Rochester, named in honor of the Earl of Rochester, was incorporated by patent, June 25, 1703, and organized as a town, March 7, 1788. A part of Middletown (Delaware Co.) was taken off in 1789, Neversink (Sullivan Co.) in 1798, Wawarsing in 1806, and a part of Gardiner in 1853. A part of Wawarsing was annexed March 21, 1823.
It is an interior town, lying a little south-west of the center of the County. The east and west borders are traversed by ranges of mountains, and the central portion is a rolling upland. Rondout Creek flows north-east through the south part, and receives as tributaries Sanderkill, Peterskill and several other streams. Vernooy Creek flows south through the west part. The soil upon the uplands is a gravelly loam; and in the valleys a sandy loam, mixed with clay. The Delaware and Hudson Canal extends along the valley of Rondout Creek. Esopus millstones are manufactured to some extent in this town. Near Kyserike is a cave which has been explored for a considerable distance.
Alligerville and Port Jackson are small villages on the canal. Accord and Kyserike are post offices in the east part of the town.
The first settlement was made by the Dutch about 1700. The patent of the town was granted in 1704, and the first trustees under this patent were Col. Henry Beekman, Joachim Schoonmaker and Moses DePuy. The lands covered by the patent embraced Rochester and Wawarsing and part of Sullivan Co. In 1703 the following persons were residents of the town, viz.,
Jan Gerritse Decker
Leendert Kool, Sen.
Wm. De La Montaigne
Gysbert Van Garde
The first deed recorded was Sept. 22, 1703, and was given to Jan Garritse Decker for two hundred acres of land, bounded on the south by Rondout Creek and on the west by the Mombaccus Creek, on which Moses J. Schoonmaker now resides. To Teunis Osterhoudt was granted "the just half of a streame of the Mombaccus Kill, being the north side of said Kill where his corne mill stands," and where the mills of Schoonmaker and Davis now stand. To Anthony and Joost Hornbeck was granted "all that fall anad streame of the Mombaccus Kill known by the name of the greate or high fall on said Kill, with free liberty and license to build mills." The place is now occupied by Samuel Wilkinson's mills. To Andries Davis, of Kingston, was granted "all that certain tract of land beginning by a great fall called Hoenck, from thence up the Creek northerly to the high mountains, including several small parcells of land called by the Indian names Wasschawaninck, Eghhoneck, Mattegonighonck, Tammamanoghinck, Ragawack; also all the land from the bounds of Kahangsinck to the high mountains." To John Beatty was granted "all that tract lying on the north-west side of the great mountains near to the high point called Magonick, which is the parting bounds betwixt Capt. John Evans and the New Paltz."
In 1757 the trustees conveyed to Benjamin Schoonmaker, Benjamin Van Wagnen, Capt. Jacob Hornbeck and Lieut. Jacobus DePuy and their successors, Elders of the Reformed Dutch Church, one hundred and fifty acres of land. The tract was located in what is now known as the Osterhoudt neighborhood.
The town officers for 1709 were:
William Nottingham, Town Clerk
Capt. Joachim Schoonmaker, Supervisor
Moses DePuy, Lodewyck Hornbeck, Assessors
Jan Cartrecht, Constable and Collector
In 1730 the officers were:
J. Bruyn, Jr., Town Clerk
Lodewyck Hornbeck, Supervisor
Capt. Johannes Vernoay, Jacob Dewitt, Assessors
Mathews Van Terwilliger, Lawrence Cortreght, Constables
Matthis Snow, Capt. Albert Pawling, Surveyors of Highways
In 1778 the inhabitants of Rochester petitioned Governor Clinton for protection against the Indians. The following is a copy of the petition, signed by fifty men:
"To his Excellency George Clinton Esq.,
Governor of the State of New York.
The Petition of the Inhabitants of Rochester,
in Ulster County, Humbly Sheweth-
That your petitioners have for a long time labored under the dreadful apprehensions of an Attack from an unseen Enemy; Your Excellency is not unacquainted with the fate of the German Flatts, the late conflagration of Pienpack, that flourishing part of Your Excellencies Frontiers; we dread to share their fate. Your Excellency being acquainted with the situation of this place, will not be surprised when we thus beg your Excellencies protection-not only the Lives of your Petitioners are Exposed, but the Enemy seem determined to destroy the Grain and Cattle, this must (your Excellency well knows,) soon reduce the publick as well as individuals to Scarcity-therefore your Humble petitioners do Beg your Excellency to protect us with a larger number of Men, the Supplies already sent by your Excellency (if double) and properly Stationed may under God prevent impending danger-and your petitioners will ever pray."
Among the signers were Capt. Benjamin Kortright, Capt. Jochem Schoonmaker, Lieut. Dirick Wesbrook, Lieut. Frederic Wesbrook, Lieut. Jacobus Bruyn, Jr., Ensign Jacob Hoornbeck, Jacobus Wynkook, Moses Depuy, John Sleght and others.
Spafford's "State Gazetteer" says that in 1810 the population was 1,882, that "there were 128 looms in families which made that year 26,624 yards of cloth for common clothing. There is an old stone church of the Dutch Reformed order, out of repair and a vacant ministry. The Navisink turnpike from Kingston to Sullivan Co. leads through this Town. Here as in many other of the old Dutch settlements, are patented lands, held in trust for the inhabitants, but the titles to farms are commonly in fee simple."
The first church was formed soon after the settlement.
The population of the town in 1870 was 4,088, and its area 47,859 acres, with an assessed value of $658,680.
There are 15 school districts, employing 16 teachers. The number of children of school age is 1,488; the number attending school, 958; the average attendance, 398, and the value of school houses and sites, $6,295.