Whatever Needs Doing: Jehiel Barnard (17 August 1788-7 November 1865)

To imagine life in Rochesterville is to imagine a community far different from what we know today. Aside from a few scattered cabins and the then-new Main Street bridge over the Genesee, the land was mostly wild, with primeval forest and wild animals on the prowl, such as snakes, deer, and bears. It was a world not for the old and settled, but for the young and adventurous. It required someone to do whatever needed doing: a person much like Jehiel Barnard.


Jehiel Barnard and wife, Delia and family on their 50th anniversary. Source: Rochester Historical Society Publication Series vol. IX (1930).

Jehiel Barnard was born in Hartford, Connecticut, son of Aaron Barnard and Mary Nancy Brown. At a young age the family moved to Nine Partners (Dutchess County, New York), where Jehiel grew to adulthood and where he learned the craft of tailoring. How he heard of the settlement on the falls of the Genesee River is not known, but it is clear that he was the second settler in the community after Hamlet Scrantom, arriving here 1 September, 1812.

He quickly established himself in the new community, erecting a tailor shop not far from Buffalo and Carroll Streets (today West Main and State Streets). The structure became the village’s first tailor shop, shoemaker’s shop, school, and meeting house, where all important village discussions took place. It also became the first church in the new settlement.

The latter function came about through the efforts of Mrs. Hannah Scrantom (Hamlet Scrantom’s wife) and Mrs. Julia Wheelock, who asked Jehiel Barnard and Warren Brown to conduct religious services for the community of ten families in the spring of 1813. There was no formal liturgy as such, the service consisting of extemporaneous prayer, hymn singing and the reading of published sermons. The impromptu church continued for well over a year.


This map of Rochesterville ca. 1814 depicts Barnard’s building (14) on Buffalo (Main) Street near Carroll (State) Street. Source: Rochester Public Library Local History map collection

Despite these nascent signs of civilization in the new village, one nevertheless needed to be a hardy soul to live here. One day following religious services, Barnard wandered over to the Genesee Falls where he encountered six rattlesnakes. He killed all six, for which he received 6 shillings bounty money.  As if nature’s dangers weren’t perilous enough, one needs to remember that Lake Ontario was a battleground during the War of 1812. Barnard was part of an improvised militia of 32 men that confronted the British Navy, dodging cannon fire on Lake Ontario.

Following the war, Barnard opened a bakery with Hamlet Scrantom, who ran a general store where the Powers Building now stands. This business partnership later led to a romantic one with Delia Scrantom (Hamlet’s daughter, July 30, 1795-August 6, 1881). The couple was married October 8, 1815, the first wedding in the new settlement. It is said that an old left-handed fiddler named Noble was hired to play at the reception following. It is not known if Jehiel accompanied Noble, but he was known to play the bassoon and also sang in a musical group that frequently performed at the tavern owned by Abelard Reynolds (the founder of the “Reynolds Arcade”).

The wedding took place at the home of Francis Brown at the corner of State and Brown Streets. Brown was the proprietor of “Brown’s Race” (still surviving at the High Falls) and a prominent man in the early community.  In fact, on May 5, 1817 Brown was elected the first supervisor of the village. Among those elected to serve on the new village board was Jehiel Barnard, who later that year served as tax collector for the village.

Jehiel Barnard died 7 November 1865, nearly a month to the day following his 50th wedding anniversary. His remains are buried in Mt. Hope Cemetery, next to Delia who survived him another 15 years, dying August 6, 1881.


-Christopher Brennan

Published in: on April 4, 2017 at 9:00 am  Comments (1)  

Four Female Firsts: Trailblazing Women in Rochester’s history

Susan B. Anthony may be the most famous woman in Rochester’s history, but the area has also been home to a host of lesser known women who went on to become pioneers in a wide range of fields and disciplines. Here’s a look at the groundbreaking lives of four former residents.


Antoinette Brown (from: Stanton, Anthony & Gage. History of Woman Suffrage, Vol. 1 (1887). 

