Epitaph Newsletter Volume 18, Number 3

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Volume 18, Number 3
Rochester, New York, Summer 1998

by Richard O. Reisem, from research by Jean Czerkas, Anne Kingston, and Eric Logan. Photographs by Frank A. Gillespie.

This summer marks two women's rights conventions in western New York 150 years ago. The first was held July 19 and 20, 1848 in Seneca Falls and the second, two weeks later, in Rochester. These events were the organized beginning of the movement for equal rights of women in American society. These conventions were also the first such efforts in the world to demand equal rights for women.

It is difficult to fathom now, but at that time, women could not vote, could not hold public office, could not own property, could not attend colleges and universities, and suffered many other injustices that truly made them second-class citizens. The 19th amendment that gave women the right to vote was not added to the U.S. Constitution until 1920, which was 72 years after women launched their battle for equality. But then, consider that women in France, Italy, and Japan had to wait until after the second World War in order to be able to vote.

Many people buried in Mount Hope Cemetery are closely related to the women's movement. A few of the historic ones are described here.


As you face the Anthony family plot in Section C, the burials are as follows: Front row, left to right: Susan B. Anthony, Mary Anthony (her sister), Madge (her niece), Daniel Anthony (her father), and Lucy Read Anthony (her mother). Second row, left to right: Ann Eliza McLean (her niece), Thomas King McLean (her nephew), Anthony McLean (her nephew), Guelma Anthony McLean (her sister), and Aaron McLean (her brother-in-law).

Susan B. Anthony was the most influential leader of the 19th-century women' s movement. She moved to Rochester with her family in 1845. An outspoken advocate of the temperance, abolition, and women's rights movements, she was arrested for voting in the 1872 presidential election. Susan B. Anthony proposed the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Known as the Anthony amendment, it gave voting rights to women and was finally adopted in 1920.

Mary Anthony, sister of Susan B., took care of their mother and the home on Madison Street in Rochester while Susan traveled and lectured around the country. Mary was a school teacher and served as principal of an elementary school located a few blocks from their home. She died less than a year after Susan's death.

Madge, niece of Susan B., was the daughter of Susan's brother, Daniel R. Anthony and his wife Annie. Madge died of brain congestion as an infant.

Daniel Anthony, father of Susan B., was a Quaker who owned a successful textile mill in Massachusetts before financial reversals forced the family to move to a farm in Gates. His liberal views on temperance, anti-slavery, and women's rights had an immense influence on his children. He died from heart disease on his farm at the age of 69.     

Lucy Read Anthony, mother of Susan B., gave birth to eight children, but only six survived. She died at age 87.

Guelma Anthony McLean, sister of Susan B., was the first-born of the Anthony children.

Aaron McLean, brother-in-law of Susan B., was an insurance broker. He and his family lived with the Anthonys on Madison Street.

Thomas King McLean, nephew of Susan B., was a university student when he died of typhoid fever. He was an accomplished pianist and singer and delighted his family with his music.

Ann Eliza McLean, niece of Susan B., died of dysentery at the age of 23.

Susan B. Anthony's brothers, Daniel R. Anthony and J. Merrit Anthony, are buried in Kansas.

(IMAGE: Susan B. Anthony was the most influential leader of the 19th-century women's rights movement.)


Sarah Dolley was the second woman in the United States to receive a Doctor of Medicine degree. She graduated from Central Medical College, Rochester, New York in 1851. She married her surgery professor, Dr. Lester Dolley, and practiced medicine here for over 50 years.

Working with Clara Barton, she organized the Rochester chapter of the Red Cross. She founded an organization of women physicians and an intellectual women's club, as well as the Women's Education and Industrial Union, which established evening and summer schools, sewing and manual training classes in public schools, and the first public playgrounds in the country.


