HISTORIC VALENTOWN MUSEUM / VICTOR HISTORICAL SOCIETY

Dr. Jane Ardell ("Jennie") Baker Pickering

Dr. Jane A. Pickering, or "Jennie" as she was known by family and friends, was a prominent figure of the Victor, New York area in the late 1800's. She was the first woman doctor in the area and a notable figure in the Victor chapter (#322) of the National Grange.

Dr. Pickering was born Jane Ardell Baker on June 10th, 1853 in her grandfathers home to parents Nathan Case Baker (1830-1906) and Mary Blake Aldridge Baker (1834-1906). She was the older sister to siblings Mary Belle Baker (1855-1910) and Noah A. Baker II (1861-1945).

Jennie's parents were well established in the area. Her father was the son of successful potato farmer Noah A. Baker (1798-1877) and Phebe Case (1804-1881), who together owned the area known as "Baker Hill" in Victor, New York. In 1830 her grandfather Noah built the homestead now known as "the yellow house" on the Ichabod Town property and was given 30 acres from Ichabod Town as payment for building Town’s house. The Town property later became known as the Valentine farmstead, and her father later contributed timbers from his land on Baker Hill as supports for the foundation of the historical four story structure called Valentown Hall.

Jane Ardell ("Jennie") and Mary Belle married the brothers George and Willis Pickering, sons of Phineas Pickering (1819-1890) and Letitia Pickering (1822-1908). Jane married the oldest son, George B. Pickering (1847-1911) in her grandfathers home where she had been born, and Mary Belle married the youngest son, Willis Pickering (1852-1909).

Application to the National Grange for a Victor, New York chapter

During the 1800's the great national farm fraternity known as "The Grange" had been founded by the Order of Patrons of Husbandry and was in full swing when Jane was in her early twenties. Along with 33 other local area farmers and residents, she and her husband joined a league of local area farmers and residents to petition "The Grange" for recognition as an official National Grange chapter. Among the other petitioners were both of her parents (Nathan and Mary Baker), both of her husbands parents (Phineas and Letitia Pickering) and her sister and brother in law (Mary Belle and Willis Pickering). In 1875 their petition was granted.

The newly formed Victor Grange (#322) had established Valentown Hall as their Grange meeting place and in fact the Hall was built with the Grange influence in mind. There they elected their Grange officers. Her husband George Pickering was the first Assistant Steward and in 1877 he took over the highest position in the chapter as its Master. Then in 1879 Jane Pickering served as the chapters Secretary (typically a position held by men back then) under Master John Olney. George Pickering served again as Master from 1891 thru 1893 and 1905 thru 1907, occasionally overlapping with the same time that Jane Pickering would serve as Secretary. After 1880, Jane served again as Secretary from 1892 thru 1894 and from 1905 thru 1906.

Doctor Pickering - First Woman Doctor in Victor, NY and the "Yellow House"

In the late 1800's Jane Pickering, now in her 30's, decided she wanted to be a physician. She left her husband and daughter Edith to tend to the home and traveled to Chicago where she spent two years studying homeopathic medicine. After she finished med school she established an office in Rochester, New York. During those years, some people didn't trust the diagnosis of a woman doctor and would seek a second opinion from a male doctor to confirm it.

(Photo to right of two women is of Dr. Pickering (seated) with her friend Alice Valentine)

Then in 1891, Levi Valentine (owner of Valentown Hall and the farmstead went bankrupt and the properties were sold at auction to a Rochester resident who then sold the property in 1892 to Jane's husband George. He and Dr. Jane Pickering moved into "the yellow house" on the property that was now known as the Valentine farmstead, and there she established her medical office. Dr. Pickering was known for her responsive house calls and her dishtowel could often be seen on the hitching post from where she had take off in a hurry.

After they had moved into "the yellow house", George sold his share of the Pickering farm on Baker Hill to his brother Willis, who then moved in with his wife Mary Belle and their family. George continued participating in the potato business, which was in an economic boom during those years. The "yellow house" is still standing and an integral part of the history of Victor, New York and the Historic Valentown Museum.

Sadly, Dr. Jane Pickering passed away April 28th, 1909 and shortly after her husband George, her sister Mary Belle and her brother in law Willis all passed away within the next two years. All are buried in the Friends Cemetery in Victor, New York. 

Jane's only daughter Edith was 14 when her parents moved onto the Valentine farmstead, and she attended school at the schoolhouse near Valentown Hall, which was the same school that Jane and Jane's mother had attended. Edith would be married at Valentown Hall to James Harvey Benson on June 27th, 1900. Edith and her husband did not have any children.

 

Dr. Pickering (seated in the buggy) and her daughter Edith at Valentown Hall circa 1905.
(Click on the buggy pictures for enlarged views)


 

References

Note: .pdf files listed below are downloads from the Historic Valentown Museum web site.

·  "The Valentown Founding Families and the Great Potato Boom (.pdf)".

 ·  "D&C Article: Ichabod Town Homestead Endures".

 ·  "D&C Article: Ichabod Town homestead tied to Valentown's history".

·  "A Driving Tour of Historic Victor - Pg 2".

 ·  "The Victor Grange from Valentown Onward (.pdf)".

·  "Women of the Grange (.pdf)".

·  "Dr. Jane Pickering - Brief Bio (downloadable .pdf file)".

·  "Friends Cemetery Victor NY".

 

Last Updated Monday, June 19 2023 @ 11:11 am  962 Hits   
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