University of Rochester Library Bulletin: The Diaries of Eli Granger

Volume VI  · Spring 1951 · Number 3
The Diaries of Eli Granger
--Margaret Toth

Mr. William J. Peterson of Akron, New York, has given us two very interesting old diaries written by Eli Granger, who was one of the small group of pioneers who came to the Genesee country in 1796 and settled at King's Landing, later called Hanford's Landing, and now part of the city of Rochester, being just north of the lower falls of the Genesee, not far from where Ridge Road now crosses Lake Avenue. These diaries have belonged to Mr. Peterson's family for generations, having been passed from father to son. Eli Granger's oldest child, Lucretia, married William Hincher, an early settler at Charlotte. Of their nine children, Jemima (named no doubt after Eli's wife, who was Jemima Leavitt of Suffield, Connecticut) married John Peterson and lived at North Greece. Through information supplied by Mr. Peterson, the donor of the diaries, we have learned that John Peterson and Jemima (Granger) Peterson were his great-grandparents.

We have traced the Granger family from Launcelot Granger who came to Massachusetts about 1652. From him descended many of the well-known families of this area, notably the Canandaigua Grangers (Gideon, 1734-1800, Gideon, 1767-1822, and Francis, 1792-1868), and, in Rochester, the Hollister family, represented by Mrs. Thomas G. Spencer.

Between 1790 and 1796 Augustus and Peter Porter, Gideon King, and Zadock Grander acquired a tract of land west of the Genesee River, which was part of the original Phelps and Gorham purchase. Early records indicate that Gideon King and Zadock Granger came to the new land early in 1796 but soon returned to Suffield, Connecticut. Settlement of the tract began in the fall of the same year when they returned bringing with them four families who intended to make their homes here. These four families were those of Thomas King (son of Gideon), Eli Granger (son of Zadock), Elijah Kent, and Daniel Graham. The diaires we have are the daily journals kept by Eli Granger.

The first diary covers dates in October and November, 1796. The pages are torn, ink faded, and parts are completely indecipherable. From his first diary, we assume that Eli had established some shelter for himself but had not yet brought his wife and children to the Genesee country because he spoke of writing letters to her to be sent back by Mr. Pease. During this time he took a trip to Buffalo, which, he said, had only five houses, but fine land. While in Buffalo he went to see the "Great Falls" and Fort Schlosser. He also went to Canadargua (Canandaigua) where he expected to meet Mr. Porter and Mr. Pease, who were coming out from Suffield to subdivide the new tract. The finla entry in this first diary was made on November 2, 1796. He was at Canandaigua and planned to set out that day for his place on the Genesee.

The second diary begins Tuesday March 14 and ends Friday, August 11, 1797. By this time the community at King's Landing had been well established, some homes had been built and others were under construction, and the time was taken up with clearing the land, building roads, and doing other things to make the wilderness habitable. On May 17, Eli, John Parks, and Dan Rowe set out for Niagara. (John Parks was a hunter and trapper, and Dan Rowe, an early settler who apparently worked for Eli until the next year, when he and his three brothers made a more permanent home for themselves.) The purpose of this trip was to find a suitable route for a road between here and Niagara. They went to Niagara by the most direct route they knew and on the way back, with the help of two Indian guides, made a careful survey of the land with a view to its suitablility for a road. They returned from this trip on May 29. The "handsome ridge" over which they traveled on their return route, is now known as the Ridge Road (U.S. Highway 104). They were then busy with gardens and more clearing of land, road and house building. Life was not all work, for one day Mrs. Granger went boat riding with John Parks, and to celebrate Independence Day, a number of them went to visit neighbors, went for a boat ride on the lake, and stayed the night. On Tuesday, July 18, they dined on the first green beans ever grown in this town, and on July 23, Major Kent picked the first cucumberes ever raised here.

The diary ends with this entry for August 11 -- "This day cotched fast to the ague." However, we know that this attack of the fever was not fatal for Eli, as it was for many of the early settlers, because he lived until 1823.

Portions of these two diaries appear on the pages that follow.