According to the Buffalo Museum of Science the first man in Genesee County arrived 11,000 years ago. Chipped-stone spear points have been unearthed at an archaeological excavation along with mastodon bones at a farm in Byron. The earliest man, Paleo-Indian, was nomadic and followed herds of animals through the ancient forest to the Ice-Age tundra on the edge of Lake Tonawanda. Prehistoric Earthworks discovered in Oakfield along with the Divers Lake flint quarry, just north of Indian Falls, have added to the evidence that Genesee County attracted very early inhabitants.
The Senecas, who were members of the Iroquois Confederacy, controlled Western New York until the close of the 18th Century. One of their meeting locations was at the bend in the Tonawanda Creek, near the heart of today's Batavia. Before this vast territory could be opened for pioneer settlement, it was necessary to obtain the land from the Native Americans. The Sullivan-Clinton Expedition, followed by the Big Tree Treaty of 1797 forced the Senecas to live on reservations. Today the Tonawanda Indian Reservation, located within a section of the township of Alabama, is home for many area Senecas.
Western New York was divided into several land tracts by investors eager to sell property to the pioneers. The Holland Land Company, composed of bankers from Amsterdam Holland, was the largest investor. The name Batavia was chosen to honor these Dutch land owners and was taken from the Republic of Batavia which was an area of the Netherlands before 1806. From 1798 until 1800 a survey of their 3.5 million acres was conducted and the first sale of land was in 1801. With growing population and governmental needs Genesee County was created in 1802 and was named from the Seneca word meaning "Beautiful Valley."
The original Genesee County included all of Western New York and as populations grew within this region the neighboring counties were established. (Allegany in 1806; Cattaraugus, Chautauqua and Niagara in 1808; the western portions of Livingston and Monroe in 1821; Orleans in 1824 and Wyoming in 1841). County government began in 1803 with the completion of the first courthouse west of the Genesee River and the election of county officers. The present day Genesee County encompasses 501 square miles and has a population of 60,060 (according to the 1990 Federal Census). The County is divided into thirteen towns, beginning with Batavia, the County seat which was organized in 1802, Alexander, LeRoy and Pembroke in 1812, Bethany and Bergen in 1813; Byron, Elba and Stafford in 1820; Alabama in 1826; Darien in 1832; Oakfield and Pavilion in 1842.
Land has always been the county's greatest asset. The diversity of soils and climate conditions attracted the early settlers who carved out homes and farms, developing Genesee into one of the richest agricultural regions within New York State. Genesee County has the highest percentage of classified farmland in the state and three of the top 100 vegetable farms in the country. The fertile muck soil in Elba has made Genesee one of the principal counties in the nation for growing beets and onions. Dairy farming is still the leading commodity in the county and over all Genesee is fourth in agriculture sales within New York State. The country side is dotted with farm stands and annually the Farmer's Market provides a cornucopia of fresh vegetables, fruits and flowers.
Genesee County has a variety of recreational opportunities for every age and interest. Darien Lake Fun Country, started in 1976 as a camping facility, has grown into New York's largest combination theme park and entertainment resort. Darien Lake Theme Park now features more than 100 rides, including one of the tallest and fastest roller coasters in North America. Genesee County Park and Forest is the oldest county facility in the state. Situated in the town of Bethany the park comprises more than 400 acres and offers year round enjoyment. The 2,000 acres of the Bergen - Byron Swamp was dedicated in 1964 as a National Natural History Landmark by the United State's Department of the Interior. This swamp possesses exceptional value as an illustration of the Nation's Natural Heritage and contributes to a better understanding of our environment. It is of special interest to students of zoology and botany and is a haven for bird watchers. The rich historical significance of the county may be experienced in the variety of local museums. The two largest, the Holland Land Office and the LeRoy House are both treasure troves of artifacts from the past. Each of the museums offers unique displays that illustrate the daily lives from the inhabitants who contributed to the development of our communities.
Contact the County Historian: at (585) 344-2550 ext. 2613 to find out more.