Woman of the Month Lisette C. Hotchkiss Parshall

Lisette C. Hotchkiss Parshall

Lisette C. Hotchkiss Parshall

Lissette Celestine Hotchkiss was born at the Hotchkiss Homestead located on Butternut St. in Lyons NY on February 7th, 1840. She was the daughter of Hiram G Hotchkiss and Mary Williams Ashley. Lisette’s father founded the H.G. Hotchkiss Essential Oil Company and as such was very wealthy. He used this wealth to send his children including Lissette to a private school. Lissette was described as a charming person with unusual grace, intelligent, combined with fine beautiful features.

In 1860 she became the bride of William Henry Parshall whom everyone called Henry. Their marriage bore three children. The eldest Lissette (Tudy) was born on February 3rd, 1862. Next came Dewitt III who was born on August 2nd, 1864 and finally the youngest Anne who was born on September 17th, 1866.

Tragedy struck on March 17th, 1871 when Lissette’s husband Henry Parshall died unexpectedly  at age 32. Being a young widow with three children Lissette moved the family back from Buffalo to Lyons to live with her in-laws. The house they called home was a brick structure located on the corner of Jackson and Catherine streets. They would call this location home until 1908 when Grandma Parshall passed away and she was forced to move back to the second floor of the Hotchkiss Homestead on Butternut Street.

Lissette prized education and was heavily involved with her children’s education. Lissette also believed in getting out into the world so when Dewitt graduated from college she traveled abroad with the children in 1885. While abroad she encouraged her children to pursue the arts. Her son Dewitt studied painting in Dresden and Paris while Tudy studied music and weaving. While abroad Lisette took an interest in agriculture, particularly willow growing and what could be made from willow. So when she returned from Europe she decided to develop some farmland on Pilgrimport Road which she inherited from her father. On this land she took to the planting of willows. When these willows were harvested they were turned into wicker trays, laundry hampers, laundry baskets and shopping baskets. This lasted for a time but as with everything it went out of style and the willows were left to nature. Today this area where the willows were grown is called the Hotchkiss Preserve which totals 50 acres, and if you travel out Pilgrimport Road you can still see quite a few willow trees.

In 1902 Lissette helped form the Political Equity Club of Lyons. This organization invited many celebrated suffragettes to speak in Lyons including Miss Anthony. In 1903 the club changed its name to the Lyons Civic Club but its roots were still in the suffrage movement. The change in the name could be possibly attributed to the political climate of the time. At the first meeting of the civic club in 1903 delegates were elected to the NYS Women’s Suffrage Convention in Hornell. Lissette did attend the Hornell Convention. The Civic Club, with Lissette at its head  hosted many suffragette meetings in the Presbyterian Church in Lyons. In addition to supporting suffrage for women the civic club also focused on the beautification of Lyons and education. One such beautification project was the planting of flowers, shrubs and trees at the foot of school house hill near Lawrence Street and also Battle Square at the foot of  Broad  street. In regards to education Lissette and the civic club petitioned the Board of Education requesting that a teacher of manual training and sewing be employed at the school. The civic club paid for half of the salary of the teacher as well as the equipment needed for this class. The civic club under Lissette’s leadership developed a “free reading” room which anyone could use and when the school burned on December 22nd, 1920 with a total loss of the school library, The Civic Club donated their 3,650 volumes to the school to create a new library.

Lissette jumped into the political arena  when thru a loop hole in the NYS law granting women limited suffrage in school district matters if they were a tax payer, which she was from land inherited from her father.   She became a school board member and was President of the board at the time of her death in 1913.

Lissette passed away on April 16th, 1913 at the age of 73 after a battle with cancer. A memorial service was held at the Hotchkiss Homestead on Butternut Street. So we dedicate this first LHS women of the month honor  to Lissette Hotchkiss Parshall who was a pioneer, a suffragette, a mother, an educator and a visionary who made her community and the world a better place.

Special credit to Ann Marie Murzin of Williamson and her Hoffman Essay it was instrumental in the research for this post.

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