Frederick Douglass was the father of the civil rights movement. A leading abolitionist and celebrated human rights leader, he was born a slave in Maryland in 1818. He secretly learned to read and write when it was against the law for slaves to do so. After escaping to a tenuous freedom in 1838 to New York City and on to Massachusetts, he joined the abolition movement. He lent his powerful oratory and passionate calls for justice to the women's suffrage movement. He spoke at the first women's rights convention in Seneca Falls in 1848 and was the only man to speak there. Douglass said, "When I ran away from slavery, it was for myself. When I advocated emancipation, it was for my people. But when I stood up for the rights of women, self was out of the question, and I found a little nobility in the act. Right is of no sex. Truth is of no color."

Douglass published his own autobiography in 1845 and founded his own abolitionist weekly newspaper, The North Star, in 1847. During the Civil War, he counseled President Abraham Lincoln on racial issues, and urged blacks, including his sons, to join the Union army.

Douglass' triumphs were many: influential abolitionist, women's rights activist, author, publisher, fluent speaker in many languages, and United States minister to Haiti. He died in Washington, D.C. in 1895 shortly after speaking at a women's rights rally. He is buried in Section T.

(IMAGE: Frederick Douglass was the founder of the civil rights movement in America.)

RHODA (died 1873) AND ELIAS DEGARMO (died 1876)

When Daniel and Lucy Anthony moved to Rochester in 1845, the DeGarmos became their next-door neighbors and good friends. They were Quakers who supported the temperance, anti-slavery, and women's rights movements. Their home was a stop on the Underground Railroad.

Rhoda DeGarmo was an active member of the Western New York Anti­Slavery Society and also served as a dedicated women's rights advocate for over 30 years. She was a member of the arrangements committee for the second women's rights convention held in Rochester in 1848. At her and Amy Post's insistence, a woman, Abigail Bush, presided over the convention. A man had presided at the first convention in Seneca Falls two weeks earlier.

Rhoda DeGarmo died in 1873, a year after voting illegally in the 1872 presidential election along with Susan B. Anthony and others. She is buried in Range 2.

SARAH D. (died 1868) AND BENJAMIN FISH (1797-1882)

Sarah D. and Benjamin Fish and their daughters Catharine Fish Stebbins and Mary Fish Curtis are among Rochester's most prominent early anti-slavery advocates. As a stop on the Underground Railroad, the parents' home was a haven for fugitive slaves.

Sarah and Catharine, active in the temperance and women's rights movements, participated in the first convention in Seneca Falls in 1848 and were signers of the Declaration of Sentiments. Sarah then became a planner of the convention held in Rochester two weeks later.

Sarah and Benjamin Fish and their daughter Catharine are buried in Section M. Mary Fish Curtis is buried in Section C.

MYRON HOLLEY (1779-1841)

Myron Holley's life was guided by reformist ideals. At age 24, he was practicing law in Canandaigua, New York when the court assigned him a murder defendant whom he believed to be guilty. Since defending this person was against his beliefs, Holley left his law career and soon became a prominent bookseller.

In 1804, Myron Holley married Sally House. They had six sons and six daughters. In 1810, he was elected Ontario county clerk. In 1816, he was elected to the New York State assembly to support the construction of the Erie Canal. He became supervisor of its construction and spent eight years traveling its length, sharing hardships with the workers. During his tenure, Holley took on roles that others disdained. He cared for the needs of Irish malaria victims in Montezuma swamp and buried a black cholera victim. From his primitive office on horseback, he oversaw the canal's progress, paid the contractors, and was held responsible for the canal's finances. In what later proved to be just a case of sloppy bookkeeping, $20,000 was found missing from the millions of dollars he handled, and he was accused of embezzling the funds. Even though an audit cleared his name, the scandal ruined his public career.

Holley helped found the Liberty Party, one of the first abolitionist and equal rights groups to run candidates for public office.

Holley is remembered for his interest in and regard for people of all walks of life. As a well educated man, he moved in the political and social circles of influential people, championed equal rights for women, and also served the needs of the less fortunate. He is buried in Section G.

