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A Contemporary Biography of George Ellwanger

July 30, 2012

George Ellwanger

The following biography of George Ellwanger was originally written in  1901 and published the following year.   See Reference Below.

To say of him whose name heads this sketch that he has risen unaided from comparative obscurity to’ ranks among the most prominent and successful business men of western New York,  is a statement that seems trit to those familiar with his life, yet it is but just to say in a history that will descend to future generations that his business record has been one that any man would lie proud to possess.  Beginning at the very bottom round of the ladder,  he has advanced steadily step’ by step until he is now occupying a position of prominence and trust reached by very few men.  Through his entire business career he has been looked upon as a model of integrity and honor,  never making an engagement that he has not fulfilled and standing to-day an example of what determination and force,  combined with the highest degree of business integrity can accomplish for a man of natural ability and strength of character.  He is respected by the community at large and honored by his business associates.  As a member of the firm of Ellwanger & Barry,  he built up a nursery business greater in extent than any other in the country and thus the years brought to him prosperity and his ability won recognition among his friends, acquaintances and the general public.

Mr. Ellwanger was born at Gross-Heppach, in the Remsthal, called the “garden of the fatherland,”  in the kingdom of Wurtemberg, Germany, December 2, 1816, and spent his youth with his father and brothers in their vineyards.  In this capacity he acquired a love for horticulture and early resolved to devote his life to it.  Having received a liberal education in the schools of the neighborhood,  he studied for four years in a leading horticultural institution in Stuttgart,  where he perfected himself for the work which he had decided to make a life vocation.

Believing that America would furnish him better opportunities than could he secured in the old world where competition was greater,  Mr. Ellwanger crossed the Atlantic in 1835 and took up his abode in Tiffin, Ohio,  but while en route for that place he passed through the Genesee valley of New York and made mental note of the splendid advantages here afforded.  He soon returned and located in Rochester, where he entered the horticultural establishment of the firm of Reynolds & Bateham,  the first of its kind in this city.   For four years he remained there as an employee, and then in 1839 purchased the business and also  bought eight acres of land on Mount Hope avenue,  a tract which formed the- nucleus of the Mount Hope nurseries, which subsequently became so celebrated.

Back of a Trade Card for Ellwanger & Barry

In 1840 Mr. Ellwanger entered into partnership relations with Patrick Barry,  a connection that was maintained for a half-century and was only severed by the death of Mr. Barry in June, 1890.  From the beginning their enterprise prospered and grew,  its business constantly increasing in volume and importance until it exceeded every other enterprise of the kind in the United States, and for fifty years maintained a trade which extended largely into foreign lands,  shipments being made to almost every nation on the globe, a condition which still exists.  They also established the Toronto nurseries in Canada and the Columbus nurseries in Ohio in order to facilitate shipments and bring the western and northern trade nearer to a base of supplies.  Since Mr. Barry’s death the business has been continued under the old name and with the passing years it is constantly increasing, its ever widening trade being the result of the excellent character of the trees, shrubs, plants, etc., grown by the firm, together with the honorable business policy of the house, which has ever been a marked feature.

Ellwanger & Barry Building @ 1890

As a citizen Mr. Ellwanger has constantly exercised a beneficial influence upon the growth and material prosperity of the community, and has always been prominently identified with every public enterprise of a helpful nature.  For many years he has been officially connected with the banking interests of Rochester, being successively a director of the Union and Flour City Banks and a trustee of the Monroe County Savings Bank and the Rochester Trust and Safe Deposit Company.  He has also served as a director of the Rochester Gas Company,  the Eastman Kodak Company and the Rochester & Brighton Street Railroad Company.

In 1846 Mr. Ellwanger married Miss Cornelia Brooks, a daughter of General Micah Brooks, of Livingston county, a pioneer of western New York.  They have had four sons, George H., Henry B., William D. and Edward S.,  all of whom received the best educational advantages the schools of the country afforded,  supplemented by extended travel and study abroad.  Of these sons,  George H. and William D. survive, the former being an active member of the nursery firm.

1900 Ellwanger & Barry Ad

Mr. Ellwanger has accomplished much in the business world, and his varied enterprises have been of such a character that they have benefited the community and advanced the general prosperity while contributing to his success.  A man of strong force of character, determined purpose and sound judgment,  he has had not only the ability to plan but to execute large business interests, and through all the long years of a successful career,  he has maintained a reputation for honesty that is above question.  He is now eighty-five years of age,  and for more than six decades he has resided in Rochester,  where he is esteemed and honored alike by young and old, rich and poor.


 The Biographical Record of the City of Rochester and Monroe County, New York, Illustrated. Macaulay .New York and Chicago: The S, J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1902

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