October 1994

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The Branchport Connection

from The Roses of Geneva


Verne M. Marshall

Henry Rose arrived in Geneva at the age of 20 months in style—in the arms of his "colored nurse" Phillis Kenny. Little else is known about him until he became a physician in 1825. The medical school was the College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York City, later part of Columbia University. He may have tried to conduct a practice from Rose Hill. What is certain is that his first patient died, and Henry then and there retired from practice. Veterinary medicine for his livestock seems to have fulfilled any further ambitions he had toward the healing arts.

We may assume Henry started his lifelong interest in farming at Rose Hill. He raised 165 lambs by 1827, most of them Saxons. He interviewed prospective teachers for Seneca County schools in his spare time. On 4 September, 1832, he married Mrs. Sarah L. Clark, the niece of General Alexander Macomb of War of 1812 fame. Mrs. Clark, according to the Trinity Church records, was the widow of the late Reverend Orin Clark, who had died in 1828. The information has been suppressed from family records ever since for reasons unknown. Sarah was evidently the good Rector's third wife. The wedding took place at Esperanza, the home of his brother John in the town of Jerusalem, Yates County.

Thinking to settle into farming in Wayne County, young Henry and his bride bought 350 acres in Galen, for a total price of $4,332, a substantial sum in 1833. Not only did much of this land come from his parents and Aunt Anne Nicholas, it may be assumed that the purchase price came from the same source. For whatever reason he apparently decided that crop farming was not for him, and he followed his brother to Branchport. There he married, as mentioned above, and built Hampstead, an imposing mansion set high in a grove of ancient oaks on the Penn Yan-Branchport road.

Hampstead was completed in 1840, the lumber having been cut along the shore of Keuka Lake, trimmed, seasoned, and hauled to the construction site by oxen. Fourteen small pillars support the large "wraparound" porch, affording a sweeping view of vineyard, orchard and forest. The house has several unusual features, such as "blind" windows, no ridge pole, six fireplaces, a 200 gallon cistern. Gloria Sill Tillman, a direct descendant of the original Robert Selden Rose of Geneva, is in residence; she has written an informative leaflet about Hampstead. [See Hampstead by Gloria S. Tillman in our August 1991 issue.]

Meticulous in all things, Henry kept a detailed farm journal most of his working life; excerpts from the journal were reported by Bill Delancey in a column of the Geneva Daily Times of August 20, 1955. Henry raised sheep primarily but also maintained extensive orchards. The hilly, shaly countryside was ideal for fruit farming—peaches, pears, apples—and later grapes. It is interesting to read the names of antique apples, most of which have fallen into disfavor as researchers developed improved varieties over the years. Without electric refrigeration, a barrel of Wagener apples was kept in sawdust at 30-35, surrounded by ice. The journal indicates that Henry had a thriving business, often shipping in bulk as far as New York City. His wool also sold readily for Civil War uniforms, at $1.00 per pound. In all respects Henry must be considered a "solid citizen."

He organized the Plank Road in 1849, an improved highway between Penn Yan and Branchport. Tolls were exacted, but after 30 years the road was abandoned as the planks deteriorated and new surfaces were developed.

He played a major role in organizing St. Luke's Episcopal Church of Branchport, and for the rest of his life remained intimately involved. He and his brother John contributed heavily to the support of the church; Henry also was a warden for many years. The picturesque little stone church is still active, a continuing testimonial to the quiet devotion of its founders. [See Finger Lakes Churches Fostered by the Rose Family by Warren Hunting Smith in our September 1990 issue.]

Possibly because they were childless, Henry and Sarah turned to family and friends as outlets for their generosity. Brother Charles, blessed with numerous children, thanks Henry for helping out with Charles Jr's college expenses. Cousin Minnie of Lynchburg (destitute!) thanks him for $25. Henry accepted with aplomb deep losses on loans to relatives and acquaintances. There were several business letters from his nephew Henry Fontaine Rose in Wisconsin, acting as agent for Henry's investments in mortgages. The lawyer had granted requests for delays in installment payments from the local farmers because of poor roads, wet fields, etc. Henry apparently routinely accepted these arrangements, a most lenient creditor indeed.

Henry Rose passed most of his 79 years in grand style, surrounded by loving family and an abundance of material blessings. He "eschewed ambitious participation in politics," unlike his father, preferring the "quiet enjoyment of a refined social life" (Cleveland, History of Yates County, New York). In his later years the dignified old gentleman rode sedately about his hilly estate, continuing his active management. His wife Sarah, suffering from a long and debilitating illness died in February 1875. True to his nature, the grieving widower kept letters of condolence which came flowing in; some of these are masterpieces of flowery sentiment, in measured prose spelling out the many virtues of the late lamented Sarah. The death of his brother Charles just 10 days earlier, and that of his closest brother, John, four years before, must have added to Henry's burden of sorrow. He died on 15 November 1881, having enjoyed the "undivided respect of all," and was carried up through the steep woods to a grave in the old Beddoe Cemetery. There, on a small knoll, the worthy Henry Rose lies buried in comforting proximity to Sarah, little Freddie, John and Jane.

Henry had outlived his six siblings but not his in-laws: no fewer than 27 nieces and nephews were commanded to appear in Surrogates Court as named heirs in his will. Thus his beneficence, so widely exercised during life, continued even from the grave. Of all too few men and women can that be said.

1994, Verne M. Marshall
From The Roses of Geneva, $20 at the Geneva Historical Society or $20 postpaid from 1053 Lochland Road, Geneva, NY 14456.
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