The Other Anthony Girl

Don’t get me wrong, Susan B. Anthony deserves her proper respect. Ardent abolitionist, temperance worker, women’s rights advocate, education crusader, labor activist, suffragist, public speaker, writer, leader—her legacy is lasting; her praises duly sung. That said, I thought it fitting this Women’s History Month to pay tribute to another woman from Rochester’s past who is equally deserving of our admiration, if not as privy to our attention: Susan’s younger sister, Mary Stafford Anthony.

Overshadowed in both life and death by her famous older sibling, Mary S. Anthony was a worthy character in her own right. Born on April 2, 1827, in Battenville, NY, Mary moved to Rochester with her family when she was eighteen. Well-educated, she eventually became a teacher. She taught in the city’s public schools for 27 years, retiring from her position as principal of School No. 2 in 1883. In testament to her intellect, a friend noted that Mary was “an excellent mathematician, a natural philosopher and…history was also one of her specialties” (“Death Comes to Mary S. Anthony”).

Close with her sister, Mary shared Susan’s devotion to social justice. In fact, she was the first of the two to enlist in the crusade for sexual equality, attending the second women’s rights convention held in Rochester in August 1848, two weeks after the historic first meeting in Seneca Falls. Mary, unlike Susan, actually signed the Declaration of Sentiments. In November 1872, both Mary and Susan, along with their two other sisters and 10 other Rochester women, challenged state law by registering and voting in the presidential election. Six years later, Mary represented Monroe County at the Rochester convention of the National Woman Suffrage Association. In 1885, she organized and hosted the first meeting of the local Women’s Political Club (later renamed the Political Equality Club); she served as its president from 1892 to 1903. She became corresponding secretary for the New York State Woman Suffrage Association in 1893 and helped run a suffrage campaign headquarters out of the family home at 17 Madison Street.

Mary Anthony was the family breadwinner, caregiver, and household manager. It was she who held down the fort, enabling Susan to devote her time and energy to the cause. Both morally and financially supportive of her sister’s work, Mary helped to fund Susan’s journal, The Revolution, and contributed significantly to Susan’s drive to sexually integrate the University of Rochester in 1900. Mary traveled with Susan to Europe in 1899 and again in 1904 to attend meetings of the International Council of Women. Both sisters were in Berlin when the International Woman Suffrage Alliance was formed; Susan became its first member, Mary its second.

The last trip Mary and Susan Anthony took together was to attend the National American Woman Suffrage Association convention in Baltimore in 1906. A little over a month later, Susan died in their home with Mary at her side. Less than a year after that, on February 7, 1907, Mary, too, passed away in her home, two months shy of her 80th birthday. Sadly, neither sister lived to see their shared dream of woman suffrage come to fruition with the passage of the 19th Amendment in 1920. While Susan’s contribution to this effort has been appropriately noted, Mary’s remains largely and undeservedly obscured.  

The Anthony sisters are buried beside each other in Rochester’s historic Mount Hope Cemetery. Should you happen to be in the neighborhood, consider paying your respects to them both.

~Michelle Finn, Deputy Historian

Image
Mary Stafford Anthony and Susan Brownell Anthony, n.d.
From the collection of the Rochester Public Library Local History Division.

Sources:

“Miss Mary S. Anthony is Dead at Her Home.” Post Express, February 5, 1907. In Tengwall scrapbook no. 1: 196, Rochester Public Library Local History Division.

“Death Comes to Mary S. Anthony.” Democrat & Chronicle, February 6, 1907. In Peck scrapbook v. 2:61½, Rochester Public Library Local History Division.

Western New York Suffragists. “Mary Stafford Anthony.” Accessed March 23, 2013. http://winningthevote.org/F-MAnthony.html    

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Out of the Loop: a Before and After Look at the Neighborhoods of the Inner Loop, Part 2.

As we saw in the first blog post of this series, the Inner Loop dramatically altered the neighborhood surrounding Central Avenue, Allen Street, and Plymouth Avenue North. Longstanding businesses and local landmarks were erased from Rochester’s map, as were a substantial number of residences.  This trend would continue as loop construction made its journey southward in the early 1950s.

The Loop’s second arc, constructed between 1953 and 1955, continued along Plymouth Avenue south of Main Street, then curved along Troup Street in the Corn Hill neighborhood to the Genesee River.

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The original second arc of the loop curved at Troup Street, towards the river, leaving the section of Plymouth Ave South below Troup intact. Democrat & Chronicle. September 10, 1954.

This Inner Loop section no longer exists today, as the Loop underwent a western expansion in the early 1970s. The following map details the area where the original second arc once ran:

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Today, Plymouth Avenue South is a regular roadway and I-490 follows the path of a section of the original second arc of the Loop. Googlemaps, 2018.

The initial plans for the second section of the Inner Loop required the demolition of over 30 buildings, most of which stood on the east side of Plymouth Avenue South between Spring Street and Troup Street. A number of structures on Spring, School Alley and South Fitzhugh Street also met their demise during this phase of construction.

The photograph below shows the swath of Plymouth Ave South that was demolished for the original course of the loop:

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Looking south along Plymouth Avenue from Spring Street. All the buildings on the east side of Plymouth Ave between Spring Street and Troup Street have been torn down. Times-Union. April 11, 1955.

Several apartment buildings on Plymouth Avenue South, such as the Columbia (# 60-64), The Hilton (#110) and Casa Loma (#152), were emptied of tenants and razed, along with a few businesses on Spring Street, including Granger Radio Service (#62) and Levin Painting (#72).

