Skip to main content

Recalling the Acer family of Northfield and Pittsford

In the Pioneer Cemetery, very close to the sidewalk, there are five tombstones with the name of ACER. Some people may think the names are pronounced like the acreage of land, but it was told to me by members of the family that it is actually pronounced like "Ak - ER". Before we were "in the know", folks used to joke that there were five acres in that small cemetery.

Five years before Northfield was established as a town, William and Dorothy Adams Acer came to this area and settled on land very near what has become the Thruway. Dorothy was a cousin of John Quincy Adams. Dorothy and William had numerous children, among them John and David. John became known as the "landlord of Pittsford" when he purchased the tavern that became the Phoenix Hotel. He also was an assessor of the town as well as the "president of the village".

David was born in MA in 1782 and came to this area before 1800. He built a large stone house on the farm, which consisted of 1000 acres of land that had purportedly been purchased from the native Americans residing in this part of upstate NY. That cobblestone house at 476 Mendon Center Road still exists with a brick addition and large barns behind it. His house was valued at $2,500 in 1855, a very considerable sum in that year.

In 1891 the great grandchildren of David had a wonderful centennial celebration and reunion at the house and the Historian's office has a copy of the small booklet prepared by the family. On July 10, 1891. Over 60 guests had been invited and they arrived on a special car on the New York Central Railroad that had been chartered for the occasion. The guests were met at the station and transported by carriages to the old house where they were given a "refreshing and reviving cup of tea".

Family and guests were seated at small tables outside on the lawn under immense maple trees. A very fine repast was served, speeches given, and friendships renewed. The day seemed made for the celebration, with "wheat fields gleaming and golden, and balmy, refreshing air." The friends all remained at the home until they were driven to the 9:00 train to return from whence they had come. All felt it had been a joyous gathering.

In 1991, members of the Acer family again gathered in Pittsford. This time they all arrived by whatever means they had at their own disposal. Relations came from Michigan, Pennsylvania, and parts west. A weekend was spent here in town and arrangements had been made to see the old cobblestone home built by their long ago ancestor. I do not have a booklet of that gathering.

One of David's daughters, Jane, married a man named Lucius May who had purchased the home originally built by Sylvanus Lathrop of Erie Canal fame, at 28 Monroe Avenue. That family owned and remained in that home for over 75 years. Both L.S. and Jane May are buried in the "new" (1842) cemetery in a grave marked by a unique tombstone in the shape of a large cross.

Some residents have very long roots in this community.