Rochester’s Bigamist and First Entrepreneur

Rochester’s Bigamist and First Entrepreneur

Indian Allan was Rochester’s first character, first entrepreneur and first family man, even before there was a Rochester.  Think back to the late 1700s, there was a Revolution being fought, Seneca Native Americans were nearly the only inhabitants along the banks of the Genesee and anything this far west was considered rugged frontier.  That is the scene in which Ebenezer “Indian” Allan emerges from to become the first guy who tried to do anything here.

It is believed that Indian Allan was born somewhere in New Jersey.  He became a Tory, joined up with the Rangers, a team of those loyal to the British and partners with the Native Americans.  Allan built a reputation for himself within the Rangers as viscous; he supposedly scalped many Americans while taking part in attacks on those whose loyalties lay elsewhere from his.  But he also grew accustomed to working with the Native Americans and was respected amongst them, thus earning the nickname, Indian.

When Allan began to see the tides of war changing he devised a scheme to bring about peace between the Native Americans and the new nation.  Peace was achieved between the Iroquois and the United States when Allan stole a belt from the chief of the Iroquois and presented it as proof to the Americans that the Iroquois Nation was agreeing to a peaceful coexistence.

The Iroquois chief had too much honor to back out on the deal at that point, but he wasn’t happy with Allan and neither were the British.  They sent out parties to search for their schemer, which is how he came to settle along the Genesee River.

For a while, Allan lived the frontiersman’s rough life.  He took a wife, named Sally who was a member of the Senecas.  Then he had an idea and worked a deal to build a grist mill in the area of Rochester that is now Charlotte.  While in this process, he married another woman named Lucy, who he met with her father as they were on their way to Niagara.

Allan lived with both Lucy and Sally near to the grist mill he was working on.  He had two daughters with Sally, Chloe and Mary, and a son with Lucy named Seneca.  Seneca was born in the living-quarters (cookhouse) of the mill and is believed to be the first non-native born west of the Genesee River.

Allan was able to build most of the grist mill by himself, but he needed help raising the frame.  He enlisted the crew of a docked schooner and a number of his friends in the Seneca tribe to raise the frame.  It took two days to raise the frame and it has been reported that a two day party ensued following.  At least one entire keg of rum was drained by Allan and the crew.

Eventually the mill became too much work for Indian Allan’s restless nature.  He operated it for a few years until leaving it as a sign of what could be done along the river and made his entrepreneurial moves to the men who would eventually make running mills on the Genesee a viable business that would lead to the permanent settlement.

Meanwhile Allan took a grieving widow, Christine into his household while maintaining his relationships with his first two wives.  Christine eventually moved on and Allan turned his attention to Captain Sunfish’s (an escaped slave) daughter, but lost interest in her when her inheritance ran low.  Then Allan married Millie McGregor, a redheaded daughter of one of the Rangers that Allan had once worked with.  Millie didn’t get along with Sally and Lucy, so Allan built her a separate cabin a short distance away.  Millie gave him six children.  Millie’s sister joined the original household for a while too.

Allan had his children educated privately in New Jersey and Philadelphia.  Seneca, after being educated in Philadelphia returned to the area to make claims on a deed held by Nathaniel Rochester.  Seneca Allan failed, leaving the 100 acres of land for Rochester to work with.

It is supposed that without Allan, others wouldn’t have realized the viability of settling and operating mills here.  Even if that isn’t true Allan makes for an interesting story about one of the first guys to live in the area.  Allan was a friend to the Senecas, loved women of all varieties and was savage in battle.  Today you can find the original millstones on display, embedded in the wall of the County Clerk’s Office on West Main Street.