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History of the Mohawk Valley: Gateway to the West 1614-1925
Peter Crowe

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[This information is from Vol. III, pp. 676-680 of History of the Mohawk Valley: Gateway to the West 1614-1925, edited by Nelson Greene (Chicago: The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1925). It is in the Reference collection of the Schenectady County Public Library at R 974.7 G81h. This online edition includes lists of portraits, maps and illustrations. As noted by Paul Keesler in his article, "The Much Maligned Mr. Greene," some information in this book has been superseded by later research or was provided incorrectly by local sources.]

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Portrait of Peter Crowe

Portrait: Peter Crowe

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Peter Crowe, long recognized as the leading rose grower of this continent, had been active in the florist business in Utica for forty-seven years when he answered the final summons on the 29th of September, 1918, at the age of seventy-seven. He was born in Limerick, Ireland, on the 9th of July, 1841, and received his early education there. At the age of twelve he began work with his father as a gardener, and three years later he went to work on the estate of Lord Kinneard at Carse o' Gowrie, five miles from the city of Dundee. He was employed in the greenhouses and gardens of this estate for ten years. In 1865 Mr. Crowe emigrated to the United States, settling in East Newark, New Jersey, where he remained for twelve months. The next year he was employed by a commercial florist at East Orange, New Jersey, and through the succeeding four years he served as head gardener for O. S. Carter of Orange, New Jersey, a wealthy tea merchant of New York city and father-in-law of John V. Bacot.

In 1872 Mr. Crowe, seeking to establish himself in business, came to Utica and erected two greenhouses on the Marcy road. Three years later he rented a tract of seven acres of land on upper Genesee street and built greenhouses on the east side of the street. He remained in this location for eighteen years, during which time he made a splendid success of his business. A floriculturist of exceptional ability, he soon grasped the wants of the local trade and catered to all needs. In 1888 he bought the property on the west side of Genesee street, just north of the West Shore Railroad. Here he put up large greenhouses and soon was the leading florist of the city. His son, William James, was associated with him as partner, and the firm of Peter Crowe & Son became well and favorably known in floral circles throughout the state. Mr. Crowe soon added nineteen acres of land west of Sunset avenue to his original purchase. He made a specialty of growing roses, and in this was very successful. He became a member of the American Rose Society, and served on its executive committee. He made frequent displays at the annual exhibitions of the society, competing with leading florists in the large cities and securing as large a share of prizes as any. At the exhibition of the society in New York in 1900, Peter Crowe & Son won the Mason prize, a massive silver cup, gold lined, for the best display of roses, and to this the society added a large gold medal. At the exhibition in 1901 the firm won another large silver cup offered by Hitchings & Company, manufacturers of greenhouse boilers, for the best display of roses of one variety arranged for effect. At Philadelphia, in 1903, Mr. Crowe won a third cup offered by Benjamin Dorrance for the largest and best display of roses, and in 1904 he won the four leading money prizes on roses. During the subsequent years to the time of his demise he received gold medals on his varieties of ferns. In 1904 Mr. Crowe originated a new variety of fern which was known as Ediantum Crowiianum, and this he grew largely thereafter. His son, William J. Crowe, died in 1902, and to relieve himself of work and responsibility Mr. Crowe leased two-thirds of his greenhouses to Brant Brothers of Madison, New Jersey, who have since conducted them. Their portion comprises nine houses on the west side and six houses on the east side of Sunset avenue. From that time forward Mr. Crowe devoted himself entirely to raising ferns, which he sold at wholesale to dealers in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Buffalo, Detroit and Chicago.

The following is an excerpt from a review of the career of Peter Crowe which appeared in The Utica Observer under date of September 30, 1918:

"Mr. Crowe was a member of the Florists Club of New York city and of the Florists Club of Utica. He took part in every floral show in Utica since he came to this country. He was known throughout the Atlantic states as a prominent florist. Mr. Crowe was well and favorably known among the business men of the county. He was well informed, very intelligent and always progressive. He had returned to the old country on a visit and traveled quite extensively in England, Ireland, Scotland, France, Germany and a part of Italy. He had also traveled extensively in this country and various parts of Canada. Mr. Crowe took a prominent and active part in securing the annexation of a portion of the town of New Hartford to the city of Utica. After being in the annexation campaign for six and a half years, during which time he made trips to Albany every winter to secure the required legislation, his efforts were crowned with success when, in March, 1905, the annexation bill was passed. Mr. Crowe had disposed of some of his property, but the remaining eighteen acres he had laid out in nine different blocks comprising ninety-three lots. Much of this property faced Horatio Seymour park. The streets intersecting his property he named for relatives, Mildred avenue extending from Sunset avenue to Genesee street, and Rose place facing Horatio Seymour park. The lateral streets are Louise, Ruth, Fern and Crowe place. Mr. Crowe was a man of large frame and had a heart as large as his body. His nature was generous, sympathetic and kindly… His death will be learned with regret by hosts of friends and acquaintances throughout the state and country."

Another newspaper writer said in part:

"The loss of Peter Crowe, Utica's veteran florist, will be felt in many circles. He had been in the florist business for forty-seven years and had also been very active in the development of real estate in South Utica. Mr. Crowe, while he made plants and flowers a medium of business, loved them for their beauty and they responded under his skillful care with wonderful readiness."

In 1870 Mr. Crowe was united in marriage to Miss Jane Hulmes, a daughter of John J. and Frances (Chamberlain) Hulmes of Orange, New Jersey. In the maternal line Mrs. Crowe is descended from the Puritans, the first Chamberlain being supposed to have come over in the Mayflower. The family has long resided in this country, however, and several of them participated in the Revolutionary war. William James Crowe, son of Peter and Jane (Hulmes) Crowe, was born at Lake Hopatcong, New Jersey, on the 11th of February, 1871, and received his education in Utica. When a young man of twenty-four years he joined his father in the florist business and he remained in active association with the latter until 1900, when impaired health caused his removal to Denver, Colorado, where he passed away on the 11th of July, 1902. William J. Crowe was married on the 16th of May, 1894, to Mary Josephine Pringnitz, daughter of Frank and Josephine (Meyer) Pringnitz of Utica. By this union there were two children: Mildred Jane, who was born on December 16, 1894, and is now the wife of E. Claude Evans of Utica; and Anna Louise, whose birth occurred on September 5, 1896. The latter, who became the wife of Earl Lester Regan of Clinton, New York, departed this life on the 17th of June, 1921.

Fraternally Mr. Crowe was identified with the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, with which he affiliated while residing in Orange, where he always continued his membership. He was always very much interested in orphan asylums and contributed toward their support regardless of the denomination. Mr. Crowe gave his political allegiance to those candidates whom he considered best adapted to discharge the responsibilities of the offices to which they aspired, for he did not feel himself bound by party ties. His passing was the occasion of deep and widespread regret, and his memory is enshrined in the hearts of those who knew him best.

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