LeRoy is proud of its rich history. Situated in the fertile region west of the Genesee River, LeRoy’s first settlers arrived in 1797 and built cabins along the State Road which connected the state capital Albany with Niagara Falls. Known as the Ganson Settlement, the small town was chartered in 1812 as Bellona. Within a year, the town was renamed LeRoy, after a wealthy merchant and banker, Herman LeRoy of New York City. His son, Jacob LeRoy moved to town in 1822 and became the land agent for the 86,000 acre Triangle Tract. In 1834, the Village of LeRoy was chartered by New York State, and the LeRoy community continues today to be governed by both a town government and a village government.
The economy of LeRoy, in the early years was driven by fertile farmland and available waterpower supplied by the Oatka Creek. In 1825, LeRoy became accessible to the Erie Canal, 17 miles north in Brockport. Eventually three railroads converged in LeRoy, providing vital connections to markets to the east and west.
Huge limestone deposits provided architectural building material for homes, churches and factories, as well as bridges and abutments for the Lehigh Railroad. Limestone was shipped to Lackawanna to feed the huge steel plant, and crushed limestone from the LeRoy quarries were used to build the nearby Mt. Morris Dam and the New York State Thruway. Limestone continues to be one of LeRoy’s natural resources. A 100-ton Marion steam shovel located on Gulf Road which was used in the quarry in the early 1900s, was recently listed on the National Register of Historic Sites,
LeRoy’s industrial history includes the LeRoy Salt Company, LeRoy Plow Company, a variety of patent medicines, the manufacture of railroad cars and carriages, LeRoy Canning Company, LeRoy Machine Company, LeRoy Cotton Mills, Lapp Insulator, Union Steel Chest, and of course Jell-O.
The Jell-O story begins in 1897 with the introduction of four fruit flavors, lemon, orange, raspberry and strawberry. The trademark was first registered by Pearl B. Wait, who sold the rights to the name in 1899 for $450 to LeRoy businessman Orator Woodward. The factory remained in operation until 1964 when it closed and operations were moved to Dover, Delaware. To celebrate the 100th anniversary of “America’s Most Famous Dessert,” the LeRoy Historical Society opened the Jell-O Gallery in 1997, which attracts thousands of visitors each year.
LeRoy is significant for its legacy of women’s education and Ingham University 1837-1892. And LeRoy was a stop on the Underground Railroad. Visit the LeRoy Historical Society and LeRoy House and trace the history of LeRoy by picking up a map of the historic markers, or the Underground Railroad , as well as the Bicentennial Barn Quilt Trail.
For over 200 years, LeRoy has prospered and remained a vital part of Western New York. It looks to the future with the knowledge that its roots are deep and it is well prepared for the changes and challenges for the new generation.