This year marks the 150th anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railroad, allowing another opportunity to visit one of the most extraordinary monuments in Mt. Hope Cemetery, that of Dr. Hartwell Carver (1789 – 1875), the self-proclaimed father of the Pacific Railroad (another name for the transcontinental railroad).
I first discovered the monument many years ago when touring the cemetery with my friend Phil. All erected monuments — Carver’s 50 footer is the second tallest in the cemetery — can easily be viewed as phallic symbols, Carver’s even more so because it’s topped by a statue of a robed woman. The memorial’s seeming homage to Carver’s granite manhood is matched by 5 accompanying self-aggrandizing inscriptions paying homage to his apparently massive ego.
One inscription makes the claim of Carver’s transcontinental railroad paternity, “with him originated the thought.” Another explains that Carver roused public interest and demonstrated the railroad’s practicability. Another lauds his “vision of the future.” Carver also reminds viewers that his family came to America on the Mayflower in 1620.
After we studied the phallic symbol and the self-promoting inscriptions, I distinctly remember Phil quipping — fair or not — that Carver is basically telling the world, “I’m a big d**khead.”
I’d forgotten about the monument until this year. Looking closer, I discovered Democrat and Chronicle‘s Jim Memmott’s 2018 article, “Celebrating a Pittsford doctor’s train obsession.” (BELOW)
In the article, Memmott fills us in on the controversies and curiosities surrounding the memorial. First, Carver’s claim to be the father of the transcontinental railroad is highly dubious. At best, maybe he was a cousin. Second, as Memmott notes, some accounts say that the Union Pacific Railroad paid for the tribute. Memmot suggests it’s more likely Carver paid for it himself. As for Carver’s ego, Memmott explains that Carver had the monument erected in his lifetime and authored the praises himself!
Memmott is more charitable towards Carver than was Phil. Memmott adds Carver to his list of Remarkable Rochestarians, saying “he deserves our thanks, even deserves the monument he erected to himself.” Fair enough, but Phil’s quip is hard to resist.