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Elizabeth Larned MacCarthy, 1877-1944


1877 - 1944

On February 10, 1944, when we were in the woods with her devoted dogs enjoying the morning sunshine and the scent of the forest at Camden, S. C., Elizabeth Larned MacCarthy suddenly passed through the veil that divides this life from the mysterious beyond, where perhaps she now has been granted her long cherished wish that she might learn the secrets of Nature and so take her place as a part of the creation that held her greatest interest throughout her eventful life.

Her childhood years of play with her three devoted brothers at Summit, N. J., gave her a strong trend away from feminine things and for athletic sports and especially for skiing, skating, tennis, riding and climbing, in all of which she became proficient. She thoroughly enjoyed taking part in or watching all kinds of clean sports and her considerate appraisal of one’s efforts was gauged by the precept that:

“When the Great Scorer comes

To mark against your name,

He writes not that you won or lost

But how you played the game.”

Long summers of her girlhood and early mature years spent at Lake Placid in the Adirondacks soon made her a true child of nature and happiest when she was on the high trails, in the deep forests or exploring in the mountains where she seemed to make intimate friends of all of nature’s attractive features and creatures, and she held life in all things in respect and appreciation.

Having roamed the hills and among the giant trees, which were her special favorites, and climbed the major peaks of the Adirondacks, some of them many times, until the whole countryside had been thoroughly explored, she began looking afield and, in 1911, made her first trip to the Canadian Rockies where, at the Lake O’Hara Camp of the Alpine Club of Canada, she qualified for membership on Mount Victoria and thus set a pattern for me to follow the next year when we began our years of mountaineering together on this continent and in foreign lands.

Her long list of major peaks speaks eloquently of her skill as a climber and especially so when it was her habit to insist that no assistance be given her on a climb unless she called for it, which rarely occurred.1

The summers of exploration and climbing in the western States and Canada were followed by seasons of interesting ranch life where there always was need for an extra hand to help with the clearing of land, the planting of crops and their irrigation, the tending of stock, the harvesting, and the round up of cattle in the fall; while, between times, there were miles of fence line, and irrigation ditches to ride and repair and in all these activities Mrs. MacCarthy took a keen interest and an active part and generally finished the day with household duties and the cooking and serving of a delicious supper.

For years her German shepherds were her constant companions whenever she went about the ranches on foot or horseback and they gladly assumed the responsibility as her protectors whenever strange persons or wild animals came near, for the K-2 Ranch near Lake Windermere at the source of the Columbia River, was a sanctuary for all wild animals who seemed conscious of their security and large animals came in considerable numbers while in the fall ducks and geese came by the thousands ; and frequently these animals, both large and small, would remain near at hand for close inspection before leisurely walking or flying away.

While keeping in touch through the daily papers with current events, Mrs. MacCarthy was an insatiable reader during the evenings and when inclement weather interfered with outdoor activities and she was especially fond of the works of the old authors, books on nature, travel, and exploration, and frequently would read three and four books on varied subjects at the same time, alternating her food for thought as one enjoys a varied diet. Books on travel and exploration occasionally stimulated discussion about trips to interesting foreign lands and some journeys were actually planned and reservations secured only to be cancelled later because she could not bear to leave her interesting library and her faithful dogs behind.

Thus the active years were spent close to nature in happy, useful occupations free from the fetters of conventional life which always seemed to repress her spirits and make her long for an escape to her haven of freedom; so, when the end came, I was reconciled to carrying out my wife’s wishes that she be returned to her many little sanctuaries for her eternal rest.

Therefore I gave her ashes to the breezes on the mountain tops, in the forests, at the pond and lake sides, along the brooks and streams and among the wild flowers, all of which she held as blessed friends in the Adirondacks, the Purcells, and the Rockies where sonic day I trust I may be permitted to rejoin her and continue our thirty-nine years of happy companionship.

And so it is that I find solace in Thomas More’s consoling words:

“Oh, My Beloved where’ere I turn,

Some trace of thee I find.

In every star thy glances burn,

Thy blush on every floweret lies.

Nor find I in creation aught,

Of bright, or beautiful, or rare;

Sweet to the sense or pure to thought

But thou art found reflected there."

A. H. MacC.

1 She was the first woman to ascend Mt. Hungabee, in the Canadian Rockies; and, in the Purcell Range, took part in the first ascents of Howser and Bugaboo Spires.—Ed.