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A not so progressive ad for Granger Radio Service. Democrat & Chronicle. November 30, 1947.

Wolford’s Books and Fine Arts Shop, at 67 Spring Street, also met the wrecking ball even though it was housed in what was reported to be the oldest standing residence on the city’s West side.

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Democrat & Chronicle. November 30, 1947.

The peak-roofed frame house at 67 Spring Street was built between 1821 and 1823 by blacksmith, Caleb Bicknell. Bicknell built his primary residence, a brick structure, at 63 Spring Street directly beside the frame house. The lot containing both of Bicknell’s homes had previously housed Rochesterville’s cemetery, but upon the property’s purchase by Bicknell in 1821, the bodies were disinterred and moved to the site of the old Rochester General Hospital (now the site of the Anthony Square Apartments).

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This circa 1950 photograph shows the brick house at 63 Spring on the left and the frame house at 67 Spring on the right. From the Collection of the Rochester Public Library Local History and Genealogy Division.

The site of the Bicknell properties at 63-67 Spring Street was in the path of the original second loop section, but is now marked by the parking lot in front of the Monroe County Jail , as these maps show:

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The area in question circa 1935. 63-67 Spring Street stand between Plymouth Ave South (formerly Sophia St) and School Alley. City of Rochester Plat Map, 1935.

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The same area in 2018. The church at bottom left remains the only constant. Spring Street ends at Plymouth Ave South and the section of School Alley pictured above no longer exists. Googlemaps, 2018.

One of the more colorful structures that was demolished for the loop’s second arc was the Plymouth Spiritualist Church, which had stood at the northeast corner of Plymouth Ave South and Troup Street since 1856.

The Spiritualist movement took root in Rochester in the late 1840s thanks to the influence of the Fox Sisters, who claimed the ability to speak to the dead. Their latter-day co-religionists moved into the Plymouth Ave church in 1906. They honored the memory of the three sisters with a 25-foot tall obelisk on the property at the suggestion of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (of Sherlock Holmes fame).  The church, which went on to become a something of a safe haven for area non-conformists in the first half of the twentieth century, was demolished in 1954. The Fox Sisters monument, meanwhile, was relocated to the southeast corner of Plymouth and Troup, where it remains today.

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Plymouth Spiritualist Church, with its signature spire at the northeast corner of Plymouth Avenue South and Troup St. From the Collection of the Rochester Public Library Local History & Genealogy Division.

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Signs for I-490 and the Inner Loop mark the northeast corner of Plymouth and Troup today.  Googlemaps, 2018.

The southeast corner of Plymouth and Troup was home to a lavish residence once owned by Civil War-era Congressman, Alfred Ely. Though the handsome estate escaped demolition during this phase of loop construction in the early 1950s, it was nevertheless torn down in 1958 to make room for a new loop-adjacent motel. As the wreckers were in the process of razing the house, however, they made a curious discovery. Inside of Alfred Ely’s circa 1849 residence, stood another house.

IL2_Alfred ELy

Alfred Ely’s residence as it appeared in the late 19th century.

Thomas Pease, one of the first men to own a line of canal boats in Rochester, had built a modest home on the site in the 1820s. Ely bought the former Pease property in 1849, and, seeking something more substantial, built a new shell around the original residence and constructed additional wings, leaving Pease’ house completely hidden from view.

Ely’s doublewide home was replaced with the Mohawk Motor Hotel in 1959, which billed itself as being within walking distance to downtown, the Community War Memorial and several business centers. By the 1970s, however, the motel’s clientele had shifted from traveling businessmen to locals seeking both very short-term and extended stays. The edifice was repurposed as the Plymouth Park West office building in 1977.

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An artist’s sketch of the Mohawk Manor Hotel with the relocated Spiritualist obelisk in full view. Democrat and Chronicle. July 26, 1958.

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The same structure, now the Plymouth Park West office building, today. The Spiritualist obelisk is just out of view amidst the trees. Googlemaps, 2018.

Just down the block from the Ely homestead, lay the former residence of another local man of note, Lewis Henry Morgan. Morgan, an influential anthropologist, social theorist and lawyer, made his home at 124 South Fitzhugh Street a hub of intellectual activity in the 19th century. Not only did the house host the meetings of various elite clubs, but it was also the site where city leaders first outlined their demands for co-education at the University of Rochester.

In 1938, the significant structure at the southeast corner of Fitzhugh Street and Troup Street was honoured with a historic marker from the New York State Education Department at the prompting of the Rochester Historical Society. The building’s last tenant, Harry Potter (no relation), vacated the premises in 1953 and the edifice was torn down to make way for the Troup-Howell Bridge.

IL2_Avery_morgan_DC_9_27__1953

A painting of the Morgan residence by Corn Hill artist, Ralph Avery. Democrat & Chronicle. September 27, 1953.

 

IL2_morgan house now

A patch of grass along South Fitzhugh Street  and the western approach to the Frederick Douglass-Susan B. Anthony Bridge mark the site of Morgan’s home today. Googlemaps, 2018. 

The bridge, which carried the Inner Loop over the Genesee River to Howell Street, was opened permanently in June 1955.

IL2_TH looking west_DC_9_25__55

The west side of the Troup-Howell Bridge as it approaches the bend at Plymouth Avenue South. The Campbell-Whittlesey House, at 123 South Fitzhugh Street, is visible on the left. Democrat & Chronicle. September 25, 1955.

