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Agriculture & Commerce

The History of Agriculture & Commerce in Perinton

By Dr. A. Porter S. Sweet

The History of Agriculture & Commerce in Perinton by Dr. A. Porter S. Sweet
in PDF format

Until the end of the Revolutionary War, New York State consisted of Long Island, a narrow strip of farms on both sides of the Hudson River to Albany, and a scattering of farms along the Mohawk River as far as Rome. All the rest of the state was forest, broken only by occasional savannas of grass six to ten feet tall, creeks, rivers, and narrow Indian trails along these streams. This was the domain of the powerful Iroquois Indian Nation and no white man was allowed to enter save a few known and trusted traders.

Indian agriculture consisted of harvesting wild raspberries, strawberries, grapes, hickory nuts, and walnuts. They cultivated corn, beans, cucumbers, watermelons, pumpkin, onions, squash, turnips, cabbages, carrots, and parsnips. There were Indian orchards of apple, plum and cherry trees. Indian commerce consisted of trading animal skins to the privileged traders for guns, gunpowder, lead, knives, tomahawks, cloth, beads, and whiskey.

Into this wild, roadless country plodded Glover Perrin and his wife in 1789. He had at least four tools: a rifle for protection and to obtain food, a 9-pound axe for clearing trees off his land, an adz for making boards and puncheons (a split log with face smoothed, used for making floors), and a sickle for harvesting future grain crops. With these tools any ambitious couple could tame the wilderness. If Glover had an ox, it was hitched to a stone-boat (a dry land sled) for the trails were much too narrow for a wagon. On it were loaded cooking utensils, clothing, food, seeds, and household furnishings. On top of the load a large iron kettle was tied. If he had no ox, their possessions were strapped to their backs, the kettle hanging from a pole between them as they walked.

First Glover built a log cabin. It was windowless and an animal's hide served as a door. Then he cleared some of his land, gathering the tree trunks and branches into large piles. On calm days these were burned and the ashes carefully saved. Then when he labored at planting corn and wheat among the tree stumps, Mrs. Perrin leached the ashes to obtain lye. This she boiled in the big, black kettle to make black-ash (potash). It took 220 bushels of ashes to make a ton which would sell for from $50 to $120. Chances were, when they got their potash to market, it would bring enough to pay for their land.

At first the future town of Perinton was devoted almost exclusively to agriculture. Then, from small beginnings, came merchandising, craftsmen and service-type businesses, and manufacturing. All would grow steadily through the years until finally, with the development of metropolitan Rochester only nine miles away, there would come another type of commerce developing land into homes for people employed outside the township.


Few of us today would have selected Perinton of the late 1700s as a home site. There was much low, swampy land and the whole area was covered by a dark and dismal forest. Genesee fever, ague, and even malaria existed in almost epidemic proportions. There were no physicians. Deer were plentiful, but so were bears, and they soon learned to enjoy meals of hogs and corn. Wolves were very troublesome until after 1816.

The pioneer who considered soil and topography found that what is now Perinton consisted of three areas: West, Northeast, and Southeast. Today the canal roughly divides these three sections.

West The West section includes Irondequoit Valley. Soil in this valley is alluvial: washed out sand with little humus or organic matter. It dries out on top and becomes compact and nearly as hard as clay at a little depth. This section has been poor for agricultural development. It contains Bushnell's Basin at the south and Fullam's Basin at the north.

Northeast The great Northeast section of Perinton is made of rolling hills with north-south valleys. Soil composition is a glacial deposit: sandy loam, clay loam, and gravelly loam. There is a liberal sprinkling of stones, rocks, and boulders. This is fairly productive soil. The hills afford a good runoff of excess water to provide good crop drainage. Corn, oats, wheat, hay, and pasture, were the pioneer's principal crops, raised for his own consumption and for his animals. Later beans, peas, cabbage, and tobacco crops were grown at a profit for a time but have been discontinued. Farms averaged 60 acres and were divided into four to six-acre fields to accommodate good crop rotation.

The pioneer farmer fed his corn to his hogs, cows and horses and ate it himself as johnnycake (a baked corn meal cake) and mush (corn meal boiled in water). Before local mills were built every farmer had to build himself a Samp Mill. This was merely a large mortar and pestle. To make the mortar, holes were drilled around the outside rime of a pine stump so as to leave a half-inch rim. All holes were slanted to meet at the center. A fire was started at the top of the stump, which burned down to the holes leaving a rough bowl. This was scraped and polished until smooth. Above the mortar hung a two or three foot section of a log fastened to a bent-over sapling. The bottom end of the pestle was rounded. The operator placed his corn or wheat in the bowl and pounded it into meal with the counterbalanced pestle.

