Susan B. Anthony’s Rural Roots

Most Rochesterians know that Susan B. Anthony lived in the neighborhood that now bears her name, but fewer people are aware of the fact that prior to moving to her now iconic red brick house at 17 Madison Street in 1862, Anthony and her family lived on a farm in what was then part of Gates, NY.

Anthony Farm

Susan B. Anthony had spent the first part of her life in Adams, Massachusetts and Battenville, New York, where her father, Daniel Anthony managed a cotton mill. When the Panic of 1837 struck, Daniel Anthony’s business suffered and he began to search for another locale where the family could start anew. He initially tried looking in Virginia and Michigan but nothing caught his fancy. Later, he and his wife Lucy came upon a 32-acre farm west of Rochester, which they hastily purchased.

The plot they bought (marked “Anthony”) can be seen on the left side of this 1852 map:

Anthony Farm Map-1852

It is difficult to pinpoint the land’s current site with any precision, but Deborah Hughes, President of the Susan B. Anthony Museum and House, suggests that the “north end of the farm connected with what is now Brooks, most likely somewhere between the current Genesee Park Blvd and Thurston Road.”

Anthony Farm Map-current

The Anthonys arrived at the farm on November 14, 1845 after a week-long journey that took them by stagecoach, rail and canal boat. The homestead stood on an elevation in front of a barn, a carriage house and a blacksmith shop.

Though the first winter at the new abode found the Anthonys homesick for their former farmland, they ingratiated themselves with the local Quaker community and began holding informal abolitionist meetings at the family home.

In the spring, Daniel Anthony set about improving the property by ploughing the land and planting peach and apple orchards. The farm eventually included cherry and quince trees as well as currant and gooseberry bushes. Daniel nevertheless found the farm unprofitable and  took work in the city with the New York State Life Insurance Company.

His daughter Susan meanwhile took a teaching a position with the Canajoharie Academy. She returned to the homestead in 1849. Since her brothers were away and her father was now working in Syracuse, she proved her self-sufficiency by taking charge of the whole farm, supervising the planting, harvesting and selling of the land’s crops.

To be sure, Susan’s life on the farm was marked by both physical labor and intellectual engagement.

In the early 1850s, the Anthony home became a favored meeting place for progressive minded men and women. Frederick Douglass was a frequent visitor as were Amy and Issac Post. Noted abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison also attended a meeting at the homestead.

According to Anthony’s biographer, Ida Harper Husted, “every one of these Sunday meetings was equal to a convention. The leading events of the day were discussed in no uncertain tones.”

Though Susan B. Anthony would move on to her much more famous residence following her father’s death in 1862, the family farmhouse in Gates nevertheless played a significant role in her life. The homestead she intermittently inhabited for almost twenty years not only endowed her with the opportunity to demonstrate the capacity for female independence, but it also provided a space where the future suffrage leader could develop and hone her political voice.

-Emily Morry

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Published in: on March 15, 2016 at 9:00 am  Comments (1)  

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  1. […] ‘Susan B. Anthony’s Rural Roots‘. Local History Rocs! blog by Rochester’s Public Library Local History and Genealogy […]


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