Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Rosemary O'Keefe

Rose O'Keefe grew up in the suburbs of New York City, except for four years as a girl living with her family outside Paris, France. After graduating from SUNY Potsdam, Rose moved to Rochester, New York, and discovered the Genesee River Valley and Finger Lakes on camping outings.

Since then, she has become a history author with a special interest in the Frederick Douglass family's years in Rochester from 1847 to 1872. She enjoys presenting slide shows on Rochester's South Wedge, the southeast side of the city, the Douglass family, and most recently, an "Armchair Tour of the Genesee Valley."

Her three books are: Historic Genesee Country (History Press, 2010) Southeast Rochester (Arcadia, 2006) and Rochester's South Wedge, (Arcadia, 2005).

Contact Provato Marketing for more information or to schedule an event.


Looking back to 2004 or 5, what decided you to work on the South Wedge book for Arcadia?


I had already volunteered for The Wedge neighborhood newspaper for a number of years, had printed a history series in it in 2000 and was having informal History Club meetings in our Highland Branch library. In early March 2005, S.W.P.C. (South Wedge Planning Committee) board member David Halter handed me the proposal form for an Arcadia book, and told me to take it, I was the only one who could do it.

So, I casually printed out some captions for a few black and white copies of local sites, cut the captions and taped them on each page and then mailed it all in. To my surprise, Arcadia accepted the proposal and said they had a gap in their publishing schedule and if I could, my deadline was the end of May.

I thought of The Wedge deadlines and figured I could do it. Ha! Little did I know.

It took weeks to contact people, borrow their family photos, have copies made, return them to the owners, and keep at until I had 200 images and captions, but I did it.

As a total newbie to this process, my learning curve was pretty steep and unlike some people, I did't have access to an exising collection of old photos.

I had to scout and search for all of them as well as pay for prints of many of them.


What were your primary sources? (I'm assuming the Rochester Public Library and its photo collection provide much of the visual information).

And did any of the photographs come from sources other than the library, such as the private collections of residents?


Quite a few came from family photos of people I knew or knew of, in the South Wedge area. One of my main contributors, to whom I dedicated "Rochester's South Wedge" (Arcadia 2005) was Josh Canfield, who grew up in the neighborhood and loaned me family photos and vintage postcards from his large collection.

I was more than half-way through the project before I stumbled into Rochester Public Library's online image collection.

At some point, I spent hours sorting through the City of Rochester Photo Lab's collection of vintage slides.

They had about a dozen binders that have now been merged with the library's online collection.

I would also ask my husband to take a ride so he could take pictures of things I needed, like an old willow tree in Mount Hope Cemetery.

I'm not shy about calling people and asking if I can borrow photos. Most people are pretty friendly, but if I had a dollar for everyone who said someone in the family has a box of pictures in the attic (or closet) but I'll have to call them first and get back to you. Well, that's the way it goes.

But after the first book came out, a number of neighbors called to say they had pictures that would have been good in it, and since I knew what I was getting into, I did the research for "Southeast Rochester" (Arcadia, 2006) much more easily.

After that, my learning curve for Historic Genesee Country (History Press, 2010) was even better, but the technological changes have been both a blessing and a challenge.

Searching through vintage books in the Local History at the downtown library is one of my favorite things to do now. You can get any page from them scanned for a dollar. What a fabulous deal. I used that quite a bit for HGC.

Getting my computer to shake hands and talk to theirs for some reason was not smooth for almost a dozen images, but I kept at it.


What publishing venture are you working on currently?


Because Historic Genesee Country has a specific format and length, I had way more information for it than fit in that book.

So I've decided to put a lot of the extra information and juicy little tidbits into a blog. It's been up for several weeks now, and I figure once I get fifty or so entries, I'll have enough for an e-book. Once I learn how to do something technical, I can generally understand the process, but it took me a long time to figure out how to 'enter' my entries on my own website.

Now I have to learn how to add images. I don't know yet if that slows things down too much or not. Some feedback from readers would help on that. I also have to learn how to do photo albums on Facebook. That's on my list of to-dos.


What writers and historians have inspired you from early in your career or your avocation?


