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Obituary of Patrick Barry

October 14, 2009

 The death of Patrick Barry, June 23, [1890] of the firm of Ellwanger & Barry of Rochester, New York, removed the most commanding figure in recent American horticulture. He was a man of strong personality, clear perception and great integrity, and his opinion always exerted wide influence. He

1890 Source for Patrick Barry Obit

1890 Source for Patrick Barry Obit

was one of the greatest and best known nurserymen of the century. He entered the nursery business when American horticulture was young, and when there was need of a commanding personality to extend and popularize it. Along with the Downings, Prince, Parsons and others, he was a pioneer. He helped to build up a great business which is not only a commanding financial success but a stimulus to ah to grow fruits and ornamental plants. He did much to give standing and stability to the nursery business throughout the country. 

Mr. Barry was also well-known as a horticultural writer. In his early years his pen was prolific, especially in an editorial way. He was once editor of the famous Horticulturist, and later he was horticultural editor of the Genesee Farmer. In his later years he became widely known among pomologists from his work on the fruit catalogue of the American Pomological Society. This was work in a new field. But his most important literary work is the Fruit Garden, which first appeared many years ago, and which in its revised edition is one of our best and most popular books upon fruit culture. All his work was strong and inspiring. His memory will long remain a great inspiration to horticulturists.

For more than thirty years and until his death, Mr. Barry was president of the Western New York Horticultural Society; he Patrick Barry in Annals 1890 Engraving65was also president of the New York Agricultural Society, and one of the board of control of the State Agricultural Experiment Station ; president of the Rochester City & Brighton Railroad Co., of the Flour City National Bank, Mechanics Savings Bank, Rochester Gas Co. and Powers Hotel Co.

The following tribute is from John Hall, secretary of the Western New York Horticultural Society, of which Mr. Barry was so long president. It first appeared in The American Garden for August :

It is impossible to do full justice to the life and work of Mr. Barry. He was born in Ireland, near the city of Belfast, in 1816. After receiving a liberal education, he emigrated to this country at the age of twenty years. Entering the employ of the Princes, of Flushing, —Long Island, as a clerk, he devoted his time and energies to his chosen occupation, and in the remarkably short space of four years had acquired a very thorough knowledge of the nursery business as it then existed.

In 1840 he moved to Rochester, N. Y., where he formed a partnership with George Ellwanger. The young firm started business with seven acres of land, known as the Mount Hope nurseries, and now of world-wide reputation. The young horticulturists of to-day find themselves the possessors of an inheritance secured to them through the privations and vexations of years of patient and persistent effort by the firm with which the late Mr. Barry was identified.

In those early days these pioneers found themselves in a new country, possessing no collections of fruit, with no telegraphic or cable facilities, with no railroads or fast ocean steamers, and separated from the Old World by a distance which then required almost as many weeks to traverse as days now suffice. Necessarily, therefore, many weeks and months were spent in the effort to procure new stocks, both in Germany and France, which, when gathered, were transported to the sea-ports by stage coach, and thence conveyed by sailing vessels to the New World. When the young firm started to budding trees they were sneered at, and called fools and lunatics for their pains. Such were some of the difficulties encountered by these men in the efforts to introduce new stocks into this country. But they persevered, and Mr. Barry was identified with the growth of horticulture to the present time, having succeeded in giving to the American people the most desirable plants that can be successfully grown upon its soil. Every new apple and pear was imported from abroad and tested, in order to determine its quality and adaptability to the climate before it was placed upon the market. It is safe to say that no other nursery firm in the country pursued such a course ; nor, indeed, is it now so necessary, since the United States government and individual states, as well as some colleges, have established experiment stations for the purpose of continuing just such work as the firm of Ellwanger & Barry inaugurated forty years ago.

Mr. Barry occupied numerous positions of prominence and trust in the state and in the “flour city,” and was identified with many enterprises which have helped to make Rochester the prosperous city it now is. For more than thirty years he was the president, and a most liberal patron of the Western New York Horticultural Society, and in his last communication to that body, at its annual meeting in January last, he thus expressed himself: “And now a word as to the presidency. You have given me this post of honor for a very long period of years ; I am no longer able to perform its duties, and lay it down with profound gratitude, and with an affectionate regard for the society and every individual member.” But the assembled horticulturists with one voice declared that so long as Patrick Barry was able to write “yours truly,” so long he should be continued as their president.

In an editorial, a Rochester paper thus referred to Mr. Barry: “He was a man of exceptionally strong character. The slightest contact with him elicited some manifestation of personal power. He was straightforward in his methods, honorable in his purposes, and of an integrity that would not tolerate even the suspicion of indiscretion. In private and public affairs he was a stern, aggressive personality whose influence went always for what was honest, genuine, and true ; and in his loss the community loses not simply an individual life but a moral force.”

And the bishop of the church with which Mr. Barry worshiped, as he stood by his casket, thus beautifully made reference to the dead horticulturist:

This man and the others associated with him raised the occupation to which they devoted their life work to the dignity of a liberal profession, not manual or clerical, but a profession that needed long years of study and careful application. By intellectual labor and by extensive reading, he contributed to make their profession worthy to be called one of the liberal professions – raising those who were engaged in it above their fellow men ;” and again, “he ruled in his household wisely, conscientiously, lovingly, as a man should rule in it.”

Such was Patrick Barry, a man to whom every lover of horticulture owes a debt of gratitude that can best be acknowledged by constant efforts to perpetuate his example.

He leaves a widow, one daughter and three sons.

The portrait [shown here] is commended by W. C. Barry as a good likeness of his late father.


3 Comments leave one →
  1. May 2, 2010 4:43 pm

    I had not read this before. Thank you for preserving it. I will share it with the rest of my family. I was born in Rochester in 1955 and though I went to prep and college in upstate New York, I grew up in south Florida. My name is Gwendolyn H. Barry and Patrick is my great great great grandfather.

    • timothy smith permalink
      April 21, 2015 2:27 pm

      hi this tim. i had lost the information of your reply on my computer. so i found the link. its been few years. i still have it. i was wondering do you come to the lilac festival in rochester? for barry. I’m trying to find what the connection was between barry and hugh mcgraw. maybe you have some information . i have been in contact with people in rochester. also here is my mail to thanks tim

  2. tim smith permalink
    September 30, 2011 7:20 pm

    hello how are you i seen this posting. i see that patrick barry was your great great great grand father. im interested in knowing more about him. im a researcher and a collector of a very special revolver. used in the civil war by the officers. the men treasured them so much they put their names on them they saved their lives many times over. i have a presentstion revolver with names on it. it reads hugh mcgraw from p barry rochester ny sept 1862. mcgraw was in the 140th ny, out of rochester. it is a very good chance its from your grand father my e mail is thank you tim

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