 

IL2_TH_now

The Troup-Howell Bridge was replaced with the Frederick Douglass-Susan B. Anthony Bridge in 2007. The Campbell-Whittlesey House still stands on the left. Googlemaps, 2018.

The west side of the Inner Loop complete, developers and demolition crews moved next to the city’s east side…

-Emily Morry

Published in: on August 15, 2018 at 3:57 pm  Leave a Comment  

Hello, I Must Be Going: Frederick Douglass’ Arrival and Departure from Rochester (Last of a Series)

“Hello, I must be going. I cannot stay; I came to say I must be going. I’m glad I came, but just the same I must be going, la la!”

Hello, I Must Be Going, [comic song]. Words and Music by Bert Kelmar and Harry Ruby. Sung by Groucho Marx in the film Animal Crackers (1930).

 Local History Rocs is a website devoted to the history of Rochester and its environs, but careful readers of this series of blog posts tracing the career of Frederick Douglass will note that he has yet to arrive here. To date he has lived in Tuckahoe County, Maryland, New York City, New Bedford, Massachusetts, and Great Britain and Ireland.

douglass in roc-house

Douglass’ first Rochester home at 297 Alexander Street.

Douglass had been in Rochester several times on his speaking tours, but finally settled here in 1847, partly due to the influence of the Rev. Thomas James, who had been his pastor in New Bedford and had previously been the pastor of the Memorial African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church in Rochester (42 Favor Street). Wishing to start his own anti-slavery newspaper (what became The North Star), Douglass, it is commonly held, initially published the paper out of the basement of James’ former church, later moving operations to 25 Buffalo Street (what is today the Talman Building, located at 25 East Main Street).

dougalss in roc-zion

Memorial African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church on Favor Street

Douglass relocated due to Rochester’s reputation as the home of abolitionists, women’s rights activists, and temperance reformers. Among his staunchest friends were Underground Railroad conductors, Isaac and Amy Post, and women’s rights activist, Susan B. Anthony. It would be misleading, however, to suggest that Rochester was colorblind.

Shortly after moving into the first of his three homes (this one on Alexander Street), Douglass sent his daughter Rosetta to the nearby Seward Seminary. The principal, Lucilia Tracy, admitted her, but placed her in a class by herself due to disapproval by the school’s board of trustees. After protests from Douglass, Miss Tracy sent the white children home with notes to their parents, seeking their views on accepting Rosetta as a pupil. Due to the opposition of one parent – Horatio Gates Warner, editor of the Rochester Courier newspaper and designer of the Warner Castle on Mt. Hope Avenue – Douglass was forced to withdraw his daughter from the school. He later took part in a campaign to desegregate Rochester schools, a goal that was achieved statewide in 1857.

Douglass continued to reside in Rochester until 1872, his home and his office both functioning as Underground Railroad stations before the Civil War. After the war, much of his time was spent lecturing throughout the nation and lobbying in Washington, D.C. for civil rights. On the evening of June 3, 1872, while Douglass was once more in Washington, a fire broke out in the last home he owned here (on South Avenue, near where Highland Park is now). It was initially posited that the fire had been deliberately set.

douglass in roc-funeral

Frederick Douglass’ Funeral (1895), Central Presbyterian Church (today Hochstein School of Music).

As Douglass  exclaimed shortly after, even in one of the “most liberal of northern cities … that Ku Klux spirit … makes anything owned by a colored man a little less respected and secure than when owned by a white citizen.” Shortly after the fire, he left Rochester for good, making his home in the nation’s capital for the next 23 years. He returned to Rochester in a coffin, having died on 20 February 1895. Today, his mortal remains are buried in Mount Hope Cemetery, a pilgrimage site for all those committed to civil rights.

-Christopher Brennan

For More Information:

“Douglass (Bailey), Frederick,” in The Encyclopedia of New York State, ed. Peter Eisenstadt (Syracuse, New York: Syracuse University Press, 2005), 467-468.

The Frederick Douglass Papers: Series One, Speeches, Debates and Interviews, Volume 3: 1855-1863, ed. John W. Blassingame (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1986).

“Frederick Douglass’ Rochester: Mapping his Tracks in Our City,” [exhibition], Rundel Memorial Building, Rochester Public Library.

William S. McFeely, Frederick Douglass (New York: W. W. Norton, 1991).

Victoria Sandwick Schmitt, “Rochester’s Frederick Douglass, Part One,” Rochester History 67, no. 3 (Summer 2005).

Victoria Sandwick Schmitt, “Rochester’s Frederick Douglass, Part Two,” Rochester History 67, no. 4 (Fall 2005).

Published in: on May 8, 2018 at 10:00 am  Comments (1)  

Man Without a Birthday: The Life of Frederick Douglass (February 14, 1818-February 20, 1895), Part 1

February is Black History Month, an unofficial holiday honoring the contributions of African Americans to the history of the United States. The month-long celebration is rooted in an earlier celebration known as Black History Week, the first of which was established by historian Carter G. Woodson in mid-February 1926. The date chosen was based, in part, on the date of birth of Frederick Douglass. This is ironic since Douglass himself did not know when he was actually born. He said that he adopted February 14th, St. Valentine’s Day, as his birthday because his mother had called him her “little valentine.”

