In 2008, the town of Henrietta, NY will celebrate its 190th birthday; a momentous occasion. Other significant anniversaries were in 1968 when we observed the town’s 150th birthday, and again in 1993 when we celebrated our 175th birthday. This 190th birthday will only have minor observances, for in 10 years we have our 200th birthday party. That will be a big event and we will need to start planning for this soon.

How and when did Henrietta get started? Where did it get its name? I am asked these questions frequently – I will attempt to answer them here.

In its early days, Henrietta had been under the jurisdiction of the Town of Boyle, now called Pittsford, and the County of Ontario. It was called the West Woods Of Pittsford, or simply West Town. The first pioneers had trouble getting their deeds registered in the state of New York. This put them at a terrible disadvantage at town meetings in Pittsford as they were unable to vote on town issues that concerned them. Under the old state constitution, prior to 1821, only landowners with legal deeds could vote.

At a town meeting in 1816, residents of the West Town voted to have the next town meeting held in the schoolhouse in the east village. This angered the town fathers of Pittsford, and Simeon Stone of Pittsford said that there was not a legal voter in all of West Town.

Residents were getting very annoyed with this taxation without representation. Being forewarned of trouble, many brought to the next meeting deeds showing that a small amount of money had been paid on a small piece of land. Elections were held, and on the basis of these new voting residents, a new supervisor was elected in Pittsford. This only made things worse and led to the separation of our town from Pittsford.

Before gathering for the next meeting in the east village of West town in 1817, residents decided to name Township XII, Range VII, Henrietta for the daughter of Sir William Johnstone Pulteney, the Earl of Bath, England. She was known as Henrietta Laura Pulteney, Countess of Bath. The title of countess was very important in her society, and still is today. Henrietta’s father was one of the wealthiest men in England, due to the estate his wife had inherited from her father, and the money he earned from the sale of lands in America. Our town is the only town in the county that is named for a woman.

The first town meeting of Henrietta was held on April 20, 1818 and Jacob Stevens was elected supervisor. Town clerk was Isaac Jackson; assessors were Martin Roberts, Layman Hawley, and Noah Post. Commissioners of Highways were David Dunham, Solomon Hovey and Elijah Little; tax collector was Elisha Gage. Overseers of the poor were Thomas Remington and Daniel Hodges; constables were Roswell Wickwire and Elisha Gage; Justus Baker, Richard Daniels and Abel Post were named common school commissioners, with school inspectors being Jacob Stevens, Charles Sperry and Chauncey Beadle.

Twenty- four Pathfinders and Overseers of the Highway were named and they also had the title of Fence Viewers. They further resolved that “hogs by being well-yoked shall be free commoners and a penalty of fifty cents be exacted for every hog that shall be running at large without them, which money be contributed to the support of the poor.” Residents voted to raise money for the common schools, and voted $100 for the support of the poor. Many of the names listed above can still be found in Henrietta with some of our streets and schools named for them.

The number of people living in town at that time (1818) is not known, but the 1820 census lists 2,181 people. This number stayed about the same until 1960 when the census showed there were 11,598 people residing here – a huge growth. In two years, the 2010 census will probably be about 50,000 people as there are 46,000 residents now. In the lexicon of history, our town is still a baby, so 190 years is still young.

I just returned home from a conference of the Association of Public Historians of New York State in Glens Falls, NY. It was a wonderful conference and I met historians from all over the state. I came back with many ideas on how to make Henrietta’s history better known. One way to do this is to encourage our readers to read one of the many books on Henrietta in the Henrietta Public Library: “Henrietta Heritage” by Eleanor Kalsbeck and “Henrietta Heritage” by yours truly. There you will find in the Kalsbeck book the history of Henrietta and in my book, a pictorial history of the town. I hope you will enjoy reading them.

Note: Also occurring this month was Earth Day on April 21: Let’s keep up our recycling efforts and methods to eliminate global warming. This spring has been so lovely – we must keep it that way.