On the lake plain of the prehistoric waters of Lake Iroquois, is the watershed for a vast network of sparkling creeks draining northwards into Lake Ontario. Here was located the port city of the Genesee Valley, at Charlotte. A series of three waterfalls at Rochester once impeded navigation, but provided abundant power for many mills sites along the banks.
The coming of the Erie Canal in 1823 swelled both population and manufacturers.. The country villages of Brockport, Spencerport, Fairport and Pittsford grew and flourished because of canal commerce, while the villages or East Rochester, Churchville, Scottsville and Honeoye Falls made rapid advancement because of rail freight service. Rochester rapidly became the “Flour City,” heartland of a large milling industry fed by rich wheatlands of the county’s agricultural hinterlands. Later, it was known as “The Flower City” because of its seed firms and nurseries which employed thousands and provided nursery stock for the American continent and many parts of the world. Next it became “Kodak City” as the business began by George Eastman in 1878 made Rochester world-famous.
Intellectuals revel in the delights of the Rochester Museum and Science Center and its planetarium, the Genesee Country Village in Mumford; Woodside, the museum operated by Rochester Historical Society; the George Eastman International House of Photography; Susan B. Anthony House; the Strong Museum; and small museums are operated by private historical societies throughout the county. Memorial Art Gallery, the Wehle Museum of Sporting Art, small private galleries and the annual clothesline art show and sidewalk sale are powerful lures for art devotees.
Music and religion have been important components of this region. Three theological seminaries, a Methodist College, two Roman Catholic Colleges and many small academic institutions flourish, along with the State University College at Brockport, Rochester Institute of Technology, the University of Rochester and the Eastman School of Music, site of the world’s largest music library. At Rundel Library may be found the nation’s largest audio-visual lending library.
While Millerites attracted by William Miller waited in vain for the world to end in 1844, idealistic disciples of Charles Fourier of France founded two industrial communes, soon aborted, in Hamlin and Bloomfield, near Honeoye Falls. Professor Walter Rauschenbusch expounded the “Social Gospel” and Professor William Hamilton proposed the “God is Dead” theory. The American Bible Society was begun, Brigham Young and Heber Kimball of Mendon helped found the Church of the Latter Day Saints, and benevolent Benjamin Titus Roberts began the nation’s first Free Methodist seminary at North Chili. The séances of the famous Fox sisters gave birth to Spiritualism. Henrietta’s Antoinette Brown Blackwell became the nation’s first female pastor. Hicksite and Orthodox Quakers came, and Mendon’s Quaker Cemetery is still active. Many religious faiths flourish in modern day structures of unique and beautiful architecture.
The Rochester area industrial complex has been a leading national supplier of a vast array of goods. The area has been a patent machine center, showe center, clothing manufacturing center, Underground Railroad center, precision capital, optical center, bowling center, publishing center, nursery center, and the world’s largest computer center.
From this populous county near the northwestern corner of New York State have come such innovations for human advancement as the gasoline engine, the vote for women, the repeating rifle, soft plastic contact lenses, marshmallows, xerography, and instruments of many descriptions born in Monroe County. Inventive geniuses of this county nourished the telegraph and gave the world thermometers, moon photography, grain elevators, threshing machines, and white hot dogs. With a school for the deaf, church service for the deaf and college courses for the deaf at RIT, as well as an Association for the Blind and many private charitable organizations, human influences are ever evident.
Shirley Cox Husted
Monroe County Historian