SALLIE HOLLEY (1818-1893)

Well known on the lecture circuit for her opposition to slavery and her commitment to the rights and educational needs of freed men and women, Sallie Holley was often described as a large-hearted woman with a brilliant, cultured mind. As the ninth of twelve children born to Myron and Sally House Holley, she was influenced by her father's strong anti-slavery principles and religious liberalism.

At Oberlin College, she met Caroline Putnam who became a life-long companion. After graduation in 1851, Sallie gained appointment as an agent to the American Anti-Slavery Society. In this capacity, she traveled extensively, lecturing three or four times a week in different towns and cities.

Sallie always professed a fear of lecturing and yet drew large crowds due to the sincerity of her appeals. The role of a traveling woman lecturer carried a stigma which, combined with the hardship of travel, often made life uncertain. Yet, she wrote, "How much happier and richer my life has been than I ever expected it would be."

In 1870, Sallie moved to Lottsburg, Virginia to join Caroline Putnam's efforts at founding and running a school for freed men and women. Sallie spent the last 20 years of her life at Holley School, which was ostracized by the surrounding rural white community.

While she admired many in the feminist cause and attended several women's rights conventions during the 1850s, it was her own activism, speaking out and working to challenge injustice, that also exemplified and bolstered the cause of women's rights.

On a visit to New York City, Sallie contracted pneumonia and died. She is buried in Section G beside her father.


The Rev. Thomas James was one of Rochester's leading African-Americans. A life-long worker in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, he was a principal founder of Rochester's AME Zion Church in the 1820s.

He was an organizer of the first anti-slavery society in Rochester and published the periodical, The Rights of Man. His missionary work for the church eventually took him to New Bedford, Massachusetts where he pastored in the church where Frederick Douglass was a member. James provided Douglass his first opportunity to speak before a white audience so that he could relate his story. While in Massachusetts, James challenged the practice of segregated passenger trains and won a court case abolishing the custom.

During the Civil War, James, an ex-slave himself, assisted Union authorities in liberating hundreds of slaves from prisons and slave pens in Louisville, Kentucky. He eventually returned to his church in Rochester, where he retired. James is buried in Range 1.

SUSAN (1811-1880) AND SAMUEL PORTER (1780-1872)

Susan and Samuel Porter were active in temperance and anti-slavery causes in Rochester. Samuel was the first president of the Western New York Anti-Slavery Society when it was formed here in 1842. The Porter home was also an important stop on the Underground Railroad. Samuel assisted Frederick Douglass in moving fugitive slaves from homes where they were hiding to a place below the lower falls of the Genesee River, where boats carried the slaves to freedom in Canada.

Susan Farley Porter was involved in community activities such as the Female Charitable Society, the Female Anti-Slavery Society, and the Rochester Ladies Anti-Slavery Society, of which she was president. She was a founder of the Home for Friendless and Virtuous Females and a leading organizer of the Rochester Orphan Asylum Association.

The Porters, like other reformers, had a vision of a better future for underprivileged people in the society, and exhibited the courage to face public apathy and often unfavorable opinion to improve human welfare.

The Porters are buried in Section G.

AMY KIRBY (1803-1889) AND ISAAC POST (1800-1872)

Amy and Isaac Post were two of the leading participants in the abolitionist movement in Rochester, and active members of the Western New York Anti-Slavery Society. They were credited with assisting the largest number of slaves to escape to freedom in Canada. Amy recalled, "One time we had as many as twelve weary runaways that we hid in the barn."

The Posts met Frederick Douglass in 1842 and maintained a close friendship that continued to the end of their lives. Amy Post was one of Douglass' closest friends.

Amy Post, although a mother of five children, was also a very active proponent of women's rights. She became a member of the National Women's Suffrage Association when it was formed by Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

She attended the first women's rights convention in Seneca Falls in 1848 and signed the Declaration of Sentiments. When the second convention was held in Rochester two weeks later, she was on the arrangements committee.

Women's rights were most dear to Amy's heart and a cause she served for over 40 years. When she died in 1889, her friend Frederick Douglass said, "Few better than I know the excellence of her character, the kindness of her heart, the strength and firmness of her convictions, the serenity of her spirit, the evenness of her temper, and the breadth and fullness of her benevolence. Her life was ours, and her religion, God's."

