Rumsey Family - Table of Contents  .....................  Cheryl McDonald - Table of Contents

Dexter Phelps Rumsey
Beneath Illustration

On this page, below:


Edward T. Dunn, "Buffalo's Delaware Avenue: Mansions and Families"

Cheryl McDonald, "Buffalo's Elite 54 "

Aaron Rumsey, father of Bronson Case and Dexter Phelps
Source: History of the City of Buffalo and Erie County, H. Perry Smith, editor. Syracuse: D. Mason & Co., 1884

An early lithograph of the Aaron Rumsey mansion at the northwest corner of Delaware and North where Dexterwas raised.  Replaccd by the Williams mansion.
Source: Frank H. Severance, ed. Picture Book of Earlier Buffalo, Buffalo Historical Society, Vol 16, 1912

Dexter's older brother.
Source: A History of the City of Buffalo, published by the The Buffalo Evening News, 1908

Dexter Phelps Rumsy, Bronson's younger brother - as a younger and older man.  Born B. 1827 in Westfield, NY.
Left source: History of the City of Buffalo and Erie County, H. Perry Smith, editor. Syracuse: D. Mason & Co., 1884   ...  
Right source: "A History of the City of Buffalo," published by the The Buffalo Evening News, 1908

Original oil portrait of Dexter Phelps Rumsey (18271906)
¾ view circa 1890s(?). As framed: 35by 33 inches
Signed lower right by the artist, Urquhart Wilcox (1874-1941); framed under glass. Frame conserved by Sandy Jensen, professional frame conservator, Hanover, Virginia, in 2010.
Dexter Phelps Rumsey was the son of Aaron and Sophia Rumsey, and was a prominent citizen and banker in Buffalo, NY. He was president of the Erie County Savings Bank, and a director of The Buffalo Club.

Photo courtesy of  Nicholas P. and Monica S. Rumsey

# 742 Delaware. Demolished.
Source: Buffalo's Delaware Avenue: Mansions and Families, by Edward T. Dunn. Pub. by Canisius College Press, 2003, p. 154

Source: Buffalo's Delaware Avenue: Mansions and Families, by Edward T. Dunn. Pub. by Canisius College Press, 2003, p. 156

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

Ansley Wilcox   ...   Rumsey's son-in-law who married the Rumsey daughters Cornelia and Mary Grace
Source: Men of New York, Buffalo: Geo. E. Matthews, 1898

Wilcox's second wife and daughter by his first marriage to Mary Grace's older sister, Cornelia. See Rumsey Family - Table of Contents   ...   The first wife, Cornelia, was Mary Grace's older sister who died two years after being married to Ansley.   ...
Illustration source: Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural Site brochure

The Wilcox House, a wedding gift from Dexter to Mary Grace (second daughter) and Ansley

Painting of William J. "Wild Bill" Donovan in the Connecticut Street Armory in the Buffalo Calvary Association Museum. Donovan was elected captain by Troop I in 1912.   ...   "All the horses in Troop I had names beginning with 'I.' My grandfather's horse was 'Iris.' " - Peter Clement

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 [Dexter] 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.

[Ed. note:  "Researching Dexter Rumsey at and came across a son of his with Mary Bissell - Clarence Marsden Rumsey. He was born October 15,1864 and died January 9, 1868, so not even five years old. In the Delaware Mansions script it states no children with Mary Bissell. They were married June 19, 1861 and she died in 1886." - Cheryl McDonald]

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.

Partial reprint

Buffalo's Elite 54

By Cheryl McDonald

Buffalo Rising, August 24, 2020

Dexter Rumsey
Ruth Rumsey
Cornelia Coburn Rumsey Wilcox
Ansley Wilcox
Susan Fiske Rumsey

At the turn of the century families in New York City clamored to be included in The Four Hundred, a list of high society families led by Caroline Schermerhorn Astor. In Buffalo we were a bit more conservative and had The Buffalo 54, which consisted of 54 prominent families such as the Rumseys, Goodyears, and Hamlins.  These men who were bankers, lawyers, tanners, shipping magnates, and entrepreneurs made the money, became involved in local, state, and federal politics, built the mansions along Delaware Avenue and often had business dealings with each other. It was their wives, however, who ran the households like a small business (sometimes with as many as 10 servants), determined which charities their husbands supported, whom they socialized with, and even who their children married.

Between 1880 and 1910, 27 individuals married other members of their social circle, making 50 percent of the families interconnected through marriage. Extensive intermarriage solidified the economic position of each family and ensured the continuation of the family’s wealth and prominence in society.

Explore Buffalo’s Delaware Mansions Tour highlights not only the architecture of the mansions along Delaware Avenue, but peeks inside to reveal who lived there, why they lived there and who was connected through business, marriage, or both. Not all the mansions survived the ages, but the stories of the families are worth telling.

Dexter and Bronson Rumsey were included in the New World Almanac of 1902 as two of the millionaires in Buffalo. The Rumsey family once owned 22 of Buffalo’s 43 square miles, including the land where the Pan-American Exhibition was held, today the site of the Albright-Knox and Buffalo History Museum. They earned their fortune in the tanning business, the process of treating animal hides to produce leather, which was prevalent in the Northeast due to the abundance of hemlock trees that contained a high level of tannic acid used in the process, along with water and livestock.

Patriarch Aaron Rumsey built his brick home at the northwest corner of Delaware and North with a conservatory, something rare and unique in the city. A block away, his son Dexter chose a home that had begun as a simple cottage for seaman Captain Allen, expanded by the Rose brothers who were architectural gardeners, and then expanded further in 1857 by Dexter Rumsey.

After his death, his widow, Susan Fiske Rumsey, expanded it even more.  From 1857 until 1945 the Rumsey family, including children and grandchildren, occupied this beautiful yellow brick home. Today the site where the home once stood is the office of the United Way of Buffalo and Erie County.

There were three Mrs. Dexter Rumsey’s – Mary Coburn, Mary Bissell, and Susan Fiske. Mary Coburn was the mother of Cornelia and Mary Grace, both of whom married Ansley Wilcox. Cornelia died soon after giving birth to their daughter Nina, and three years later little sister Mary Grace became the second Mrs. Ansley Wilcox, giving birth to another daughter, Frances. Dexter’s second marriage produced a son, Clarence, who died before the age of five. In 1889 Dexter married Susan Fiske, 30 years his junior. The couple had a daughter Ruth, and a son Dexter Junior.

Susan Fiske survived Dexter by 45 years, running the household of servants, entertaining dignitaries from around the world as well as authors, actors, and politicians. An early proponent 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.

The debutant balls for the Rumsey girls, including daughters, granddaughters, and nieces were held at the home followed by the traditional calling of gentlemen. These chaperoned visits would often lead to engagements and then marriages within the year. But Ruth Rumsey took a different path and married a young man not from Delaware Avenue as so many of the young ladies did. To discover who Ruth married, you will need to take the Explore Buffalo Delaware Avenue Mansions tour!

Page by Chuck LaChiusa
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