On June 16, 2015, Illuminated History held its fourth annual cemetery tour in which fifteen actors portrayed eternal residents of three historic Perinton, New York, burying grounds: Egypt Cemetery, Schummers Cemetery and Perinton Center Cemetery. The tour, which was sponsored by the Perinton Historical Society, took place at the Fairport Historical Museum.
In this Illuminated History series, the scripts are based on in depth historical research, although some creative license may have been taken.
The second person to be highlighted from this tour is Lucy Lapham Bortle (1827-1905) of Egypt Cemetery, who was portrayed by Lucy McCormick:
Death took my mother when I was just three months old and I have no personal recollections of her, so you can imagine my surprise when I heard Lucy Ramsdell Lapham was to be here this evening. You see, I am her daughter, Lucy Lapham Bortle.
I was the youngest of Fayette and Lucy Lapham’s four children, and the only girl. I was a spoiled little motherless child with three older brothers to protect me. Oh, Father married again – three more times, to be exact, but my stepmothers were busy with their own children. So when our neighbor, Spencer Bortle, asked to marry me, I said yes. We were wed on June 13, 1844, three days after my 17th birthday. As you’ll soon see, what had seemed to be an impetuous decision turned out just fine in the end.
Spencer’s family, the Bortles, had a good reputation around town. His father, Philip, was a shoemaker from Montgomery County. He and his wife, Salome Scudder, came to this area in its early days. Philip and William Scudder, kin of Salome, operated a shoe store in Bushnell’s Basin for a time. Then, Philip got it into his head that he wanted to be a farmer, so he bought Lot 26 in town. That land had, at one time, belonged to Mr. Cyrus Packard, whose story was told this evening. Philip ran a successful farm, which was passed down through more than six generations of the Bortle family. After Philip, it went to my husband, Spencer, then to our son, Thurlow, and to Thurlow’s son. I’ve lost track of how many Bortles have walked the land of that farm.
Spencer and I had seven children – six daughters and one son. We were staunch republicans, so we named our son Thurlow Weed, after the famous politician and newspaper publisher. I loved to read, especially classic literature, so four of our daughters were given the unusual names of Luranda, Georgiana, Capitola and Ludora based on book characters of which I had read. And then there were Mary and Martha, the only two girls in our family with common given names.
Though our eldest two children, Mary and Thurlow, were born in New York, Spencer had decided we should move west and the five other children were born in Indiana. In fact, the youngest, Ludora, was born in a covered wagon as we traveled! We stayed in Indiana for 14 years. It was difficult. Our neighbors were few and far between, we missed our family and the Civil War was wreaking havoc on the country. We returned home to Egypt by 1863. Spencer had broken a leg in his younger years that never healed properly. When the draft registration came around, he was passed over. It was a great relief to me. We had lost Spencer’s younger brother, Belden, at Antietam in 1862. We were so proud when the Soldiers’ Monument at Mount Pleasant Cemetery was unveiled in 1866 and it included Belden’s name. It’s too bad the monument is misspelled as “Bortles”. People always wanted to call us Bortles for some reason or other. At least they got his first name correct. Everyone usually called him Belding Bortles, and it just infuriated him!
The family homestead, known as “Bortle Hill”, was a wonderful place to raise a family. As the years went on, our children had children and everyone always came back to Bortle Hill. In 1894, Spencer and I celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary with our family. Beginning with that event, it became a tradition to hold Bortle family reunions on the Hill.
Ten years later, we celebrated our 60th wedding anniversary. There’s a lovely photograph of us on that occasion. [point to photo on screen]. The Monroe County Mail ran a wonderful article about our celebration that day. You see, our children had arranged for the Egypt band to play after the guests arrived. The band played several of the popular airs of the time very beautifully. We had an anniversary cake in the form of a pyramid, with sixty burning candles, that occupied the middle of the table. The dates of 1844 and 1904 were carefully made of pine twigs and fastened upon the wall near one of the tables. Then, my granddaughter, Alberta Arnold, married Mr. Walter Smith to the strains of the wedding march. It was a wonderful day for all, and Spencer and I were so thankful to have shared our wedding anniversary with our granddaughter in such a special way.
I passed on in 1905 at age 78, and Spencer followed two years behind me. I was so happy to see him. It felt like I was a 17-year-old bride all over again!
Script by Vicki Masters Profitt
(c) 2015 Vicki Profitt’s Illuminated History