County Historian

Livingston County Bicentennial

In 2021 Livingston County will celebrate 200 years! Keep checking back here and on Livingston County social media for updates and events leading up to the big year.

Livingston County Bicentennial Seal
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What's New?

We are constantly indexing and digitizing items in our archives - check here to see what new collections are available for easy access!

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Doing Research?

We are excited to help! Here are some ways you can start: 

  1. Search our online Records Index for a name.
  2. Send us your specific questions or call us!
  3. Plan a visit - we have an extensive research center.
  4. Browse other recommended digital resources and repositories to track down information.

February: Celebrating Black History Month

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Portrait of Frederick_Douglass_(circa_1879)

Historian's Office to donate rare Frederick Douglass paper to Rochester Central Library Local History Center

Several years ago the County Historian's Office discovered an original edition of Frederick Douglass' Paper dated October 21, 1859 in the archives.

By 1851, Frederick Douglass had become one of the most influential Black leaders of the 19th century, and changed the title of his
Rochester-based newspaper The North Star to Frederick Douglass’ Paper. Recently, the County Historian's office had the paper digitized and decided to donate the original to the Rochester Central Library Local History Center.

The Local History division's set of 366 issues (now 367!) represents the most comprehensive collection of Douglass newspapers available from any free source.



George and Lucy Henderson: Virginia to New York
George and his wife Lucy Henderson were born in Virginia and spent their early lives as enslaved people before escaping to freedom in Rochester. In 1864, George joined the 26th Regiment United States Colored Infantry as a private and fought in defense of the Union. After the war, he came to work on a farm laborer in Mt. Morris, and later married Lucy, who worked as a housekeeper. They lived in Mt. Morris for many years before moving back to Rochester.
In 1930, the Hendersons, along with several other African-American Civil War veterans, took part in a parade in Rochester celebrating the emancipation of slavery. George passed away in 1932 and Lucy in 1941. According to her only son, Bert, his mother lived to be 102 years old. Lucy often told a story of cooking a fish dinner for President Abraham Lincoln when she was a young girl. A cherished picture of her beloved “Uncle Abe” hung over her bed until the day she died.  

Photograph of the Hendersons
Col. Clinton Bowen Fisk

Abolitionist and Civil War veteran Clinton Bowen Fisk (1828-1890)
Clinton Bowen Fisk was born December 8, 1828 at Greigsville in the town of York. His parents, Benjamin and Lydia Fisk, moved the family to Michigan about 1830. Fisk became a highly decorated officer in the Civil War, promoted to Brevet Major-General. After the war, the abolitionist was appointed to the Freedmen’s Bureau and he actively aided in establishing the Fisk School, a new institution for freed slaves and their children, with facilities in Nashville, TN.
The dream for this educational institution was that it would be open to all, regardless of race, and that would measure itself by "the highest standards, not of Negro education, but of American education at its best" (www.fisk.edu). The school incorporated as Fisk University on August 22, 1867. Still thriving today, it is the oldest educational institution in Nashville. Fisk served as President of its Board of Trustees for many years. Later he ran on the Prohibition ticket for Governor of New Jersey in 1886 and then on the same ticket for United States President in 1888.

General Grant's Cook: Richard Gay (1844-1903)

Richard Gay bears the distinction of having been General Grant's cook during the Civil War. 

Gay was born an enslaved person in North Carolina in 1844. In 1862, at age 18, he managed to escape through Confederate lines. He found safety with the 1st New York Dragoons, a Union regiment that was originally organized in Livingston County, returning with them to this area. He eventually settled in Nunda, where he raised and sold produce, worked as a janitor, taught Sunday school at the Baptist Church, and served as a lay preacher.

For many years, Gay was the principal speaker at the annual Emancipation Day picnic held at Portage, attracting huge crowds. His funeral was packed to full capacity with those remembering a humble man whose positive influence left an impact on his chosen community of Nunda.

Gay was buried at Oakwood Cemetery in Nunda with full military honors. The local G.A.R. raised funds for an impressive monument that pays tribute to a man born into bondage but who found freedom in our midst.

Photo of Richard Gay preaching
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Books

 Contact the County Historian's Office to find out how to receive or order a copy of the following:

 

Audio Tours

Livingston County Heritage Trail: OnCell Audio Tours 

Grab your phone and keys! Four Heritage Trail Tours are available:

Videos

 Local History Out Loud, Chapter One

 Click here for the County Historian's latest video project, Local History Out Loud Chapter One: From the Iroquois Confederacy to Pre-Civil War Era.

 Explore Livingston County's rich cultural heritage through spoken narratives arranged with historical imagery and music in this engaging video.