land area of 663.21 square miles.

Nearly 200 years ago, counties encompassing this area were established. Monroe County finally emerged after many failed attempts to become it's own entity. In 1789, the entire Phelps and Gorham land purchase became Ontario County. This county was later divided into Steuben and Genesee counties in 1796 and 1802, respectively.

Local residents and businesses soon had trouble reaching their county officers and permanent courts due to locations in Canandaigua and Batavia. A meeting would require a journey of at least twenty five miles from the area that is now Monroe County. Subsequently, Nathaniel Rochester and Dr. Matthew Brown Jr. proposed the creation of a new county to the Albany legislature in 1817. This first unsuccessful attempt was followed by additional requests in 1819 and 1820. A large growth in population and heavy commercial traffic to the port of Genesee provided justifications for these proposals. However, these early attempts to create a new county were to no avail. The Albany legislature was headed by members of Ontario and Genesee counties, whose interests lay in retaining the importance of Canandaigua and Batavia maintaining the balance of power among the existing counties.

Rochester petitioned Albany with the help of Elisha B. Strong in 1821, and this time took his appeal straight to the Senate. The Senate unanimously approved the measure, and on February 23, 1821, the Assembly approved institution of a new county with a 73-27 vote. The county was named after the United States' fifth president, James Monroe, and covered 675 square miles (430,000 acres). The first official real estate transaction of the county took place on March 19, 1821, but was not recorded until April 6, 1821.

There were originally fourteen towns in Monroe County including Brighton, Gates, Clarkson, Henrietta, Mendon, Ogden, Parma, Penfield, Perinton, Pittsford, Riga, Rush, Sweden, and Wheatland. All of these towns had elected supervisors whom were present at the first Board of Supervisor's meeting on May 8, 1821.

All towns east of the river were organized into a territory called Northfield, which originated in 1797. Northfield changed its name to Boyle, and Penfield and Perinton broke off from this territory on March 30, 1810 and May 26, 1812, respectively. The remainder of Boyle was renamed Smallwood, and this was divided into Brighton and Pittsford on March 25, 1814. Henrietta was created from Pittsford on March 27, 1818. Irondequoit stemmed from Brighton on March 27, 1839, and Webster spawned from Penfield on February 6, 1840. Mendon became a part of Monroe County on May 26, 1812. It had previously been a part of Bloomfield in Ontario County. Similarly, Rush had been a part of Avon until it joined Monroe County held on March 13, 1818.

All towns west of the river were part of a territory called Northampton, which had been established in 1797. The Western towns of Parma and Riga were partitioned from Northampton on April 8, 1808. The remainder of the territory was renamed Gates on June 10, 1813. Greece separated from Gates on March 22, 1822. Ogden separated from Parma on January 27, 1817. Chili separated from Riga on February 22, 1822. Inverness was taken from Caledonia in Livingston County on February 23, 1821, and renamed Wheatland on April 3 of that same year.

All of the remaining western towns were not a part of the Phelps and Gorham purchase, yet they were inaccurately recorded as being so. The correction was made and the land was sold to Robert Morris. Therefore, Sweden and Clarkson (both originally a part of the town of Murray) became part of the Triangle Tract in the Morris Reserve. Union separated from Clarkson on October 11, 1852 and was renamed Hamlin on February 28, 1861.

The customs district of Genesee, with the port at Charlotte, was created by Congress on March 3, 1805 and the first lighthouse was erected there in 1822. Waterways were crucial to the development of Monroe County and to its central city, Rochester. The growth of warehouses along the river banks, especially at Handford's Landing and in the settlement of Carthage, at the lower falls, evidenced the burgeoning trade with Canada. The state looked to channel this flow of produce eastward to the Hudson through the construction of a canal. The first ideas for a canal came from articles written by Jesse Hawley in Canandaigua's General Messenger in 1807 and 1808. After an initial survey, it was found that the best route would bisect Rochesterville. This first proposal, known as the North Route, was approved after much debate.

Construction on the canal began on July 4, 1817 in Utica and moved westward. In 1819, funds were approved for construction from Palmyra to Rochester. The canal eastward from Rochester to Albany opened in 1823 and the westward link to Buffalo opened in 1825. Locally, an aqueduct was constructed in 1823 to carry the canal over the river and enhance access throughout the city. This aqueduct is now located under the Broad Street Bridge.

The phenomenal growth of Rochester was largely dependent on power from the Genesee River. It's falls fueled the ten flour mills and nine sawmills during the 1830's. At the same time, the expanding trade fostered by the Erie Canal spurred the operation of 160 boats out of Rochester.

Mills were not strictly limited to Rochester, and several were present in Scottsville and Pittsford. Mills in all locations not only called upon the harvests of local farmers, but also imported Canada's crop to meet the increasing demands.

The canal also provided other benefits to development, not the least of which was the influx of population. In 1820, the federal census reported that the population of the county was 26,855; by 1830, it had risen to 49,862 and had toppled over 60,000 by 1840. This rapid expansion reflects the opportunities for employment and entrepreneurship that the river and canal provided residents and new arrivals. Enlargements of the canal and reconstruction of the aqueduct brought funds to the community that off-set the impact of the 1837-1843 national depression.

