Rochester can boast a fair number of interesting citizens who continue to walk among us, but many that have shuffled off this mortal coil remain the subject of endless fascination. These former Rochesterians may not be as well known as groundbreaking giants like abolitionist Frederick Douglass, activist Susan B. Anthony, and inventor George Eastman, but their place in history is nonetheless guaranteed.
William F. Cody, aka Buffalo Bill, kept a home in Rochester for few years, and he was off plying his trade as the greatest showman of all time when he received word in April of 1876 that scarlet fever had claimed the life of his only son, Kit Carson Cody, at the age of five. Young Kit is buried in MountHopeCemetery, as are two of Kit's sisters, who were returned to Rochester upon their deaths to be with their brother. After the heartbreaking loss of his son, Buffalo Bill developed a fatherly attachment to a 7-year-old orphan named Johnny Baker, who would become a world-famous sharpshooter in his own right known as the Cowboy Kid. Baker and his wife are also, for some reason, interred in MountHope, despite the fact that he died in 1931, well over a decade after Buffalo Bill Cody went to that great Wild West Show in the sky.
The chief suspect in history's most famous unsolved serial killings is buried in Rochester. Irish-born Francis Tumblety moved here as a young lad, eventually earning a very good living selling very questionable health remedies. In late summer 1888 the number of breathing prostitutes was on the decline in London's Whitechapel district, and Tumblety, who had arrived in England sometime the previous year, was arrested on suspicion of the murders. He was released thanks to a dearth of evidence, though the butchery coincidentally ceased a couple of weeks after he left for France in the fall of 1888. The grave marker in Lake Avenue's HolySepulchreCemetery spells his name as Tumuelty, and more than a few historians have called him Jack the Ripper.
Sam Patch, the first renowned US daredevil, never lived in Rochester, but he didn't exactly get to leave it either. After Patch became the first man to successfully jump Niagara Falls, he decided to try his hand at our 99-foot HighFalls. A crowd of 8000 showed up in November of 1829 to witness this feat, but Patch's luck had run out. His body was discovered in Charlotte the following spring, with two dislocated shoulders that had caused the Yankee Leaper to drown.
George B. Selden came to Rochester as a teenager and in 1879 the young lawyer filed for a patent on both an internal combustion engine and its use in a horseless carriage. Patent No. 549,160, granted in 1895, became the first US patent for an automobile, and for a time Selden made decent royalties on his invention. He won a patent infringement suit against automaking giant Henry Ford but then lost on appeal, becoming a footnote in history. Selden's father Henry, himself a noted Rochester lawyer, at one time declined the opportunity to be Abraham Lincoln's vice president, thus forgoing the somewhat dubious honor of being the first president to have taken the oath of office upon his predecessor's assassination.
Antoinette Brown Blackwell became the first American female minister upon her ordination in 1853. Western Union founder Hiram Sibley is credited with convincing Czar Alexander I of Russia to part with Alaska. Amy Kirby Post was a tireless advocate for the rights of women as well as an anti-slavery activist whose home was a bustling stop on the Underground Railroad. Yeah, we all know Philip Seymour Hoffman is from Rochester, but what has he done for you lately?