Born in Henrietta, Antoinette Brown Blackwell (1825-1921) was the first officially ordained female minister in the United States. A member of her local Congregational Church, Brown was drawn to the ministry at an early age. After much lobbying, she was allowed to enroll in the theological program at Oberlin College in 1847, but did not receive formal recognition for completing the course. Four years later, she was given a preaching license by the Congregational Church, after which she took a position in South Butler, New York. In addition to this achievement, Brown was also active in the women’s rights movement, and spoke at a number of the movement’s national conventions. She was one of the few original suffragists to witness the enactment of 19th Amendment and cast a vote in 1920.

firsts_adamson dolley

Sarah Adamson Dolley (from Rochester Historical Society Publication Series VII, 1928)

After being rejected by 13 colleges on account of her sex, Sarah Adamson Dolley (1829-1909) went on to become the first woman in Rochester and  one of the first women in the United States to graduate from medical school. Upon earning her degree from the short-lived Central Medical College in 1851, she opened a practice with her husband in Rochester and became a prominent national leader on the topics of health and social reform. She also made a tremendous impact locally. She was helped establish the local chapter of the Red Cross, organized a free dispensary for women and children in 1866 and in 1907, became a lifetime member of the Rochester Academy of Science (the first woman to hold the honor). When she passed away in 1909, she was the oldest female physician in the country.

Nellie L. McElroy (1875-1937) became the first policewoman in New York State and the tenth in the United States when she was appointed to the Rochester Police Department on September 23rd, 1913. Her casework dealt largely with the criminal offenses of women, and she ultimately ended up serving as both a beat officer and a social worker to the many at-risk women she came to mentor.


McElroy (far left) at an army food sale in 1919.

Focused on preventing crime rather than policing it, McElroy deterred countless young people from vice and helped rehabilitate local families during her 23 year service with the Rochester Police Department.


A circa 1910 image of Blanche Stuart Scott (D&C December 14, 1969)

Blanche Stuart Scott (1885-1970), known as the “tomboy of the air,” achieved several major “firsts” in her lifetime. The automobile enthusiast—she’d been driving in Rochester since she was 13–was the first woman to drive a car across the country, completing the journey in 69 days in 1910.  She was also the first female to solo pilot a plane in the United States. Though she never became a licensed pilot, Scott conducted the first long-distance flight by a woman, traveling 60 miles in one hour. A firm believer in women’s self-sufficiency, Scott contended, “women should wake up and take serious, intelligent, articulate interest in what makes the world tick.”


-Emily Morry

Published in: on March 28, 2017 at 3:01 pm  Leave a Comment  

“So It Is Best to Call It Rochester:” How the Community Came to Be

Did you ever wonder how Rochester came to be and how it got its name?

The original inhabitants of the land surrounding Rochester were the Seneca Indians, one of the Six Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy, otherwise known as the Haudenosaunee (“The People of the Long House”).


A map of the Phelps and Gorham Purchase, second survey, showing the Genesee Valley from Lake Ontario to the Pennsylvania border.

When established as colonies by the British crown, both New York and Massachusetts laid claim to land occupied by the Seneca. In a treaty signed December 16, 1786, the two states resolved their differences. The land henceforth would be recognized as belonging to New York, but Massachusetts would have first rights to negotiate with the Indians for the land and settlement therein. Massachusetts later sold their rights to Oliver Phelps (October 21, 1749 – February 21, 1809) and Nathaniel Gorham (May 27, 1738 – June 11, 1796). The land comprised 6 million acres, spanning from the mouth of Sodus Bay to the Pennsylvania border.


While negotiating with the Seneca to release their claim to the land for white settlement, Oliver Phelps suggested that the Iroquois might benefit from a grist mill to grind their corn (a job traditionally done by the women of the tribe). When the Indians agreed to release 288 square miles for this purpose, Phelps gave 100 acres of the land to Ebenezer “Indian” Allan (September 17, 1752-April 13, 1813) to build both a grist and a saw mill. The grist mill was on Race Street between Aqueduct and Graves Streets in downtown Rochester, now the approximate location of the Thomson-Reuters Building (formerly Lawyer’s Cooperative Publishing Company, which fronts on Broad Street). The mill opened in 1789 but never prospered and soon was abandoned. Allen’s mill and the 100 acres of land surrounding it became the nucleus for what is today downtown Rochester.

