Two George Washington Golers – A Confusing Duo

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Section A Vignette # 5

George Washington Goler-mount-hope-cemetery

There were two men named George Washington Goler, uncle and nephew. Only the uncle is buried in Mt Hope Cemetery. For years we believed that both Goler’s were buried in the Goler plot in Section A.

The uncle, George Washington Goler (1829-1906), enlisted in the Civil War in 1861 as a second lieutenant. He served in the Sixth New York Cavalry and late in the war in the Second New York Provisional Cavalry. He was captured twice (at the Spotsylvania Court House VA in 1863 and at Berryville VA in 1864); both times he was paroled and later returned to active duty. He rose in rank to Bvt Lieutenant Colonel, with the breveted rank awarded for meritorious service. After the war he opened a drugstore with Richard J. Curran. He is buried in Mt Hope in section A. 

The nephew, Dr. George Washington Goler (1864-1940), is not buried in Mt Hope. The funeral was private and it is not known where he and his wife are buried. However, his contributions to Rochester are so notable they are worth mentioning here. Goler was born in Brooklyn, New York, the son of a ship’s carpenter. At the age of 14, he moved to Rochester to live and work with his uncle. He earned his medical degree in 1891 from the University of Buffalo. He went to work in the medical practice of a prominent surgeon, Edward Mott Moore Sr, MD, who was a devoted public health reformer and a member of the Rochester Board of Health, and who is buried in Mt Hope, in section G. In 1898, Goler became Health Officer of Rochester. In this position, he worked with prominent citizens like George Eastman and Henry Lomb (of Bausch and Lomb) to bring good government and effective public health to the city of Rochester. Goler was especially influential in controlling tuberculosis and venereal disease, improving labor conditions, and establishing child health programs. During his tenure as Health Officer, the city’s infant mortality was reduced by 50%. 

Goler arranged for an Infants’ Milk Depot to be set up in a storefront in Rochester, with two nurses to pasteurize and cool milk, then to sell it at cost to mothers of small children. In 1900, Goler set about to increase the cleanliness of raw milk, with strict hygienic standards at a particular dairy farm. Infant mortality declined further, and the standards were expanded to cover all dairy farms. Farmers were educated on hygiene, and inspection was increased. While the bacteria count in unsanitary stations was as high as 100,000 per cubic centimeter, the average for Rochester by 1907 was 3,853. An observer at the time wrote that “Rochester to-day has the purest milk supply in America,” and added that “Under this system, there is practically no chance whatever for the spread of infectious diseases through an infected milk supply.” Other municipalities followed the example set in Rochester, and infant mortality nationwide was reduced considerably, in large part because of the efforts of Dr. Goler to improve the cleanliness of milk.

Goler House, a 13-story residential building immediately adjacent to the UR Medical Center Complex on Elmwood Avenue, is named after him.

Joanne Mitchell