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Obituary and Biography of William C. Barry

December 16, 2010
William Crawford Barry 1847-1916

William Crawford Barry 1847-1916

From Volume III (of IV)  History of the Genesee Country published in 1925. See Graphic Below for Link

The death of William C. Barry on December 12, 1916, was a distinct loss to Rochester, where his activities had for many years been a most valuable and important factor in the business, financial and civic life of the city. He was a native son and was born September 17, 1847, the eldest son of Patrick and Harriet (Heustis) Barry, of whom a more extended mention will be found elsewhere in this work. William C. Barry received every educational advantage that wealth and his inclinations could satisfy. He was privately tutored and subsequently entered Seton Hall College in New Jersey, then conducted by Rev. Bernard J. McQuaid, later bishop of the Rochester diocese. After completing his studies at Seton Hall, Mr. Barry was sent to Europe and studied at Heidelberg and Louvain. Returning to America, he began his business career in connection with the extensive nursery firm of Ellwanger & Barry that was founded by his father and George Ellwanger in 1840.  His connection with that firm was continued during the remainder of William C. Barry’s life, and for a number of years prior to his death he was its president and treasurer. From the time he entered the nursery business, as a young man, his natural business ability and inherited enthusiasm for nursery development soon brought him to a position of prominence in that industry and upon the death of his father, which occurred on the 23d of June, 1890, he was highly capable of assuming the additional responsibilities that fell upon him. In November, 1906, George Ellwanger passed away, and for the decade following, until his death, William C. Barry was the executive and financial head of the vast interests of Ellwanger & Barry that have exerted such a valuable influence in Rochester’s development. Although William C. Barry devoted the greater part of his time to the interests of his firm, he was one of Rochester’s best known men in financial circles and the active part he took in civic affairs made him one of the city’s highly valued citizens. Notwithstanding the extent and importance of his private interests, it can be truthfully said that he was ever ready to serve on any important committee or body having as its object some city betterment or improvement.

Ad from Ellwanger & Barry Nursery 1910

He was a member of the original city park boardand served until its dissolution in 1915. He was no small factor in the placing of the Ellwanger & Barry Children’s Memorial pavilion in Highland Park, and the rapid development of Rochester’s park system was in a large measure due to his efforts. It was in 1888 that Ellwanger & Barry, through its founders, George Ellwanger and Patrick Barry, presented to the city of Rochester the twenty acres of land from which Highland Park has been developed. This munificent gift strange to say, had been offered to the city a number of times and William C. Barry bad no little to do with bringing about its final acceptance.   His vision and that of his predecessors and appreciation of the possibilities of the tract for park purposes is fully borne out by the scene it presents today. Highland Park, while one of the smallest of the city’s parks, is the most attractive of all. With its botanical display, particularly of the lilacs in their season, and the great number of different kinds of trees, showing a greater variety than can be found in any other park in the country. Moreover, the natural elevation of the park commands a splendid view of the city and surrounding country.

History of the Genesee Country Volume III

Source of this Article, Click to See More

To the example and exhortation of Mr. Barry’s firm it mainly owes that Rochester is one of the best shaded cities in the United States.  Mr. Barry had succeeded his father in 1890 as president of the Western New York Horticultural Society, and each succeeding year, at the annual election, he was honored by reelection. This society is one of the oldest and most influential of its kind in the United States, and despite the fact that he had frequently requested the honor to be extended to others, the members of the society recognized how difficult it would be to find another man who could give the problems of the fruit growers such consistent and intelligent attention as had Mr. Barry during his long and conscientious service, and insisted year after year that he be retained as the society’s president. His addresses at its annual meetings were looked forward to with great interest. His whole heart was in the work of this organization and he entered into the duties of its leadership with the zeal and enthusiasm that was characteristic of him in whatever he undertook. Mr. Barry was president of the Eastern Nurserymen’s Association and took a prominent part in the organization of the American Rose Society, becoming its first president. He was a member of the board of control of the New York Experiment station and for three years was its president. Mr. Barry’s interests were varied and extensive.

Rochester Trust and Safe Deposit Company Advertisement from 1910

He was president of the Rochester Trust & Safe Deposit Company, vice president of the Lincoln National Bank, trustee of the Monroe County Savings Bank, president and treasurer of Ellwanger & Barry, Incorporated, president and treasurer of the Ellwanger & Barry Realty Company, a director of the Rochester Electric Railroad Company and also a director of the Rochester & Suburban Railroad Company. He took a great interest and an active part in the work of the Rochester Chamber of Commerce and for several years was one of the trustees as well as serving at various times on important committees of that organization. He was a trustee of Cathedral parish and all his life had been closely identified with affairs of the Cathedral and Immaculate Conception parishes. Appreciative of the social amenities of life, he belonged to the Genesee Valley Club and the Country Club. Mr. Barry was married to Miss Mary Louise Gaffney, whose death occurred on February 20, 1912. Of the seven children born to them, three sons and a daughter survive: William C; Frederic G.; Arthur A.; and Harriet R., now Mrs. Charles H. Stearns of Rochester. Gifted with a keen business insight and a broad grasp of affairs, William C. Barry had a career of unusual activity. He was not only one of Rochester’s strong and able business men but a man of high ideals whose personal work was so often shown in his ability to plan and perform, to accomplish things for the public good and always looking at every question from the standpoint of a liberal-minded man of broad experience. At the time of his death a Rochester daily said of him editorially, in part:

Rochester has sustained a great loss in the death of William C. Barry.  Few of her citizens have displayed more public spirit than he. He was connected with almost every public movement of importance in the city for many years. His name was so familiar on the lists of committees that the omission of it was more noteworthy than was the presence of it. One of the city’s leading business men and bankers, he contributed much to the material prosperity of Rochester and aided in her development.  His interests were not confined to the great nursery firm of which he was president but included banking and real estate development. His activity in the development of the park system of the city was one of the strong factors in making the system what it is—one of the finest park systems in the United States. His connection with the Chamber of Commerce was not merely perfunctory. It was an energetic connection, and he was one of the most valued members of that organization. In the nursery industry Mr. Barry was one of the leaders. His interest was not merely that of the nurseryman, selling to the public, it was that as an enthusiast for plants and flowers and he did much to make life more beautiful for all by his work in aiding in the development of new varies of flowers. He was an authority on rose culture. He did not neglect the more practical side of the industry and continually fostered the improvement of the more useful products of the soil.

1912 Button for Western New York Horticultural Society

His standing and value to the industry are shown by the positions which he held in the organizations devoted to it as well as in kindred organizations not concerned with the strictly business side of it, such as the Western New York Horticultural Society and the American Rose Society.  The former organization will hardly seem like the same society without him at its head. Mr. Barry’s interest in the charities of the city, especially those of his church, was great. In this, as in every other good work, he was one of the leaders. Rochester can ill afford to lose such men as William C. Barry. But she may console herself by the thought that she has profited greatly in every way, but especially  by the example of his useful life, through her possession of him as one of her citizens.


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