September 1990

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Finger Lakes Churches

Fostered by the Rose Family


Warren Hunting Smith

The Rose family of Virginia and western New York originated at Kilravock Castle in Scotland, to which in recent years their American descendants have made pilgrimages. They were a distinguished family, and were known in London, where the Gentleman's Magazine in the 18th century printed an epitaph on Miss Rose, "niece of Hugh Rose, Esq. of Kilravock":

Here lies a Rose, a budding Rose
Blasted before her bloom
Whose innocence did sweets disclose
Beyond that flower's perfume.
To those who by her death are grieved
This consolation's given:
She's from a world of woe relieved
And blooms a Rose in Heaven.

Another 18th-century Rose went to Virginia as a clergyman of the Church of England, and his descendants when they moved to western New York in 1803 remained true to their heritage by helping to found and foster three lakeside churches: Trinity Church in Geneva overlooking Seneca Lake; St. Paul's Church, Allen's Hill, overlooking Honeoye Lake; and St. Luke's Church, Branchport, on the western fork of Keuka Lake.

The first Episcopalian in the area was Dr. William Adams of Geneva, who conducted a funeral service in Canandaigua in 1790 using the Book of Common Prayer—the first religious service held by settlers in "the Genesee country" (there had been missionaries to the Indians previously). Appropriately Trinity Church was built over the early burial plot where he was interred.

There were other Episcopalians already in Geneva, such as the former London innkeeper who ran the Geneva Hotel, but the arrival of the Roses and their cousins, the Nicholases, gave such a boost to the Episcopalian flock that a missionary from New York was able to organize the parish in 1806.

Robert Lawson Rose, son of Robert Selden Rose of Rose Hill at Geneva, settled at Allen's Hill near Honeoye where St. Paul's Church was already established, and he became one of its leaders. This church was the subject of a book called Allerton Parish by the Rev. John Nicholas Norton. When Robert Lawson Rose's son, Robert Selden Rose, moved from Allen's Hill to "The Chestnuts" near Branchport, St. Paul's Church, bereft of Roses, soon declined until at the end of the century the decaying building had only a single parishioner. Building and parishioner perished, and the parish became extinct.

Robert Lawson Rose's brothers, John and Henry, were already landowners near the west fork of Keuka Lake, where their nephew Robert Selden Rose settled at "The Chestnuts" nearby. They and their relatives the Sill family were the founders of St. Luke's Church at Branchport.

This church at one time had a wooden font made from timbers of the historic U. S. Constitution. Dr. Delany of Geneva, whose father had been a ship's doctor, bought the font on account of its naval associations, and installed it in the house on Park Place which he shared with his sister and brother-in-law, the Hugh Roses. It was in the front hall, and guests put their coats on it when they entered. Dr. Delany's things went after his death to his friends Mr. and Mrs. Butts of Geneva, who gave the font to the naval academy at Annapolis (it was installed in the basement chapel of the academy chapel). I saw it there when I was godfather at a cousin's baptism.

The Rose family burials were made, not at St. Luke's but on a picturesque knoll in the woods behind "The Chestnuts." They shared the plot with the Beddoes family who were early settlers. One of the Beddoes, a son who was epileptic, had a line from Cymbeline on his headstone, and also the inscription "Few and evil were his days." Some of the Rose monuments are of polished stone, and it must have been a struggle to get them up the steep slopes of the knoll in the woods. Even in this secluded spot, there has been vandalism.

Miss Kitty Rose (Catherine Navarre Livingston Rose) was a benefactress of St. Luke's; a stained-glass window to her memory was recently installed.

There are Rose descendants in Geneva, but none with the name of Rose. A son who moved to New Hampshire, and another who went to Detroit left sons to carry on the family name, but they no longer build churches in the Finger Lakes.

1990, Warren Hunting Smith

Illustrations [to be added]

St. Luke's Episcopal Church, Branchport. Built by Levi Millspaugh and Joseph Barrow, 1866-7. The interior woodwork came from walnut trees that grew on the farm of Henry Rose. Local legend says that the upper part of the altar window came from a church built in Geneva in 1808.
Trinity Episcopal Church, Geneva. Tower and nave walls designed by Benjamin Hale 1842-43 (Calvin Otis nominal architect). Chancel clerestory added, 1898. Parish house and side porch, 1882. Landscaping by Pamela Berdan of New York, 1958-9, lych gate by David Aldrich, 1958.
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