Rochester, New York

  A historic sign in Rochester tells some of the city's 19th century history.

A historic sign in Rochester tells some of the city's 19th century history.

 
 

It all started when...

The city, coined the "Lion of the West," became a crossroads for business, in- and out-migration, and new ideas.

In the years before the Civil War, Rochester was at the center of many social movements. Religious revivals and temperance took hold. Its location across from Canada made it the last stop on many an Underground Railroad journey. And women's rights also developed. This is not to say that most, or even many, Rochesterians took part in these causes. But compared to the rest of the country, including the North, it was very progressive. 

Amy and Isaac Post, Frederick Douglass, and Susan B. Anthony are among the people whose paths crossed at this time. 

In 1844, Julia Wilbur moved to Rochester to teach from her family's farm in Rush, about 15 miles south. Over the years, she lived with various family members and in boarding houses, teaching in different schools and taking full advantage of the lectures, performances, and meetings that Rochester had to offer.  

In the early 1850s she became active with the Rochester Ladies' Anti-Slavery Society, helping raise money and "build consciousness." 

The people she met and events Julia Wilbur experienced in Rochester propelled her to a life of activism and awareness. After 1859, she never permanently lived in Rochester, but she visited often.