Towns and Place Names

Place names can be chosen intentionally or evolve over time, based on who lived there, what happened there, or prominent natural features. Many places in Livingston County have an origin story, but some are now a mystery.

Do you have information about a place name we missed? Want to share a story about the Corners or a Hollow near you? We'd love to hear from you!

  1. Avon
  2. Avon Place Names

Avon was formed in 1789 as Hartford in Ontario County. The name Hartford was chosen because two European American settlers and early purchasers of land were from West Hartford, CT. The township also included what is the town of Rush today. 

In 1808, to avoid confusion with other towns in the state with the same name, Hartford’s name was changed to Avon, after Avon, CT, a town near West Hartford. In 1818, Rush became a separate town. In 1821, when Livingston County was formed, the southern half of Rush was annexed to Avon again. Finally, by an act of legislature in 1824, the southern half of Rush was returned to the town of Rush in Monroe County.

The Village of Avon was incorporated in 1853.

  1. Caledonia
  2. Caledonia Place Names

Caledonia was formed as Northampton, Genesee County, in 1797. In 1802, a portion of Northampton was split off and became Southampton, and the name was changed to Caledonia in 1806. Scottish families were some of the earliest European settlers in the area. The Roman Empire referred to what is now Scotland as Caledonia, and Caledonia is now considered a poetic name for Scotland.

A small spring-fed lake in the village of Caledonia was referred to by the Seneca Nation as “Gan-ea-di-ya,” translated to “small clear lake” (Indian Names of NY, Beauchamp, p.37) or “handsome lake.” Also De-o-na-ga-no, or “cold water” in reference to the springs there (Indian Names of NY, Beauchamp, p.36).

The Village of Caledonia was incorporated in 1891.

  1. Conesus
  2. Conesus Place Names

Conesus is said to be derived from Ga-ne-a-sos, a Seneca word for “place of nanny berries” (Indian Names of NY, Beauchamp, p.35). 

The town was formed in 1819 by an act of NYS legislature from parts of Livonia and Groveland as Freeport, Ontario County, but because of an irregularity in calling the first town meeting, it was officially organized in April 1820. The name changed briefly to Bowersville in 1824 before becoming Conesus in 1825.

  1. Geneseo
  2. Geneseo Place Names

Geneseo was formed in 1789 and was originally in Ontario County. The name is derived from Gen-e-se-o or Che-nus-si-o, a Seneca word which translates to “beautiful valley.” O-ha-di also refers to the area and translates to “trees burned.” (Indian Names of NY, Beauchamp, p.36)

In 1821, when Livingston County was formed, Geneseo was chosen as the county seat because it was geographically central and a hub of commerce.

The Village of Geneseo was incorporated in 1832.

  1. Groveland
  2. Groveland Place Names

Groveland was formed from Sparta, Ontario County, in 1812. According to Smith’s History of Livingston County, the name comes from the groves of trees here in the early days. In 1819, part of Groveland became part of the new town of Freeport, later Conesus.

In 1857, four acres of Groveland land were annexed back to the town of Sparta.

  1. Leicester
  2. Leicester Place Names

Leicester was formed as a town in Genesee County in 1802 and originally named Lester, after the son of Oliver Phelps, partner in the Phelps and Gorham purchase in 1789, which encompassed much of what would become Livingston County (From Phelps and Gorham Purchase, by O. Turner, p. 353.). In 1805, the spelling was corrected to Leicester, the spelling of Leicester Phelps’s name.

The Village of Moscow was formed in 1814, and was incorporated in 1907. It was renamed the Village of Leicester in 1917. According to village minutes, the election of Mar. 20, 1917, put the proposition to change the name to the voters. Velma Maloney, former Leicester town historian, wrote in 1976: the purpose was to match the village, post office, and railroad station names. There was a Moscow, PA, just over the border and there was confusion with railroad mail and freight. She added, “There are a few that maintain that the Moscow Revolution entered into the matter.” (Related to international relations with Russia and the rise of the Bolsheviks during World War I.)

  1. Lima
  2. Lima Place Names

Lima was formed as Charleston, Ontario County, in 1789 and renamed Lima in 1808. The name purportedly comes from Lyme, CT, the origin of many of its early European American settlers. A Seneca settlement at the site of the village of Lima was known as Ska-hase-ga-o, translated to “Once a long creek” (Indian Names of NY, Beauchamp, p.36). In about 1789, Lima was briefly known as Mighell’s Gore after Abner Mighells purchased the western portion of the town, which was a large, triangular tract of land, or “gore” (Source: Lima 1788-1964 by Jenks).

The Village of Lima was incorporated in 1867.

  1. Livonia
  2. Livonia Place Names

Livonia was formed as Pittstown, Ontario County, in 1796 and named for the early Pitts family settlers. In 1808, the town of Livonia was formed from a portion of Pittstown. Resident Hon. George Smith proposed the name of the town after the historical Baltic region of Livonia, now in Estonia and Latvia. In 1819, a section of Livonia was removed to form part of the town of Conesus.