What wheat the pioneer grew was harvested with a sickle and threshed by trampling with oxen or pounding with a flail), a wooden handle at the end of which a stouter and shorter stick was hung so as to swing freely). Ten bushels an acre was a good yield.

Animals kept on the farm in addition to work horses and oxen, were a few hens, four or five cows, two pigs, a dog and a few cats. Pigs and cows ran at large and as the town grew were branded or ear-cut for identification. The Town Clerk had a record book listing ear crop and slit-marks of ownership. Some farmers raised sheep for wool, which was home-spun for clothing. Each year there might be a farrow cow (one not bearing a calf- Editor) to sell. One pig was raised for market.

Fruit was set out early in this section of town. About 1830 apples and wheat became export crops and continued to be so for 100 years.

The advent of the reaper in 1832 and the binder in the early 1870s made it easier to grow wheat. The corn binder in the early 1900s helped increase corn production. But it was the advent of the tractor between 1910-20 that really changed the size of the fields. It changed agriculture to a dairy economy. The number of cows increased to about twenty per herd. It is now about 50 to 100 with about five dairies in the area. Cheese factories were a common sight in this section in the early days until about 1890 when cream became the commodity and was shipped to butter factories.

Southeast In the Southeast section of the town there are steep hills and deep valleys. There are beautiful views, plenty of air drainage, good runoff drainage, not many stones and a wonderful sandy loam. The soil is especially good for growing corn and potatoes. Sheep manage the grazing problems on the hillsides better than cattle. Potato growing was very important here. In 1874, 220,000 bushels were produced, more than in any other town in the country. Old timers used to talk about the mile-long lines of potato wagons that formed at Bushnell's Basin waiting to be loaded on canal boats.

This area also produced flax, wool, fruit, and maple syrup in early days. Maple sugar was the sweetening of pioneer life being used for cooking and in tea and coffee. During the two weeks sugaring season a man with two sons and a wife and daughters to 'boil down' for him, could tap 500 trees and expect four pounds of sugar to a tree. Maple sugar sold for 8 to 15 cents a pound.

Agricultural Chronology

  • 1790 Glover Perrin set out the first apple orchard.
  • 1810 Milton Budlong became a cattle buyer. For 40 years he averaged sales of $22,500 yearly and in 1840 drove 1800 head of cattle to Albany and sold them.
  • 1817 About this time Zerah Burr established himself as a nurseryman. His business of growing fruit and ornamental trees, shrubbery, and flowers continued for 60 years.
  • 1822 Christopher Winne was probably the first to grow hops and raise sheep.
  • 1828 Abishai Goodell, Fairport merchant, was one of the first to learn about the 'Morus multicaulis' tree. (Probably ‘morus alba’, or White Mulberry, a native of China, introduced by early settlers of Jamestown, Virginia. Editor)

This new mulberry tree, imported from the Philippines, grew with amazing rapidity in our climate and had an abundance of enormous leaves upon which silkworms flourished. Even staid, conservative Congress directed attention to the profits to be made by producing silk thread from silkworms" it would cost from $1.50 to $2.00 a pound to produce raw silk, which would sell from $4 to $5 a pound. Goodell, along with thousands of others was led to believe 'every house would have cocooneries attached, its silkworms... yielding two, three, or four crops of cocoons per year... wives and daughters... were to reel the silk, and perhaps spin and twist it, till silk became as cheap as cotton.'

Abishai plunged into this fascinating new business. His large mulberry orchard began at the southeast corner of South Main and East Church Streets. His factory was built where the Post Office now stands.

Unfortunately, the silk boom collapsed completely. A disease that was impossible to control appeared and killed many of the trees and the cold New York winters killed many more. There are however a number of monuments to Abishai Goodell's venture - self-sown descendants of his trees still grow in Fairport.


  • 1835 Jonathan H. Soule developed a red wheat which was sold in Michigan and grew well.
  • 1839 Horses were valuable and so plentiful that horse stealing was quite common. Our early citizens did not form a posse, chase and hang each horsethief. Instead, on 6 January, they organized 'The Perinton Society for the Detection and Apprehension of Horse-Thieves'. It functioned for 40 years.
  • 1840 A settler named Newton began to grow tobacco in Bushbell's Basin.
  • 1877 C.D. Cartwright established a successful business as a breeder of Gold and Silver Polish poultry.
  • 1878 Benjamin Birch started a market gardening business. He grew large quantities of lettuce, radishes, beets, spinach, onions, and cabbages, specializing in the latter two.

