Historian's Office 





The 1790 Census

The 1790 federal census of New York contains an enumeration of newly-formed Ontario County, which then included the entire state west of the Pre-emption Line. Because the Line was in the wrong place, several communities were left uncounted, including settlements at Geneva and at what is now Watkins Glen, as well as western new York's largest settlement, that at City Hill in what is now the Yates County town of Torrey. There were about 60 families in this group, approximately 260 persons, all followers of the Public Universal Friend. Only members who were living west of the Pre-emption Line were counted, since that was the boundary of the County. Of the heads of households listed, the first four or five lived in what is now Benton (8th town, 1st range), and the rest in Milo (7th town, 1st range); from deed analysis of the hamlet now called Milo Center, it is evident that people living on the west side of the road that followed the course of the Pre-emption Line were counted, those on the east side were not. Here is the published version of the census: 

Jerusalem Town: Numbers = Free White Males over 16/ FWM under 16/Free White Females 

      Hough Zephaniah      1      2      6 
      Benton Levi          6      3      5 
      Taylor Samuel        3      1      1 
      Spencer Truman       3      0      3 
      Hathaway Richard     4      1      4 
      Dayton Abraham       3      1      4 
      Brown Daniel Junr    2      2      2 
      Lawrence John        1      2      3 
      Sherman Thomas       2      2      2 
      Hunt Addam           3      0      0 
      Nichols Isaac        2      4      1 
      Briggs John          3      1      0 
      Briggs Elizabeth     0      0      2 
      Briggs Peleg         1      0      4 
      Briggs Peleg Junr    1      2      2
      Townsend Hezekiah    2      1      1
In addition, the following families living in Canandaigua Town in 1790 can be identified as residing in the part that is now the town of Potter in Yates County: 
Briggs Francis            1      2      2 
Pierce Michael            1      3      1 
Tibbet Benjamin           1      0      2 
Hall William              2      0      0 
Potter Arnold            13      1      0
The entry for Arnold Potter is correct; he was then building his mansion in the southeastern corner of the town, still standing and one of the oldest buildings in the western part of the state, and all those men were undoubtedly working on the structure, which must have been very grand for its place and time; even now, it is extremely impressive.

Another partial version of the same census exists, sorted by township. It gives only the names of the heads of household in each town enumerated by deputy US marshal Amos Hall, without the age and gender groupings of the official report above. The whole list can be found in Appendix No. 9 of Orsamus Turner's History of the Phelps and Gorham Purchase. Here are the listings for what is now Potter, the only modern Yates County town represented; it makes an interesting contrast with the published version:

No. 8 - 2nd Range

Francis Briggs
Michael Pierce
Benjamin Tibbits
Henry Lovell
John Walford
William Hall
Arnold Potter