Due to financial difficulties, Phelps and Gorham failed to meet their financial obligations to Massachusetts and the state reclaimed its rights to the land. The Commonwealth then sold its rights to Robert Morris (January 20, 1734 – May 8, 1806), a major financier of the American Revolution.  An agent for Morris, Samuel Ogden, sold the land to a group of British investors known as the Pulteney Association.

Given the abortive efforts of Indian Allen’s mill, one can track Rochester’s real founding to the November 8, 1803 signing of a sales agreement between the Pulteney Association and the three co-founders of Rochester: Colonel Nathaniel Rochester (February 21, 1752 – May 17, 1831); Major Charles Carroll (November 7, 1767-October 28, 1823); and Colonel William Fitzhugh (1761-1839), all of Hagerstown, Maryland. The three friends had heard about the opportunity from Charles Williamson, an agent for the Pulteney Association (and for whom the town of Williamson, Wayne County, is named).


The three came north in October 1803 to review the land, and while speaking with agents for the Association asked about possible mill lots. They were directed to Indian Allen’s old property and explored the territory as far north as Hansford’s Landing (near the present intersection of Lake Avenue and West Ridge Road). Believing the area held promise, they agreed to purchase 100 acres for $1,750 ($17.50 per acre). The final payment was made June 22, 1808.

Rochester was the senior partner of the trio, and Carroll and Fitzhugh agreed to let Rochester take the lead in developing the town. Before serious development began in 1811, the settlement was referred to informally as “The Falls” or “Falls Town”; however, when the time came to formally name the community, the other partners agreed to name the village after the senior partner, so Rochesterville it became.

Whenever persons would later accuse Col. Rochester of vanity, he would reply wittily, “Should I call [the village] Fitzhugh or Carroll, the slighted gentleman would certainly feel offended with the other; but if I called it by my own name, they would most likely be angry with me; so, it is best to call it Rochester and serve both alike.” The New York State Legislature formally recognized and incorporated Rochesterville on March 21, 1817 (the “ville” suffix being dropped five years later).


Beginning of the act incorporating Rochesterville.

So, today, on the first day of spring, feel free to sing “Happy Birthday” to Rochesterville, the foundation for all we know today.


-Christopher Brennan

Published in: on March 21, 2017 at 9:00 am  Comments (1)  

Dublin: Rochester’s Irish Neighborhood

The earliest settlers of Rochester are commonly pictured as Yankee pioneers from New England, with a few Southerners thrown into the mix. As we have seen through the lens of Austin Steward and Daniel Furr, there were African Americans here within a few years of the initial settlement. Added to the ethnic mix of the village was a population of native Irish, concentrated in a neighborhood called “Dublin.”


The Dublin neighborhood, as depicted in a map created during Rochester’s sesquicentennial. 

Dublin was located on St. Paul Street between Lowell Street and Central Avenue. The neighborhood extended east from there as far as Clinton Avenue. Its origins date to 1817 when an Irishman from County Laois (pronounced “Leash,” and then called “Queens County”) sailed for Québec.

While in Canada, James Dowling (1795?-September 15, 1852) heard of a grist mill and saw mill by a set of large falls on the Genesee River. Seeking to improve his situation, he made his way to Rochester, arriving July 14, 1817. Soon thereafter he purchased an acre of woodland from Nathaniel Gorham on the west side of St. Paul Street (at Dowling Place, where the Genesee Brewery now stands). The cost of the land was $100. Dowling paid $10 down, with equal payments to be made thereafter. It is said that at least one of his payments was made in-kind, as he paid village clerk Elisha Ely with a big fat goose!


The Genesee Brewery, site of James Dowling’s home.

