The Founding of Gates

By John Robortella
Former Editor, Gates-Chili News

A town meeting was certainly held and in 1808 the residents of Northampton petitioned the New York State legislature to create the Town of Gates. The townspeople had selected the name in honor of General Horatio Gates, the American Revolutionary War officer who received the surrender of General Burgoyne at the Battle of Saratoga in 1777 and who died in New York State in 1806.

Although the petition to create the Town of Gates was sent to Albany in 1808, it would be four years before it was approved and another year for it to take effect.

Since Murray, Parma and Riga had separated from Northampton in 1808, residents of what remained of Northampton had to reorganize their town as it now existed. On April 4, 1809, they met at the home of Jeremiah Olmstead to reorganize Northampton.

In addition to electing officers at that first meeting, they voted that a bounty of three cents be paid for each rattlesnake killed in town. Then, they adjourned the meeting until the following year.

Gates 200 Logo

In 1809, only a handful of men who owned property in Northampton could vote. The freeholders, as male voters were called then, were Charles Harford, John Van Sickles, Samuel Latta, William Hencher, Jacob Teeples, Augustus B. Shaw, Abel Rowe, Moses Everett, Samuel Currier, Isaac Vandeventer, Benjamin Cowles, Frederick Bushnell, Silas O. Smith and Daniel Budd.

That year, the election results from Northampton for New York State assemblyman was 9 votes for Levi Ward Jr. and 8 votes for Chauncey Loomis. In 1810, Peter B. Porter defeated Ebenezer F. Norton for Congress by a vote of 20 to 16.

On June 10, 1812, the New York State Legislature enacted the residents' petition to create the Town of Gates, effective April 1, 1813:

Chapter 122

Laws of 1812

An Act for Altering the Name of the Town Therein Mentioned II Be it further enacted, that from and after the 1st day of April next, the Town of Northampton (heretofore so called) in the County of Genesee, shall be known and called by the name of Gates.

On the day it was created, the area of the new Town of Gates was considerably larger than it is today, extending north to Lake Ontario, east and south to the Genesee River, and west to Parma, and including the Village of Rochesterville (now the City of Rochester). But beginning in 1817 and continuing until 1919, the founding of new towns and various annexations by Rochester took more and more land from Gates. Today, it is geographically the smallest town in Monroe County.

Farm Impliments

For example, in 1817, a committee led by Col. Nathaniel T. Rochester (for whom Rochester is named and who served as supervisor of Gates from 1830–1832) petitioned the state legislature for a charter to incorporate the Village of Rochesterville. The petition was adopted on March 21, 1817, and the village was called Rochesterville until 1822 when it became Rochester.

Rochesterville was comprised of 665 acres west of the Genesee River, then part of Genesee County. Nearly 300 acres were taken from the Town of Gates, which had extended to the river.

In 1823, Rochester annexed about 257 acres east of the river from the Town of Brighton, placing the village in two counties: Ontario- County east of the river and Genesee County west of the river. The need for a new county was apparent and the State Legislature created Monroe County on February 23, 1821, named for James Monroe, fifth president of the United States.

In 1822, the Town of Greece was established and further reduced the area of Gates by more than half of its original limits.


In 1834, Gates lost 3.23 square miles in the third annexation, this one by Rochester. Other annexations occurred in 1843, 1850 and 1874. In 1874, Gates extended east to Child Street and included the west bank of the Genesee River, which now faces the University of Rochester. But Rochester annexed this, as well, then the most populated area nearest the city.

The seventh annexation occurred in 1891, and the eighth, ninth and tenth were in 1901, 1914, and 1919, respectively. By the early 1900's, the Lincoln Park area (off present-day Chili Avenue near Genesee Park Boulevard) had developed industrially and made an ideal source of tax revenue for the City of Rochester, and a subsequent loss of revenue for Gates.

Historian Orsamus Turner writes that Gates "has little of history disconnected with village and city." He is describing that the Town of Gates, in its early days, encompassed much of what is now the City of Rochester and that its eastern boundary extended to the Genesee River. It is probably for this reason that a traditional Main Street or downtown business district never formed in Gates. These were not necessary for the few early settlers because their town extended into the metropolis of Rochester, where they could obtain most of their necessities. Nonetheless, some residents today are disappointed that Gates lacks a formal center, such as the downtown business districts in neighboring Spencerport, Churchville and Brockport, for example.

Also because of its expanse into Rochester, Gates was somewhat slow to attract settlers. Turner writes, "As late as 1817, there were but a few settlers living in small openings of the forest, on the Buffalo road in Gates. The town embracing all of Rochester, on the east [west, ed.] side of the river, has little of history disconnected with village and city. It contained but a scattered population—there were but few openings in the forest—when Rochester was started."


By 1877, Gates remained a rural, agricultural community. A map of the day shows only a handful of homesteads and large open tracts of land. By 1902, little had changed. Lot sizes were still measured in acres with the Hinchey, Jacobs, Harris, Munn, Trabold, Field and Vogt families, and others, farming into the hundreds of acres.

Gates would not see the transition from a rural agricultural area to the suburbs begin until the 1940's and 1950's, with residential development beginning in earnest in the 1960's.



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