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Historic Lima


Written By
Joyce Rapp
Lima Historian

In the spring of 1788 Paul Davison and his brother-in-law, Jonathan Gould, returned to Genesee Country. Veterans of the Sullivan Campaign, they remembered this area's rich soil and rolling hills. The men cleared the land, built a cabin near Poplar Hill and Cleary Roads. Following the harvest, they went home for their families to return the next year and form the nucleus of our town.
(Click the picture for a larger image)
It was a journey of hardship since Geneva was the last white outpost. The roads were narrow paths carved by Senecas and canopied with birch, oak and ash. The sound of axes rang through the day and campfires lit the night to ward-off the bear and panthers that prowled the country-side.

In its earliest years, Lima was referred to as Mighell's Gore after Abner Mighell who bought a tract of land here shaped like a gore. By 1797, the date of the first town meeting, we were called Charleston, part of Ontario County. At that meeting Solomon Hovey was elected supervisor and a school tax of $60.40 was levied.

According to legend, Charleston was changed to Lima in 1808 after Old Lyme, Connecticut, the original home of many of our early settlers. We became Livingston County in 1821 when that county was formed.

By 1830, inns, mills, blacksmiths, stores and a post office dotted State Road (Rts. 5 & 20). The Repulse Fire Company, the first in Livingston County, was organized and the Genesee Wesleyan Conference selected Lima for its Genesee Wesleyan Seminary. Located on College Street Hill, the Seminary was one of the first co-educational schools in the country. And its academic excellence brought scholars such as Belva Lockwood, a female attorney, a rare commodity in that era, Senator and Ambassador Kenneth Keating and Helen Pitts Douglass, the second wife of Frederick Douglass, to its campus.

During the Civil War, its students comprised about one-third of the 27th Volunteers of Company G.

In 1849, Genesee College was founded on the same campus and remained there until 1870. Although the Seminary "became heir to the entire campus" a smaller enrollment forced it to close its doors in 1941. A few years later, the National Youth Association, the brainchild of Eleanor Roosevelt, made the campus its headquarters. The NYA offered vocational training to underprivileged students until 1945.

After World War II, the Methodist Church again selected the College hill campus for its Genesee Junior College. Although it graduated about 100 students between 1947 and 1951, the campus was again vacant until Elim Bible Institute bought the 75 acre campus and buildings for $75,000 in the summer of 1951.

Education continues to play an important role in the Lima community. Two schools, the Lima Christian School and the Honeoye Falls-Lima Central School, are known for their academic excellence and their sports programs.

Although the first religious services were held in homes and the new Town House built in 1804 at the same location as the present Town Hall, the Charleston (Lima) Congregational Church built its first church in 1816. Located on the present site of the Presbyterian Church, the Society changed its name to Lima Presbyterian Church in 1851.

Methodists worshipped in a large brick church on Rochester Street (across from the Tennie Burton Museum) for ninety years until it was razed in 1956 after severe storm damage. Although the Baptists have been part of Lima's history since 1830, they were not organized until 1854. They worshipped in the large brick church on East Main Street, the present Crossroads Mall. The congregation moved to its present location in 1968 and built its school a few years later.

The present St. Rose Church on Lake Avenue was dedicated in 1873 although they had worshipped in a small frame church in Lima's early history. Parishioners also built a rectory and convent for the nuns who taught at their school, the large brick building on Buell and Lake Avenue across from the rectory. The school was closed in 1969. The Elim Gospel Church is the newest church in Lima. Although it had been present on the Elim Bible Institute campus to accommodate Elim students since the 1960's, a separate church building was erected in 1999 to serve the outside community as well.

The village of Lima was incorporated on April 25, 1867. Joe Dailey, owner of a stage coach business was elected president (mayor). Although no political parties are mentioned in the early minutes, trustees were also elected as well as a pound master and constable.

Early records indicate the first burial place here was an Indian burying ground near the Lima/Avon border. After the Presbyterian Church was built, a cemetery was placed directly behind it; the Methodist Cemetery on College Street (across from Elim) was started about 1828; St. Rose Cemetery on Evergreen Street in 1858; the Baptist Cemetery, located about two and one half miles south of the village began in 1823.

The beautiful Oak Ridge Cemetery on Livonia Center Road has been used since 1813. There you find our early pioneers resting beneath the towering trees. A tall monument to Paul Davison looks over his town.


The pictures were scanned from “Images Around America - Around Lima” by Michael Leavy. List Price is $19.99. It is published by Arcadia.