The Posts are buried in Range 2.


Judge Henry Selden, highly respected in the community and in New York State, was Susan B. Anthony's defense attorney when she stood trial in Canandaigua, New York for voting in the presidential election of 1872 at a time when women were denied that right.

Selden served as lieutenant governor of the state in 1857. He also served as a judge on New York State's highest court, the Court of Appeals. He was a member of the New York State legislature beginning in 1865. He retired in 1879 having devoted more than half a century to the practice of law, often to correct injustice in our society.

He is buried in Section C.


Eastern bluebirds, which approached extinction in the days of lethal pesticides, are returning, and at least one family has taken up residence in the birdhouses that the Friends and the Vets 2B 4-H Club erected last year.

"They're acting just like they're supposed to," said Jim Ochterski from Cornell Cooperative Extension, who is supervising the program. "They perch on the lower tombstones and study the mowed lawn area for insects, hopping to the ground when they spot food," he said. The bluebirds also perch on top of their 4-H constructed house, the mate showing his bright blue wings and back and reddish breast. The female is grayer, but still a pretty sight.

Naturally, we are all ecstatic. Our weekly monitoring with eviction of sparrows has paid off.

Besides bluebirds, we also have chickadees and house wrens in residence, both of which are desirable songbirds.


The Friends have a 25-minute slide/ tape program that describes Mount Hope Cemetery in an informative and entertaining way. Many organized groups in the Rochester area have seen and enjoyed the show, which is usually presented by either Elinor or Bill Klein. To reduce their workload a bit as more presentation requests are received, we are looking for volunteers to assist them. We have special, easy-to-use equipment to project the show, and the Kleins will provide training.

As a volunteer presenter, you would set up and introduce the program and answer questions when the slide/tape presentation is finished. From years of experience with this audiovisual show, we know the questions that audiences ask, and therefore we can fortify you with answers.

Audiences truly appreciate having this subject, which concentrates on Rochester history as reflected in Mount Hope Cemetery, on their luncheon, afternoon, and evening programs, and the response is always warm and generous. If you'd like to learn more about this rewarding volunteer activity, call Ellie or Bill at 473-0778.


Free to members, $3 a person ($5/family) for nonmembers. Meet at the north gatehouse opposite Robinson Drive for all tours. Free lemonade and cookies after each tour.

  • Saturday, August 15, 1-3 p.m. Architecture Tour
  • Saturday, September 19, 1-3 p.m. Famous Artists Tour
  • Saturday, October 10, 1-3 p.m. Fall Colors Tour

by Jean Czerkas

Hidden behind a high gray stone wall that separates it from the noise and traffic of busy Mount Hope Avenue is the Ellwanger Garden. It is owned and maintained as an historic landscape by the Landmark Society of Western New York and was once part of the grounds of the George Ellwanger residence. He and his partner Patrick Barry were co-owners of the Mount Hope Botanical and Pomological Garden and important figures in the history of horticulture in America. The success of the Ellwanger and Barry enterprise, once hailed as the world's largest nursery, led to Rochester's reputation as the "Flower City" in the mid to late 19th century.

Helen Ellwanger and her sister Margaret, granddaughters of George Ellwanger, were the daughters of Edward and Leah Cresswell Ellwanger. The girls were born in the house next door to their grandparents' home on Mount Hope Avenue.

The house had previously been the home of their uncle Henry Brooks Ellwanger, who lived there until his death at age 32 in 1883.

The girls' father Edward, the youngest of George and Cornelia Brooks Ellwanger's four sons, died in 1897 at age 38 after a prolonged illness. Following the death of George Ellwanger in 1906, Helen, Margaret, and their mother moved into his house at 625 Mount Hope Avenue.

