Rumsey Family - Table of Contents

Dexter Phelps Rumsey
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Aaron Rumsey,
father of
Bronson Case and Dexter Phelps

The Aaron Rumsey House, northwest corner of Delaware & North , where Dexter grew up

Dexter Phelps Rumsey
B. 1827 in Westfield, NY

Dexter Phelps Rumsey

The Dexter P. Rumsey House, southwest corner of Delaware and Summer (# 742; demolished)

The Dexter P. Rumsey House

The Dexter P. Rumsey stables, now used by Westminster Presbyterian Church

Bronson Case Rumsey, Dexter's older brother

Ansley Wilcox
Rumsey's son-in-law who married the Rumsey daughters Cornelia and Mary Grace

Wilcox's second wife and daughterby his first marriage to Mary Grace's older sister, Cornelia.

The Wilcox House, a wedding gift from Dexter to Mary Grace and Ansley

Bill Donovan married Ruth Rumsey

The text below is excepted from
Buffalo's Delaware Avenue: Mansions and Families
, by Edward T. Dunn. Pub. by
Canisius College Press 2003, pp. 154-157

Aaron's younger son Dexter, who circa 1852 had married Mary, the daughter of his landlady, lived after his marriage in his father's former house on Swan Street.

In 1857 he built a house on the southwest corner of Delaware and Summer, the northeastern most point of the tract his father had bought in 1856. In 1954 [Jan 27], the Courier-Express featured a history of this house:

Probably the oldest house in Delaware Ave. is the yellow brick mansion of Gothic architecture at the southwest corner of the avenue and Summer St., owned and occupied since 1945 by the University Post No. 2647, Veterans of Foreign Wars.

For 88 years -- from 1857 to 1945 -- that was the home of the late Dexter P. Rumsey, his widow, their children and grandchildren. During that period, its gracious hospitality was known and appreciated not only here but internationally. Guests it sheltered included eminent statesmen, writers, concert artists and leaders in important women's and girls' organizations such as women's suffrage and Girl Scouts of America.

Incredible as it seems, this mansion began its existence nearly a century and a quarter ago, as a two-room bungalow. Erected for Capt. Allen back in the 1830s it was built to last. The substantial beams supporting the original ceiling are admired today.

The Rose brothers [architectural gardeners], second owners of the property, enlarged the cottage into a story-and-a-half farmhouse. In their day, this house, now centrally located, was in the country, well beyond the North St. burying ground [southwest corner of Delaware and North] which marked Buffalo's northern city line for decades. [Better: from 1832 to 1853] It is believed that the Rose brothers built on the property the small house at 148 Summer St. now occupied by Douglas Rumsey, grandson of the late Dexter P.

In the [18]50s and 60s, the late Dexter P. Rumsey kept cows. He pastured them and let his spirited horses graze on land occupied by the parking lot of Westminster Presbyterian Church. His ample stables now are that church's junior parish house.

Yet Mr. Rumsey did not buy his house for a country home. Such was his faith in Buffalo's growth that he was certain he would see the city's expansion far beyond his house. Impelled by that faith, he bought extensive tracts of land, then woodland, in the vicinity of Delaware Park. After his death, the late Mrs. Rumsey gave the city seven acres between Lincoln Pkwy. and Rumsey Rd. now included in Delaware Park.

The house was enlarged, first by the late Dexter P. Rumsey, and later by his widow. It was one of the earliest Buffalo homes equipped with an elevator. The original elevator was operated manually, by means of ropes. For years after it ceased to be used, the pump that once supplied water for the house was left standing in the garden. A memento offormer days, that pump graces the lawn of the home of Donald Rumsey, grandson of the late Dexter P.


Music room: Most familiar to Buffalonians is the music room now occupied by the bar of the V.F.W. Post. Its floor and mantel of Italian design are of marble, while the white, marble-like walls are of Caenstone. The late Mrs. Dexter P. Rumsey added color to this white room with furniture upholstered in crimson brocade. In that music room, Gertrude Watson,Buffalo-born pianist, and the Coolidge quartet were heard. Probably the most famousc concert artist to be a house guest in the mansion was the internationally known pianist Myra Hess.

The music room was made available by Mrs. Rumsey for meetings of several organizations and embryo movements. An early exponent of women's suffrage, she opened her home to groups furthering the cause. A frequent guest and close friend of Mrs. Rumsey was the late leader of the women's suffrage movement Carrie Chapman Cott.

