Erection of Genesee County and Its Subdivision -Surface and Geology of the County -Its Streams -Numerous Railroads
Traversing Its Territory -Erection of the Various Townships in the County.
The original ten counties of the Province, now the State, of New York, were created November 1, 1683, and named
New York, Kings, Queens, Suffolk, Richmond, Westchester, Orange, Ulster, Dutchess and Albany. March 12, 1772, Tryon
county was taken from Albany county, and the name was changed to Montgomery in 1784. Montgomery county originally
included nearly all the central and western part of the State. January 27, 1789, Ontario county, occupying most
of the western portion of the State, was set apart from Montgomery county. March 30, 1802, all that part of the
State lying west of the Genesee river and a line extending due south from the point of junction of the Genesee
and Canaseraga creek to the south line of the State, was set off from Ontario county and designated as Genesee
county. It will thus be seen that the original Genesee county comprised all the territory embraced within the present
counties of Genesee, Orleans, Wyoming, Niagara, Erie, Cattaraugus arid Chautauqua, and the western portions of
Monroe, Livingston and Allegany counties.
The first division of the original county of Genesee occurred April 7, 1806, when Allegany county was set off by
act of the Legislature. Allegany county then comprised parts of Genesee, Wyoming and Livingston counties. The northern
section was set off to Genesee county in 1811, and the northern central part was set off to Wyoming and Livingston
counties in 1846. March 11, 1808, the counties of Cattaraugus, Chautauqua and Niagara were erected, the latter
then including Erie county, which was erected as a separate county April 2, 1821. February 23, 1821, the size of
the county was still further reduced by the erection of Livingston and Monroe counties, whose western portions
lay within the original limits of Genesee. A part of Covington was annexed to Livingston county in 1823. November
11, 1824, Orleans county was taken off, and April 5, 1825, the town of Shelby was annexed from Genesee county.
The final reduction in territory occurred May 14, 1841, when the major portion of the present Wyoming county was
It will thus be seen that in recording the history of Genesee county prior to 1841, the writer is compelled to
deal with a very large portion of Western New York, and the early history of all that region is intimately connected
with the story of the modem development of this county.
Genesee county lies in the midst of one of the most fertile regions in the vicinity of the Great Lakes, joining
the most westerly tier of the New York counties on the east. It is bounded on the north by Orleans and Monroe counties,
on the east by Monroe and Livingston, on the south by Wyoming and Livingston, and on the west by Erie and Niagara.
A narrow strip in the extreme southeastern corner is also bounded on the west by Wyoming county; a portion of the
town of Le Roy is bounded on the north by Monroe county and an extremely small strip of the same town is bounded
on the south by the same county; and portions of LeRoy and Pavilion are bounded on the south by Livingston county.
The area of Genesee county is five hundred and seven square miles.
The surface of the county is mostly level or gently undulating, except along the southern border, which is occupied
by ranges of hills extending northerly from Wyoming county. Some of these hills rise to an elevation of from two
hundred to three hundred feet above the fiat lands, and about one thousand feet above the level of the sea. Extending
east and west through the county, north of the centre, is a terrace of limestone, bordered in many places by nearly
perpendicular ledges. In the extreme eastern and western parts of the county this terrace ranges from fifty to
one hundred feet in height, but toward the central portion the height averages from twenty to forty feet.
The principal streams are Tonawanda creek, * which, rising in Wyoming county, enters the town of Alexander from
the south, flows in a northeasterly direction through that town and Batavia to the village of Batavia, where it
turns and flows in a westerly, then northwesterly, direction through the latter town, Pembroke and Alabama, leaving
the latter town at a point a trifle north of the centre-of its western boundary. The course of Tonawanda creek
is exceedingly tortuous, and for the most of its course it flows in a very sluggish manner. An idea of its tortuosity
may be gained from the fact that between Attica, in Wyoming county, and Batavia this stream flows between two parallel
roads about a mile apart; and while the distance between these two points is about eleven miles by the highway,
by the course of the stream it is forty-three miles.
The principal tributaries of Tonawanda creek are Little Tonawanda and Bowen's creeks. Oak Orchard creek has its
source near the centre of the county, and winds its way through Batavia and Elba, turning at the northeast corner
of the latter town and continuing westerly and flowing through the great Tonawanda swamp, which occupies the northern
part of the towns of Elba, Oakfield and Alabama. Black creek, known by the Indians as Checkanango creek, flows
in a north.. erly direction through the central parts of the towns of Bethany, Stafford and Byron, and thence easterly
through Bergen into Monroe county. Its principal tributaries are Spring and Bigelow creeks. Oatka creek flows across
the southeast corner of the county. Murder creek and Eleven Milecreek flow through the southwest corner. Tonawanda,
Black and Oatka creeks form a series of picturesque cascades in their passage down the limestone terrace north
of the centre of the county.
