GENESEE COUNTY - In The Beginning
Prior to the establishment of Genesee County,
Seneca Indians - Keepers of the Western Door - inhabited
this region. These Indians were a subdivision of the
Iroquois Confederacy. Before this area was settled by
pioneers the Sullivan-Clinton Expedition broke the strong
hold of the Iroquois control. The Big Tree Treaty of 1797
opened the lands west of the Genesee River and allotted
200,000 acres of land for reservations. According to the
treaty the Senecas were to receive annually the interest
from $100,000 held in Federal stocks and bonds.
Massachusetts and New York claimed this land
by charters from 17th century English kings. This dispute
was resolved by the Hartford Convention of 1786.
Massachusetts relinquished governmental rights to New
York but maintained title to the land, subject to Indian
In 1791 Robert Morris, "Financier of the American
Revolution" purchased from Massachusetts 4 million acres
for the sum of $333,333,333. This area was broken into
several land tracts, the largest being the Holland Purchase.
Morris in 1793 sold the land company 3 and 1/2 million
acres. This company was not a corporation. Bankers in
Amsterdam, Holland bought land as an association of
individuals who were eager to invest in this region. So far
as it is known, none of them ever visited Western New
York. Their business transactions were conducted by
Theophile Cazenove and later by Paul Busti of
Philadelphia, their general agents.
Boundaries ran north and south from Lake
Ontario to the Pennsylvania border, and east and west
from the Genesee River to Lake Erie.
Joseph Ellicott was commissioned by the Holland
Land Company in 1798 to survey the purchase. Ellicott, his
brother Benjamin and over 150 men surveyed for the next
three years, completing their task in October of 1800. The
estimated cost was $70,921.69 1/2.
Ellicott was hired as local agent and the first land
sale was in 1801. Settlers were forced to travel to
Canandaigua where deeds and mortgages were recorded.
Ontario County also levied high taxes on company lands.
With the establishment of a new county, Ellicott resolved
these problems. Taking the Seneca word meaning
"Beautiful Valley", Genesee county was formed from
Ontario County in 1802.
Joseph Ellicott established the Holland Land
Office in Batavia in 1802. The first structure was a wooden
building, which was replaced by a stone edifice in 1815.

The Land Office was located at the "Bend of the
Tonawanda". The site selected for Batavia was once
called, by the Senecas, "De-on-go-wa", or "The Great
Meeting Place." Ellicott chose the name Batavia to honor
the Dutch Land owners, the name coming from the
Republic of Batavia which was the area of the
Netherlands before 1806.
Agents of the Holland Land Company tried to make
both down payments and annual installments easy for the
settlers. Buyers could agree to do work for the Company by
aiding in the construction of roads and mills. The Land
Company opened roads by subscribing $5,000 to defray the
expense. The average price per acre was around $2.30. Free
land was given for the building of churches and schools.

For 21 years Ellicott was Resident Agent for the
Company. Not only did he sell land but was influential in
the settlement of this region. He founded Batavia, Buffalo
and other towns in western New York. He was instrumental
in the establishment of post offices and his work on the
location of the western route of the Erie Canal helped the
growth of the region.
In 1835 the Holland Land Company sold all their
remaining lands to the new company composed chiefly of
citizens of Batavia.
The county of Genesee began operations in 1803 with
the completion of a courthouse and election of county

Batavia was named the county seat. The original
Genesee County included all of the Holland Purchase.
The county was subdivided as follows: Allegany was
taken off in 1806; Cattaraugus, Chautauqua and
Niagara in 1808; parts of Livingston and Monroe in
1821; Orleans in 1824 and Wyoming in 1841. That left
Genesee county with its present 507 square miles. The
county was divided into 13 towns, beginning with the
organization of Batavia in 1802. Alabama, Alexander,
Bethany, LeRoy and Pembroke were established in
1812. Bergen was formed in 1813. Byron, Elba and
Stafford were established in 1820, Darien in 1832,
Pavilion in 1841 and Oakfield in 1842.

Education has always been an important part in the
development of Genesee county. Seminaries were
established through- out the county as early as 1832.
Ingram University, the first chartered woman's
university in the United States was built in 1837 in
LeRoy and closed in 1902. The New York State School
for the Blind was started in Batavia in 1865 and is still in
operation. Genesee Community College opened with the
fall semester in 1967, moving to a new campus in 1972.
The first public libraries were opened in 1811 and school
libraries started operating in 1835.
Genesee County's present population is
approximately 59,400. Industries have been established
in both Batavia and LeRoy.

131 West Main Street
Batavia, NY 14020
Land has always been the county's biggest asset. It
is one of the richest areas in the eastern United States;
5% of its soil is muckland. Prosperous farms have made
Genesee one of the principal counties in the nation in the
production of table beets and it is a leading New York
county in acreage of corn, wheat and vegetables. Dairy
farming is the largest source of agricultural revenue.
The county also has mineral deposits of
gypsum, limestone, natural gas and salt.
The varied landscape of Genesee county ranges from
the low lying areas of the Bergen swamp in the north to
the rolling hills which define the southern border.

Susan L. Conklin Genesee County Historian