Dowling cleared the forest around him and built a log cabin in which to live. He resided in the cabin during the winter; the rest of the year he worked on the Erie Canal and engaged in other public work projects. Around the area of the cabin, Dowling and his family had to be wary of rattlesnakes, as well as wild animals abounding in the nearby forest. Being north of the settlement of what is now downtown Rochester, there were no other settlers for miles.

Despite the hard and lonely life he lived, Dowling must have been happy in his new home, as within a few years his friends from County Laois joined him. Richard Story and Patrick McDonald and their families had sailed with Dowling to Québec in April 1817, but unlike Dowling, they stayed in Québec for a while before relocating to Rochester. Upon arrival, they each bought an acre on St. Paul Street and five acres each on North Clinton Avenue, embracing Baden Street, Vienna Street, Catherine Street, Kelly Street, and Buchan Park.

By 1827, there were 35 people in the locality, but they tended to be rather insular and protective of its boundaries. This trait can be seen most clearly in the early 1830s in the case of the horse-drawn railway that ran between Carthage and the canal aqueduct in Rochester.


The town of Carthage was then located on St. Paul St. between what is now East Ridge Road and Clifford Avenue.The railway’s horse-cars traveled through Dublin on their way to the route’s terminus located between St. Paul and Water Streets. As the district’s denizens believed the railway to be an intrusion on their boundaries, it was not unusual for the cars to be stopped while a battle ensued between the gangs of Dublin and the train driver and his allies. The railway survived less than a decade, ceasing operation about 1840, but faction fights continued for some time beyond the generation that initiated them.


-Christopher Brennan


Published in: on March 14, 2017 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

They Made you a Moron: a curious Rochester club


Rochester has had its share of curiously-named clubs. The Cheerio Club, the Zig-Zag Club and the Royal Order of Jesters rank among the most interesting monikers.

But I recently discovered my personal favourite when I looked through our pamphlet file collection and found the following:


The folder in question was filled with a series of meeting invitations, letters and other ephemera emblazoned with the club’s unusual name.

From the aforementioned invitations, I garnered that at least at one point in time the group held weekly lunch hour meetings at the Chamber of Commerce. Not the meeting site one would perhaps expect for a congregation of individuals calling themselves morons.

The club’s meeting topics evidently ran the gamut from local transportation to the City budget, again not exactly what one would imagine to be the preferred topics du jour of a collection of self-described imbeciles.


As I plumbed through the pamphlet file’s materials, it became increasingly evident that the group’s title had been chosen by someone whose tongue was firmly lodged in his or her cheek.

The Morons’ membership list from 1944, contained in the file, boasted the names of doctors, attorneys, superintendents, and librarians as well as that of former City Historian, Blake McKelvey.

Since the file did not include any information as to how and why this illustrious list of individuals came together, I did a little digging.

I uncovered an old Democrat and Chronicle article from 1956, which gave me some insight into the mysterious organization.

Apparently, the so-called Morons formed as an offshoot of a social worker’s club in the early 1920s.

Morons-social minded

The 1940-1941 schedule of Morons meetings.

The club’s name was suggested by Oscar W. Kuolt, then the General Secretary of the Council of Social Agencies. For choosing the winning moniker, Kuolt was awarded a free lunch, for which he was never reimbursed. The snub seemingly did not phase Kuolt, who later quipped, “what could you expect from a bunch of morons?”

Kuolt also served as the group’s first leader, or, “Juke,” a title inspired by a family of low mental abilities whose case history appeared in an 1874 report by the New York Prison Association.

The club’s “Juke” at the time of the D&C article’s writing was none other than Rochester Public Library Director, Harold Hacker.

The apparent mission of Hacker and his clubmates was to discuss city matters and social issues in a relatively informal manner, keeping no records or minutes to ensure that members felt free to be as open and frank as they so desired.

To be sure, members were encouraged to be as candid in their political discussions as they were in their treatment of fellow Morons.

A 1978 Democrat & Chronicle piece remarked that the members “knock each other with great glee…[and] treat each other with a certain lack of chivalry.”

This is evident in the numerous memos and poems populating the library’s “Morons” file.

