University of Rochester Library Bulletin: A Pioneer Rochester Family, Vignette

Volume XXIII · Spring 1968 · Number 3A Pioneer Rochester Family: Vignette--ALICE ROGERS ROBY, As Told To Ruth L. Van Deusen  My father, Clinton Rogers, and his partner, John Howe, left Worcester, Massachusetts in 1854 to seek their fortune in the "West." They arrived in Rochester without funds, but the people of Rochester lent them money without security to start the carpet business which grew to be the largest such business between New York City and Chicago.My father was a sociable man, very fond of music. He had a fine tenor voice, and played both the piano and the violin. Because of his interest in music he came to know the Roswell Hart family of Plymouth Avenue, and was invited to join the family orchestra which played evenings in the Hart home. It was probably on one of these musical evenings that he met my mother, Fanny Rochester, a niece of Mr. Hart. She had attended Vassar College where she was said to have been a star student of Professor Maria Mitchell, teacher of astronomy. They were very unlike in personality—Father very active and interested in athletics, Mother more interested in intellectual pursuits. She liked to write papers for the clubs to which she belonged, the Browning Club, History Class and the Roundabout Club. They were married in 1876 when Father was 43 years old, and Mother 26.Before their marriage my father had lived in a boarding house run by a Mrs. Ives on the corner of Spring and Washington streets. He had a large front bedroom and liked the house so much that he bought it and brought my mother there when they returned from their wedding trip to the Centennial in Philadelphia.The carpet business prospered almost from the beginning, and my father was able to indulge his love for fine horses. In 1872 he heard that the Comte de Paris was looking for a pair of perfectly matched black horses, and having such a pair, he embarked, with the horses, for Paris. The Comte bought the horses and entertained my father royally during the visit. The trip to Paris was made on a side-wheeler named the Jumping Java, and the return journey was made on the Crawling Cuba.On the Spring Street side of our house lived Marion Stratton Gould with her widowed mother and maiden aunt. Marion was my age and we played together often until her death on Christmas Day in 1893.  Her mother gave a large sum of money to the Memorial Art Gallery in her memory.On the Washington Street side lived Mr. John Kent with his wife and daughter, Ada. He was a photographer and was regularly engaged to take the pictures of the Third Ward families. He was a small man with a white beard, very fastidious in his dress. Mrs. Kent was an excellent housekeeper and the place was very well kept up. As children we were warned not to run on the grass in the Kent grounds.Between Livingston Park and Spring Street was an alley used for the stables of the houses which backed onto the alley. Father had a stable there and a small house for the coachman. He also had two Jersey cows of noble birth—Floribundis II and Floribundis III. A boy was hired to come in the morning before school to take our cows to pasture at Mr. Warner's farm (now Highland Park), and to bring them back at night. This was a good arrangement for fair weather but Father worried when the cows had to stay in the stable, and he wanted to provide a run for them. To do this he needed a strip of land at the back of Mr. Kent's property. He spoke of this to Mother who said, "Do you suppose Mrs. Kent would put up with cows in the back of their place?" But Father thought the cows were beautiful, and asked Mr. Kent to sell him the strip of land. Mr. Kent agreed and Father had a place for his cows to run in any kind of weather.Some time later, in about 1889, Mr. Kent came to Father and told him of a young photographer he knew who had been working on a camera that he, Mr. Kent, thought was promising. He asked Father to give financial help for the project. They talked it over and Father said he would like to think it over for a little while. Father was always willing to help a Rochester enterprise, even though he lost money on some. He had a strong feeling of loyalty for Rochester and would never permit anyone to say anything against the city.On this occasion he told my mother of Mr. Kent's request and said, "I think we must give him something, in view of his selling us the land for the cows." My father had an insurance policy maturing at about this time to the amount of $7,000, and he finally said, "I think I'll take a chance and give it to the young photographer." The young man, of course, was Mr. George Eastman, founder of the Eastman Kodak Company.In 1892 my father took my mother, my two sisters, my brother and myself and a French governess to Europe for a year. The three younger children were put in school in London and later in Vevey while my parents and older sister traveled in Italy and France. I remember the school in Vevey very well, especially the Sunday visits to an English family in Montreux, and picnics on the shore of Chillon Castle. They were happy times for me even though I was a poor traveler and couldn't go with my parents and sister.The city asked my father to investigate wood block pavements that were being used in European cities, and as a result of his work, wood blocks were used experimentally on Plymouth Avenue.When we were all together in Paris, I remember my father getting news from home that a depression had set in, and that other investors were selling their interests in the photographic project in Rochester. Father said to Mother, "You see, Fanny, you talked me into this year in Europe when I really should be home attending to business matters," and he worried because other people had sold out and he was still involved financially in Mr. Eastman's project. But there we were, and our Kodak stock was not sold.[Mrs. Roby, who lives at 234 Culver Road, is the great-granddaughter of Colonel Nathaniel Rochester, the founder of the city of Rochester.]