At first the Perinton farmer grew certain crops and animals for his own use for food and clothing. His housing was cut out of his own woods. His soap was made from ashes and fat. As time went on he was able to produce a surplus, which he could barter or sell locally. Later still he was able to grow export crops and in the 1920s he began to think and act cooperatively. Due to this farmers now have better machines, better methods, better fertilizers, and a more efficient marketing system.

But the future seems to point to more houses, more shopping centers, and more factories. This means there will be fewer and fewer farms. One can't help but wonder when Perinton will become an entirely non-agricultural community.


Pioneer settlers never found a store awaiting them in a new territory but one soon opened. It was invariably a general store with much to offer man, woman, and child. By day it was a meeting place where womenfolk could buy needed cloth, clothing, sewing materials, shoes, and staple groceries and exchange bits of local news or gossip with the storekeeper or other customers. A man could buy hardware, tools, guns, ammunition, and farm needs. The children always found many things to interest them, especially the toys and the penny candy counter.

During the evening the store became a men's club and local forum. The hand-turned coffee grinder in the corner was usually silent and the chairs, horse collars and harnesses hanging from the ceiling cast weird shadows. Open barrels of salt, sugar, pickles, salt pork, etc. might be scattered about in varying disorder but the center of every store was the same.

A huge wood stove was there, surrounded by comfortable wooden chairs, a barrel of crackers, and a small table topped by a checker board. On long winter evenings the men folk would sit around the stove, play checkers, nibble on crackers, chew tobacco, tell tall tales, and argue affairs of village, state, and nation. Cracker-barrel oratory gave many a young politician his start.

Cash was scarce, so trade was often carried on by what amounted to barter. The customer would buy on credit as he needed and pay for his purchases with farm products as they became available.

Figure 1 reproduces a typical general store advertisement. Figure 2 copies another, which shows the great variety of items carried.

After the general store came many varieties of specialty stores which, still later, were combined into even larger general stores called department stores. We cannot follow this trend in Fairport until 1898 when a business directory was published. Another booklet Souvenir of Fairport New York Old Home Week, August 2-8, The Year 1908 also provides us with merchandising information. A second directory was published in 1913. Finally, in 1949, Wayne E. Morrison published the History of Fairport and Perinton which, together with the foregoing enables us to recognize the trends during these years.

Table 1 presents this data so that even a casual study will reveal many merchandising changes. But this data must not be considered complete for we all know that business men do not always advertise in every directory published.

An important but nearly forgotten 19th century-type merchant was the 'tin peddler'. He got his name from the tin pans, cups, and pots which hung from his wagon. Their rhythmic clatter announced his arrival to the lonely farm wife. His wagon carried much more than tin utensils for it was a little store on wheels. He carried cloth, thread, table linen, cutlery, hardware, notions, anything that would appeal to the farm family. He was welcomed for his stories and his gossip provided entertainment for both husband and wife.

Perinton had a unique tin peddler. His name was James Laney. He lost a limb in the Civil War. As he prospered, he outfitted more wagons and hired men to drive them. His peddlers, like himself, were always veterans who had lost an arm or leg. At one time he had 100 wagons covering established routes.

Laney was ahead of his time in two ways: He was probably the first chain store operator (even though his stores were only wagons) and he probably was the first to realize the advantage of employing handicapped men to perform suitable labor.

The brief merchandising chronology which follows will include a number of items, all of which refer to Fairport unless otherwise stated.

Merchandising Chronology


  • 1790 Bennett & Tripp opened a general store and Charles Dickenson started a grocery. General stores were also established at Bushnell's Basin and Fullam's Basin. Before this time Perinton shoppers had to journey to Canandaigua.
  • 1806 Egypt was settled. It soon had a stage depot, two stores, two mills, three taverns, a tannery, foundry, smithy, wagon shop, and post office. When the canal was built it drew much of Egypt's population to Fairport.
  • 1820 George and James McFarland opened a book and stationary store, later sold it to Fonda & Ferrin who added a line of jewelry. Oliver Scribner had a feed store near the canal, later a grocery at the Parker Street Bridge. A. Warsop had a hardware store.
  • 1822 Abishai Goodell, with a Mr. Aiken, opened a small grocery on the east side of Main Street, burned out and moved to the west side.
  • 1839 S.C. Carpenter opened a clothing store.
  • 1840 Lorin Knapp opened the first canal grocery east of Fairport, Joel Yale opened another canal property and there was a third at Fullam's Basin.
  • 1847 George L.G. Seeley started a tin and hardware business.
  • 1866 Smith Morey opened a drug store.
  • 1878 A.M. Loomis started a coal business; also sold phosphates, cement, and sewer pipes
  • 1879 Stubbs & Hart had a ladies clothing business. Mrs. Stubbs bought out Hart and later sold to Mrs. Phillips.
  • 1882 H.J. Wooden engaged in the coal business; was also a contractor who built many Fairport homes. Dr Cramer opened a drug store.
  • 1883 G.W. Palmer began a produce business.
  • 1894 John Zollman opened a store to sell flour, feed, and straw.
  • 1967 The latest merchandising trend arrived in Perinton: the shopping center at Mosley and Palmyra Roads.

