story was originally published in the 1993 August/September edition
Lily of the Valley
David W. Parish
father could not
wilt the eternal love that blossomed
in the Genesee
Wadsworth brothers, James and William, founded one
of the great dynasties of the Genesee Country after arriving in Geneseo in 1790.
Acting as land agents for their wealthy cousin, Jeremiah Wadsworth, a leading
Hartford, Conn., merchant, the brothers accumulated vast tracts of land in their
own names. It was once said that a Wadsworth could ride his horse from Geneseo
to Rochester and never leave his own land.
As the brothers' empire grew,
some began to worry about the lack of heirs to continue the dynasty. William preferred
the life of a soldier and bachelor farmer, but in 1804, after taming his wilderness,
James, at age 36 finally took a wife. She was Naomi Wolcott of Connecticut. The
couple quickly solved the succession problem by having five children: Harriet,
James, William, Cornelia and Elizabeth, the latter born in 1815.
the War of 1812 removed the British and Indian threat, the Genesee Country became
a boomtown. Settlers rushed in to partake of the Genesee land bounty. In this
exciting atmosphere, and under her father's rigorous academic training, Elizabeth
grew into a beautiful and much-admired young woman.
Many young men made
the pilgrimage to the Genesee Country wilderness to seek her hand. One Philadelphia
suitor described Elizabeth at age 19 as "handsome, intellectual, graceful,
elegant, very rich, of most lively and elevated personality." A Spanish nobleman,
visiting the family's Homestead manor, added "young and beautiful with an
image of sweetness and candor."
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