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 Friends of Mount Hope Cemetery

February 2015


The Friends of Mount Hope Cemetery are pleased to have received a grant from the Rochester Area Community Foundation for the purpose of creating tours and materials relating to the rich African American history of our city. This project will be chaired by Victoria Schmitt, a member of the Board of Trustees of the Friends of Mount Hope. 

The project will include the research and content development for a comprehensive themed tour and associated material focusing upon notable African Americans buried in Mount Hope Cemetery. The primary objective of the tour is to document and explore the breadth and depth of contributions made by numerous African Americans buried in Mount Hope.  The tour will be produced in hard copy and electronic format, enabling visitors to Mount Hope to learn about a particular person or gravesite by utilizing quick response (QR) code technology with their smart phone and by other electronic means. Visitors will be able to learn more about Frederick Douglass, but concurrently will also gain perspective on the African American community before, during and after Douglass' time in Rochester.  The tour will extend from the period in which Mount Hope Cemetery was established in 1838 to the present day. 

Stops on the African American history tour in Mount Hope will encompass the broad range of contributions African Americans have made to the Rochester community and beyond and will consider the interests of students, scholars and tourists, as well as capture the interest of the recreational visitor to Mount Hope.  Editorial decisions about the selected "stops" on the tour will be determined by a committee comprised of students, academics, tourism consultants, community members and leaders in the African American community. Committee members will collaborate to select tour "stops", choosing an array of people and their stories that reflect the full range and extent of Rochester's African American community. 

The Mount Hope African American History tour and materials will consider educational outreach for the visiting public as well as content for Rochester and Monroe County's many local colleges and K-12 classrooms, and will provide curriculum-focused content that aligns with Common Core standards.  In order to achieve increased access for the entire community, tour content will consider multiple age groups and interest areas and will utilize middle school students in Rochester and surrounding suburbs to participate in the development of tour content designed to appeal to children and young adults. 

The development of educational tour content contributes to the preservation of Mount Hope and adds significantly to its appeal as a tourist destination, a recreational resource, and a cultural asset. 

August 2011


Eaton Kempshall and Thomas Kempshall monument
Eaton Kempshall, a member and active supporter of the Friends of Mount Hope Cemetery and a resident of Honolulu, Hawaii, spent two days in July in Rochester visiting the gravesite of his ancestor, Rochester's fourth mayor, Thomas Kempshall. Mayor Kempshall and several members of his family are interred in Section G in the older part of Mount Hope Cemetery.

While viewing cemetery records, Eaton Kempshall was excited to learn of an additional plot belonging to Willis Kempshall, with whom he was unfamiliar. Further investigation revealed that Willis was the brother of Thomas and also an early Rochester settler. Willis is listed in early city directories as a hatter and one of the original 15 trustees of the Rochester Savings Bank.

Eaton "Mac" Kempshall pays his respects to his ancestor, Mayor Thomas Kempshall.

Thomas Kempshall
Fourth Mayor of Rochester (1837). Elected as a Whig to the 26th Congress (March 1839 to March 1841)

Thomas Kempshall immigrated with his father to the United States from England and settled in Pittsford in 1806. He moved to Rochester in 1813, making his living as a carpenter and in various mercantile pursuits in his younger years. Later he became one of many successful Rochester millers. His flour mill was located where the former Lawyers Cooperative Publishing Co. building stands today.

June 2011


On Monday, June 6, 2011 the City of Rochester announced that approximately 70 monuments had been toppled in Mount Hope Cemetery over the weekend. Mayor Thomas S. Richards stated, "These cowardly acts trample on the memories of loved ones and show disrespect for both people and property." Rochester Police Department Chief James Sheppard stated "The Rochester Police Department is investigating this incident, and we will act on all credible information received."

This incident is particularly distressing in light of the many repair and restoration projects that are taking place in 2011. These include significant mausoleum restoration near the north entrance, thanks to a Save America's Treasures grant; the repair of retaining walls in the older section of the cemetery; planned fence repair and replacement near Mount Hope Avenue and Elmwood Avenue; and landscape improvements near the graves of Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass.

The cemetery staff has begun work to repair damaged and fallen headstones.

three toppled headstones
Three toppled stones

Several stones reset
Four toppled stones have been reset.

The Jacob Gould Mausoleum restoration project is nearing an end. The replacement obelisk will be the last item to be put in place. It's expected to arrive from the quarry near the end of June.

Gould Mausoleum before restoration   Gould Mausoleum restoration
  The Gould Mausoleum in its former condition                    The Gould Mausoleum on June 10, 2011


Section G Wall Repair Completed!

Stone wall removed

The wall is down, and the area is ready for reassembly work to begin.

completed wall

The fallen wall (as pictured in the previous update) is now fully repaired. The stone blocks are pinned to prevent movement. Immediately behind the wall is gravel, and the bottom portion includes a drainage system to move water out and away. This wall should not require any further work for at least 100 years. Our small observer, Henry Lee Selden, looks on with satisfaction (second stone from the left).

Christian Yaky Plot
This lot is located on the immediate west side of the gatehouse.

Yaky plot with capstones removed

The wrought iron fencing has been removed and sent out to be refurbished. The cap stones are down, and removal of the stone wall begins.

Yaky Plot with stone wall removed.

The wall is being disassembled.

Yaky plot with new stone wall

Reassembly begins. This wall will not be pinned, but will have a layer of metal mesh between each row of stones. The new wall consists of the original exterior stones, plus a secondary row of stones immediately behind them to give added support.

completed stone wall  view of completed wall

DONE, and awaiting the return of the fencing.