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38-year old Frederick Douglass (1856)

For those of us who have had yearly celebrations of our birth and are in contact with our parents, it is hard to realize the anguish that this ambiguity caused Douglass. One can hear the frustration, sarcasm, pain and anger in his third and final autobiography, The Life & Times of Frederick Douglass, when he discusses slaves’ uncertainty of their background, an uncertainty which he shared:

Genealogical trees did not flourish among slaves. A person of some consequence in civilized society, sometimes designated as father, was literally unknown to slave law and to slave practice. I never met a slave in that part of the country who could tell me with any certainty how old he was. … Masters allowed no questions concerning their ages to be put to them by slaves. Such questions were regarded by the masters as evidence of an impudent curiosity.

Even well into adulthood– as a man of 59 –Douglass continued to seek information about his background. Travelling to Talbot County, Maryland in 1877, he spoke to one of his former masters. The most Thomas Auld could tell him was that he was born in February 1818. No information was available as to the day or who his father was.

Just as he adopted a date of birth, Douglass adopted a new name as well. Douglass was not his birth name. He was born Frederick Augustus Bailey in Tuckahoe (Talbot County), Maryland, one of six children born to a slave woman, Harriett Bailey, and an unknown white man. Frederick Douglass never learned who his father was, although he assumed it was one of his mother’s owners (she had three). He grew up on the plantation of Col. Edward Lloyd, although Harriett and her children were actually owned by Lloyd’s plantation manager, Aaron Anthony. Separated from her child while Douglass was still an infant, Harriett was relocated (most likely sold) to another master, “Mr. Stewart,” 12 miles from the Lloyds and Anthonys. Douglass only saw her a handful of times thereafter, and always at night, since she had to return to the Stewart property by daybreak.

At the age of 8, Douglass was relocated to Baltimore, where he lived with Anthony’s daughter Lucretia, her husband Thomas Auld, and Auld’s parents, Hugh and Sophia Auld. The following year he returned to Lloyd’s plantation and was permanently separated from his mother and siblings, save for his sister Eliza. Later in 1827, he was sent back to Baltimore to live again with the Auld family, where he lived for six more years. During this time, he learned to read and write.

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Frederick Douglass Memorial (1941) at its original location, St. Paul Street and Central Avenue. The statue was later moved to its present location, South Avenue at Highland Park.

Hired out as a laborer while in Baltimore, he made contact with the free black community in that city. In September 1838, using the papers of a free black sailor, he fled to New York City. It was there, among the abolitionist community, that he met and married his first wife, Anna Murray (1813? -August 4, 1882). Shortly thereafter, they moved to New Bedford, Massachusetts. There, he adopted the surname by which he would be known henceforth – Douglass — taking the name from an outlaw in Sir Walter Scott’s poem, “Lady of the Lake” (1810), but adding an additional S.

[To be continued]

-Christopher Brennan

 

For More Information:

Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave (Boston: Published at the Anti-Slavery Office, 1845).

Frederick Douglass, My Bondage and My Freedom (New York: Miller, Orton & Mulligan, 1855).

Frederick Douglass, Life and Times of Frederick Douglass (Boston: De Wolfe & Fiske Co., 1892).

“Douglass (Bailey), Frederick,” in The Encyclopedia of New York State, ed. Peter Eisenstadt (Syracuse, New York: Syracuse University Press, 2005), 467-468.

William S. McFeely, Frederick Douglass (New York: W.W. Norton, 1991).

Daryl Michael Scott, “The History of Black History Month,” Black Past (http://www.blackpast.org/perspectives/history-black-history-month : accessed January 15, 2018). Dr. Scott is Professor of History at Howard University.

Published in: on February 1, 2018 at 10:00 am  Leave a Comment  

What’s in A Name? : Street Names as Clues to Local History

“What’s in a name?” Shakespeare asked. Well, for one thing, a name may be a convenient entry point to local history. Look up at the street signs. Many are named for people. Who were they? What did they do? Let’s explore by tracking the three individuals for whom Brooks Avenue, Culver Road and Fitzhugh Street are named.

Brooks Avenue is named for Lewis Brooks (ca. 1793-9 August 1877). Originally a manufacturer of wool, he later pursued various mercantile interests, retiring at age 44. He spent the rest of his life managing his real estate holdings and making various charitable bequests. Along with several other Quakers, he erected a rural retreat at what is today the intersection of Brooks Avenue and Genesee Park Boulevard. Brooks was a friend of Susan B. Anthony, who spent several summer vacations and holidays there. Following the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act in 1850, fugitive slaves  would find refuge with Brooks on their way to Canada.  He also was an officer in the Rochester City Temperance Society, and served on the first Rochester Common Council (as an alderman from the First Ward). Today his body is buried in Mount Hope Cemetery.

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Oliver Culver (1778-1867)

Culver Road and Oliver Street are both named for Oliver Culver (September 24, 1778-February 2, 1867), among the earliest settlers of Rochester, although at the time his home was located in what was then part of Brighton. Born in Connecticut, he arrived to the area from Hartford in 1805, where he built a home and tavern at what is now the corner of Culver Road and East Avenue. The home was expanded in stages until 1818 and still exists as a private residence (later moved to 70 East Boulevard). With assistance from Rochesterville and surrounding communities, Culver helped clear land and construct what is today East Avenue, as well as Culver Road (which was the route he used to access the closest harbor at Irondequoit Bay). He built canal packet boats and lake schooners (including a 47-ton schooner that was drawn to the Bay by a team of 26 oxen) and participated in maritime commerce as far east as Montreal. He was the first Brighton Town Supervisor (1814, later serving additional one-year terms). He also served as a New York State Assemblyman (1820-21), in which capacity he helped establish Monroe County. He was also one of the co-founders of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church.  His remains are buried in Mount Hope Cemetery.