Craftsman and Service Businesses

We have seen how farmers first settled Perinton followed quickly by merchants to sell them goods. Then came the craftsmen to serve them. It is interesting to note that here, as elsewhere, the first craftsman was usually one who offered his services to animals rather than humans.

Samuel Bennett was the first of many pioneer blacksmiths. He arrived in 1790 and not
only shod the farmer's horses but also made farm tools as the need arose. It is reported that he was so proficient at his trade that he made saws from scythes for some of the early saw mills.

Naturally, the first service offered humans was lodging. Probably the earliest tavern keepers were Philip Piester at Bushnell's Basin (1793), Oliver Loud at Egypt (1806) and David Staples on the Palmyra Road (1810). In the early days almost every other house was a tavern for what better way was there to augment farm income?

At Bushnell's Basin one of the early taverns was so close to the canal that the drivers often raced their mules so the waves from their boats would flood the barroom.

As might be expected a surveyor was an early arrival in Perinton. He was John Scott and he came in 1796. There were three early cobblers, Jacob Ehlen, James Conway, and William Tobin, the exact date of their arrival unknown.

Perinton was unique in that it had a hatter who could cover a man's head before it had a carpenter who could build him a frame house to shelter his body. David Stout was the hatter. He arrived in 1810. Hiram (or Henry) Hayes was the first carpenter. It is reported that the year he arrived Isaac Beers built the first frame house in Fairport on the site of the Green Lantern Inn at 1 East Church Street. Hayes probably built it.

The first merchant tailor was Paris N. Bradford, date of arrival unknown. Aaron Seymour, the town's first cooper, arrived in 1817. He was most welcome for a cooper was a valuable man in a community. Barrels, firkins (small casks for butter, etc.), meat tubs, wash tubs, sap-buckets, pails, and churns were all made of wood until about 1900.

There were two kinds of coopers: 'slack', who made barrels that need not be watertight, and 'tight', whose work held liquids. Only the best white or red oak or elm was used, for a porous stave or heading would ruin a barrel. Hickory was used for hoops. All wood was seasoned for many months before use.

All work was done by hand. Free-splitting blocks 33 inches long were split into bolts and then into staves. A fast worker could split about 275 staves a week. A cooper could average three beautiful oaken barrels or firkins a day which sold for $1 each. About 1875 machines came into use for making staves and headings.

Service Business Chronology


  • 1820 A Mr. Defoe opened a harness shop. The Pardee farm was sold to Oliver Hartwell who established at canal side a grocery, a warehouse, and a boatyard. This trading and forwarding center was known as Hartwell's Basin. He soon sold out to Bushnell & Co. who shipped large quantities of flour and produce (a canal boat a day) to Albany and other markets and received goods and supplies for a wide territory. This business gave employment to many clerks. The settlement soon became known as Bushnell's Basin.
  • 1822 Elisha Fullam built a warehouse, the location being known as Fullam's Basin.
  • 1870 L.M. Shaw succeeded his father in the undertaking and livery business. In 1898 he claimed to have buried more people than were on the census rolls of Fairport.
  • 1873 The 'Fairport Herald' was established by George G. Taylor.
  • 1881 S.D. Palmer founded the 'Fairport Mail', later known as the 'Monroe County Mail'.
  • 1882 H.J. Wooden was doing business as a building contractor.
  • 1889 F.B. Clench opened a photographic studio.
  • 1895 Fairport Library incorporated.
  • 1898 Walter A. Parce organized the Merchants Despatch Transportation Company thus founding the village of East Rochester which grew up around it. G.W. Palmer and Harlow E. Kelsey opened a machine shop and bicycle repair business. It was the official League of American Wheelman repair shop.
  • 1914 An extensive survey of Fairport was made by Charles Stetzle.
  • 1920 The Bell Telephone and the Home Telephone companies merged.
  • 1925 The 'Fairport Herald' and the 'Monroe County Mail' merged.

The same four directories cited previously have furnished us with considerable information about Perinton's craftsman and service businesses. It will be found in Table II. Like the tabulation on merchandising it must not be considered completely accurate. But it shows many of the service-business trends that have occurred.


