How Northfield became Pittsford


Although it lay northwest of the seven-year old settlement at Canandaigua, the term "field" was a misnomer. The heavy forest of hardwoods and pine growing close to the lakeshore was almost unbroken. Any trail into this heavily forested region had to be hewn by many broadaxes or they followed the Native American footpaths along waterways.

Settlers were flocking into the whole Phelps and Gorham Purchase as the 19th century dawned. The Purchase was a two million acre tract bought and developed when settlement finally became safe after the Revolutionary War and the Treaty of Buffalo Creek. The tract reached from the Pennsylvania border to Lake Ontario with its eastern border Seneca Lake and the western border was the Genesee River. In 1789, Israel and Simon Stone from Salem, Washington County NY had acquired the land that would become Pittsford. It was known as Northfield and included the present towns of Pittsford, Perinton, Penfield, Brighton, Webster, Irondequoit, and Henrietta.

Simon and Israel Stone were cousins who had served in the Revolutionary War. When the War was over and Phelps and Gorham were selling land, the cousins were able to purchase about 13,000 acres of heavily forested, but extremely fertile land. After clearing some of the trees, Israel constructed a rough log cabin near The Big Spring that had been a camping ground for the Native Americans. Simon erected his cabin a little ways to the south. When that chore was completed, the men began their trek back to Salem to persuade family and friends to leave their farms and homes and venture into this new, unsettled wilderness. They must have been most persuasive because they came back to the area with their own families and about eight more. Farms and homes were established south of what is today the Village, and that settlement was known as "Stonetown".

By 1796, there were enough settlers in this wide area to justify the creation of a town government. The first Northfield town meeting was held April 5, 1796 at the home of Paul Richardson in Pittsford. Dr. John Ray, Northfield's pioneer doctor and town clerk, kept the town records. Through the years, this area has grown and prospered and become part of the sprawling Rochester megalopolis. (Rochester was just a cluster of huts in 1796 and did not grow until the completion of the Erie Canal in 1825, when it became the country's first BoomTown.

In 1808, the name Northfield was changed to Boyle, ostensibly due to too many towns and communities in New York by that name. The town of Penfield was separated from the huge town in 1810 and the town of Perinton was formed in 1812. The remaining community was called Smallwood in 1813, but by the time Brighton was set off in 1814, the honor of changing the name of the remaining town was given to Col. Caleb Hopkins.

Hopkins had come to this part of New York State in 1789 and settled originally in what became Penfield. He moved his wife and farm to the south and became a very important citizen in the part of Boyle that eventually became named Pittsford. Hopkins, despite his short lifetime, left a lasting memorial. When the name of the town was chosen, it was after Caleb Hopkins birthplace in Vermont.

On April 13, 1813, Caleb Hopkins was appointed Colonel of the 52nd Regiment of Militia of the State of New York by Governor Tompkins. He had served at the Niagara Frontier under General William Wadsworth. Hopkins fought in several battles and skirmishes, receiving shoulder wounds. His officers and men regarded him as one of the bravest men in the army, the hero of his hometown and its leading citizen.

Caleb Hopkins was appointed Supervisor of the town of Boyle in 1808 to fill an unexpired term and remained in that position until 1810. He was appointed Inspector of Customs and Collector of the Port of the Genesee River. Gov. Tompkins had commissioned Hopkins as a lieutenant in the militia; Gov. Morgan Lewis made him a major in 1807 and in 1812, he was commissioned a lieutenant colonel and elevated to colonel the following year. After his gallant service defending the Port of Charlotte against the British during the War of 1812, he was made a Brigadier General.

The year after the town of Pittsford was renamed, when peace with Great Britain was assured, Caleb Hopkins purchased a farm on Clover Street at # 3151. This homestead and farm has remained in the family to this day and is diligently farmed by Caleb's descendants.

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