Nathaniel Rochester, born on 21 February 1752 was a merchant, founder of Rochester, New York, United States
Nathaniel Rochester was born in Westmoreland County, Virginia, the son of John and Hester (Thrift) Rochester and the grandson of Nicholas Rochester who emigrated from England to Westmoreland County at the end of the seventeenth century. His father died when the boy was only four years old, and his mother, marrying again, took the family to Granville County, North Carolina.
The young Nathaniel must have received but a limited education, and there is no reference to schooling in his modest autobiography.
At the age of sixteen he was employed in a country store in Hillsboro, North Carolina, and was taken into partnership in 1773. He was a member of the revolutionary committee of safety for Orange County in 1775 and of the two provincial conventions of 1775 and 1776. He saw brief active service as a major of militia, receiving the surrender of a part of the British force defeated at Moore's Creek in February 1776. On April 22, 1776, he was appointed lieutenant-colonel of the North Carolina troops. He also acted as deputy-commissary general of military stores and clothing. In 1777 he was appointed a commissioner to establish and superintend an arms manufactory at Hillsboro, and he served in the Assembly the same year. For reasons not entirely clear, perhaps from lack of health, he gave up the pursuit of arms, and in 1778 he went into business with Colonel Thomas Hart, first at Hillsboro and a little later at Hagerstown, Maryland
The two partners rented a gristmill and established nail and rope factories.
In 1792 the partnership was dissolved.
In 1807 he became president of the Hagerstown bank, a modest establishment housed for seven years in his own dwelling. Associated with him in his bank were Charles Carroll and William Fitzhugh. Carroll and Fitzhugh's brother, Peregrine Fitzhugh, had visited western New York in 1799. It was through these men that Rochester became interested in western New York, which was then opening up to settlement. Visiting the Genesee country in 1800, he bought a small amount of land there, especially a tract at Dansville, covering the water-power sites along the Canaseraga.
In 1803, with his friends, he purchased the one-hundred-acre tract at the so-called Upper Falls of the Genesee for the large price of $17. 50 an acre. The tract was not laid out, however, till some time later, and sales of land did not begin till November 1811. In the meantime he decided to close out his business at Hagerstown and remove to the Genesee country.
From 1818 he lived in a village of some 700 persons and called from 1817 to 1822 by the name of Rochesterville (Rochester after 1822). In 1821 he took an active part in obtaining the creation of the county of Monroe, in which Rochester is situated, and became clerk of the county when it was set up.
In 1824 he organized a bank at Rochester.
He was then a man of over seventy years; yet he took an active interest in the campaign of 1828, strongly supporting the claims of John Quincy Adams to the presidency.
He was steadily weakening, and his last years were not marked by any further participation in public affairs. Notwithstanding the fact that his manners were somewhat austere, and his temper was strong, it is clear that he commanded a high degree of respect in the community in which he settled.
While in Hagerstown, Rochester served one term in the legislature but refused re-election because of disgust "with the intrigue and management among the members"
In appearance he was tall, and rather spare, with distinctly attractive features.
He settled first at Dansville with his wife, Sophia (Beatty) Rochester, whom he had married in 1788, and nine children, and there established three mills and a wool-carding shop. From Dansville he removed to Bloomfield and in 1818 to Rochester, a village of some 700 persons and called from 1817 to 1822 by the name of Rochesterville.