Here is just one example, penned by former City Historian, Blake McKelvey in October, 1945:



I unfortunately wasn’t able to find any references to the group more recent than the aforementioned 1978 article, so it remains a mystery as to whether or not there are still Morons in our midst…

-Emily Morry

Published in: on March 7, 2017 at 2:59 pm  Comments (1)  

Austin Steward and Slavery in New York

Pop Quiz:

Question 1: True or False: At the time the Declaration of Independence was adopted (July 4, 1776), the practice of slavery was confined to the southern colonies (i.e., Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia)?

Answer: False. Slavery was practiced in all 13 colonies, north and south in 1776, and some northern states still had not eliminated the practice until the 13th Amendment was passed in 1865.

Question 2: What about New York State? How soon after the Revolutionary War did New York abolish slavery? 1781? 1789? 1800? None of the Above?

Answer: None of the above. New York finally abolished slavery throughout the state in 1827.


Former slave, Jack Miller, came north from Dundee, NY


In an earlier blog, we discussed Austin Steward’s experience as the first African American businessman in Rochester. What was his experience of New York slavery like, and how did it differ from his experience in the south?

Steward was born a slave on the Virginia plantation of William Helm (1775-1826). Steward described his master as “generally kind and pleasant but terrible in a passion.” His wife was more short-tempered. When angered, Mrs. Helm would strike younger slaves on the head with a heavy iron key until their heads bled, or else whip them with a cowhide whip that she kept by her side. She would have someone else whip the older slaves.  According to Austin, “No slave could possibly escape being punished – I care not how attentive they might be.”


Steward’s slave narrative was written in 1857.

Due to particularly heavy losses from gambling, Helms resolved to sell his possessions and relocate to the “Genesee Country.” According to Helm “the more slaves a man possessed in that country, the more he would be respected and the higher would be his position in society.”

That quote may surprise many.

However, the first slaves were brought to New Amsterdam (today New York City) in 1626, and the practice continued after England took over the colony in 1664 and changed its name to New York. After the Revolution, a 1799 gradual emancipation law freed children born to slave mothers in the state, but it required slave children to work for the mother’s master as indentured servants; up to age 28 for males, and up to age 25 for females. It did nothing to free slave parents.

Helm sold all his possessions except his slaves and purchased land in New York, first in Sodus Point, then near Bath, NY. When there was no work for his slaves to do, Helm hired them out for paid employment. One of these temporary masters would punish Steward as Mrs. Helm had, by beating him about the head with an iron bar, causing headaches that would plague Steward the rest of his life. But it was because of being hired out that Steward finally achieved his freedom (something that would never have happened in the south).

When he was about 20 years old (ca. 1813), Steward fled to Canandaigua, where he came to the home of Dennis Comstock (head of the New York Manumission Society, an early abolition group). Comstock took him in and introduced him to his brother Otis. Otis Comstock made Austin a part of his family and hired him as a farm hand. Upon receiving his first real wages ever, Austin bought a spelling book. Learning that Austin had never been formally educated, Otis also provided for Steward’s schooling.

In 1814, Steward and Comstock were visited by Helm. The latter informed Comstock that he came to claim Steward as “his boy,” whom he “must have.” Comstock in turn informed Helm that Steward was not “his boy.” Because Helm had hired Steward out for more than seven years, he had surrendered all rights to Steward according to a New York State law passed in 1810. Consequently, Steward was now free. After much protest, Helm left Steward in peace. Thus, when Steward moved to Rochester in 1817, he came as a free man, something he could only dream about as a slave in Virginia.

In 1817, the New York State Legislature passed a bill that became effective July 4, 1817. Under the provisions of the law, all slaves not previously covered by the gradual emancipation law of 1799 (e.g., slave parents) would qualify for gradual emancipation, and all slaves in the state would be free ten years later, on July 4, 1827.
-Christopher Brennan



Published in: on February 28, 2017 at 10:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Ticket to Ride: a New Exhibit in Local History!

In summer 2016, the Local History Division of the Central Library acquired a collection of scrapbooks filled with photographs depicting the construction of the Rochester Industrial and Rapid Transit Railway, better known as the Rochester subway.


