View historic council proceedings
Documents reveal Rochester’s early days
On May 7, 1817, the Board of Trustees of the newly incorporated Village of Rochesterville met for the first time at Lebbeus Elliot’s Tavern. They appointed Francis Brown president of the board and Joseph Spencer village clerk. Over the next few weeks, the board continued to fill vacancies in the new government while contemplating the village's first bylaws.
Less than a month later, on June 2, 1817, the trustees approved 14 ordinances as the village bylaws. Among these first laws was one regulating how village residents spent their leisure time by banning horse racing, ball playing, and other games:
And be it further ordained that each and every person, who shall race or run any horse or horses in said village, shall forfeit five dollars for each offence—and each and every person, who shall play at ball in any way or manner whatsoever, or shall play at any game or games … or shall permit his, her, or their boys or servants so to do, shall for each offence, forfeit fifty cents.
The new bylaws also set fines for discharging guns in the village, setting fires in the streets, blocking traffic, allowing farm animals to roam freely, and bathing in the Genesee River during the day. (Bathing after dark was apparently allowed.) The new laws also demonstrated a common nineteenth-century
concern caused by having wooden buildings clustered so close within the village. Fire was a real threat to residents’ lives and livelihoods, and village fathers took precautions against catastrophic damage by requiring that all chimneys and stovepipes be kept clean and in good repair and that everyone own at least one fire bucket.
In that same year, the New York State Legislature approved a plan to build the Erie Canal along a path through the center of the Village. The news prompted an unprecedented population and economic "boom" that quickly transformed the community. Suddenly, the village trustees found a need to appoint firemen and nightwatchmen (police). They soon dropped the "ville" from the village's name, and by 1834, the community had grown large enough to be called a city. The state granted Rochester a city charter on April 28, and on June 3 the Board of Trustees of the Village met for the final time to certify the results of the previous day's election of City leaders. The board adjourned sine die—meaning without intention of reconvening—and turned the new City's affairs over to the newly elected Common Council.
Now available online!
These and other matters are recorded in the official Proceedings of the Trustees of the Village of Rochesterville and the Proceedings of the Common Council of the City of Rochester, now available for the first time online.
In 2009, during the celebration of the 175th anniversary of Rochester’s charter, the City received a grant from the New York State Archives Local Government Records Management Improvement Fund to digitize the proceedings of the Trustees of the Village of Rochesterville (1817-1834) and the Common Council of the City of Rochester (1834-1900). The original records are housed at the city’s Municipal Archives, 414 Andrews Street, where they are carefully preserved for future generations.
The files here are in PDF format; you must have the Adobe Acrobat Reader installed on your system to view the contents. The free Adobe Acrobat Reader can be found here. The proceedings are organized by volume and year. These are scanned images; therefore, the earliest handwritten volumes (1817-1853) are not text-searchable. Most volumes include an alphabetical index, arranged by subject, that can be found at the beginning of the file or, in some cases, in separate files. Later volumes (1854-1900) are type-written and are text-searchable using Adobe Acrobat's search function. Most of the type-written volumes also contain an alphabetical subject index, located at the end of each volume. Keep in mind that some of these files are quite large, up to 180 megabytes, and, therefore, may take a few minutes to download to your computer. Please note that digital versions of the following volumes are not currently available: 1853-1857, 1861-62, 1865-66, 1868-69, 1874-75, 1889-90, and 1901-1999. Contact the Municipal Archives or the Rochester Public Library to view hard copies. For more recent Council minutes (2000-2010), click here.
To view the digital files, click on the link for the years you wish to view:
Proceedings of the Trustees of the Village of Rochesterville (1817-1834)
The minutes of meetings of Rochester’s earliest governing body, the Board of Trustees of the Village of Rochesterville, are handwritten and, therefore, are not text-searchable. However, each volume has an alphabetical index (also handwritten). The index files are separate from the page files.
Proceedings of the Common Council of the City of Rochester (1834-1853)
The minutes of the earliest meetings of Rochester's City Council are handwritten and, therefore, are not text-searchable. However, each volume has an alphabetical index (also handwritten) located at the beginning of each file.
Proceedings of the Common Council of the City of Rochester (1854-1900)
Minutes from City Council meetings held between 1854 and 1900 are typewritten and can be searched using the search function in Adobe Acrobat. Most volumes also contain an alphabetical index, located at the end of each file.
For more information about Rochester’s history and historic documents visit:
Rochester Municipal Archives
Office of the City Historian, 115 South Ave., Rochester, NY. (585) 428-8095.
Rochester Public Library Local History Division
Rochester Historical Society