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Oliver Culver House, 70 East Boulevard

Fitzhugh Street was originally much longer, running from Allen Street south to Edinburgh Street (in Corn Hill). Today, part of it has been displaced by the Civic Center Garage. The street was named for Colonel William Fitzhugh (8 October 1761-December 29, 1839), a partner of Nathaniel Rochester and co-owner of the 100 Acre Tract that was the basis of first the village of Rochesterville, and later the city, of Rochester.

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North Fitzhugb St and West Main St (ca. 1909) Building on the left is the former Duffy-Powers Department store (later downtown campus of R.I.T.)

Fitzhugh was born in Calvert County, Maryland. During the American Revolution, he served in the 3rd Continental Dragoons (1779-1783), following which he moved to Hagerstown, Maryland, where he served as a director of the Hagerstown Bank (serving alongside Colonel Rochester and Charles Carroll). Among their common interests was investment in real estate. In 1803, he, Charles Carroll and Col. Rochester reviewed the territory from the High Falls to Hansford’s Landing (near Ridge Road and Lake Avenue) and saw the area’s potential for milling. He did not settle here permanently (as Rochester did eventually), but moved to Groveland in Livingston County. Fitzhugh’s remains are buried in Williamsburg Cemetery, Groveland, New York.

-Christopher Brennan

 

 

Published in: on July 11, 2017 at 10:00 am  Comments (2)  

Rochester Through Time (or How I learned to stop worrying and love shameless self-promotion)

Back in April of 2014, I received a phone call from a retired history and social studies teacher named Mary Grenier. In 2009, Mary co-wrote a book on the history of Webster for Arcadia Publishing and was now being approached by an offshoot of that company, FontHill Media, to write a then-and-now style history book about Rochester.

Mary was familiar with the work I had done for the Democrat and Chronicle’s “Retrofitting Rochester” series, which also employed a  then-and-now format, contrasting historical and current photographs of various places in Rochester while detailing their historical evolution. Given my experience, Mary wondered if I might be interested in co-authoring her new book, tentatively titled, Rochester Through Time.

Upon receiving permission to work on the book as a special project in collaboration with the Office of the City Historian, Mary and I began holding a series of weekly meetings to discuss how best to approach the book. First and foremost, we agreed that in addition to highlighting the resources and residents that helped shape Rochester’s history, we wanted to make sure that all of the city’s neighborhoods were represented. We also decided that we should strive to find some images that hadn’t yet been featured in previous publications.

RTT-Subway

We spent hours poring through the photograph collections of the Rochester Public Library’s Local History & Genealogy Division, the Rochester Municipal Archives and the Albert R. Stone Negative Collection of the Rochester Museum and Science Center in search of images that were both iconic and interesting.We were also mindful of the fact we would need to be able to take current site photographs of whichever images we happened to select.

RTT-cover shot

Unfortunately, we ended up taking a number of these “now” photos during the unforgiving winter of 2015. I cannot not recommend taking photographs on the Pont de Rennes in the middle of January highly enough. Besides that feat of strength (or perhaps, idiocy), the most challenging shot we took was probably the book’s cover photo, which required me to stand in the middle of Broad Street facing oncoming traffic (in the dead of winter) in order to visually recreate the former route of the Erie Canal. Again, not highly recommended.

We ended up with way more photographs than was necessary, which left us with the unenviable task of narrowing a veritable sea of photos down to the 94 sets of images that appear in the book.  The collection includes photos generously donated by the aforementioned archives in addition to images provided by various local institutions such as the Susan B. Anthony Museum & House, the Genesee Brewing Company and Savoia’s.

RTT_Genesee Brew House

 

It is our hope that these photos and the stories accompanying them help elucidate the topics, themes, people and places that make up Rochester’s rich history.

 

The final product, Rochester Through Time, was released in September 2015 and is now available for perusal in the Local History & Genealogy Division of the Central Library of Rochester.  It is also available for purchase from Simply New York, the MAG, the George Eastman House, Collegetown Barnes & Noble, East Avenue Wegmans, and Amazon.com.

 

-Emily Morry, Library Assistant

Published in: on February 23, 2016 at 10:00 am  Comments (4)  

Murder and Mayhem at Falls Field! (revisited)

UPDATE: Scroll down to see primary source documents about Ira Stout’s incarceration at Eastern State Penitentiary.

One of the best parts of my job is when I happen upon a piece of information about my hometown that I never would have guessed. Buffalo Bill Cody once lived in Rochester? You don’t say! Jumbo the Elephant was stuffed here? I had no idea!

And the most recent revelation: Public hangings. Here. In Rochester.

According to the Union and Advertiser, Octavius Baron was hanged in 1837 for shooting and robbing William Lyman near Franklin and Clinton streets. The following year, Austin Squires went to the gallows for shooting his wife in a drunken rage. Fourteen execution-free years would pass in Rochester before Maurice Antonio was tried and hanged for the murder of a fellow Portuguese in Gates in 1852.

But it was the fourth execution that particularly grabbed my attention. The circumstances leading up to Marion Ira Stout’s trip to the gallows in 1858 are the stuff of which 19th-century scandals were made.

