GENESEO – The Livingston County Museum will host a theatrical staged reading of a collection of Civil War love letters, written in 1862 by local historical couple Elizabeth Vance Rorbach and Colonel John Rorbach. SUNY students Dennis Caughlin and Megan McCaffrey will play the young couple.
On Sunday, November 2nd at 2:30 p.m.,Caughlin will be voicing Colonel Rorbach and McCaffrey will be voicing his wife, Elizabeth. Both Caughlin and McCaffrey add a special tone to the reading since they are a couple in real life. The performance will be directed by SUNY Geneseo Professor Melanie Blood.
“The letters were kept in a trunk for a long time,” said Anna Kowalchuck, Livingston County Museum Curator. “Since then, an extensive effort has gone under way to have the letters transcribed by Tom Roffe, Leicester Town Historian, and returned to their rightful owner and the Rorbachs’ descendant, Judy Mendoza.”
Rorbach is a familiar name in the Village of Geneseo, though he was born and raised in New Jersey. John Rorbach chose Law as his profession, was a member of the bar, and due to health complications he moved to Geneseo, where his wife Elizabeth was born. Rorbach fought in the Civil War and, at the Request of General James S. Wadsworth, developed the 1o4th N.Y. Vols. Wadsworth Guards. Rorbach is also credited with establishing plans and procuring funds for the Normal School, which is now SUNY Geneseo. Rorbach Lane, located at the top of North Street, was named after the Colonel, though their house still stands at 57 Second Street and is occupied by their descendants.
Rorbach’s wife is also a special woman, Elizabeth ‘Libby’ Vance Rorbach graduated from the Albany Female Academy in 1859, an uncommon accomplishment for the time, as high education was not readily available or easily accessible to women at the time.
Approximately 75 multi-paged letters written by John Rorbach to significant Civil War leaders as well as his wife have been carefully preserved in metal boxes for 150 years by the Rorbach Family. Rorbach’s Letters not only connect the reader to the national context of the Civil War, but also to the local community and his intimate family.
“By allowing the public access to the Rorbach letter collection, our audience gains a deeper understanding of the past,” added Kowalchuck. “It enhances both our local and national understanding, and thereby gives us a broader appreciation of the present.”
PHOTO CAPTION: [L-R] John and Elizabeth Rorbach.