While there were many Founding Fathers at the beginning of East Rochester’s history, there were also many women who, in the true pioneering spirit, had great influence in making the village of East Rochester a better place to live. This article will briefly focus on one of them.
“As a young girl of 18 and hearing of the booming village of Despatch — later in 1906 becoming East Rochester — Emma Retta Gale, walked from her home — now the site of the Grand Vie Senior Living Center in Penfield — over to East Rochester to apply for a job in the large mercantile store owned by Burton J. Fryatt. She received a job paying $3.00 a week. She later became more than just an employee when she married Burton! The Fryatts had one son, Eyer, who died in infancy.
Mr. and Mrs. Fryatt owned the first automobile in town. Their home at 901 Main St. was the finest in the village. Fryatt went on to become the wealthiest man in the village and owner of the largest department store between Rochester and Syracuse. It advertised that you could buy anything you need from the cradle to the grave. In other words, diapers to caskets. It was called the Eyer Block and it is still the most prominent building in the village.
Retta served on the executive committee of the Health Association of Monroe County and was a director of the East Rochester Branch of the American Red Cross. She also helped organize the East Rochester Women’s Republican Club. She was a trustee and treasurer of the Baptist Church and for a time was village historian. Retta also served on the East Rochester Community Welfare League which established the village library and later as chair of the library board. As a widow, after her husband died in 1933, Retta deeded her home to the village for a library in 1955 in memory of her husband. In 1956, she was the first woman in the village to receive the annual citizenship award given by the East Rochester Rotary. She passed away in 1957 at the age of 76. Emma Retta Fryatt was indeed a remarkable lady and deserved the title of being East Rochester’s first lady during the early days of the village.”
Special thanks to my assistant Anita Mance for all the research she did for this article.