A director ofthe Girl Scouts of America, Mrs. Rumsey opened her home to early Girl Scout meetings. Juliet Lowe, founder of the organization, and other prominent Scout leaders knew the hospitality of the mansion.

Margaret Sanger also visited Mrs. Rumsey in whose home some of the first birth control meetings were held,

For parties, including the debuts of Ruth Rumsey Donovan, daughter of the late Mr. and Mrs. Dexter P. Rumsey, their granddaughter Margaret (Mugler) and Susan KimberlyWarren, Mrs. Rumsey's niece, the orchestra was stationed in the conservatory off the music room, and young people danced from one to another of the beautiful first floor rooms.

Drawing room: Perhaps the most unusual room of the house is the Gothic drawing room, now a banquet room of the post. The dark oak panels of its walls are carved to suggest a Gothic cathedral. Because of the late Dexter P. Rumsey's predilection for fishing, the fish motif is seen in every panel. As one enters the house, the Gothic drawing room is on the right,with the spacious dining room behind it. On the left is the library, one of the oldest rooms of the house, with the billiard room in its rear.

In addition to rooms mentioned, the first floor comprises a large kitchen, pantry, and a round tower room. Nearly every room in the house has an ample open fireplace to contribute to both warmth and an inviting aspect. Except for the library, now the VFW director's room, first floor rooms are dining rooms, with the drawing room used as a ballroom. onoccasion. Second story sleeping rooms, each with its own bath, now are offices or rooms for small private parties.

When members of the Rumsey family lived in the mansion, it was elegant with rich Oriental rugs, Chinese tapestries, Italian primitive paintings, gold candelabra and Italian and Spanish furniture carved and inlaid with rare artistry. Among objects of art from the old home treasured by Mr. and Mrs. Dexter P Rumsey, Jr., is an ebony Spanish chest inlaid with ivory and tortoise shell.

In addition to those mentioned, distinguished visitors in the house included Gilbert K. Chesterton, Katherine Cornell, Hugh Walpole, author; Alice Doerr Miller, poet; Marshal Badoglio of Italy, members of an Italian peace commission to the U.S., the pianist, Gabrilovich, and his wife, Sarah, daughter of Samuel Clemens, known and loved as Mark Twain; Mrs. Joyce Kilmer, widow of the poet; Vincent Sheehan,Dorothy Thompson, Sen. Bankhead, and several leaders of the Republican party.

While Mr. and Mrs. Dexter P. Rumsey, Jr., lived in the mansion, prominent guests included Joseph Grew, U.S. ambassador to Japan preceding and until the Pearl Harbor attack and Congressman Walter G. Andrews with his entire Congressional Armed Services Committee.

Community involvement

The late Dexter P. Rumsey was identified with tanneries, real estate and banking in Western New York. He was president of the Buffalo Club and the wide range of his interests included business, civic activities, cultural and social organization.

Mrs. Rumsey also was a leader for decades in civil, cultural and social activities, intensely interested in the development of her home city. She was a member of the City Planning Association. She was president of the Twentieth Century Club and the Chamber Music Society, a trustee of the University of Buffalo and a prominent supporter of the Albright Art Orchestra, Millard Fillmore Hospital and the League of Women Voters.

After Aaron's death Bronson and Dexter took over his booming tanning and leather business,which they managed with continuing success until it was absorbed by the United States Leather Company. Thereafter, both brothers managed their investments from the former offices on Exchange Street.


As can be seen from [the genealogy table] Dexter was married three times.

1. His first marriage to Mary Coburn ended with her death in 1859 but produced two children, Cornelia who married Ansley Wilcox in 1878 but died two years later, and Mary Grace, who married Ansley in 1883.

2. Dexter's second marriage was to Mary Bissell, but seems to have been childless, and she died in 1886.

3. His third wife, whom he married in 1889, was Susan Fiske, born in 1867, the daughter of Frank and Charlotte Hazard Fiske of #199 Delaware Avenue. Susan, who was thirty years younger than her husband, presented him with two children, Ruth Rumsey, born in 1891, and Dexter P Rumsey, Jr., born in 1893. As mistress of #742 she outlived her husband by thirty-five years.

She is the doyenne in the foregoing sketch, promoting the arts, music, women's suffrage, birth control, Girl Scouts, and other activities then popular with her class.

Page by Chuck LaChiusa
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