Perinton's first factories were sawmills, flourmills, and asheries. Trees and grain were the first raw materials. But this township is remarkable for the diversity and magnitude it has achieved in this important part of commerce. The subject is too complex for step-by-step coverage but many highlights will be recorded which will show interesting and important trends.

Saw Mills:

Three saw mills were built about 1810 by Isaiah Northrup, Peter Ripley, and Joseph M. Richardson. Northrup's was probably the first. After he sold the mill it was converted to a gristmill, then to a plaster mill, and back to a gristmill.

Early mills were primitive. They had no belts, gears, few nails, and almost no iron. Saws were upright and ran slowly up-and-down, cutting only on the down stroke. Such a mill had a capacity of about 1,000 board feet a day. Later, circular saw mills had greater capacity. A small saw mill had an undershot wheel; large mills had overshot wheels for they provided more power.

Grist Mills:

Joseph M. Richardson built Perinton's first grist mill in 1810 on Irondequoit Creek. A gristmill is a mill to which a farmer brings his grain to be ground into meal (coarsely ground and 'unbolted' meal or flour. To 'bolt' is to sift by means of a sieve.) The miller was either paid in cash or kept some of the meal or flour to pay for his work. In the early days it was not uncommon for a farmer to go from 30 to 50 miles to a gristmill. Glover Perrin had to go to Honeoye Falls.

The earliest mills consisted of little more than millstones and power to keep them running. Millstones were from three to seven feet in diameter of native granite or Esopus stone quarried in Ulster County. The lower stone, or bedder, was stationary. The upper stone, called the runner, revolved. Primitive mills made whole wheat flower. Later, bolts were used to separate flour from bran (the broken coat of the seed of cereal grain) and to sift middlings (medium sized particles) to obtain the finest flour. A gristmill needed steadier and greater power than a sawmill and was usually run by a slow-turning, ponderous, overshot wheel.

Flouring Mills:

A flouring mill is one where the miller buys the grain from the farmer and sells the meal or flour he produces. They usually operated in larger cities where waterfalls were large enough to give an abundance of cheap power. Perinton was exceptional in that it had a successful flouring mill.

In 1821 Samual Rich built a large flouring mill on Irondequoit Creek. It had three run of stones, two for flouring and one for custom (grist) grinding. It was powered by a large 25-acre mill pond. He took as partners Andrew Lincoln and Mr. Northrup. In 1836 Lincoln bought out his partners and in 1847 doubled the size of the pond and erected a larger mill. It had four run of stones and two overshot wheels. Four millers were employed. Total cost was $25,000. His mill was later converted to a roller mill and burned in 1920.

Cheese Factories:

Cheese making in the early days was an operation conducted on the farm by precipitating casein from milk by adding acid and rennet. In 1811 Edward Plumb built a cheese factory east of Hamilton Road on a road which was known as Cheese Factory Road until 1814. The name was then changed to Whitney Road.

Churns and Apple Grinders:

Isaac Arnold began the manufacture of these items in 1813.

Asheries Roswell Evert must have been a hustler for in 1816 he built both an ashery and a tannery in Egypt at the 4-corners.

We have mentioned how pioneer farmers produced blackash which sold for from $50 to $120 a ton. But they had no equipment (large ovens) to carry out the next step - making pearl-ash, for which there was a steady demand. So asheries were built in many towns. Their owners bought either ashes or pot-ash from the farmer and turned it into pearl-ash which was sold in Montreal for from $200 to $300 a ton.


Bark from oak and hemlock trees was another source of revenue for the pioneer farmer. Bark peeled best in June and July when the cambium (the soft formative tissue between bark and bole) was making. The bark was peeled from the tree with a barking spud (a sharp narrow spade, about two inches wide with a 30-inch handle). These cylinders of bark were then cut into strips, which were leaned against the dropped tree trunks with the smooth side out so the sun could dry the oozy cambium. When dry the bark was corded (cord is a pile eight feet long, four feet wide, and four feet high; 128 cu ft). Oak and hemlock bark brought from $4 to $8 per cord at the tannery.

A pioneer who wanted leather took his raw hides to the tannery and left them for the yearlong tanning process. When he returned he received back half his hides, the tanner keeping the other half for his work.

Because of the lengthy process a tannery required considerable outlay before returns came in. However, after the first year returns were steady, risks few, and profits good.

Clothing Mills:

Ebenezer Lewis built a clothing mill in 1817.


In 1820, when Oliver Hartwell established Hartwell's Basin, he operated a boatyard. The next year Gelson (Stillson?) & Penfield opened another boatyard which continued in business for fifteen years. Both yards built ordinary canal boats for carrying farmers' produce to eastern markets.


