Current Essays

020 Early Centuries

From 10th July 1985
During this, the millennial year of the oldest continuously inhabited site in the New World, we Rochestarians must feel particularly proud. As an expression of that pride we at the Sunshine studios are bringing you a series of occasional Genesee-side talks entitled “Rochester - The Early Centuries”.

By now I am sure that we are all exquisitely familiar with the story of the founding of our jolly city in the year 985 by Irish monks accompanied by Neatanniel the Englishman: how they were on their way to the Isle of Man, but were blown off course, past the Virgin Islands, and down the St. Lawrence Seaway to the mouth of the Genesee.

How many of us have not thrilled to the Njathanvítha Hrofsson (the lay of Nathan, Hrof’s son) preserved in the Arismál of Ari Marsson. Ari was an early visitor to the site, who was lucky enough to escape with no more than a severe baptizing from the enthusiastic monks. Ari’s view of early Rochester is, I suppose with some justification, rather jaundiced. But one gets a delightful view of Neatanniel (called Nathan in the Lay) as he argues against the site chosen by his companion, the notorious abbot St Ginn of the Rocks. Abbot Ginn prefers the area “between the Great Smelly Lake and Around-about Bay” (an area perhaps 1,000 yds to the east of present-day Sea Breeze) on the grounds that they could build their church the other side of the creek from their cells and that sooner or later some damned corracler1 would take out the bridge for his own convenience and the monks would be forced to walk 14 miles every time they had a service, and as an added bonus it would be through no fault of their own. On the other hand, counters Neatanniel, if they choose his site (present-day Swillburg) they will have to walk two miles to the river every time they want a drink. Of course the monks could see immediately that actuality was much better than potential, however great, and so they sided with Neatanniel, and Rochester began it’s long history.

Cheerio for now
from Richard Howland-Bolton.


1 Damned Corracler: This passage is all a reference to the Great Irondequoit Bay Outlet Bridge controversy which was then very busy amongst the populace. The Army Corps of Engineers removed the then existing bridge, just so some damned yacht owners could sail out into the great (and sometimes smelly) Lake Ontario. Some of my in-laws were rather inconvenienced by this evil and affluent act, not of course that I would ever take sides, especially not in one of my essays.

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