Daughters of the American Revolution

~ By Jim DeVinney

During the next year or so, don’t be surprised if you hear extended sounds of celebration from the Irondequoit Chapter of the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution. It’s been 125 years since its founding. 2020 will mark another anniversary—100 years since the group moved into the Hervey Ely House at Troup Street and Livingston Park.

Only two other organizations in Corn Hill have resided longer in the same building. Mount Olivet Church was built in 1910 but the granddaddy of all time is Immaculate Conception Church. The parish dates back to 1848 when it began in a small wooden church at its present site. In February 1864, that church was seriously damaged by fire. Its pastor, the Reverend Peter Bede, had known for a while that his church was too small to accommodate “the vast influx of emigrants from Europe.” Anticipating a baby boom when soldiers came home from the Civil War, he knew a larger church was needed. The present church was dedicated on August 6, 1865.

The Irondequoit Chapter of the NSDAR was founded on February 15, 1894 at 362 East Avenue, the home of Mrs. Rufus A (Elizabeth C.) Sibley—her husband was co-founder of Sibley, Lindsay& Curr). The Chapter began with sixteen members, one of whom was the youngest daughter of Nathaniel Rochester, Mrs. William (Louisa Lucinda Rochester) Pitkin. No surprise there: all of Rochester’s descendants can join the Daughters or Sons of the American Revolution. The Sons have a local chapter as well.

Within its first year, membership rose to sixty-four (Susan B. Anthony joined later, in 1898). Early meetings were held in members’ homes but, in 1895 when the Reynolds Library opened at 150 Spring Street, that address became the Irondequoit Chapter’s headquarters and the Third Ward has been its official residence ever since.

Although some meetings were held in the Rochester Historical Society’s rooms on the library’s second floor, members also met in the Powers Hotel, various churches or at the Chamber of Commerce building—the old Kimball factory on Court Street at Exchange.

Hervey Ely House
Within the past year, the Beautification Committee of the Corn Hill Neighbors Association worked with the Irondequoit Chapter of the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution to improve the lighting outside its historic home. The new lights now illuminate the beauty of this Greek Revival house built by Hervey Ely in 1837.

The Chapter engaged in numerous activities, especially on patriotic holidays. For the 4th of July in 1897, members decorated graves of Revolutionary soldiers in Mount Hope Cemetery and discovered that a veteran “was interred in the poor ground.” A committee was formed, headed by Mrs. Clinton Rogers (the former Fanny Cooper Rochester, Nathaniel’s granddaughter) to find “a more suitable resting place.” Not all events were so solemn. On another 4th of July celebration, Mrs. Rogers reportedly dressed as a firecracker!

By 1910, membership had grown to 400 and there was a yearning among the Daughters to find a home of their own. Such a location was found next door to the library, at #160 Spring Street—the former home of physician Dr. Harvey Montgomery, a grandson of Nathaniel Rochester.

By 1915, the Irondequoit Chapter was said to be the largest in the country and it was clear the Montgomery house was not large enough. During a February meeting that celebrated the 21st anniversary of the Chapter’s founding, fifty women were relegated to the entrance hall and stairway, unable to get into the crowded meeting room. Another 25 women were turned away. There had been hopes that an auditorium could be built onto the house and, that evening it was announced that as soon as the house was paid for—$1,500 was still due—“We will begin to build our hall.” Pledges were taken and $250-300 was raised toward that goal. But the auditorium was never built.

In 1920, a joint meeting of both Daughters and Sons of the American Revolution, approved the purchase of the Hervey Ely House for $25,000. It would be paid for with an immediate cash payment of $15,000; the balance was paid when owner of the Ely House, H, C, Remier said he would accept the home on Spring Street as payment for the balance.

Interestingly, there is a romantic link between the two houses that the Irondequoit Chapter has owned in the Third Ward. Before Mr. Reimer acquired the Ely House, it had for several decades been the home of Howard Osgood, a professor of Hebrew at the Rochester Theological Seminary. In September of 1888, Mr. Osgood’s son Howard L. Osgood, a patent attorney, married Katharine Rochester Montgomery, Dr. Montgomery’s daughter.

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