Helen Ellwanger was educated at Miss Hake's school located near the corner of Scio Street and East Avenue. Public transportation was used to take young Helen to school each day. One horse-drawn streetcar took her part of the way, and she transferred to another to complete her trip. After graduating from Miss Hake's school, she attended Miss Hill's school in Philadelphia.

Helen had great respect and affection for her grandfather and as a child visited him every day after lunch. Each morning

he took a buggy ride around the nursery properties, and she recalled accompanying him on one of the rides to a vineyard where rare European grapes were grown. The vineyard is now the campus of Colgate Rochester Divinity School - Bexley Hall - Crozer.

Miss Ellwanger devoted much of her adult life to community activities. She was a member of the Rochester Garden Club and served as secretary of the "Leaves Twig" of Rochester General Hospital. As a life member of the Board of Managers of the University of Rochester's Memorial Art Gallery, she took an active role in gallery fundraising and other activities. She became a member of the board's Art Committee and contributed a number of art works to the gallery. Among the most outstanding of her gifts were two paintings: "Florentine Still Life" by Giorgio de Chirico and "Basket of Fruit," a still life by Rubens Peale.

Passionate in her belief in the importance of the preservation of Rochester landmarks, Miss Ellwanger founded the Landmark Society of Western New York in 1937 in order to save the deteriorated Greek Revival Campbell-Whittlesey House at 123 South Fitzhugh Street. She purchased the house before it could be demolished and presented it to the fledgling Landmark Society to be used as a house museum. Her hands-on involvement in the restoration included climbing scaffolding to determine what the house was like originally and ensuring it was accurately restored to its former grandeur.

Very concerned about the destruction and neglect of Rochester's historic buildings, she felt strongly that every effort should be made to preserve and maintain the city's architectural treasures. Before the downtown Security Trust temple, designed by local architect Claude Bragdon, was torn down in the early 1980s to make way for the Riverside Convention Center, she voiced her indignation by making many phone calls of protest in an attempt to save the important landmark.

Miss Ellwanger was influential in arranging for the donation of the Ellwanger and Barry library of horticultural books, primarily from the 19th century, to the University of Rochester's Rush Rhees Library in 1943. She continued to make donations to the Ellwanger and Barry archives over the years and was a frequent visitor to the library to view exhibits and talk with the staff.

Miss Ellwanger cared for her sister Margaret, who during a long illness was confined to a wheelchair in the final years of her life and died on September 21, 1958. Helen continued to live in the family homestead maintaining the garden that was first planted by her grandfather in 1867.

Her search for perfection in her garden was never ending. When a plant captured her fancy, she wrote to nurseries, in this country and abroad, until she found a source for the plant so that she could include it in her garden. Often, special permission from the U.S. Department of Agriculture was required to import the plants or seeds she was seeking.

When concerned about the proper care of a particular variety of plant, she often sought the advice of nationally-known experts.

She saved and treasured the many notes she received from visitors to her garden. One note described the writer's visit as a step into paradise.

Helen Ellwanger died on May 2, 1982 at age 96 leaving her home and garden to the Landmark Society she founded. Portions of her almost two-million-dollar estate went to various non-profit organizations, including the University of Rochester for the Memorial Art Gallery and the Landmark Society for the preservation of the garden.

Because of her generosity and commitment to preservation and the Rochester community, Helen Cresswell Ellwanger's legacy lives on.

(The author wishes to thank the staff of the Landmark Society, the Rochester Historical Society, and the University of Rochester Rush Rhees and Memorial Art Gallery libraries for their assistance in the preparation of this article.)

(IMAGE: Helen Ellwanger - granddaughter of the world famous nurseryman, George Ellwanger - was the founder of the Landmark Society of Western New York. Photograph courtesy of the Landmark Society and copied by Frank A. Gillespie.)
(IMAGE: Helen Ellwanger (1886-1982) was the last member of the George Ellwanger family to be buried in the family plot in Section V. The Ellwanger monument was sculpted by the famous Italian artist Nicola Cantalamessa-Papotti and shows Saint John with pen poised to write the book of Revelation. Photograph by Frank A. Gillespie.)