Ira, as he was called, was 22 years old when he was released from Eastern State Penitentiary, where he served four-and-a-half years for robbing a store with his father and setting it ablaze. Upon his arrival in Rochester, Stout—who happened to be in love with his sister Sarah—became enraged when he discovered that she had married. Charles Littles was reported to be a drunken lout and general cad who abused his wife, and Stout resolved to get rid of the man who stood in the way of his incestuous designs.

On December 19, 1857, Stout lured Littles to Falls Field—also known as Genesee Falls Park (present-day High Falls)—with a story that Sarah was rumored to be meeting a man there. Whether coerced by Stout or of her own free will, Sarah was waiting by the edge of the river gorge to bait the trap.

Falls Field, the scene of the crime. From the collection of the Rochester Public Library Local History & Genealogy Division.)

Falls Field, the scene of the crime. (From the collection of the Rochester Public Library Local History & Genealogy Division.)

Before Littles knew what was happening, Stout pulled out an iron-headed hammer and smashed his rival’s skull with it. Stout then rolled the body over the precipice and, he assumed, into the river. But instead of a splash, he heard a thud. Littles had landed on a ledge 30 feet below. From there, Stout’s luck only got worse.

Determined to hide the evidence of his crime, Stout made his way down the rocky escarpment to finish the job. In what can only be described as an act of instant karma, Stout lost his footing, tumbled down the narrow path, and landed squarely next to Littles’ body, breaking his left arm in the process. Just before passing out, Stout managed to shove the corpse off the ledge. When he came to, he called to Sarah for help. As she descended, Sarah stumbled and fell headlong beside her brother’s prostrate form, breaking her left wrist.

The unfortunate siblings somehow made it back to the top of the ridge. Having left behind several personal items in the fall, the pair were quickly apprehended and charged in the death of Charles W. Littles. Sarah, convicted of manslaughter, served seven years at Sing Sing Prison, while her brother was sentenced to hang. During his time in jail, Stout received a steady flow of visitors—mainly women—who brought him poison and lancets so that he could be the instrument of his own destruction and avoid the noose.

Despite appealing his sentence and receiving support from Frederick Douglass and Susan B. Anthony—both of whom opposed capital punishment—Stout’s appeal was denied. Marion Ira Stout went to the gallows at the Monroe County Penitentiary on October 22, 1858. According to witnesses, Stout’s execution went no smoother than the crime for which he was sentenced—it took 10 minutes for Stout to strangle to death when the noose failed to break his neck, which would have ensured his swift and merciful death. He is buried in an unmarked grave at Mount Hope Cemetery.

The last execution by hanging in Monroe County took place in 1888, after which New York State assumed responsibility for administering the death penalty.

~Cheri Crist, Librarian

(From the collection of the Rochester Public Library Local History & Genealogy Division.)

(From the collection of the Rochester Public Library Local History & Genealogy Division.)

(From the collection of the Rochester Public Library Local History & Genealogy Division.)

(From the collection of the Rochester Public Library Local History & Genealogy Division.)

 

UPDATE

 Record of Ira Stout’s arrival to Eastern State Penitentiary in 1853.

Record of Ira Stout's arrival to Eastern State Penitentiary.

Credit: Pennsylvania State Archives, Harrisburg; Record Group 15, Records of the Department of Justice; Eastern State Penitentiary, Prison Administration Records; Warden’s Daily Journals (series #15.50), Volume 1 (1829-1855), Microfilm Roll 7016., unnumbered pages.

 

Stout’s release from prison in 1857  is documented on this page from the warden’s daily record.

Stout's release from prison is documented in this page from the warden's daily record.

Credit: Pennsylvania State Archives, Harrisburg; Record Group 15, Records of the Department of Justice; Eastern State Penitentiary, Prison Administration Records; Warden’s Daily Journals (series #15.50), Volume 2 (1856-1877)- Microfilm Roll 6608, unnumbered pages.

Prior to a recent planned visit to the City of Brotherly Love, I exchanged e-mails with Eastern State Penitentiary Archivist Erica Harman, and Historic Site Researcher Annie Anderson, who (with very little to go on) were able to locate pages from the prison’s daily records documenting Ira Stout’s intake and discharge from ESP. She was kind enough to send scans of those pages. Based on the dates of incarceration and a birth year of 1835, Stout was 18 years old when he and his father looted and burned down a Pennsylvania store.

(click to enlarge)

Stout received inset

Based on this entry, it is likely that the crime committed by Stout and his father Orange occurred in Bradford County, in the northern part of Pennsylvania. The term “Quarter Sessions” refers to courts established in some of the states that were held four times a year and dealt mainly with criminal matters.

(click to enlarge)

Stout discharge inset

After serving his 4 1/2-year sentence, Stout was released “in good health,” and joined his family in Rochester, where four months later, he would lure Charles Littles to his death at Falls Field.

 

Sources

“Marion Ira Stout. His Life, Crimes, Last Hours, and Execution on the Gallows: Full Particulars.” Union and Advertiser (Rochester, NY), Oct. 22, 1858.

Peck, William F. History of Rochester and Monroe County, New York. (New York: The Pioneer Publishing Co., 1908).

Published in: on October 3, 2014 at 5:42 pm  Leave a Comment  
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From the Vault: Saving Rochester’s History

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Here in Local History & Genealogy, I have the privilege of overseeing the division’s 500+ cubic feet of special collections that include personal papers, records, and manuscripts related to the history of the Genesee Valley region. These important primary sources are invaluable to the preservation of our collective memory and provide first-hand glimpses into the lives of local luminaries and average citizens alike. Comprised of paper-based documents, maps, glass plate negatives, lantern slides, original artwork–and yes, even hair–highlights of these collections include a 1792 deed signed by Ebenezer “Indian” Allen; unpublished histories and biographies; and personal papers of Susan B. Anthony, former Rochester mayor Hiram Edgerton, and Nathaniel Rochester and the Rochester family, among many others.

