Looking Back: Mt. Airy one of the last local remnants of John Rochester III
By BRENDA S. EDWARDS
The remains of a cemetery on South Alta Avenue is the only visible reminder of John Rochester III who came to Kentucky, had a large family, acquire hundreds of acres, and built Mt. Airy, a beautiful mansion on what is East Main Street.
The house was razed in 1957 and Jennie Rogers Elementary School sits on the property. The Rochester descendants have scattered North, South and East and West.
Family history indicates the first John Rochester came from Essex, England, to Westmoreland, Virginia, in 1672.
He came with a Royal Grant in consideration of Services to the Crown, according to The Advocate Messenger Archives. He and his eldest descendant, John II, a guardian of minor brothers and sisters went to Dansville, NY.
John III was born March 1, 1772, in Virginia and the son of John Rochester II and Nancy Ann Jordan.
John III came to Kentucky and was possibly the first Danville merchant before he became a large landowner and build a large mansion on his vast estate in Danville.
His land was eastward extending to land owned by the Crow family, northward as far as Kemper Lane off Lexington Road.
John built his first house in 1802 on three acres of land he purchased from Walter Edward Strong in 1799. The family lived there until he built Mt. Airy to accommodate his growing family.
The 40-room house with a ballroom was built by Robert Russell Jr. in about 1832.
When John III died of cholera in 1833, the house was deeded to their youngest son, Charles Hannah Rochester in 1836.
Sarah moved to the William W. Batterton House on Broadway and Fourth Streets, and lived there she lived until she died in 1846.
The mansion was later called the Rochester-Ferris Mansion. It sat in the center of the Rochester property and faced Old Wilderness Road. When Ferris bought the property, he changed the entrance to face Main Street. The house was used as apartments after Ferris died.
Couple had eight children
John III and Sarah “Sallie” Underwood Lewis were married in 1791. She was born August 22, 1772 in Virginia, and was a daughter of William Lewis and Hannah Underwood.
They had nine children:
Ann “Nancy” Jordon Rochester (1792-1856), who married Samuel James McDowell on August 30, 1808.
William Lewis Rochester (1794-?) who married Letitia Warren.
John Underwood Rochester (1796-?).
Susan Lewis Underwood (1876-1834), who married Joseph Weisiger.
Nathaniel Jordon “Nat” Rochester (1801-?).
James Samuel Henry Rochester (1807), who married Demorita Pitts.
Edwin Taylor Rochester (1810-1833).
John Underwood Rochester (1814-?), who married Elizabeth
Ann “Bettie Gilmore. He died in New Orleans.
Charles Hannah Rochester Sr. (1814-1894), who married Mary Leticia Caldwell in 1850 in Adair County. He died in Jackson County, Missouri.
Charles stayed in Danville
Charles Hannah was was born in Mt. Airy Jan. 20 1817. He graduated from Centre College in 1834 and became a farmer. The family through its alliances with the Lawson, Moore and Bright families, represented by Sophy Bight Logan, Mrs. Robert G. Evans, and Collins Sumrall, Jennie Harlan Anderson, the late Daniel Lawson Moore, the Weisiger family and others were the largest landowners in the region in the mid-1800s. They also owned many slaves.
Early in his life Charles united with the Presbyterian Church, though the original Rochesters were Episcopalians, however, the New York branch remained Episcopalians. Charles was active in the church and was a deacon and elder all his life.
He married twice – Mary McCaleb of Natchez, Mississippi, and they had eight children, including Henrietta Caldwell, Susan Burk and Mary Rochester.
Charles and Mary L. Caldwell of Columbia, Adair County, were married in 1850. She was a sister of Congressman George Alfred Caldwell. Another brother Isaac Caldwell was a lawyer in Louisville.
Mary and Charles had eight children including Mrs. John P. McAlister, George Alfred Caldwell Rochester, ex-Judge of the Superior Court of Washington in Seattle, and Richmond Rochester president of the New York Cordage Co. in New York City.
Thirty descendants of Charles Rochester attended the reunion in 1917 to celebrate the 100th birthday of C.H. Rochester held at the residences
Lettie Green of Lexington Street and Mrs. Brogle on Third Street,according to The Advocate archives.
Several grand and great-grandchildren were in attendance.
(Editor’s note: Information for this article came from research by Carolyn Crabtree, The Advocate Messenger Archives, and Fackler’s “Early Days in Danville”.)