The Village of Livonia was incorporated in 1882.

  1. Mt. Morris
  2. Mt. Morris Place Names

Mt. Morris was formed from Leicester, Genesee County, in 1818 and named in honor of Robert Morris, financer of the American Revolution and early owner of a large tract of land on the west side of the Genesee River, including Mt. Morris.

Early names for the town include Sho-no-jo-waah-geh, a Seneca name meaning “big kettle” and signifying Big Kettle’s Town, which may have come from a large copper distilling kettle brought by European Americans. Big Kettle is a name often attached to Gen. William A. Mills, who was a prominent early white settler. Big Kettle may also refer to a Seneca leader’s name (History of Livingston County by Doty; Narrative of the Life of Mrs. Mary Jemison, Seaver, 1824; Indian Names of NY, Beauchamp, p.36). Additionally, the town was referred to as Allen’s Hill after Ebenezer “Indian” Allen and later called Richmond Hill.

The Village of Mount Morris was incorporated in 1835.

  1. North Dansville
  2. North Dansville Place Names

Dansville was named for Capt. Daniel Faulkner, an early European American settler of the area (from History of Livingston County by Smith). A Seneca village called Kanuskago or Ganuskago once occupied the present village site.

The town of North Dansville was originally the northwest quadrant of the town of Dansville, Steuben County. After residents petitioned to join Livingston County, the quadrant was annexed to Sparta in 1822.

According to the History of Steuben County, today’s village of Dansville was named South Sparta in 1824 to distinguish it from the town and village of Dansville, Steuben County. However, after petitioners from South Sparta complained that their mail was constantly delivered to Steuben County, South Sparta became Dansville again. Subsequently, the village of Dansville in Steuben County was renamed South Dansville.

In 1845, the Village of Dansville in Sparta, Livingston County, was incorporated. The next year, Sparta was split into three towns: Sparta, West Sparta, and North Dansville.

In the 21st century, there are four Dansville entities: the town of North Dansville with the village of Dansville in Livingston County, and the town of Dansville with the village of South Dansville in Steuben County.

  1. Nunda
  2. Nunda Place Names

Nunda was formed from Angelica, Allegany County, in 1808 and annexed to Livingston County in 1846. The name comes from the Seneca Nun-da, meaning “hilly,” or O-non-da-oh, “where many hills come together” (Indian Names of NY, Beauchamp, p.37). Other sources translate to “People of the Hill” or “Meeting of the Hill.”

The Village of Nunda was incorporated in 1839.

  1. Ossian
  2. Ossian Place Names

Ossian was formed from Angelica, Allegany County, in 1808. The name came from a legendary third-century Irish Gaelic poet that apparently was invented by Scottish writer James Macpherson in the 18th century. 

In 1857, the town of Ossian was annexed to Livingston County, making it the last town to join Livingston.

  1. Portage
  2. Portage Place Names

Portage was formed from Nunda, Allegany County, in 1827. The name comes from “portage” (por-TAJ), the act of carrying boats on land when waterways are unnavigable. The three landmark Genesee River waterfalls on the western border of Portage, now in Letchworth State Park, interrupted the river thoroughfare. The town’s name is pronounced “POR-tedge.”

Portage was annexed to Livingston County in 1846.

Note that the village of Portageville is in Genesee Falls, Wyoming County, just across the Genesee River from the town of Portage. The post office there was known as Portage from 1825-1828 before becoming Portageville.

  1. Sparta
  2. Sparta Place Names

Sparta was formed in Ontario County in 1789. The town was named for an ancient city-state in the country of Greece.

In 1822, a portion of Steuben County, containing the village of Dansville, was annexed to Sparta. The large town of Sparta was divided in 1846 to form the towns of Sparta, West Sparta, and North Dansville.

  1. Springwater
  2. Springwater Place Names

Springwater was formed from Sparta and Naples, Ontario County, in 1816. Some sources credit Seth Knowles with suggesting the name Springwater for the numerous springs found in the hills (History of the Township of Springwater, Robinson). Another account credits John Roberts (c.1766-1850s) with naming the town (History of Peter Roberts Family by Marion E. Scott, 1990). 

Prior to 1816, the town of Naples was known as Middletown, as it was about halfway between Canandaigua and Bath. 

  1. West Sparta
  2. West Sparta Place Names

West Sparta was formed in 1846 when the town of Sparta was divided into the present towns of Sparta, West Sparta, and North Dansville. West Sparta’s eastern border was formed by the Canaseraga Creek.

  1. York
  2. York Place Names

York was formed from Caledonia and Leicester, Genesee County, in 1819. The origin of the name may have been Hon. Joseph York, assembly member from St. Lawrence County who, as chairman of his committee, favorably reported on and presented the bill for the formation of the town (from Nancy O’Dea). Another theory holds that the town was named after local resident Holloway Long’s dog, York.

Piffard 1872

Piffard, located in the southeast part of York, was originally called Piffardinia, after David Piffard, an early resident. The Post Office here was called Spotswood for a brief time in the 1840s, but we do not know why.

Updated 2023