A traditional spring activity for the Friends of Mount Hope Cemetery is a Saturday training session in April for new tour guides. This year's trainees included Ann Salter, Sarah Keroff, Nancy Uffindell, and Evelyn Burgess. They were given an instructive tour of the Cemetery by experienced guides Fran Coleman, Laurel Gabel, Anne Kingston, Eric Logan, Ed Olinger, and Richard Reisem. Besides learning anecdotal material about famous cemetery residents and identifying interesting Victorian symbols on gravestones, the trainees discovered how to find their way around a large area of winding roads to locate specific monuments often hidden in a sea of similar-appearing gravestones. After studying a comprehensive training manual and making a few practice runs under experienced guides, they are ready to solo.

One of the new guides, Joe Cashimere, found that he had almost 70 people on his first tour. A bit nervous about his large audience, he asked if any of them had taken a tour of Mount Hope before. When no one responded, he said, "Well, this is my first one, too." Enthusiastic reports after the tour indicated that the first-time guide had done a masterful job. And that is exactly the goal of our thorough training program.

If you are interested in becoming a tour guide applauded for your mastery of Rochester history as it can be told in Mount Hope Cemetery, call our tour-guide coordinator Laurel Gabel at 248-3453, and she will put you on a fast track to success and recognition.

(IMAGE: Some new, some intermediate, some old tour guides and gatehouse receptionists, front row, left to right: Ann Salter, Sarah Keroff, Nancy Uffindell; second row: Paul Malczewski, Joe Cashimere, Emily Horvath, Laurel Gabel (tour-guide coordinator), third row: Evelyn Burgess, Ed Olinger, Richard Reisem; fourth row: Bruce Faw, JoAnn Belle-Isle (receptionist coordinator), Eric Logan, Fran Coleman, Anne Kingston, Carol Riesenberger. Photo by Frank A. Gillespie.)
(IMAGE: Tour-guide training starts with a tour. In the center is Laurel Gabel, tour guide coordinator; gesticulating under the gazebo to the right is veteran guide Richard Reisem; and veteran guides Fran Coleman witb head bowed and Ed Olinger with cap are at tbe far right. Photograph by Frank A. Gillespie.)


Our Epitaph art director Bruce Faw has designed and supervised production of a new Mount Hope Cemetery T-shirt. It incorporates a rendering of our famous, 1874 gatehouse designed in High Victorian Gothic style by Rochester's great architect, Andrew Jackson Warner.

It is a top-quality, all-cotton shirt in a very popular light gray color with rich, deep-purple, silk-screen printing on the front side. The shirt is available in M, L, XL, and XXL sizes for $12 each, with no tax. Members of the Friends get a 10 percent discount, which reduces the price to $10.80.

Bring cash or check to the north gatehouse (opposite Robinson Drive) any afternoon between 1:30 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. and get yourself the smartest new T-shirt in town.

Members receive a 10 percent discount on our other merchandise as well - like our handsome and easy-to-hold mug, photographic notecards, and interesting books.


If you like to greet the public, you are a good candidate for the pleasant duty of a volunteer gatehouse receptionist at our regular free Sunday tours. The north gatehouse at Mount Hope is where we register people for 2:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. tours, sell an occasional coffee mug or T­shirt, and serve free lemonade to thirsty, returning tourgoers. It's very easy and enjoyable duty; you meet the most interesting people, and a pair of volunteers do the job together.

Call JoAnn Belle-Isle at 436-2951 to volunteer. We'll even give you a one-year complimentary membership in the Friends of Mount Hope Cemetery and a 10 percent discount on all purchases from our shop.

Published quarterly by The Friends of Mount Hope Cemetery, Rochester, New York 14620-2752, a nonprofit member organization founded in 1980. Basic annual membership is $20. Call (716) 461-3494 for information or an application form.


Richard O. Reisem, Editor
Bruce Faw, Art Director
Jack McKinney, Assistant Editor
Frank A. Gillespie, Photographer
Rebecca Long, Editorial Assistant