May 2011


The Jacob Gould Egyptian style mausoleum*, constructed between 1842 and 1846, is built into the side of the hill immediately to the north of the old chapel in the area of the Florentine Fountain near the entrance to the cemetery on Mount Hope Avenue across from Robinson Drive. The entrance to the mausoleum is a carved-stone wing-and-orb motif. An obelisk sits on top of the roof.

Although certainly not as old as the pyramids, the mausoleum has survived 165 years and now requires some restoration work to assure its continued longevity. This work is being done as part of a plan proposed and approved a few years ago by the Friends of Mount Hope Cemetery. A Save America's Treasures Grant received by the City of Rochester provides funding for the project.

Heaster Building Restoration, Inc. began work on the Gould mausoleum on May 11, 2011. The first item addressed was the removal of the obelisk, which had been deteriorating for the last several years and was in danger of collapsing. While it was a sad moment to see it gone, it is exciting to anticipate the erection in the not-too-distant future of a new obelisk of identical dimensions and material.

Other work scheduled for this structure includes repairs to the "wings" on both sides of the central structure, as well as an assessment of the roof. Human eyes have not viewed this roof in over 100 years. We wonder what we will find.

General Jacob Gould 
Jacob Gould was born in Boxford, Massachusetts on February 10, 1794. His grandfather was a lieutenant of militia in the Revolutionary War. Prior to moving to Rochester in 1819, Gould had worked as a shoemaker. Not finding that to his liking, he began teaching school and subsequently took charge of the English department of the Union College Grammar School. He arrived in Rochester at a time when the population numbered about 1000.

Gould's career was long and varied. It included an appointment by Governor Clinton as a major general of artillery. He was a delegate appointed to escort General Lafayette to Rochester in 1824. President Jackson and then President Van Buren both appointed him Collector of Customs for the Port of the Genesee. He was associated with the Farmers' and Mechanics' Bank, and involved in the completion of the New York Central Railroad to Auburn. He entertained Presidents Tyler and Van Buren when they visited Rochester. He was married twice—first to Ruby Swan of North Andover, Massachusetts, who died at age 24; and then to Sarah T. Seward, principal of the Seward Female Seminary.

General Gould died in 1867. He may be best remembered as the man who opposed the choice of the site of Mount Hope Cemetery, stating, "It is all up hill and down dale, and with a gully at the entrance at that. Why, that ground isn't fit for pasturing rabbits." He was reminded, "...we are not going to pasture rabbits." Gould must have changed his thinking, since he was one of the first to purchase land and build his conspicuous mausoleum in Mount Hope.

*The Egyptian style of architecture became popular following Napoleon's Egyptian campaign in 1798-1799. A publication of the expedition's scientific component, entitled Description de l'Egypte began in 1809 and was  published as a series through 1826. In the United States, Egyptian motifs were applied to public buildings, particularly educational buildings, churches, cemetery entrances and tombs, memorials and homes.

April 2011

2011 An Exciting Year

carriage road around fountain 1885
Restoration Work at the North Entrance
A plan proposed and approved a few years ago by the Friends of Mount Hope Cemetery will become a reality, thanks to funding received by the City of Rochester from a Federal Save America's Treasures Grant. Keep an eye out in the vicinity of the north cemetery entrance. As soon as spring weather is here to stay, activity will be underway. Follow progress on this website and on Facebook.

Fountain and Carriage Road c1885

wall bordering Section G
Section G Wall Repair—Your membership and donation money at work!

Starting the last week in April, the structural wall located at the southeast end of Section G will undergo repair. The partially collapsed wall must be completely taken down. A more functional drainage system will be included in the reassembly process. The old wall has lasted a good many years, but with the improvement, the new wall's life expectancy will be dramatically increased.

Permanent Residents Watching:

The wall fronts Lot 114, the resting place of the Samuel Lee Selden family. Samuel (1800-1876) was born in Lyme, Connecticut. When his sister married Rochester lawyer Joseph Spencer, Samuel moved here as well. He studied law with Addison Gardiner, went into partnership with him, and started practicing in 1825. In July, 1831 he married Susan Matilda Ward, daughter of Dr. Levi Ward. Susan had 12 siblings. Lot 114 is probably best known for the sad story of Samuel and Susan's only son, Henry Lee Selden (1846–1858), who drowned while learning to swim in Irondequoit Bay. His beautiful monument was sculpted by Robert Eberhard Launitz, a celebrated funerary sculptor.

Other Seldens in Mount Hope Cemetery:

portraits of Henry and George SeldenIn Section C, Lot 108 rest Samuel's brother Henry Roger Selden (1805-1885) and Henry's son, George B. (1846-1922).

Henry was born in Lyme, Connecticut. At 19 years of age he served in the Connecticut militia. After moving to Rochester, he went on to become a New York State Supreme Court judge as well as one of the most able and accomplished judges on the New York State Court of Appeals.

Henry (left) and George (right) Selden

George Selden with automobile
George B. Selden was a lawyer, but his true love was inventing. He is well known for being granted the first U.S. patent for an automobile, which he invented in 1877. An image of it is engraved on his gravestone.

Section G:

A walk through Section G will introduce you to many of Rochester's prominent early families. You will meet Harriet Bentley, founder of the Harley School; Elizabeth Hollister Frost, eminent Rochester novelist and poet; Myron Holley, treasurer of the Erie Canal and a member of the Liberty Party; Thomas Kempshall, 4th mayor of Rochester; Elisha Gaylord Marshall, West Point graduate who was promoted to Brevet Brigadier General and later Major General for gallant and meritorious service during the Civil War; Blake McKelvey, long-time City Historian; the Porter family, Quakers who were ardent temperance and anti-slavery activists; and Henry Augustus Ward, world-renowned geologist and naturalist.

Learn about these people and many others in Richard O. Reisem's book, Buried Treasures, available from the Friends of Mount Hope Cemetery.