The lowest rocks in Genesee county form a part of the Onondaga salt group, extending along the northern border.
Gypsum abounds in large quantities in Le Roy, Stafford and Byron. This is succeeded by hydraulic, Onondaga and
corniferous limestone, which form the limestone terrace extending through the county. The outcrop of these rocks
furnish lime and building stone. Succeeding the limestone, In the order named, are the Marcellus and Hamilton shales,
which occupy the entire southern part of the county. The surface generally is covered thick with drift deposits,
and the underlying rocks appear only in the ravines of the streams. Most of the swamps contain thick deposits of
muck and marl, furnishing in great abundance the elements of future fertility to the soil. Nearly all the springs
and streams are constantly depositing lime in the form of marl. Along the northern boundary of the county are numerous
wells yielding water which is strongly impregnated with sulphuric aid, and known as "sour springs." Salt
was discovered in the town of Le Roy in 1881, at a depth of six hundred and fifteen feet. The supply is considered
Genesee county is well supplied with railroads, furnishing transportation facilities equalled by but few counties
in New York State. Batavia and Le Roy are the two principal railroad centres, as well as the most populons villages.
The main line of the New York Central and Hudson River Railroad enters the county at the eastern boundary of Bergen,
and passes in a generally southwesterly direction through that town, Byron, Stafford, Batavia, Pembroke and Darien.
The Tonawanda railroad has its eastern terminus at Batavia, and extends thence westerly through that town and Pembroke.
The West Shore Railroad passes easterly and westerly through the northern part of the county, traversing the towns
of Bergen, Byron, Elba, Oakfleld and Alabama. The Buffalo and Geneva Railroad enters the town of Le Roy at its
eastern boundary and extends in a generally southwesterly direction through Le Roy, Stafford, Batavia, Pembroke
and Darien. The Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad crosses the southern part of the county from east to
west, traversing the towns of Pavilion, Bethany, Alexander and Darien. The Buffalo, Rochester and Pittsburgh Railroad
enters the county at the southern boundary of Pavilion, runs northerly through that town and Le Roy to the village
of Le Roy, where it turns and extends easterly, leaving the county at the east bounds of Le Roy. The New York,
Lake Erie and Western Railroad enters the county at the western boundary of Darien, crosses that town to Alexander
and runs thence to Attica. At the latter place one branch takes a northeasterly and southeasterly curve through
the southern parts of Alexander and Bethany, leaving the county near the southwest corner of the latter town. Another
branch runs northeasterly through Alexander and Batavia to the village of Batavia, where it turns and thence pursues
an easterly course through the towns of Batavia, Stafford and Le Roy. The Batavia and Canandaigua Railroad enters
the county at the eastern boundary of Le Roy,. passes westerly through that town, Stafford and Batavia to the village
of Batavia, where it forms a junction with the New York Central and Hudson River Railroad.
There are thirteen towns in Genesee county-Alabama, Alexander, Batavia, Bergen, Bethany, Byron, Darien, Elba, Le
Roy, Oakfield, Pavilion, Pembroke and Stafford.
Of these towns Batavia is the oldest, having been erected when the original county was formed, March 30, 1802.
As at first constituted it comprised the territory now composing the towns of Alexander, Bergen, Byron, Bethany,
Pembroke, Darien, Elba and Oakfield, and parts of the towns of Alabama and. Stafford. Alexander, Bergen (including
Byron), Bethany and Pembroke (including Darien and a part of Alabama) were taken off June 8, 1812; Elba (including
Oakfield) and a part of Stafford were taken off in March, 1820. Le Roy was formed from Caledonia (Livingston county)
June 8, 1812, and was originally called Bellona. Its name was changed April 6, 1813. A part of Stafford was taken
off in 1820 and a part of Pavilion in 1842. Stafford was formed from Batavia and Le Roy March 24, 1820. A part
of Pavilion was taken off in 1842. Alabama, originally called Gerrysville, was formed from Pembroke and Shelby
(Orleans county) April 17, 1826. Its name was changed April 21, 1828. A part of the town of Wales was annexed in
1832. Pavilion was formed from Covington (Wyoming county) May 19, 1841. Parts of Le Roy and Stafford were annexed
March 22, 1842.
* The name Tonawanda, strangely enough, when the generally sluggish course of the stream is considered, signifies
in the Indian language, "swiftly running water," from the rapid current for about ten miles below Batavia.