Sometimes, my job is a bit like that of an archeologist: finding hidden treasures in dark corners, behind shelves, and at the bottom of long-forgotten boxes. My task is then to assess the condition of these materials, determine whether they adhere to our collection policy, research the context in which the materials were created, and determine how best to preserve, interpret, and make these collections accessible in such a way to ensure that they’ll be around for years to come. While digital collections are an excellent way to provide accessibility to and in many cases, preservation of materials, these bits and bytes of data wouldn’t exist without the physical artifact. The educational aspect of primary sources is also undeniable. Showing a 4th grade student a digitized version of Frederick Douglass’s North Star on a computer is fine. But putting an original, physical copy in front of the same student will elicit a much more visceral response; one that they will remember far beyond the flickering of the computer screen.

To ensure that these important sources are preserved for future generations, the Local History Division has been able to take advantage of several funding opportunities to aid in the quest to preserve some of our area’s historical treasures. This funding has allowed the conservation of several important objects and documents, such as the restoration of a bound full run of The Revolution inscribed by Susan B. Anthony, and the repair, flattening, and deacidification of a 1904 Cirkut photo. Take a look at some of our other significant past conservation projects:

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Deed to Genesee River mill signed by Ebenezer Allen, 1792.

 

Original illustration by Clifford Ulp, c. 1934, which Ulp created for the cover of the book commemorating the Rochester Centennial (seen below).

Ulp

Many more items in our special collections require a conservator’s attention to avoid losing them entirely. And so, without further ado, I present to you…Local History’s Top Five Endangered Artifacts!

1. Scrapbook of photographs, smallpox victims at Hope Hospital, c. 1902

A horrifying but valuable and powerful document of the 1902 smallpox epidemic, this album documents the efforts of Chief Health Officer Dr. George Goler to expand Hope Hospital, then located on the river bank at Mt. Hope Cemetery. The photographs, notable for their graphic content, are mounted on highly acidic construction paper. These acids, in addition to the adhesives used to affix the photographs, will continue to deteriorate the images over time.

The photographs show silver mirroring. The brittle paper backing is also beginning to fracture.

The photographs show silver mirroring. The brittle paper backing is also beginning to fracture.

2. George Rafter microphotography plates, c. 1886

Created with a photomicroscope of his own invention, Rafter donated this collection of about 100 mounted albumen prints of bacteria in 1888. Rafter, a pioneer in water and sewer management systems, also donated his detailed notes about each plate. Each print is mounted on acidic paperboard that is moderately warped. Albumen prints are particularly susceptible to light and environmental damage.

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Albumen photographs show signs of fading and the acidic backing is brittle.

3. Map of Rochester, 1811

This hand-drawn map, believed to have been penned by Nathaniel Rochester, shows lots owned by Rochester, Fitzhugh, and Carroll. The map was in possession of Thomas Montgomery, grandson of  Rochester, and includes a handwritten note by Montgomery.

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The map, backed with linen, has breaks along the fold lines and shows significant fading.

4. Military document, 1795

This document, which appoints Joseph Blackmore to the post of Lieutenant of the Herkemer [sic] County militia, is signed by George Clinton, 1st governor of New York State and later the 4th vice-president of the United States.The paper has split along its fold lines, and subsequent attempts to repair the breaks with acidic adhesive tape have resulted in pronounced vertical and horizontal brown staining. Because the tape is still attached, acid migration will continue to deteriorate the paper.

Acid migration from the Scotch tape will continue to deteriorate this document.

Acid migration from the Scotch tape will continue to deteriorate this document.

5. Powers Block albumen photo, c. 1890s

This framed albumen photograph (15.5”x13”) of the Powers Block is the only one of its kind in the collection. Conservator’s notes indicate that the mount is highly acidic, and there is staining on the photograph itself from the wooden slats in the frame. Because albumen prints have a tendency to fade faster than other photographic processes, conservation is recommended in order to halt continuing degradation from the mount and wood framing.

Which of these artifacts would you save first, and why? We’d love to hear from you in our Comments section!

~Cheri Crist, Librarian & Certified Archivist

Sources

McKelvey, Blake. “Historic Origins of Rochester’s Social Welfare Agencies.” Rochester History 9, nos. 2 & 3 (April 1947).

Published in: on August 15, 2014 at 10:12 pm  Comments (4)  

Murder and Mayhem at Falls Field!

UPDATE: Scroll down to see primary source documents about Ira Stout’s incarceration at Eastern State Penitentiary.

One of the best parts of my job is when I happen upon a piece of information about my hometown that I never would have guessed. Buffalo Bill Cody once lived in Rochester? You don’t say! Jumbo the Elephant was stuffed here? I had no idea!

And the most recent revelation: Public hangings. Here. In Rochester.

According to the Union and Advertiser, Octavius Baron was hanged in 1837 for shooting and robbing William Lyman near Franklin and Clinton streets. The following year, Austin Squires went to the gallows for shooting his wife in a drunken rage. Fourteen execution-free years would pass in Rochester before Maurice Antonio was tried and hanged for the murder of a fellow Portuguese in Gates in 1852.