That's what got me started. I'd read something like Henry's Clune's The Rochester I Know and get all excited. He's such a fabulous writer and he was describing places and events I knew nothing about. I had also fun taking one whole winter to read all that tiny print in Orsamus Turner's rambling Pioneer History of the Phelps and Gorham Purchase.

Blake McKelvey's history series online are great starting places, but I often wanted much more specific information that he shares, so I had to do my own digging after that.


Any advice for would-be writers/historians?


Once you get started on a project, remember to breath, eat right and exercise. The pace and pressure of my first two books wore me down and it's taken a few years to get my stamina back.


Another point of interest that occurs to me is of your not only living in the Wedge now, but also of your having lived near Paris. Both of which may be considered more-or-(perhaps)less "Bohemian". Scarsdale "suburbs of New York" was probably a different matter. Do you think any of these residencies may have helped fuel an interest in history? If so, in what way?


Some people know my family lived outside of Paris from 1957 to 1961. What they may not know is that several of us kids had the experience of total language immersion cold turkey. Four of us went to a French Catholic girls' school and had to hang in there until we understood what they were saying. My mother said we cried every day for several months before we caught on. By the time we moved back to the same house and school that I had left, I spoke French better than English and didn't feel like an American until I left home to go to college. So, even in a middle class New York City suburb, I never saw things the same after we moved back.

Coming to Rochester after college in the early seventies, I knew next to nothing about this area and was able to get to know it with fresh eyes.


Thanks again to Rosemary O’Keefe for appearing, courtesy of Provato Marketing, for other stops on the tour please check www.provatoevents.com.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

South Wedge History and Architecture II

Friday Oct. 28, 12:30 to 1:30 p.m.

Brown Bag History Lunch

NeighborWorks, 570 South Avenue, Rochester 14620.

Enjoy Part Two of Cythia Howk's fabulous presentation "200 Years of South Wedge History and Architecture."

Free, bring your own lunch.

Information, Rose O'Keefe at (585) 244-4558

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


Jan 1

Onondaga Salt Springs superintendent Dr. William Kirkpatrick reports 1813 revenues

of $6,780 on 226,000 bushels.

Jan 7

Rochester politician Thomas Parsons is born in Chievely, England.

Jan 23

Future Buffalo mayor Eli Cook is born in Palatine Bridge.

Mar 25

Brighton and Pittsford are formed from the Smallwood area near Rochesterville.

Pittsford and Brighton (both formerly Northfield and then Boyle) is formed from

an area of Smallwood, located southeast of "Rochesterville". Pittsford is named

by resident and former Vermonter Caleb Hopkins for his home town in New England.


Colonel George Mitchell and 336 men march from Sackets Harbor to garrison Fort

Oswego. They find no usable arms but do inventory $8,000 worth of liquor and

provisions. Mitchell orders close to 4,000 gallons of whisky destroyed.

Apr 5

The Town of Sweden is created out of the Triangle Tract's Town of Murray.

Apr 25

Three British boats enter Sackets Harbor, are discovered and fired upon before

they destroy any U. S. ships.

May 1

The first U. S. defenders - under Colonel George E. Mitchell - arrive at Oswego’s

Fort Ontario.

May 5

British naval commander Sir James Yeo proceeds with his fleet to Oswego, along

with a large body of troops under Lieutenant-General Sir Gordon Drummond,

to storm the fort. They arrive offshore and fire a few shots into the village. One

strikes the chimney of Daniel Hugunin’s house. Few other shots are effective, and

at sundown the fleet moves off to prepare for the next day. ** Americans

T. S. Morgan, P. T. Newton, James Stephenson, William Squires and Commissary

Matthew McNair occupy “Half Moon Battery” in the old French Fort at Oswego,

today and tomorrow.

May 6

Colonel Mitchell and his troops prepare for an attack. Dawn brings fog; when it

clears the British are discovered close in, the flagship St. Lawrence directly off from

the fort, in the middle of the line. At 10 o’clock the bombardment is begun, lasting

until 1:30, when the British land below the Fort, and attack on the north side.

Captain Miulcaster I severely wounded. Lieutenant Daniel Blaney is killed; from

40 to 50 men are killed or wounded.. Mitchell and his troops escape through the

south gate, and march to the U.S. Warehouse at Oswego Falls, tearing up bridges as

they pass. The enemy enters the fort and marches through the village, destroying

property and arresting prisoners, among them McNair, Morgan and Stephenson.

