The Valley of the Genesee is a short essay, part of the two-volume set entitled Picturesque America, edited by the famous poet William Cullen Bryant and including engravings by famous nineteenth-century landscape painters such as John Frederick Kensett, James McDougal Hart and William Hamilton Gibson. The Valley of the Genesee features illustrations by John Douglas Woodward, one of several artists commissioned for his work on the Picturesque America series.
“There is said to be a mountain-peak in Potter County, Pennsylvania, standing upon which the observer may mark the fountain-head of two rivers. Though flowing through adjacent gorges, their courses are soon divided, the one tending southward, while the other marks out a winding way to the harbor at Charlotte, there losing itself in the waters of Lake Ontario”. So begins the essay on The Valley of the Genesee, a short description and guide to the river, landscape and history of the Genesee River Valley. The river, originating from northern Pennsylvania and flowing northward into Lake Ontario at Rochester, New York, is described as not particularly beautiful, until it is, “…the falls at Portage are reached that the river asserts its claim to recognition as one of the most beautiful and picturesque of all our Eastern streams”. This recognition of the beauty of Genesee River waterfalls (located in both Livingston and Monroe Counties) is also the recognition of the power which the Genesee River generates, the essay concisely describing the historical significance of Rochester’s use of the Genesee River for harnessing hydro-power to run the many mills and factories located along the banks of the Genesee River at the Upper Falls, giving rise to Rochester’s nickname of “Flour City”. The essay also traces the physical route of the Genesee River from its source, to the falls south of Mount Morris, through the gorges of what is now Letchworth State Park, and northward to the mouth at Rochester, emptying into one of the Great Lakes, Lake Ontario. The essay also details the history of the region, including the history of the Seneca and Iroquois, the mills of Rochester and the settling of the towns along the way.
This work, originally published in 1874, is reprinted by Milne Library at the State University of New York College at Geneseo as part of the Genesee Valley Historical Reprints series. The Genesee Valley Historical Collection is Milne Library’s largest and most accessible collection of local history materials. Its geographical scope covers the eight counties surrounding the Genesee River in New York State: Allegany, Genesee, Livingston, Monroe, Ontario, Orleans, Steuben and Wyoming. For more information, see: http://go.geneseo.edu/gvhr.
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