William Beatty Rochester was born in Hagerstown, Maryland on January 29, 1789, the eldest son of Nathaniel and Sophia (Beatty) Rochester. He attended the public schools and graduated from Charlotte Hall, St. Mary's County Maryland. He studied law with his uncle, Judge Adam Beatty and with Henry Clay in Lexington, Kentucky, was admitted to the bar, and began to practice law in Bath, N.Y.
In 1812 he married his first wife, Harriet Irwin, who died on January 27, 1815. From this marriage they had one child, Nathaniel Montgomery Rochester, born September 21, 1813 and died on February 28, 1823.
William B. Rochester married his second wife, Amanda Hopkins on January 31, 1816. She lived until January 16, 1831, and they had five children. James Hervey Rochester (1819-1860); Harriet Louisa Rochester (1821-1854); Sophia Elizabeth Rochester (1823-1824); William Beatty Rochester (1826-1909) and Nathaniel Elie Rochester (1829-1833).
He married his third wife, Eliza Powers (1800-1885) on April 9, 1832. They had two children, Eliza Hatch Rochester (1833-1868) and George William Rochester (1835-1837).
From 1816 until 1818, he represented Steuben County in the New York State Assembly and was elected to serve the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Congresses, from March 4, 1821 until his resignation in 1823.
In April of 1823, he became a State circuit judge for the eighth circuit until his resignation in 1826 due to his acceptance of the "Bucktail" (Democratic) nomination for New York State governor. He accepted the nomination in opposition to Dewitt Clinton and Martin Van Buren, who was an avowed Jacksonian. His bid for governorship failed, losing by only a small majority.
In 1826, he was secretary to special Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary in Columbia, Central America. In 1827 he was commissioned by Secretary of State, John Quincy Adams, to be Charge D'Affaires to Central America. His duties were to observe the civil war in Central America, report on the development of governments, observe European actions in the region and in particular the actions of Mexico, Peru and Columbia in Central America. He was ordered home in May of 1828, due to increased violence in the area.
That same year, 1828, a branch of the Bank of the United States opened in Buffalo, New York. He was appointed president of this branch by Nicholas Biddle and served until 1836. In 1837 and 1838 he was appointed president of the Bank of Pensacola, Florida and director of the Alabama and Florida Railroad Company. He spent the winter of 1837 - 1838 in Florida, and was lost in the wreck of the steam packet Pulaski off the coast of North Carolina, on her passage from Charleston to Baltimore on June 15, 1838.
The correspondence and the financial papers are arranged in separate chronological orders in two boxes. There are approximately 375 manuscript letters and documents that detail William Beatty Rochester's life and also that of his sons James Hervey Rochester and William Beatty Rochester.
Letters from 1820 to 1825 are mostly of a personal nature and deal with incoming correspondence of friends and relatives. Throughout this period, there will also be political correspondence reflecting his position as a member of the House of Representatives.
Correspondence from 1826 to 1830, deals with his appointment as Charge d'Affaires and his journey to Central America. There are retained copies of letters to Henry Clay, who was Secretary of State.
Correspondence from 1830 to 1836 is of a business nature. A majority of the letters concern banking and business affairs of William B. Rochester in the Buffalo area and land speculation in Michigan. Throughout this era, there are letters from Nicholas Biddle and retained copies to Nicholas Biddle, as well as letters from Israel Hatch, Enos Thompson Throop and Joseph Comperthwait.
In June of 1838, William Beatty Rochester died in the wreck of the steam packet Pulaski. From this point on, the collection deals with correspondence concerning business ventures, land speculation and personal matters of his sons James H. Rochester and William B. Rochester.
Correspondence from 1839 contains a letter to A.W. Redding from James Rochester about a business venture James was undertaking. A.W. Redding and James had many business deals together.
Correspondence from 1840 to 1845 deals with land speculation and banking in Iowa, Wisconsin and Michigan. Many of the letters are to and from Enos Thompson Throop Martin and Thaddeus Martin. There are also letters concerning James H. Rochester's business ventures with Philo Durfee's brother Sydney. At this time, James had relocated to Chicago to go into business concerning agricultural shipping. Sydney Durfee was an alcoholic, and Philo Durfee wrote James telling him to break off the business with Sydney before they were financially ruined.
Correspondence from 1846 to 1850, contains letters to and from James H. Rochester, George R. Throop, Enos T. T. Martin and William B. Rochester. Most letters are personal or deal with business matters. One historically important letter is from Enos T. Throop ( Governor of New York 1830 - 1833) to John S. Jenkins. John S. Jenkins wrote a volume of biographical sketches on the governors of New York State. This letter to Jenkins, January 29, 1850, is a recollection of Enos T. Throop's term as governor.
Correspondence from 1851 to 1900 contains letters from the Throops and Rochesters concerning land speculation and business holdings in California, Michigan and Wisconsin. The Throops and Martins were related to James H. Rochester by marriage.
The Financial and Legal papers of William B. Rochester contain deeds to land, mortgages, bonds and loans. There are account sheets of William B. Rochester and his sons James and William. There are legal contracts and payment receipts of loan payments. There are deeds to property holdings in Dansville, New York as well as to other properties.
A contract and floor plans exist about William B. Rochester's house in Bath, New York (May 5 and 7, 1816) in the Financial and Legal box. These plans include the drawing of Rochester's house, prices for labor and material and the names of the contractors, Samual A. Johnson and Elisha Hopkins.
A biographical sketch of William B. Rochester exists in folder 28 of the Financial and Legal box. The date and the person who wrote this are unknown, and it was given to a relative or a friend of the Rochester family.
A draft manuscript of William B. Rochester's association with the City Bank of Buffalo exists in folder 29 of the Financial and Legal box. This manuscript is from 1837 and details his association with the Buffalo bank and its board members. There are drafts of letters, lists of board members and their shares of stock in the bank.
The collection was purchased from Charles Apfelbaum, December 1991 and February 1992. D.240 Rochester (William Beatty) Papers, 1811 - 1907
- thanks to
Rob Beatty (L256).
Box 1: Correspondence [<snip>]
Box 2: Financial and Legal Documents 1811 - 1903 [<snip>]
Biographical sketch of William B. Rochester
Draft Manuscript of Rochester's association with the City Bank of Buffalo
For more information about this collection, contact the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, University of Rochester Library.