In addition to these projects, construction of another canal that would connect the fertile land along the Genesee River to the Erie Canal was begun in 1837. The Genesee Valley Canal ran from Rochester to Olean, but was never finished until 1856. This delay most likely accounts for the canal's abandonement and lack of success until 1878. The canal was sold to the Genesee Valley Canal Railroad company (later the Western New York & Pennysylvania) in 1880. In addition, a short canal built in 1837 connecting Scottsville and the river proved successful in transporting grain and flour from the southwestern part of the country. Clearly, the "Flour City" relied heavily on water travel for its early development.

The County of Monroe has seen vast growth, expansion and development since 1821. Much of this progression is tied to the community's geographical placement on the south shore of Lake Ontario, straddling the Genesee River at the northern end of the Genesee Valley.

From its early agricultural and milling start, the county has developed into a modern center for high-technology industries, manufacturing, education, medicine and exports. Monroe County is home to the World Headquarters for both the Eastman Kodak and Bausch & Lomb Corporations and to manufacturing facilities such as General Motors, Xerox, and ITT Automotive. On a per capita basis, Monroe County's industries export more manufactured goods than any other community in the United States of America.

In addition to its corporate neighbors, Monroe County is home to the University of Rochester, the Rochester Institute of Technology and the National Institute for the Deaf, Monroe Community College, the State University of New York College at Brockport, Saint John Fisher College, Nazareth College and Roberts Wesleyn College.

For its first 145 years, the county was governed by a 43-member Board of Supervisors. Under the auspices of the United States Supreme Court's one man-one vote ruling, the 29-member County Legislature was established in 1967.

First county meetings were held in Ensworth Tavern (site of the Powers Building) until they were relocated to the first courthouse in 1822. The land upon which this structure is built was provided by Rochester's founders-- Rochester, Fitzhugh, and Carroll. The basement of this first building was also used as a county jail after a previous structure on Hughes Street (now North Fitzhugh) was converted to a barracks. The courthouse was renovated once in 1850. In 1894 a new building was constructed which presently serves as the County Office Building, at 39 West Main Street, downtown. A display, created for the building's centennial, presents this history and can be found on the first level of the County Office Building near the Board of Elections office.

Source: Monroe County historians


Click on the links below for book titles and history specific to that county.

From what or whom did the name of each county originate? Click here to find out.

County Date
Parent County County
Albany 1683 original county Albany
Allegany 1806 Genesee Belmont
Bronx 1914 New York Bronx
Broome 1806 Tioga Binghamton
Cattaraugus 1808 Genesee Little Valley
Cayuga 1799 Onondaga Auburn
Charlotte 1772 Albany renamed Washington in 1784
Chautauqua 1808 Genesee Mayville
Chemung 1798 Tioga Elmira
Chenango 1798 Herkimer, Tioga Norwich
Clinton 1788 Washington Plattsburgh
Columbia 1786 Albany Hudson
Cortland 1808 Onondoga Cortland
Delaware 1797 Ulster, Otsego Delhi
Dutchess 1683 original county Poughkeepsie
Erie 1821 Niagara Buffalo
Essex 1799 Clinton Elizabethtown
Franklin 1808 Clinton Malone
Fulton 1838 Montgomery Johnstown
Genesee 1802 Ontario Batavia
Greene 1800 Ulster, Albany Catskill
Hamilton 1816 Montgomery Lake Pleasant
Herkimer 1791 Montgomery Herkimer
Jefferson 1805 Oneida Watertown
1683 Original county Brooklyn
Lewis 1805 Oneida Lowville
Livingston 1821 Genesee, Ontario Geneseo
Madison 1806 Chenango Wampsville
Monroe 1821 Genesee, Ontario Rochester
Montgomery 1772 Albany (as Tryon to 1784) Fonda
Nassau 1899 Queens Mineola
New York City
1683 Original county New York
Niagara 1808 Genesee Lockport
Oneida 1798 Herkimer Utica
Onondaga 1794 Herkimer Syracuse
Ontario 1789 Montgomery Canandaigua
Orange 1683 Original county Goshen
Orleans 1824 Genesee Albion
Oswego 1816 Oneida, Onondaga Oswego, Pulaski
Otsego 1791 Montgomery Cooperstown
Putnam 1812 Dutchess Carmel
Queens 1683 Original county Jamaica
Rensselaer 1791 Albany Troy
Staten Island
1683 Original county St. George
Rockland 1798 Orange New City
St. Lawrence 1802 Clinton, Herkimer, Montgomery Canton
Saratoga 1791 Albany Ballston Spa
Schenectady 1809 Albany Schenectady
Schoharie 1795 Albany, Ostego Schoharie
Schuyler 1854 Tompkins, Steuben, Chemung Watkins Glen
Seneca 1804 Cayuga Ovid, Waterloo
Steuben 1796 Ontario Bath
Suffolk 1683 Original county Riverhead
Sullivan 1809 Ulster Monticello
Tioga 1791 Montgomery Owego
Tompkins 1817 Cayuga, Seneca Ithaca
Tryon 1772 Albany (renamed Montgomery 1784)
Ulster 1683 Original county Kingston
Warren 1813 Washington Lake George
Washington 1772 Albany (see Charlotte) Hudson Falls
Wayne 1823 Ontario, Seneca Lyons
Westchester 1683 Original county White Plains
Wyoming 1841 Genesee Warsaw
Yates 1823 Ontario, Steuben Penn Yan

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