A Mr. Dougherty’s blacksmith shop and the home of the widow Montgomery are

burnt. A schooner and three boats are taken.

May 7

The British sail from Oswego.

May 15

The British fleet is sighted from Pultneyville. General John Swift arrives with

close to 130 men. Townspeople convince him to permit one of them to go to

the enemy with a flag of truce and offer them the contents of a storehouse at

the water’s edge. The British land. They only find some moldy flour, other

supplies having been moved away earlier.

Swift’s forces begin harassing fire from a nearby woods. A small number of

the British fire at the snipers and take two U. S. prisoners. Meanwhile a British

soldier ransacking a chest on the second floor of Whipple’s Tavern is killed by

a stray bullet fired by his own side. The British board their fleet and sail away,

taking two Americans - Whipple Tavern bartender Richard White and Samuel

Ledyard warehouse clerk Prescott Fairbanks. The two will be taken to Halifax

then released a few months later.

May 28

U. S. ships enter Sandy Creek to await the delivery of naval supplies from Oswego

to Sackets Harbor. The British learn of the plan. The sounds of artillery are heard

coming from the direction of Sodus.

May 29

The British follow the U. S. ships into Sandy Creek, are ambushed and surrender.

Over 200 officers and troops are captured. New York forces suffer the loss of one

Indian and several men are wounded. The supplies are carried 16 miles overland to

Sackets Harbor for construction of the frigate Superior.


Commander Yeo is turned away at Charlotte at the mouth of the Genesee River,

being mislead by local militia into believing their numbers are far greater the they

actually are. The British refuse to believe that the Americans could be intelligent

or clever enough to carry off such a bluff.

Jun 23

Architect Calvin Nicholas Otis is born in Spafford.

Jul 2

General Jacob Brown leads 3600 U. S. troops across the Niagara River into Canada,

captures Fort Erie the next day.

Jul 25

U. S. forces under Brown fight the battle of Lundy's Lane, Ontario, on the Niagara

River. They beat the enemy to a standstill, retreat to Fort Erie. At war’s end, later

this year, he will be appointed commander-in-chief of the American Army.


British Lieutenant General Sir Gordon Drummond attempts to capture the blockhouse

and shipyard at Black Rock, fails.

Aug 14

Charlotte Fowler, younger sister of phrenologist Orson Fowler, is born to Horace

and Martha Howe Fowler in Cohocton.

Oct 17

The U. S. abandons its siege of Fort Erie. Part of the fleet retires to Sackets Harbor

for the winter, the rest sail on to Buffalo to wait for the spring.


Construction begins at Sackets Harbor on the U. S. warship New Orleans.

Dec 2

A second son, Mortimer Fabritus Reynolds, is born to Abelard and Lydia Reynolds,

the first white child born in Rochesterville.


The state canal commission is denied funds. ** A stone arsenal is built near Batavia. **

Future abolitionist Gerrit Smith enrolls in Hamilton College. ** The approximate date

farmer Martin Keiffer builds a two-story log cabin in Rush, near Honeoye Creek.

It will become part of the Genesee Country Museum. ** British investor Patrick

Colquhoun is compensated by the heirs of fellow capitalist Sir William Pulteney

for state lands overlooked by the original 1791 survey. Colquhoun had foreseen the

possibility and written it into his contract with fellow investor Pulteney. ** The Ontario

County Town of Canadice experiences a large influx of settlers. ** Lawyer-poet William

Howe Cuyler Hosmer is born to Avon lawyer George Hosmer and his wife. ** Future

Spiritualist conspirator Leah Fox is born to John and Margaret Fox, in Hydesville. **

The McDowell farm is established on Bath Road in Barrington, Yates County. ** Duty

Waite opens a second Cohocton school. ** 23-year-old attorney Freeborn Garrison Jewett

arrives in Skaneateles from Connecticut to set up practice. ** Tenants on Wadsworth

lands in the Genesee Valley are required to have made certain improvements on their

property and to deliver a portion of their crops to pay the taxes on the land. ** Miller