Construction of subway tunnel and Broad Street at corner of South Ave, 1923.

These ten scrapbooks, discovered in the basement of a historic building in Canandaigua, appear to have been part of the personal collection of former mayor Clarence D. Van Zandt. Van Zandt was mayor when the subway was planned and a major proponent of the rail system. The books contain more than 650 photographs, many of which have never been seen by contemporary Rochesterians.


Placing steel reinforcements, east of Caledonia Ave, 1923.

The photographs contained within the pages of these scrapbooks illustrate the various phases of the subway’s construction from 1922-1927, but they also provide further historical insight. In addition to portraying the individuals who labored to build the new transportation system, the photos present viewers with a unique glimpse into 1920s Rochester. Not only do the photographs offer early twentieth century views of some of Rochester’s best known structures and sites, but they also feature homes, businesses and factories that no longer grace the city’s landscape.


Paving the Winton Ave bridge just south of East Ave intersection, 1924.

The staff of the Local History Division decided to create an exhibit on the subway to share this incredible collection with the general public. While scrapbook photos comprise the majority of the exhibit’s materials, various ephemera such as maps, subway tokens and Mayor Van Zandt’s ceremonial silver spade have been included as well.

Contemporary photographs are also on display. One series documents some of the artwork that graces the walls of the aqueduct section of the former subway. Another provides current photographs of former subway station sites to give modern viewers a sense of where the subway operated and how much the city has changed since the system’s demise.


Looking east along subway route to Washington St., 1923.


Looking east along Broad St. to Washington St, 2016.


The exhibit aims not only to showcase our recently acquired photograph collection, but also to shed light on the subway’s complicated history. As library staff discovered in the course of our research, the Rochester subway had something of a bumpy ride. Conflicts marked the system’s 29-year run, from debates over whether or not the city should build such a system in the first place, to deliberations over who would operate the subway and whether or not it should be expanded. The subway’s post-operation history has also been fraught with controversy as disputes continue to arise over what should be done with the route’s remains.


Ticket to Ride: The Unsettled History of the Rochester Subway is now on display on the second floor of the Rundel Library.


-Emily Morry

Published in: on February 21, 2017 at 10:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Votes for Women!

In honor of the 2017 centennial celebration of New York State’s suffrage amendment, the Local History & Genealogy Division and the Friends & Foundation of RPL are co-hosting a Humanities NY Reading & Discussion program on the history of the woman suffrage movement. This 5-part series begins March 1. See our flyer for details and call 585-428-8368 to sign up today!

Published in: on February 17, 2017 at 2:58 pm  Leave a Comment  

Valentines, Valentines Oh My!

Valentine’s Day has arrived on this 14th day in February. According to the Greeting Card Association 190 million Valentine’s Day cards are sent each year! One of the first Valentine Day greetings was sent in 1415. The Duke of Orleans (France) sent a written Valentine’s greeting to his wife while he was being held prisoner in the Tower of London. The Duke of Orleans fought in the battle of Agincourt.

bookscancenter_15The greeting was written in French: “Je suis desja d’amour tanne, Ma tres doulce Valentinee.” The translation for this is “I am already sick of love, my very gentle Valentine.”

Another letter was written by a woman named Margery Brews in 1477. She sent this letter to her fiancé John Paston. In her letter she wrote “right well-beloved Valentine.” This is the oldest Valentine’s letter written in the English language.


Both of these letters are in the manuscript collections at the British Library. Through the years the tradition of sending letters and cards has continued. Below is a postcard that was sent approximately between the 1940’s and 195O’s.

The first Valentine’s Day cards were sent in the 1700’s. The cards were traditionally handmade because pre-made cards were not readily available like they are today. The cards were made with decorated paper and included romantic symbols with flowers and love knots. Some people added puzzles and short poems to the cards.

Pre-printed cards were created around 1797 in Great Britain. In the early 1800’s Valentine’s Cards were extremely popular in London and it was much easier to mass produce cards because of the innovations made with printing equipment. Approximately 200,000 Valentine Cards were mailed in London by 1820.

