Genesee County is a county located in the U.S. state of New York. As of the 2010 census, the population was 60,079. Its county seat is Batavia. Its name is from the Seneca Indian word Gen-nis'-hee-yo, meaning "the Beautiful Valley". The county was created in 1802 and later organized in 1803.
Ancient history of man goes back to the Ice Age 10,000 to 12,000 years ago at the Hiscock Site, in Byron, New York. Together with a mastodon jaw, tusks, and teeth, and assorted animal bones, researchers have found a variety of manmade tools, ceramics, metal, and leather, indicating long occupation of the site. This site in Genesee County is considered among North America’s most important for archaeological artifacts from the Ice Age.
Varying cultures of indigenous peoples lived in the area for thousands of years. Hundreds of years before European exploration, the Iroquoian-speaking Seneca Nation developed in the central part of present-day New York; it became one of the first Five Nations of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois Confederacy). Beginning in 1639 and lasting for the rest of the century, the Seneca led an invasion of Western New York, driving out the existing tribes of Wenro, Erie and Neutrals.
Colonial and revolutionary era
When counties were established in New York State in 1683, the present Genesee County was part of Albany County. This was an enormous county, including the northern part of New York State as well as all of the present State of Vermont and, in theory, extending westward to the Pacific Ocean. On March 12, 1772, what was left of Albany County was split into three parts, one remaining under the name Albany County. One of the other pieces, Tryon County, contained the western portion (and thus, since no western boundary was specified, theoretically still extended west to the Pacific). In 1784 Tryon County was renamed as Montgomery County. Around this time, the Pennsylvania Colony and the Massachusetts Bay Colony also claimed the territory as their own, but New York did not enforce its territorial claim. In 1789 Ontario County was split off from Montgomery as a result of the Phelps and Gorham Purchase. Again, the county theoretically extended west to the Pacific Ocean.
19th century politics: Origins of antimasonry
Genesee County was included in the 19th century "burned-over district"- the Western region of New York that was consumed by religious revivals characterized by "the evangelical desire to convert the entire American population to Christianity and to create a 'moral, homogeneous commonwealth.'" This religious moral crusade provided the social atmosphere that allowed Antimasonic sentiment to gain momentum as a significant church-oriented movement, and, later, a grass-root political party that became the nation's first third party.
By the 1820s, the practice of Freemasonry was prevalent in Genesee County. From 1821 to 1827, half of all county officials were Freemasons. In September 1826, William Morgan, a resident of Batavia, New York, disappeared after having been briefly imprisoned for failure to repay a debt. Morgan had been rejected from the Masonic lodge in Batavia, and, as a result, threatened to publish a book which exposed the secret rituals of Freemasonry. His disappearance and presumed murder ignited a campaign against Freemasonry. The investigation into Morgan's disappearance confronted major obstacles from government officials and the judiciary- positions that were largely occupied by Freemasons. The Morgan affair combined with existing suspicions and distrust of the secrecy of Freemasonry initiated mass meetings throughout the county to decide how the issue of Freemasonry should be handled. The Antimasonry crusade's original goal was to oust Masons from political offices. Through the political guidance of party organizers, such as Thurlow Weed and William H. Seward, the crusade developed into a political party that enjoyed a political stronghold in Genesee County and the rest of the "burned-over district."
The Antimasonic Party found strong support within Genesee County from 1827 to 1833. The party averaged 69 percent of the vote and won every county office. After continuous domination of Masonic politicians, citizens saw Antimasonry as a solution and an opportunity to restore justice and republicanism. The Baptist and Presbyterian churches favored Antimasonry and encouraged their members to renounce any ties with the fraternity. The party was originally associated with populist rhetoric, however, strong Antimasonic sentiment throughout the county correlated with positive economic developments and high population densities. Larger towns, such as Batavia, the county seat and Le Roy, harbored the strongest support for the party. The timing of the creation of the Antimasonic Party coincided with a time in New York politics that encouraged the expansion of political participation. The party leaders made the Antimasonic Party, and later the Whig Party, a great success in Genesee County and other neighboring counties.
New York State
It was not until the Holland Purchase of 1793 that Western New York was officially enforced as the territory of New York State. Land in the region was sold through the Holland Land Company's office in Batavia, starting in 1801. All of the land in Western New York was in the newly created Genesee County, and all of that was in the single town of Batavia.
Genesee County was created by a partition of of land from Ontario County. The County was not fully organized so it remained under the supervision of Ontario County until it achieved full organization and separation during March 1803.
On April 7, 1806, Genesee’s area was reduced to due to a partition that created Allegany County. On March 8, 1808, Genesee’s area was again reduced, this time to due to a partition that created Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, and Niagara Counties. On February 23, 1821, Genesee’s area was again reduced, this time to due a complex partition that produced Livingston and Monroe Counties. On April 15, 1825, another partition reduced Genesee’s area to in the creation of Orleans County. On May 1, 1826, the Orleans partition was again surveyed, with of land along the western half of the Orleans/Genesee border returned to Genesee. On March 19, 1841, Genesee’s area was again reduced, this time to the it remains to this day due to the partitioning to create Wyoming County.
In 2009, the City and Town of Batavia began exploring ways to merge or consolidate governmental systems.