From the Files of the Rochester Historical Society

            With winter upon us, thoughts turn to cold weather and snow. It’s been several years since we have had any really significant snowstorms. Whether due to climate change or selective memory, most of us remember the snowstorms of our childhoods as bringing more abundant and deeper amounts of the white stuff.

            Referring once again to the Rochester Journals, ice skating on frozen ponds and bogs and sledding down snowy hills are most often mentioned in talk about childhood winters in Rochester. These memories belong to many different generations. Florence Taylor who was born in 1911 reminisced about skating on Hartley Mill Pond and on the frozen cranberry bogs. She talked about sliding by the hill near the big barn that today houses Jonathan Sprouts. She also remembered that Mildred Knight who lived in the house nearest the barn would warm them up with hot cocoa and cookies.

            Hilda Nevius Peirce, who grew up in Rochester in the 1930’s, wrote a poem entitled “Growing Up in Rochester Center” and in stanzas 16 and 17 she writes of skating ” after school until dark on the frozen icehouse pond”. She also writes of taking sleds and skis to Bonney Hill where they would all go down the slope and perilously close to a large tree.

            Stanza 18 presented me with a mystery. It reads,

            “Many an adult mourns the loss

            Of that hill

            Where we played in our leisure

            The Peirces, the Churches, Henry Knight

            Are a few who recall it with pleasure”.

            I’m curious to know what happened to the hill. If someone knows, they could email me at

            I remember both sledding (we called it coasting) and ice skating in Rochester. We would coast down the hill in the pasture next to Great Grandma’s house. It was very competitive as my brother, sister and I would try to be the one to go the farthest distance across the frozen pond at the bottom. Our early ice skating was done on a fairly sorry little pond next to my grandparents’ house (now the Hathaways). My grandfather gave us some old chairs to push around so we could maintain balance. Wanting to be famous figure skaters (ignoring the fact that there were no chairs used in the ice shows), my cousin claimed Sonja Henie, the only one we knew. We asked my mother for more names and my sister became Tenley Allbright and I was happy as her younger sister, Eightly.

            Happy Holidays from the Rochester Historical Society and may we have frozen ponds and snowy hills in our future.

By Connie Eshbach

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