Did you know that the Local History & Genealogy Department at the Central Library has a collection of vintage Valentine’s Day Cards?  The Valentine Card tradition was popular in the United States by 1850.

The majority of the cards were donated by Emma Swift. Emma was the department head of the Local History & Genealogy Department from 1936 to 1965.  This collection consists of early cards created by Hallmark Cards and Whitney Made Cards.

Whitney-Made Cards was a company started by George C. Whitney in Worcester, Massachusetts.  George Whitney and his family created and produced Valentine Day Cards for 77 years. The cards were made with embossed lace borders and backgrounds or a thick card stock. The cards are decorative and colorful.

The Whitney-Made Cards are stamped Whitney-Made on the backs of the cards. The card below on the left is a Whitney-Made Card. The company that created the card on the right is not identified by a stamp. It resembles a Whitney-Made Card.



Whitney-Made Card

The Hallmark Card business was created by the Hall brothers Rollie and Joyce Clyde in 1910. It was originally known as the Hall Brothers. They started their business by selling postcards. People were not buying postcards too much so the Hall Brothers decided to produce and sell high quality made Valentine Day Cards. Hallmark Cards created and produced their first Valentine’s Day card in 1913.


Hallmark Cards

The Hall Brothers decided to change their business name to Hallmark in 1928. The name hallmark was used by the goldsmiths, which meant “mark of quality”. Since the name hallmark included hall and meant quality, Joyce Clyde fancied the name.

Here are more cards for you to enjoy viewing that are located in the Valentine Day Card collection.

Renee Kendrot




Published in: on February 14, 2017 at 4:23 pm  Leave a Comment  

Daniel Furr, Austin Steward and Race in Rochesterville

March 21, 2017 will mark 200 years of Rochester as an incorporated village. Most discussions of its earliest days tend to center on white settlers, but the village also had a population of African Americans. What were racial attitudes like in 1817 Rochesterville? Let’s explore that experience through the lives of two of its earliest black residents.

One of these pioneers was Daniel Furr, a black man who moved to Rochesterville and fell in love with a white woman. She reciprocated his affection and they sought to marry, but no one in the village would officiate at their wedding. They resolved to go to Brighton, where the town magistrate there only reluctantly agreed to do so after hours of arguing. Not long after, while drinking with some white men that were supposedly his friends, Furr became violently ill. A doctor was summoned and gave him some concoction, but while he was leaving the doctor was heard to say that he was “as sure to die as though his head had been cut off.” And so it proved; Furr died shortly after. It was commonly believed Furr died of poisoning, although no one was ever charged. His wife and child died shortly thereafter.

A more famous black citizen was Austin Steward (1793?-15 February 1869), Rochester’s first black businessman.


A circa 1857 portrait of Austin Steward

Born a slave in Virginia, Steward was forcibly relocated to Bath, NY and liberated in Canandaigua through the assistance of local abolitionists. He first visited Rochester in 1816, settled here in 1817, and lived much of his life here.

In Spring 1816, when Steward first came to Rochesterville, he described the village as a “small, forbidding place … with few inhabitants, and surrounded by a dense forest.” While travelling through here, he encountered a white man driving a team of horses. The man maintained that Steward had no right to travel a public highway as did other men. Since he was already on the road, Steward was forced to keep behind him, as the man would not let him pass. Steward was delayed several hours in reaching his destination.

In the spring of 1817, Steward began peddling merchandise from a cart in Rochesterville. As markets were not plentiful at the time, business was profitable. Later that year he decided to settle in Rochester and go into business for himself, renting space to open a meat market and grocery. There were some butchers in the village who resented the competition. Several of them tore down his sign. When it was restored, others painted it black. These annoyances continued until Steward had one of their number arrested, which put an end to the harassment.

Rochester may later have had a reputation as a supportive community for African Americans (slave and free), but the historical record of the town’s earliest days presents a mixed picture of Rochester’s racial attitudes.

-Christopher Brennan


Published in: on February 7, 2017 at 10:00 am  Leave a Comment