Henry Esten, a blacksmith, branched out in 1824 by building two distilleries. One was for whiskey, the other for alcohol. Perinton does not seem to have had its share of distilleries. There were often more distilleries in a town than there were grist mills. Geneva in 1800 had thirteen stills and four grist mills. Some millers made whiskey from their best grain. Flour and feed was made from the second grade. Whiskey and brandy were the easiest way to send grain and fruit to market. Good whiskey, jug and all, sold for 25 cents a gallon.

Chair Factories:

Elihu Wanzer estabished a chair factory in 1829.

Cider and Vinegar Making:

This had been a farm operation until 1832 when William Ellsworth built a cider mill. Apples were grown chiefly to make cider and vinegar in pioneer days. Every farmer made from 25 to 50 barrels of cider a year and always had a barrel on tap and a pitcher full on the table at every meal. Both apple juice (unfermented) and cider (fermented) were legal tender.

About 1907 Robert Douglas bought the old DeLand Chemical Works buildings in Fairport and organized the York State Fruit Company. He used carloads of apples and became the largest cider and vinegar maker in the state.

Wagon Making:

The earliest attempts to manufacture wagons had been an unsuccessful venture of Jones & Co. in the Amsden blacksmith shop. During 1838 Jeremiah Chadwick bought the abandoned Methodist Church building, moved it to the site of the Cottage Hotel, and started a wagon factory. The next year he sold it to Rufus Young and a Mr. Lyke, who soon after sold it to J.E. and L.T. Howard. In 1875 they sold 75 limber wagons. (A limber wagon is a two-wheeled, horse-drawn vehicle that carries ammunition and behind which a field gun may be towed. Editor)


Ezra A. Edgett began a corn canning business 1851 which later expanded to pack cherries, peas, plums, peaches, quinces, apples, and succotash. He made his own cans and sold thousands of baking powder cans locally. The factory building, at 1000 Turk Hill Road, is now occupied by the Crossman Arms Company.

In Edgett's time food was packed in cap hole cans. Both ends were soldered on, but there was a 2-inch hole in one end of the can. Through this food was pushed to fill the can. Peaches, apples, pears, and beets had to be cut to a size smaller than the opening. After filling, a solder-hemmed, round, tin cap, slightly larger than the hole, was soldered in place to cover it.

In 1881 Ezra sold out to his cousin Amos H. Cobb who, with his sons George, Amos, and Clarence, continued the business until he died in 1891. The sons carried on.

George was not satisfied with the cap hole cans. After many discouragements working alone he was able to secure financial backing from Mr. Bogel and they hired a mechanical genius named Max Ams. Together, about 1901, they developed an open top sanitary can and a double seaming machine to seal the tops.

By 1904, the sanitary cans and the Ams machine were perfected so the Sanitary Can Company was formed. It was located in a former shoe factory on Parce Avenue. For the first few years there was difficulty due to heavy spoilage. But this was overcome and, in addition, enamel lined cans were developed in 1908.

During this year the American Can Company, manufacturers of cap hole cans, realized that they must acquire this new company to stay in business. They bought it and since then this industry has become larger and more important to Fairport.

Baking Powder Manufacturing:

It was during 1852 that an ex-farmer, ex-whaler, and ex-canal-boat-captain, Daniel Brown DeLand, returned to Fairport. From his father-in-law, Justus R. Parce, of Norwich, N.Y., he had learned to make saleratus. With horse and wagon Daniel drove from house to house buying wood ashes. These he leached to obtain lye, which he boiled in an iron pot. The reddish-brown sediment he heated in a furnace to turn it into white pearl ash. This he treated with carbonic acid until it became potassium carbonate or saleratus. His family packaged the white powder and sold it from door to door.

Daniel DeLand was not satisfied with known manufacturing processes. His research and experimentation led him as far afield as England where he learned how to make soda from salt which he could bring from Solvey (near Syracuse -Editor) via the Erie Canal.

In time his 19-year-old brother, Henry Addison, joined him in the business and became its star salesman. For 25 years Henry covered the United States selling the firm's Cap Sheath products. By 1859 they produced and sold 500 tons of sal soda, super carbonate and soda, and cream of tartar. By 1870 they were the largest producer in the field, yet they continued to grow until they employed 200 people.

In 1872, Daniel fell down an elevator shaft to his death. Henry continued the business and took Daniel's son Levi Justus as his junior partner. In 1874, sales were almost $500,000. In 1882 Henry sold out to his nephew Levi, who kept the plant going into the 1900’s despite a disastrous fire (in February 1893 -Editor) and stiff competition from the Arm & Hammer Company.

