Rochester, N. Y., city, port of entry, and seat of justice for Monroe co., is situated on both sides of the Genesee River, 7 miles S. from its entrance into Lake Ontario, 250 miles W. of Albany by the railroad, and 75 miles by railroad E. by N. from Buffalo. In 1810, this place had not an existence, and was not incorporated even as a village until 1817. Population in 1820, 1502; in 1830, 9269 ; in 1840. 20,191; in 1850, 36,561. Rochester owes its rapid growth and present flourishing condition to the peculiar advantages of its location upon the falls at this place in the Genesee River, furnishing an amount of hydraulic power which is equalled by that of very few localities in the United States; and at a point so easily accessible, by every means of transportation and travel in use, from the west, from Canada, and the most important places in the Atlantic States. The Genesee River is navigable for schooners and steamboats from Lake Ontario to the landing at Carthage, 2 1/2 miles below the centre of the city, to which point a railroad has been constructed. The great Erie Canal, uniting the waters of the western lakes with the Hudson at Albany, here crosses the river, and passes through the centre of the city. The Genesee Valley Canal is in progress to connect it with Olean on the Alleghany River, and thence, by that river, with the Ohio at Pittsburg. The chain of railroads from Boston and New York to Buffalo passes through this city, making it a great thoroughfare of travel between the eastern and western sections of the country, and giving it a ready access to the most important intermediate places.
The falls in the Genesee River, at Rochester, have an entire descent of 268 feet, consisting of 3 perpendicular pitches and 2 rapids. After passing over one of the rapids, the stream plunges down the first great cataract, perpendicularly, 96 feet. Owing to the peculiar configuration of the ledge here, which recedes up the river from the centre to the sides, the water is poured over the precipice in 3 distinct sheets, giving an exceedingly picturesque beauty to this splendid waterfall. From a rock, called Table Rock, in the centre of this fall, the notorious Sam Patch made his last and fatal leap. Below the first cataract the river flows broad and deep for a mile and a half to the second, where it makes a perpendicular pitch of 20 feet; and thence pursues a noisy and rapid course for about 25 rods, to the third and last fall, over which it pours its volume down a perpendicular descent of 105 feet Through the entire distance from the upper to the lower fall, the river flows through a narrow ravine of more than 100 feet in depth. The river is here flowing N., and the railroad passes about 100 rods S. of the first fall; so that passengers in the cars are not apprised, by any thing which attracts their notice, of the interesting natural curiosity to which they are approaching.
The depression of the stream commences considerably above the first cataract, and in a distance of about 500 yards gives a fall of 12 feet, available for hydraulic, purposes. Canals have here been excavated on each side of the river for the mills. On the W. side the water is again taken out below the rapids for the same purposes. Another power of considerable amount is created by the feeder for the Erie Canal, which comes from the river nearly 2 miles above. The falls at Rochester afford a water power estimated equal to 1920 steam engines, of 20 horse power which would amount, according to the valuatior of steam power in England, to the great sum of $9,718,272, for its annual use. The leading purpose to which a portion of this immense power has been applied is the flouring business, which is carried on here on a very large scale, and which succeeds, legitimately enough, to the first business ever established at Rochester — that of a grain mill, erected by a solitary pioneer, then many miles distant from all other inhabitants. This man was an Englishman, a person of extraordinary enterprise, who had been the builder of Soho Square in London, but who, after proving pecuniarily unsuccessful in that undertaking, had sought to repair his fortunes in this country. Having purchased the land, he located himself upon these falls,-in what was then a wilderness, without civilized inhabitant for 50 miles to the eastward. In the year 1809, the author of this work, having penetrated to this spot, while as yet the nearest inhabitants on the E. or S. were about 30 miles distant, enjoyed the hospitality of this worthy gentleman, who, at that time, having been visited with affliction in the loss of his wife, which had left him with one only daughter as the companion of his loneliness, had become weary of his situation, and would have parted with his possessions, covering all which the city of Rochester now covers, with his improvements, his cabin, and his mill, for $400. The author has been told that the Eagle Hotel now stands upon the spot which this house once occupied.
Rochester is handsomely laid out on both sides of the river, though not with entire regularity. The E. and W. parts of the city are connected by three bridges. Buffalo Street, which passes over the central bridge, is a straight and broad street, running through the centre of the city. The Erie Canal passes, in a serpentine course, through the city, and is carried over the river by a splendid aqueduct. 804 feet long, resting upon 11 arches, erected at a cost of $80~000. The city is generally well built, chiefly with brick, and many of the blocks of stones, as well as private dwellings, are elegant structures. Some of the churches and other public edifices are handsome buildings. The principal hotels are the Eagle, American, New Mansion House, Congress Hall, Clinton, Rochester, Island House, &c. Some of the flouring mills and other manufactories are very large structures. Of these the Globe Buildings are the largest and most remarkable.
John Hayward, Gazetteer of the United States of America... (Philadelphia: James L. Gihon, 1854), 549-550.