One of the larger towns in the region, Geneva is home to about 15,000 residents. Though overall a nondescript place, through its center runs the elegant South Main Street, lined with leafy trees, stately homes, and Hobart and William Smith Colleges.
Geneva was once a major Seneca settlement known as Kanadesaga. During the French and Indian War, the British erected a fort here from which they and the Seneca conducted murderous raids—only to be massacred themselves during the 1779 Sullivan campaign.
Soon after the Revolution, settlers began to arrive. A visionary land agent laid out the town along a broad Main Street and a public green. This gave the place an air of dignity which, during the 1800s, attracted an usually large number of retired ministers and spinsters. Geneva soon earned the nickname “The Saints’ Retreat and Old Maids’ Paradise.”
In 1847, the Medical College of Geneva College (now Hobart) received an application of admission from one Elizabeth Blackwell of Philadelphia. The students and deans, assuming it to be a joke, laughingly voted to admit her. A few weeks later, to everyone’s amazement, Ms. Blackwell arrived, and in 1849, she graduated—the first woman ever granted a medical diploma in America.
© Avalon Travel and Sascha Zuger from Moon New York State, 5th Edition