History of Rochester

A Brief History of the Town of Rochester
 

Settlements and Naming
Beginning in the 1680’s, European settlers from the Netherlands, France and England came to the Town of Rochester by way of Kingston, Hurley or New Paltz.  Still in existence are early deeds written by settlers and signed by Indians, with the Indians’ signatures being an “X” marked beside their names which are spelled out phonetically in Dutch or English.  Even before 1700, there were enough inhabitants for a log meeting-house to have been built for public worship.
In the original Rochester Patent (named in honor of the Earl of Rochester) which was dated 1703, Queen Anne of England granted to Town Trustees the right to convey to settlers ownership of lands in the Town of Rochester, an area which included the present towns of Rochester, Wawarsing and Gardiner, and portions of Sullivan and Delaware counties.

Town Beginnings
Rochester is rich in history. Formed from a number of hamlets, many of which had their own one-room schoolhouses, the Town boasts the largest number of continuously inhabited old stone houses in New York, some dating back to the 17th century. Accord (the site of the Rochester Town Hall and other town offices) and Kerhonkson are the Town’s two largest hamlets.
In the original Rochester Patent (named in honor of the Earl of Rochester) which was dated 1703, Queen Anne of England granted to Town Trustees the right to convey to settlers ownership of lands in the Town of Rochester, an area which included the present towns of Rochester, Wawarsing and Gardiner, and portions of Sullivan and Delaware counties.
In 1703, the year of its incorporation, the Rochester’s population was recorded as 334.  Minutes of Town Trustees meetings dating from that year grant numerous requests for land, and mention already established sawmills and corn mills, and existing property boundaries. By 1710, additional elected officials included a Supervisor, Town Clerk, a Constable and Collector, and Assessors. Later additions to the Town Board were a Surveyor of Highways, Common Pounder, Overseer of the Poor, Fence Viewers, Horse Gelders, and Firemen.
Several school districts, with one-room schoolhouses and elected trustees, had been organized by the 1790s, including Newtown (later Whitfield), Mombaccus, Kyserike, and Pleasant Ridge (later Rock Hill).  The total number of districts eventually reached seventeen, a few of which operated into the 1950s.
 

Economy
It goes without saying that the basic activity of nearly every family the Town of Rochester during the 18th and 19th centuries was farming.  However, many farmers had additional occupations, including production of wintergreen oil, quarrying of millstone and bluestone, milling of corn, wheat and lumbers (and, later, paper), blacksmithing, coopering, shoemaking, wagon-making and store-keeping.  
Economic boom times for Alligerville and Port Jackson (Accord) came during the era of the Delaware and Hudson Canal which was constructed alongside the Rondout Creek and operated between Kingston and Honesdale, Pennsylvania from 1828 until 1902.  Port Jackson was the location of stores, hotels and a lumberyard.  In addition to more hotels and merchant establishments, Alligerville had a brickyard, carriage manufacturers, boat yards and a millstone dock.
The entire Town of Rochester enjoyed a period of prosperity from 1902 into the 1940s when the Ontario & Western Railway (with stations in Accord and Kyserike) provided transportation-to-market for products of the local farms, mills and quarries.  Additionally, the trains brought in summer visitors from urban centers, chiefly New York City, who were in search of fresh air and healthful food for their families.  
For the better part of the 20th century, the summer resort industry played an important role in the economic life of the Town.  Accommodations for paying guests were provided first in private homes, and later in a total of over 50 bungalow colonies, camps, boarding houses and hotels.  (“Friends of Historic Rochester, 2004 Tour of Stone Houses”)

The 
Town Historian is Alice Schoonmaker, who can be contacted at (845) 626-7103.