Rochester's First Nick Name: Falls Town

Ever wonder what Rochester was like back in 1790?  Well it wasn’t called Rochester That’s for sure. “The Flower City” was not its only nickname after all these years either.  Rochester was a city that needed to wait its time to be settled. Nature created a masterpiece for the human race. We just weren’t technologically advanced enough to navigate this incredible terrain.  

Rochester NY 18th Century

Scarcely could a more fortunate combination of natural advantages have been assembled had an All-wise Providence set itself the task of preparing a site for Rochester!  The moving force throughout these successive geological ages had been the area’s abundant water supply, oppererating in varied forms and manifold ways, and it was more than fitting that the chief dynamic force available on man’s arrival should be the water power of the several Genesee falls.  But the experience of successive human invasions was to demonstrate that the site had been so designed as to attract only an advanced commercial and industrial settlement, such as the New England migrants of the early nineteenth century were to build.  

Book: Rochester The Water- Power City

BY: Blake F. McKelvey


Rochester was Destined to Become America's First  Boom Town.

In the late 18th century passers on their way to Niagara often stopped at the Genesee and marveled at its natural beauty. The falls practically untouched by humans was something noted by many and eventually had to be settled for all the natural resources it has to offer.

Rochester Geographic Location was what led to its assent.  

It was located South Shore of lake Ontario, this is a strategic location for trade with Canada.  Although the Genesee helped in bringing you in further main land it was widely unpopular due to the cascading falls making it impossible to travel strait through the river.  Fortunately technological advancements throughout the 19th Century gave traders well needed alternative routes. Back as far as 1792 to the west at the mouth of the river was a Man by the name of William Hincher.  Him, his son and seven daughters built a log cabin that would be used as shelter for travelers.  

We Have Waterfalls

Not just beautiful but powerful too.  The kind of power that could supply much needed Mills that would supply Rochester with the commerce it needed to grow.  In the Spring of 1789 Ebenezer Allen was granted by Oliver Phelps a Hundred Acre lot at the West Bank of the Upper Falls.  A half acre lot was in the Center of present downtown Rochester where they cleared trees to erect a crude sawmill. 


Rochester NY Flower City logo T-shirt Apparel Garments


Allen was the perfect candidate to build mills because of his ability to create peace with the Native American’s and established trade relationship which led to him to having the nickname; Indian.  

In 1789 between planting and harvesting Allen found time to ride down from his farm in Scottsville to the falls to plow out a half acre lot for a mill.  And by early Summer the mill was able to cut lumber.  Thus creating our first mill.  There was a trading vessel that made a visit to the mouth of the Genesee carrying kegs of rum bringing a zest type feel turning that day into an occasion.  Later that Fall Allen sold his farm for $2.50 an acre and moved on to other endeavors. 


The Development of the Genesee Trading Post was undertaken by Gideon King, Zodack Granger and several families from Suffield, Connecticut.  King’s Landing was known to have a bustling feel.  Town lots were marked off, log houses were erected, a dock built, a sailing vessel built and good trade.  Potash was exchanged for salt from Oswego and commercial prosperity looked promising for “Fall Town” as the landing was called.  

Genesee Falls Developed a reputation for its beauty and would often take on visitors from people traveling to Niagara.  After visiting the falls a drink of grog was enjoyed.  

Unfortunately by 1800 the mill was completely in ruins found by a man by the name of John Maude.  There was fear still of conflict with Native Tribes.  Although boats continued to unload at King’s Landing there was a sickness that took the lives of 5 settlers.  This did not rest well with other prospectors from Connecticut and contributed to it failing in keeping up with economic developments. On top of all that the cascading waterfalls just created more obstruction for trade.  

By 1805 it was Samuel Latta a customs agent for the Port of the Genesee and land agent for the Pulteney Estate Properties who priced out 50 town lots at ten dollars each.  Also it should be noted this was the village of Charlotte at this point.

 Rochester NY, Flower City Logo T-Shirt and Garments

But still in 1805 the Embargo brought trade down the Genesee.  Shipments valued at $30,000 in 1806 jumped to $100,000 in 1808 that accounted for the worth of wheat, pork and potash.  Boats carrying anywhere from 25 to 70 tons went back and forth from various American and Canadian lake ports.  In 1809 a more experienced traveler Thomas Cooper form Penssylvania noted that there must be  a reason why wheat goes for 12.5 cents a bushel in Geneva but sells for 31 cents in Charlotte.  By 1810 The Village of Charlotte had nineteen houses and was starting to to attract more merchants.

 Other than that the author Blake Mcklelvey doesn't talk about the nickname "Falls Town".  Although the book does bring up other names as the title gives it away, there are even more.  So stay tuned as we go over what Rochester, NY's formation and growth was like over the past two hundred years.