History of Livingston County
On February 23, 1821, Livingston County, New York was formed from Ontario and Genesee Counties. The county was named in honor of Chancellor Robert R. Livingston, who helped draft the Declaration of Independence and negotiated the Louisiana Purchase. The twelve original towns were Avon, Caledonia, Conesus, Geneseo, Groveland, Leicester, Lima, Livonia, Mount Morris, Sparta, Springwater, and York. Part of North Dansville was annexed from Steuben County in 1822 and became a separate town when Sparta was divided in 1846. At the same time, the town of West Sparta was also formed from Sparta. The towns of Nunda and Portage were annexed from Allegany County in 1846, as well as Ossian in 1857, for a total of seventeen towns. A Board of Supervisors has governed the county since its inception.
Several communities competed for the honor of becoming the county seat, but the distinction was bestowed upon Geneseo, the principal village and center of commerce. The Wadsworth family donated a suitable lot for the county buildings, beautifully situated at the north end of the village.
The original brick courthouse faced Main Street; the jail of wood construction was built directly to the west, and a one-story cobblestone building for the County Clerk's office was built east of the courthouse. Until construction was completed in 1823, court was held in the upper story of the district school on Center Street (east of the present-day Livingston County Museum) and prisoners were housed in Canandaigua. In 1829 the county opened a poorhouse farm just outside the village.
The Livingston County Courthouse was expanded in 1886, partially demolished and enhanced with a new façade in 1898. The building underwent another major expansion in 1957. The courthouse was completely renovated in the early 1990s to accommodate the New York State court system and many county departments were moved to a newly built Livingston County Government Center adjacent to the courthouse. Several other county departments are located at different locations, including the Livingston County Campus on Murray Hill in Mt. Morris, formerly a New York State Tuberculosis Hospital campus.
For a video showcasing the history of Livingston County, please see the County Historian's production, "History Out Loud! Part One."
For more information on the history of the area, please contact the Livingston County Historian's Office.
In the fall of 2016, the County Historian installed a seven-panel historical timeline chronicling the history of Livingston County from the time of the Iroquois through the new millennium. These panels are on permanent display at the Livingston County Government Center in Geneseo.
Click on the image to expand the panel and explore each era.
Panel 1: Iroquois Confederacy and the American Revolution (1400s-1783)
Panel 2: Pioneer Settlement (1788-1820)
Panel 3: Expansion and Reform (1821-1860)
Panel 4: The Civil War, Reconstruction, and the Rise of Industrialization (1861-1900)
Panel 5: The Progressive Era and the Great Depression (1900-1945)
Panel 6: The Golden Age of Capitalism (1946-early 1970s)
Panel 7: The Information Age and the New Millennium (mid-1970s-2016)