Whatever Needs Doing: Jehiel Barnard (17 August 1788-7 November 1865)

To imagine life in Rochesterville is to imagine a community far different from what we know today. Aside from a few scattered cabins and the then-new Main Street bridge over the Genesee, the land was mostly wild, with primeval forest and wild animals on the prowl, such as snakes, deer, and bears. It was a world not for the old and settled, but for the young and adventurous. It required someone to do whatever needed doing: a person much like Jehiel Barnard.


Jehiel Barnard and wife, Delia and family on their 50th anniversary. Source: Rochester Historical Society Publication Series vol. IX (1930).

Jehiel Barnard was born in Hartford, Connecticut, son of Aaron Barnard and Mary Nancy Brown. At a young age the family moved to Nine Partners (Dutchess County, New York), where Jehiel grew to adulthood and where he learned the craft of tailoring. How he heard of the settlement on the falls of the Genesee River is not known, but it is clear that he was the second settler in the community after Hamlet Scrantom, arriving here 1 September, 1812.

He quickly established himself in the new community, erecting a tailor shop not far from Buffalo and Carroll Streets (today West Main and State Streets). The structure became the village’s first tailor shop, shoemaker’s shop, school, and meeting house, where all important village discussions took place. It also became the first church in the new settlement.

The latter function came about through the efforts of Mrs. Hannah Scrantom (Hamlet Scrantom’s wife) and Mrs. Julia Wheelock, who asked Jehiel Barnard and Warren Brown to conduct religious services for the community of ten families in the spring of 1813. There was no formal liturgy as such, the service consisting of extemporaneous prayer, hymn singing and the reading of published sermons. The impromptu church continued for well over a year.


This map of Rochesterville ca. 1814 depicts Barnard’s building (14) on Buffalo (Main) Street near Carroll (State) Street. Source: Rochester Public Library Local History map collection

Despite these nascent signs of civilization in the new village, one nevertheless needed to be a hardy soul to live here. One day following religious services, Barnard wandered over to the Genesee Falls where he encountered six rattlesnakes. He killed all six, for which he received 6 shillings bounty money.  As if nature’s dangers weren’t perilous enough, one needs to remember that Lake Ontario was a battleground during the War of 1812. Barnard was part of an improvised militia of 32 men that confronted the British Navy, dodging cannon fire on Lake Ontario.

Following the war, Barnard opened a bakery with Hamlet Scrantom, who ran a general store where the Powers Building now stands. This business partnership later led to a romantic one with Delia Scrantom (Hamlet’s daughter, July 30, 1795-August 6, 1881). The couple was married October 8, 1815, the first wedding in the new settlement. It is said that an old left-handed fiddler named Noble was hired to play at the reception following. It is not known if Jehiel accompanied Noble, but he was known to play the bassoon and also sang in a musical group that frequently performed at the tavern owned by Abelard Reynolds (the founder of the “Reynolds Arcade”).

The wedding took place at the home of Francis Brown at the corner of State and Brown Streets. Brown was the proprietor of “Brown’s Race” (still surviving at the High Falls) and a prominent man in the early community.  In fact, on May 5, 1817 Brown was elected the first supervisor of the village. Among those elected to serve on the new village board was Jehiel Barnard, who later that year served as tax collector for the village.

Jehiel Barnard died 7 November 1865, nearly a month to the day following his 50th wedding anniversary. His remains are buried in Mt. Hope Cemetery, next to Delia who survived him another 15 years, dying August 6, 1881.


-Christopher Brennan

Published in: on April 4, 2017 at 9:00 am  Comments (1)  

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  1. A postscript to the article above: an inquiring reader wanted to know if the section of Greece called Barnard (AKA Barnard Crossing) is named for Jehiel Barnard. The short answer is no. Barnard is named for Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Barnard, whose farm land was used to construct the railroad crossing on Dewey Avenue that borders the city of Rochester and Holy Sepulchre. Their son, Charles Barnard was the first flagman for the district after the railroad went through, hence the designation “Barnard’s Crossing.” The Greece Public Library branch on Dewey Avenue is named Barnard Crossing from the popular designation for this section of the town.

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