Geneseo is a town in Livingston County in the Finger Lakes region of New York, USA, outside of Rochester. The population was 9,654 at the 2000 census. The English name "Geneseo" is an anglicization of the Iroquois name for the earlier Iroquois town there, Gen-nis-he-yo (which means "beautiful valley"). A village of the same name lies within the town's western portion.
The site of Geneseo was the largest Seneca village, and a center of power for the Iroquois Indian tribe. It was also the "bread basket" of the tribe, with orchards, vineyards, and fields of maize and vegetables.
During the American Revolution, the Seneca joined the British and the Tories against the colonists who were fighting for independence. Raids by this alliance from the west was a major threat to the American cause, and General Washington sent the Sullivan Expedition to neutralize the Iroquois Indians. As Sullivan's army approached Geneseo, with their "scorched earth" policy the Senecas repeatedly fell back. However, they did exact some damage, as a large Seneca party was successful in ambushing one of Sullivan's scouting parties, carrying them as prisoners to Geneseo and torturing them to death. When Sullivan's troops arrived and found the savagely mutilated bodies, they were enraged, and became very thorough in their destruction of anything that could support the Iroquois. No longer able to raid from Geneseo and environs, about 5,000 Seneca Indians fled to British-held Fort Niagara, where they spent one of the coldest winters of record, with much loss of life, in camps outside the fort with only the small amount of supplies that the British could spare.
The town was established in 1789, prior to the formation of Livingston County. The settlement of Geneseo by the colonists began shortly after the arrival of James and William Wadsworth in 1790. The brothers came to the Genesee Valley from Connecticut as agents of their uncle, Colonel Jeremiah Wadsworth, to care for and sell the land he had purchased. The Wadsworths were participants in the negotiations of the Treaty of Big Tree between Robert Morris and the Senecas at the site of Geneseo in 1797.
Geneseo was the birthplace of Eliza Emily Chappell Porter in 1807, that was a nurse, teacher, school builder, and underground railroad operative, during the Civil War. Geneseo was also the birthplace, in 1851, of the swindler Ferdinand Ward.
The village of Geneseo became the county seat of Livingston County in 1821 and was incorporated in 1832. The State Normal School, now SUNY Geneseo, was opened in 1871. A portion of the village was designated a National Historic Landmark by the United States Department of the Interior in 1991.
The valley of the Genesee is wide and fertile, with some of the best agricultural land in New York, but it was very prone to flooding, and Geneseo suffered several bad floods until the United States Army Corps of Engineers' construction of the Mount Morris Dam upstream of the community in the 1950s. Agriculture is now a large contributor to Geneseo's economy. Geneseo is also used by many as a bedroom community for jobs in nearby Rochester. The village of Geneseo is governed by a mayor and four trustees.
The town can be roughly divided into three geographies: the village has a small-town atmosphere, much of Route 20A is heavily commercialized, and the majority of the town's area is farmland. One of the main issues faced by the community today is urban sprawl. The increasing presence of big-box stores on Route 20A has been welcomed by some residents, who appreciate the convenience of nearby retailers, and discouraged by others, who oppose the suburbanization of the small town.
The Geneseo Airport (D52) is a general aviation airport west of the village, on the Wadsworth farm. It was established during July 1969, and is now used for approximately 20 aircraft operations each day. Since 1980, it has hosted groups restoring and operating historic military aircraft—originally the National Warplane Museum, and now the 1941 Historical Aircraft Group Museum. An airshow is held annually on the field, during the second weekend in July.
The Association for the Preservation of Geneseo (APOG) is a civic organization dedicated to preserving, improving, and restoring the places of civic, architectural, and historic interest to Geneseo and to educate members of the community to their architectural and historical heritage. Additional aims and purposes are to encourage others to contribute their knowledge, advice, and financial assistance.