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This story was originally published in the 1993 August/September edition

Elizabeth Wadsworth:

Lily of the Valley

by David W. Parish

Elizabeth  Wadsworth

An authoritarian father could not
wilt the eternal love that blossomed
in the Genesee Country wilderness.

Wadsworth brothers, James and William, founded one of the great dynasties of the Genesee Country after arriving in Geneseo in 1790. Acting as land agents for their wealthy cousin, Jeremiah Wadsworth, a leading Hartford, Conn., merchant, the brothers accumulated vast tracts of land in their own names. It was once said that a Wadsworth could ride his horse from Geneseo to Rochester and never leave his own land.

As the brothers' empire grew, some began to worry about the lack of heirs to continue the dynasty. William preferred the life of a soldier and bachelor farmer, but in 1804, after taming his wilderness, James, at age 36 finally took a wife. She was Naomi Wolcott of Connecticut. The couple quickly solved the succession problem by having five children: Harriet, James, William, Cornelia and Elizabeth, the latter born in 1815.

After the War of 1812 removed the British and Indian threat, the Genesee Country became a boomtown. Settlers rushed in to partake of the Genesee land bounty. In this exciting atmosphere, and under her father's rigorous academic training, Elizabeth grew into a beautiful and much-admired young woman.

Many young men made the pilgrimage to the Genesee Country wilderness to seek her hand. One Philadelphia suitor described Elizabeth at age 19 as "handsome, intellectual, graceful, elegant, very rich, of most lively and elevated personality." A Spanish nobleman, visiting the family's Homestead manor, added "young and beautiful with an image of sweetness and candor."

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