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There are Wonderful Discoveries to be found in Maps

Updated: Jun 1, 2022

My research leads from chickens to lilacs.

The 1873 map of Rush shows a large piece of property on Stonybrook Road owned by E. A. Ellwanger.

According to the 1865 census the family of Emanuel Ellwanger, a farmer, lived in Rush. His eldest son, Wilhelm (William) was also listed as a farmer and living at the same residence with his mother Elizabeth and three other children.

A census record for Rush from 1880 shows William Ellwanger owned 58 acres at a value of $4,000.* His primary crops were corn, potatoes, wheat and oats. He grew apples and peaches, but doesn’t appear have been too successful with either one. William and his wife and 7 children lived in Henrietta for a time and then settled in Rochester. In later census records his occupation is listed as Nurseryman.

Many of you are familiar with the Ellwanger & Barry Nursery that was in part responsible for Rochester becoming known as the Flower City. Their property on Mount Hope Avenue still has a flower show each year. I set out to determine if these were the same Ellwanger family. As far as I can tell from records from the United States, they are not related. However, both families came from the same region in Germany.

In speaking with the Rush Town Historian, Sue Mee, I learned that some of the trees that grow in Pine Hill Cemetery were donated by the Ellwanger and Barry Nursery. The website for the Pine Hill Cemetery includes a history of its formation. This includes the meeting minutes from 1865 where it was acknowledged that trees were donated by A. Preston and the Ellwanger and Barry Nursery.

When I saw the name Ellwanger on the map, I immediately thought of lilacs. May is the month in which the beloved lilacs bloom. The Lilac Festival at Highland Parks runs this year from May 6 to May 22. This year, the festival celebrates the 200th birthday of Frederick Law Olmstead, the designer of Highland Park, as well as Genesee Valley Park in Rochester, Central Park in New York City and the park system in Buffalo.

Many families have the tradition of visiting Highland Park on Mother’s Day and taking family photos in front of the lilacs. Lilacs thrive in this climate and are a popular choice for homeowners to add spring color to their yard. I remember my father planted a lilac for my mother one year. Over the years, we have planted 4 varieties in our yard, each one slightly different in flower, color and fragrance.

If you have any old family photos featuring lilacs, I would love to see them.** If you have lilacs blooming in your yard, I would appreciate receiving those photos. Every picture and every plant has a story. Perhaps your lilacs were planted to commemorate a special occasion; we planted a lilac the year our daughter was born. Please label your photos with what you know about the people as well as the lilac, such as variety and year planted or if they were there when you bought the house.

You can read more about Highland Park with the following links.

Upstate Gardeners’ Journal website has article about history of lilacs, Highland Park and George Ellwanger. Use the search bar to find Ellwanger.

The Digital Collections in the Monroe County Library System has a wonderful article including photos,

The City of Rochester’s website has an article about the designer of Highland Park, Frederick Law Olmstead.

More Rush maps can be found on our Photo Gallery page.

*Very detailed information regarding farming can be found in the US Federal Census Non-Population Schedules. According to that, William Ellwanger’s acreage was used as follows: 30 were tilled, 20 were permanent meadow or permanent pasture, orchard or vineyard, and 8 were unimproved “old fields” not growing wood. He grew 3 acres of hay and owned 4 horses. From his 4 cows he produced 600 pounds of butter. His 40 hens laid 300 dozen eggs. He had 1 acre of apple trees that produced 50 bushels. He had 3 acres of peach trees that only resulted in 10 bushels.

**Digital photos can be sent to Using your phone, you can take a picture of an old photograph and send it digitally. Contact me at the above email address if you would like me to make a digital image using my scanning equipment.

Thank you to the following people for contributing photos of the lilacs that bloom in Rush: Anne Cammett; Steven Neumaier; Kevin Yost.


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