Frog Leg George is a local legend that has faded in recent history. George wasn’t famous because of his importance and standing in the city. He became a legend because of his frequent run-ins with the Rochester court system, and his odd profession. Frog Leg earned his name by catching caught hundreds of dozens of frogs, toads and turtles every season in the swamps and creeks in the upstate New York and selling the creatures to hotels and restaurants around the city.
Born in Germany 1860, John S. Preissecker arrived in Rochester when he was about 25. He worked as a laborer for a time, but quickly started his own business, capturing frogs to sell to fine restaurants across the city for frog legs, a popular delicacy at the time. He soon expanded his business, supplying dried toads to printers for ink, and turtles at restaurants to make soup.
John became very well known in the city. He traveled on a donkey pulled buggy, filled with burlap bags of frogs, turtles, and toads. He would freak residents out by pulling live frogs out of his pocket and, when he got a few too many drinks in him, would swallow a live toad and offer to have people feel the animal hop around in his gullet. Many were too scared to go near him, or associate with him any more than needed. His name was soon forgotten, and the nickname “Frog Leg George” was coined.
He originally lived in the center of the city but was quickly forced to move to the outskirts (now gates) because of frequent fights with his neighbors. His house became an unofficial zoo, filled with pigs, geese, ducks, donkeys, and chickens. During the winter he would stock crates of frogs in his house as well to sell during the winter at a mark up.
Living out of the city did nothing to keep him from rubbing his neighbors the wrong way. There are frequent court records of fights with townspeople, neighbors, and wife. One instance, Frog Leg’s donkey escaped from his property, hit and overturned a milk truck. When the milkman approached Frog Leg for payment, he assaulted him with a broom handle.
Because of his notoriety, Frog Leg and his wife became almost hermits later in life. Only a few of their neighbors had much interaction with them until their death. But the legend of the eccentric Frog Leg George lived on by word of mouth for generations after his time.