Blasting Powder Manufacturing:

In 1852, Mortimer Wadham(s) and Daniel C. Rand began to make blasting powder. They selected a site south of Bushnell's Basin for several reasons: There were plenty of willow trees, the terrian was broken up by small hills and valleys, and it was 'so far from civilization.'

Willow trees made excellent charcoal which, when mixed with sodium nitrate and sulphur, constituted blasting powder. The broken terrain permitted small mixing sheds to be placed so hills intervened between them, preventing an accidental explosion in one shed from setting off another.

The mills continued to operate until 1910. In 1922, Monroe County took over the 180-acre site and named it 'Powder Mill Park'.

Box Manufacturing In 1865 Lewis Jones, who was in the lumber business, bought a lot south of the canal and west of Main Street, where he built a planeing mill and box factory. In the fall, William A. Newman became a partner, investing capital for expansion, and the next year Francis Hill also became a partner. In addition to boxes they also made sash, blinds, and doors.

Furniture Manufacturing:

In 1866, Charles H. Howe began to manufacture furniture. He also made window screens, ran a baking soda and spice business, and was a partner in Todd & Howe which ran a general store.

Patent Medicines:

George C. Taylor started his patent medicine business in 1868. The first products were Taylor's Oil of Life and Tayco Soap Powder. The 'Oil' was reputedly good for burns, coughs, colds, asthma, croup, and 'a large number of diseases'.

In 1873, Taylor expanded by adding a number of items to his line: flavoring extracts, a blackberry cordial, a cough syrup, perfumes, a conditioning powder, laudanum, paregoric, spirits of nitre, and a beef, iron, and wine tonic.

In 1872, Dr Weare returned to Fairport. He had practiced here about 25 years before but left after a year or so. Upon his return he again practiced his profession and opened a drug store. He also established a patent medicine factory in which he made veterinary medicines. Included in his line were: a heave powder, a conditioning powder for cattle and horses, a louse killer, and a poultry powder.

Pectin Manufacturing:

We have read how Robert Douglas in 1907 bought the old DeLand Chemical Works and became the largest cider and vinegar maker in the state. In 1912 he discovered a way to isolate pectin, the jellying principle of fruit, from the pulp of apples, a by-product of his business. Pectin is a white amorphous substance which, when combined with sugar and acid, forms a gelatinous substance, the basis of fruit jellies. Pectin, extracted from apples, made it possible to make jellies from gooseberries and other fruit deficient in the substance.

To make pectin the juice was extracted from apples to make cider and vinegar. The pulp was then dehydrated in dry kilns and the pectin extracted from it. The product was sold in 5-gallon containers to large manufacturers of jam and jellies and in small bottles (Certo) to the housewife.

Douglas formed the Douglas Packing Company to exploit the new product and enlarged his plant. In 1921 most of the plant was destroyed by fire. It was rebuilt and by 1923 further expansion was necessary and the Douglas-Pectin Corporation was formed. Production of Certo reached over 15 million bottles a year. In 1928 General Foods bought the business for 29 million dollars.

In order to realize how diversified and important Perinton manufacturers are, just look around you as you walk the streets of Fairport and drive along Perinton roads. Over a score of factories exist, from tiny shops employing only a single man to a giant factory where 600 people turn out over 500 million units a year.

Products of these fine factories are: air conditioners, automatic packaging machinery, boxes, burial vaults, cameras, canned foods, cans, coping for swimming pools, counter tops, court record books, electric motors, general machine shop work, greeting cards, gauges, lenses, meat packing, optical instruments, plastic bottles and bags, potato and onion graders, pre-packaging machinery, pellet guns, roof trusses, screw machine and plastic assembly products, tool and dye work, toys, and plating work.

Figure 1 Merchants Advertisement


1st January 1822

The subscriber is now receiving a large addition to his stock of MERCHANDISE, which makes his assortment very complete, which will be sold CHEAP FOR CASH.

Or Exchanged For Pot and Pearl Ashes, Whiskey, Wheat, Pork, Lard, Butter, Rye, Corn, Oats, Timothy Seed, Clover Seed, Bees Wax, Tallow, Etc.


For many of the above articles.

A Fashionable Assortment of


Nov. 18, 1803

Consisting of Cloth, Coatings, Kerseymers, Swan-downs, Corderoys, Thicksetts, Flannels, Baizes, Woolen Checks, Humhum, Coloured Cambrick Muslins, Book & Jaconet do.

Calicoes, Shawls, Peelings, Lute-strings --An Assortment of the most fashionable LEGHORN BONNETS,

Men's and Boy's HATS, Blankets, and numerous other articles.