John McKay, a Scotsman from Shamokin, Pennsylvania, builds a two-story house in

Caledonia. ** The approximate date farmer Martin Kieffer arrives in Rush from

Pennsylvania, builds a two-story, eight-room log house. ** The state has 151,846

eligible voters. ** Cayuga Academy in the Military Tract (Onondaga County,

later Cayuga County) is given Lot 89 of Township 3. Onondaga Academy (Onondaga

County) is given Lot 100 of Towmship 1. ** Capital stock for the Cayuga and Seneca

Canal is increased to $60,000. ** Ridge Road, connecting Rochester to Lewiston

along the Niagara Escarpment, is improved. ** Monroe County has a population of

6,945, broken down by town - Brighton (675), Mendon (1,353), Penfield (1,874),

Perinton (821) and Pittsford (2,222).


Because Buffalo was burned by the British at the end of last year, blacksmith John

Gilbert moves east to Le Roy. ** Winthrop Fox builds a store at 1 Main Street.


James D. Bemis issues The Farmer's Diary or Western Almanack, the first almanac in

the Genesee Country. ** A home is built at 295 North Main Street for former U. S.

Postmaster General Gideon Granger. ** St. John's Episcopal Church is reorganized,

holds services in the town hall. ** Young Trenton, New York, businessman Bela Coe

settles here. ** A mail stage leaves here for the west three times weekly.


Daniel Penfield builds a flouring mill on Irondequoit Creek which will become

known as The Yellow Mill. ** The approximate date Gideon Cobb acquires the

southwest 100 acres of Lot 61, Township 13, Range IV, where Allens Creek enters

Irondequoit Creek. He will build a farmhouse on the top of a Penfield Road hill,

which will become known as Allens Creek Farm


Perrin Glover sells his inn to M. Kempton. ** John Mann rebuilds his mill, destroyed

last year by fire. Shortly afterwards he sells the mill to make way for the Erie Canal.


Nathaniel Rochester, Charles Carroll and William Fitzhugh divide up the 100-Acre

Tract among themselves. Gideon Cobb arrives, establishes a cattle and hay yard in

the Tract. ** Nathaniel Rochester is chosen as an elector in the Presidential and

Vice-Presidential elections. ** Yeo will be driven off at Charlotte, inaccurately believing

the number of local militia is larger than it actually is. ** The village's first school is built.

London, England

Former stockbroker and future New York State pioneer David Piffard, living in Paris

since 1802 because of his wife Sarah’s poor health, return to England.

© 2011 David Minor / Eagles Byte

Brown Bag History Lunch

Friday Oct. 21, 12:30 to 1:30 p.m.

NeighborWorks, 570 South Avenue, Rochester 14620.

Enjoy Part One of Cythia Howk's fabulous presentation

"200 Years of South Wedge History and Architecture."

Free, bring your own lunch.

Information, Rose O'Keefe at (585) 244-4558

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Mount Hope Cemetery Talk / Slide Show

Tuesday Oct. 18, 7 p.m.

Rochester History Lecture Series

Slide show by Richard Reisem, "Mount Hope Cemetery"

Ellwanger Estate, 625 Mt. Hope Ave.

Tickets $15 available at Mise En Place, 683 South Ave., Rochester, 14620;

or the Swedge Shop, 732 South Ave, Rochester, 14620.


Information, Rose O'Keefe at (585) 244-4558

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Cecelia and Fanny

Several months ago I queried you about an article in Crooked Lake Review that I wanted to cite in my book about an escaped slave who lived for a while in upsate NY [Rochester], and you graciously offered to post info about the book on the CLR blog and your Eagles Byte blog. I wanted to let you know that the book is now out; here is the info:

Cecelia and Fanny: The Remarkable Friendship between an Escaped Slave and her Former Mistress

Author: Brad Asher
Publisher: University Press of Kentucky

Brad Asher

Monday, October 10, 2011

Medical Genealogy Presentation

Medical Genealogy

Genetic Heritage

Future of Gene Testing

by Jane E. Clarke, Ph.D.

Saturday, 15, Oct, 2011

Hamburg Sr. High School, 4111 Legion Drive

Hamburg, NY

10:30 am Brief Business Meeting

11:00 am Medical Genealogy Presentation

12:00 noon Lunch break; brown bag recommended

12:30 pm Medical Genealogy Discussion Continues

All are welcome