public_ About Amy and Isaac Post · Post Family Papers Project · RBSCP Exhibits

About Amy and Isaac Post

Isaac Post was born on Feb. 26, 1798, in Westbury, Long Island, N.Y., the son of Edmund and Catherine Willets Post. Isaac was a descendant of Richard Post who came to Southampton, Long Island from Lynn, Mass., around the middle of the 17th century, and the Willets, a Quaker family which emigrated from Wiltshire, England, landing at Oyster Bay, Long Island in 1676.

Around 1822 Isaac married Hannah Kirby, one of eight children of Jacob and Mary R. Seaman Kirby who lived in Jericho, Long Island. On February 20, 1823, Hannah bore a daughter, Mary H. Post, in Westbury, Long Island. Both the Posts and Kirbys were farming families and Isaac followed this livelihood when he moved Hannah and Mary in May of 1823 to the township of Scipio in southern Cayuga Co., N.Y.

In March 1825, Isaac & Hannah had another child, a son named Edmund. Soon after Edmund's birth, Hannah became seriously ill and died in April 1827. Hannah's last illness was tended by Amy Kirby (born December 20, 1802), her sister, who had helped Isaac and Hannah establish themselves in Scipio in 1823. On September 18, 1828, a little more than a year and a half after Hannah's death, Amy Kirby married Isaac, becoming stepmother to Isaac and Hannah's children, Mary and Edmund.

Isaac and Amy Post's first son, Jacob Kirby Post, was born on November 11, 1829. In September 1830, Hannah's son Edmund died at age 5. A second son was born to Isaac and Amy in 1832 and named Joseph W. Post. A third son, Henry, was born in March 1834 in Ledyard, another town in Cayuga County. In 1836, not satisfied with farming in that region, Isaac moved his family to a house in Rochester, New York, at 36 Sophia Street. Amy's sister Sarah L. Kirby (b. January 16. 1818) moved to Rochester with the Posts. In July 1837, Isaac and Amy's third son, Henry, died at age 3. In 1838, Sarah married Jeffries Hallowell (ca. 1810 - 1844). The couple moved to Aurora, Cayuga County, for one year, returning to Rochester in 1839. That same year, Isaac established the drug firm of Post, Coleman and Willis at 4 Exchange Street, in the Smith Arcade.

Isaac's drug firm expanded readily over the next several decades, providing a comfortable source of income and a place of employment for Jacob, Joseph, and another son, Willet E. Post, born on March 14, 1847. In 1844, at the age of fifteen, Jacob became a clerk in his father's firm and in in the early 1850s was admitted into partnership. He worked steadily in the drug business for the rest of his life, and assumed sole control of his father's business in 1877. Jacob incorporated the firm in 1906, a decade before his own death. Joseph went to work at first for the Motive Power Department of the New York Central Railroad, coming back to Rochester later in life to enter his father's firm. An original member of the American Drug Syndicate, Joseph moved in 1887 to Charlotte, (part of Rochester since the first quarter of the 20th century), and continued in the drug business until his death in 1915. In 1840, however, Isaac's firm was not expanding nearly as fast as the Posts' other activities. In addition to the birth of a daughter, Matilda, who died as a child in 1845, the year 1840 marked the start of a decade which proved decisive in shaping the character of the Posts' lives for the next 30 years.

Both Amy and Isaac had grown up in Quaker families holding views on the liberal end of the pre-Hicksite Separation Quaker discipline. When the Hicksite Separation occurred in 1827, both families followed their concerns with the social reform issues of the day and became Hicksite Quakers. In the early 1840's Isaac and Amy transformed their concerns into social action and became deeply involved in the abolitionist movement. Amy joined the Rochester Ladies Anti-Slavery Society and helped organize fairs and lectures given in Corinthian Hall and elsewhere. The Posts' home frequently received Frederick Douglass and Wendell Phillips, as well as other guests involved in the anti-slavery cause such as William Lloyd Garrison, Parker Pillsbury, George Thompson, Cassius M. Clay, Susan B. Anthony, and Sojourner Truth.

By 1845 the Posts' abolitionist activities brought them squarely into opposition with the rule of non-involvement contained in Quaker discipline, and after being visited by a committee of the Friends the Posts decided to leave the Society rather than give up their fight against slavery. Other members of the Post family, meanwhile, were initiating their own contributions to the family and the anti-slavery cause.

In 1844, at the age of 15, Jacob became a clerk in his father's firm and in 1852 (?) was admitted into partnership. He worked steadily in the drug business the rest of his life, in 1877 assuming sole control of his father's business and in 1906 incorporating the firm a decade before his own death in 1916. Around 1847 when Frederick Douglass started his anti-slavery paper the North Star in Rochester, Joseph helped Douglass to turn out the newspaper. Joseph went to work at first for the Motive Power Dept. of the New York Central Railroad, coming back to Rochester later in life to enter his father's firm. An original member of the American Drug Syndicate, Joseph moved in 1887 to Charlotte, (part of Rochester since the first quarter of the 20th century), and continued in the drug business until his death in 1915.

