Farming had become a major local industry by the late 1800s.
John H. Connelly was an Irish immigrant. Born in 1842 in County Kerry, John relocated to the U.S. with his family when he was 9 years-old. He went on to marry Fishers, NY native, Sarah Murphy. Then in 1874, he built a general store.
In 1875 of following year, John entered the potato business then blossoming in the area. He established what became one of the largest potato dealerships in New York state, helping Fishers NY earn its erstwhile status as the “potato capital of the world.”
It was also in 1875 that the Victor Grange was formed. Around that time the Grange sent Charles Ford to New Jersey to a convention at which the problem of poor New Jersey seed potatoes was discussed. He sent them his Fishers NY seed potatoes and it was extremely successful.
Though the two businesses boomed for some time, tragedy struck the Connelly family in 1886.
Returning home one day on the 4:20 train from Rochester, John Connelly stepped off the train during its stop in Pittsford, NY to talk with some children on the station platform. When he attempted to re-board, he slipped under the wheels. The following year, he died from injuries sustained from the accident.
Sarah, his wife, was left to carry on the general store and the produce dealership. As it wasn’t common for women to head such an operation at the time, she continued the export company under the name S.J. Connelly, Choice Northern Grown Seed Potatoes.
She proved quite successful in the venture. By 1905, Fishers, NY was a top seed potato producer in New York State. and developed a number of new potato varieties, such as the “Kaiser” and the “Maggie Murphy", named for her sister. Also popular were the "Fishers’ Triumph" and "The Blue Victor" potato varieties.
Ambrose Lane exhibited 50 varieties of seed potatoes from this area at the 1893 Exposition in Chicago.
In honor of our area's amazing potato history, we are seeking your family potato recipe's (or any other hand me down recipes!) to add to our food forum. If you have a recipe you would like to share, please feel free to submit it via our SurveyMonkey form:
https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/FW32QK9 or email it to firstname.lastname@example.org