But it was the fourth execution that particularly grabbed my attention. The circumstances leading up to Marion Ira Stout’s trip to the gallows in 1858 are the stuff of which 19th-century scandals were made.

Ira, as he was called, was 22 years old when he was released from Eastern State Penitentiary, where he served four-and-a-half years for robbing a store with his father and setting it ablaze. Upon his arrival in Rochester, Stout—who happened to be in love with his sister Sarah—became enraged when he discovered that she had married. Charles Littles was reported to be a drunken lout and general cad who abused his wife, and Stout resolved to get rid of the man who stood in the way of his incestuous designs.

On December 19, 1857, Stout lured Littles to Falls Field—also known as Genesee Falls Park (present-day High Falls)—with a story that Sarah was rumored to be meeting a man there. Whether coerced by Stout or of her own free will, Sarah was waiting by the edge of the river gorge to bait the trap.

Falls Field, the scene of the crime. From the collection of the Rochester Public Library Local History & Genealogy Division.)

Falls Field, the scene of the crime. (From the collection of the Rochester Public Library Local History & Genealogy Division.)

Before Littles knew what was happening, Stout pulled out an iron-headed hammer and smashed his rival’s skull with it. Stout then rolled the body over the precipice and, he assumed, into the river. But instead of a splash, he heard a thud. Littles had landed on a ledge 30 feet below. From there, Stout’s luck only got worse.

Determined to hide the evidence of his crime, Stout made his way down the rocky escarpment to finish the job. In what can only be described as an act of instant karma, Stout lost his footing, tumbled down the narrow path, and landed squarely next to Littles’ body, breaking his left arm in the process. Just before passing out, Stout managed to shove the corpse off the ledge. When he came to, he called to Sarah for help. As she descended, Sarah stumbled and fell headlong beside her brother’s prostrate form, breaking her left wrist.

The unfortunate siblings somehow made it back to the top of the ridge. Having left behind several personal items in the fall, the pair were quickly apprehended and charged in the death of Charles W. Littles. Sarah, convicted of manslaughter, served seven years at Sing Sing Prison, while her brother was sentenced to hang. During his time in jail, Stout received a steady flow of visitors—mainly women—who brought him poison and lancets so that he could be the instrument of his own destruction and avoid the noose.

Despite appealing his sentence and receiving support from Frederick Douglass and Susan B. Anthony—both of whom opposed capital punishment—Stout’s appeal was denied. Marion Ira Stout went to the gallows at the Monroe County Penitentiary on October 22, 1858. According to witnesses, Stout’s execution went no smoother than the crime for which he was sentenced—it took 10 minutes for Stout to strangle to death when the noose failed to break his neck, which would have ensured his swift and merciful death. He is buried in an unmarked grave at Mount Hope Cemetery.

The last execution by hanging in Monroe County took place in 1888, after which New York State assumed responsibility for administering the death penalty.

~Cheri Crist, Librarian

(From the collection of the Rochester Public Library Local History & Genealogy Division.)

(From the collection of the Rochester Public Library Local History & Genealogy Division.)

(From the collection of the Rochester Public Library Local History & Genealogy Division.)

(From the collection of the Rochester Public Library Local History & Genealogy Division.)

 

UPDATE

 Record of Ira Stout’s arrival to Eastern State Penitentiary in 1853.

Record of Ira Stout's arrival to Eastern State Penitentiary.

Credit: Pennsylvania State Archives, Harrisburg; Record Group 15, Records of the Department of Justice; Eastern State Penitentiary, Prison Administration Records; Warden’s Daily Journals (series #15.50), Volume 1 (1829-1855), Microfilm Roll 7016., unnumbered pages.

 

Stout’s release from prison in 1857  is documented on this page from the warden’s daily record.

Stout's release from prison is documented in this page from the warden's daily record.

Credit: Pennsylvania State Archives, Harrisburg; Record Group 15, Records of the Department of Justice; Eastern State Penitentiary, Prison Administration Records; Warden’s Daily Journals (series #15.50), Volume 2 (1856-1877)- Microfilm Roll 6608, unnumbered pages.

Prior to a recent planned visit to the City of Brotherly Love, I exchanged e-mails with Eastern State Penitentiary Archivist Erica Harman, and Historic Site Researcher Annie Anderson, who (with very little to go on) were able to locate pages from the prison’s daily records documenting Ira Stout’s intake and discharge from ESP. She was kind enough to send scans of those pages. Based on the dates of incarceration and a birth year of 1835, Stout was 18 years old when he and his father looted and burned down a Pennsylvania store.

(click to enlarge)

Stout received inset

Based on this entry, it is likely that the crime committed by Stout and his father Orange occurred in Bradford County, in the northern part of Pennsylvania. The term “Quarter Sessions” refers to courts established in some of the states that were held four times a year and dealt mainly with criminal matters.

(click to enlarge)

Stout discharge inset

After serving his 4 1/2-year sentence, Stout was released “in good health,” and joined his family in Rochester, where four months later, he would lure Charles Littles to his death at Falls Field.

 

Sources

“Marion Ira Stout. His Life, Crimes, Last Hours, and Execution on the Gallows: Full Particulars.” Union and Advertiser (Rochester, NY), Oct. 22, 1858.

Peck, William F. History of Rochester and Monroe County, New York. (New York: The Pioneer Publishing Co., 1908).

Published in: on August 2, 2013 at 2:39 pm  Comments (3)  
Tags: , , , ,