In January of 1843 Mary H. Post, Isaac and Hannah Kirby's daughter, married William R. Hallowell (1816 - 1882) and settled on Jones St., in Rochester. The second half of the 1840's and the passage of the Fugitive Slave Law at the start of the 1850's saw an increasing number of escaping slaves seeking shelter on their northern journey to freedom in Canada. Both Mary's and Amy's houses were prominent Rochester stations on the Underground Railroad. Isaac and Amy's house somtimes provided shelter for 12 to 15 fugitive slaves in one night. The Posts were also very active supporters of Frederick Douglass, both in his publishing and lecturing activities, and in his attempts to open up the public schools and similar civic institutions in the Rocheater area to participation by black citizens.

Neither Amy Kirby Post's nor Mary H. Post Hallowell's activities were confined to the anti-slavery cause. Mary aided in the organization of the United Charities of Rochester, was a member of the Political Equality Club, and in 1848 attended the Women's Rights Convention at Seneca Falls as a delegate. In her work for the cause of women's rights Mary followed both her step-mother Amy and her aunt Sarah L. Kirby Hallowell who were close friends with Susan B. Anthony.

Amy Kirby Post was one of the early influences on Susan B. Anthony, encouraging and supporting her in entering the struggle for women's rights. Delegate to both the Seneca Falls and Rochester conventions in 1848, Amy helped organize both conventions and was an editor of the convention Proceedings published in 1870. Sarah's activities on behalf of women's rights were not curtailed at all by her second marriage, to Edmund P. Willis in 1853. Her interests extended beyond attending the Seneca Falls convention to local civic work, and along with her active influence at the Mechanics Institute her contribution in 1900 of $2,000 of the remaining $8,000 needed to make the University of Rochester a co-ordinate men's and women's institution was a significant effort on behalf of women's rights.

Despite their resignation from the Society of Friends in 1845, Isaac and Amy Kirby Post maintained the dignified and simple style of life and manners characteristic of the less socially involved Quaker orthodoxy. Along with their commitment to a Quaker style of life went a deep inner spirituality. The depth of the Posts' involvement in their own religious lives was demonstrated by their conversion to total belief in Spiritualism by Margaret Fox and her sisters Ann Leah and Catherine, in 1848.

Isaac and Amy, along with R. D. Jones, John E. Robinson and George Willets, were among the original group of five people who first met regularly at the Foxs' house to investigate the source of the "Rochester Rappings". The Posts were soon convinced that they were in direct communication with the deceased of all historical periods and countries. Isaac and Amy became the principal mentors of the Fox sisters during the early part of their public careers, giving them advice, encouragement, and protection during the time the first public investigations were held.

After a period of experimentation, Isaac became noted as a writing medium, publishing in 1852 a book entitled Voices From The Spirit World, Being Communications From Many Spirits, By the Hand of Isaac Post, Medium. By 1852, there were already thousands of writing mediums in the U.S., and many other kinds as well. Voices gained notoriety for its contents and the beliefs it supported. The book contained an introduction purporting to be from the spirit of Benjamin Franklin. Approximately forty other "communications" from spirits of noteworthy people such as Washington, Jefferson, Elias Hicks, Calhoun, Margaret Fuller, Swedenborg, Daniel O'Connell, Voltaire, William Penn, and George Fox made up the body of the text. Despite the howls of the popular press and vehement opposition from conservative clergy, Isaac and Amy Kirby Post continued unshaken in their beliefs and for decades ranked as the leading defenders of the Spiritualists in Rochester.

Isaac and Amy's son, Willet E. Post, who followed a career in his father's drug firm, became very interested in Spiritualism as a young man. He was an active worker in the earliest days of the Spiritualist Church of Rochester, serving it as a trustee, and also filling various offices in the lyceum. Except for four years of work on his own in the grocery business, Isaac and Amy's third son remained in the drug business until his retirement around 1912.

Both Isaac and Amy Kirby Post remained active in a wide range of social reform activities until the end of their lives. They often traveled in New York State to attend conventions of the various reform movements they took interest in. Isaac attended the Hartford Bible Convention at Hartford, Conn., in June, 1853. Amy often combined visits to her family on Long Island with New York City conventions, once making a round trip including New York City, Long Island, and Boston, in order to visit relatives and further the anti-slavery cause at the same time.

In 1882, on her 80th birthday, Rochester celebrated the contribution of Amy Kirby Post to the local community and the nation, establishing a precendent that was later followed in the case of Susan B. Anthony on her 70th birthday and in the case of Mrs. Mary T. Gannett on her 75th birthday. Old age, however, or even the absence of Isaac who had died in 1872, did not slow down the reform activities of Amy Kirby Post. In 1887, she attended the convention of the Friends of Human Progress at West Junius near Waterloo in Seneca Co., N.Y., to support an organization that she and Isaac had both been active in for many years. Less than a year before her death in 1889, Amy attended the International Council of woman Suffragists at Washington, still working for a cause which epitomized the human spirit of both Isaac and Amy Kirby Post, Hicksite Quakers, free thinkers, Spiritualists, and active reformers of 19th century Rochester.