Brandy, Spirits, Hyson, Souchong and Bohea TEAS, Loaf, Lump & Muscovado SUGARS, Pepper, Allspice, Tobacco, Pipes, Window Glass, Soal & Upper LEATHER.

Iron, Steel, Hardware, Stationery, Crockery & Looking Glasses

The above goods will be sold very low for Cash or Produce.


Anonymous: A Picture of Lycoming County. Published by the Commissioners of Lycoming County, Pennsylvania at Williamsport in 1939.

Beeney, Bill: Horses and Canal Boats. Rochester 'Democrat & Chronicle', 4 December 1955, pp 1C and 2C

Bridges, Clayton T.: Agriculture in the Town of Perinton. (Unpublished Manuscript)

Business Directory for Village of Fairport, 1898. (Fairport Library)

Christmas Souvenir - Fairport Business Firms - 1901. (Fairport Library)

City Directory of Fairport, N.Y. March 1913. Compiled by Claud M. Lumbard and Edgar Ray Bills. (Fairport Library)

Directory of Fairport, N.Y. Compiled by John S. Gunsaul. Published by The Fairport Herald, December 1908. (Fairport Library)

Early Days in Fairport. Old Home Week Edition of The Fairport Herald, 4 August 1908. (Fairport Library)

Hedrick, Ulysses Prentiss: A History of Agriculture in the State of New York. Printed for the New York State Agricultural Society in 1933

History of Fairport. Copied from a Fairport newspaper of December 4 1926 - probably The Fairport Herald. (Fairport Library)

Hupp, Alice L.: Early Store-Keepers - Fairport, 1790-1890. (Fairport Library)

Idem: The Douglas-Pectin Corporation. Typewritten on the stationery of the corporation about 1930. (Fairport Library)

Luke, Verna: Folklore of Fairport. Produced January 1955. (Fairport Library)

'Early Perinton': Map prepared by Marjorie Snow Merriman, 1959.

Merrill, Arch: Fairporter Who Founded Resort City. (Fairport Library).

Perinton Grist and Saw Mills Now a Memory. Fairport Herald Mail, 24 May 1928. (Fairport Library).

Souvenir of Fairport, New York Old Home Week. August 2-8, 1908. (Fairport Library).

Stetzle, Charles: Report of Fairport Survey - 22 January 1914. The Monroe County Mail, Fairport, N.Y. (Fairport Library).

Winagle, Clarence J.: The History of the American Can Company. Copy of address given before the Perinton Historical Society, 18 November 1960. (Fairport Library).

History of Monroe County, New York, 1788-1877. Published by Everts, Ensign & Everts at Philladelphia in 1877.

Mau, Clayton: The Development of Central and Western New York. Published by F.A. Owen Publishing Company at Dansville, N.Y. in 1958.

Morrison, Wayne E.: A History of Fairport and Perinton, 1789-1949. Published by The Press of The Journal and Independent at Fairport, N.Y. (Fairport Library)

Part one of a four-part collection of essays prepared by members of the Perinton Historical Society and published as Perinton Papers in 1971. Dr. A. Porter S. Sweet, Editor.Edited February 2001 by Perinton Historical Society Trustee; John Jongen


Find information on:


Agricultural Chronology


Merchandising Chronology

Craftsman and Service Businesses

Service Business Chronology




The Old Jefferson Mill
An aritcle appeared in the Feburary 2013 issue of the Historigram titled The Old Jefferson Mill. Download the PDF to read the article.

Tugs Through Fairport, and Their Need for Coal
The July 2013 Historigram tells a story about the need for coal and how local businesses thrived because of it. A few of the businesses mentioned are; James Pitchard, Clemans & Hulburt, A. M. Loomis Coal, Herman L. Steffen, Sabin Schummers, Dewey Jackson, Fairport Lumber, Dobbin & Moore and George S. Holman.

William M. Newman
William Newman lived in and built many homes and business buildings in Fairport. Download the April 2011 issue of the Historigram to read William M. Newman and His Fabulous Houses.

Three of the homes that he built are designated landmarks: the Newman - Dean House and Barn at 11 West Church Street, The Newman - Cotter House at 112 West Avenue and the Davis - Starenko House at 155 South Main Street.


Peter Daley & His Hotels

Peter Daley came with his family in 1870s and became a soloon keeper. He owned a handful of sollon on the west side of North Main in a stretch called Whiskey Flats. Called the Daley House it was a frame house converted for his business of saloon and renting rooms. In 1886 a fire took the saloon and he used the insurance noney to build the Cottage Hotel on Main and John Street (Lift Bridge Lane).  For more on Daley download the full article in the December 2018 Historigram.

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