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Letter from Homer A. Rogers to J. Monroe Thorington

LETTER FROM HOMER A. ROGERS TO J. MONROE THORINGTON

Greetings to a former member of the Mazamas from a former member of the American Alpine Club.

Your letter to the Mazamas asking if one Homer A. Rogers is still alive was forwarded to me on the theory, I imagine, that I might be qualified to look into the pros and cons of the matter. I have done so. At first I wasn’t too sure whether the answer would be "yes” or "no”—but he was overheard to say the other day that if he felt any better he couldn’t stand it, so I guess the answer is "yes—he is still alive.”

I was born in New York City, 21 July 1881 (not 1781). My father was Lebbeus H. Rogers, born in 1847; my mother, Laura Clearwater, born in 1849. My mother’s forebears were originally from Holland; they owned a farm and milked their cows right where the New York Stock Exchange now stands—another branch owned the Bowery. My father founded the carbon paper industry in the U. S. (before the days of the typewriter) ; took out 82 patents, was intimate with Edison, Marconi, Tesla. My mother died when I was eight, and my home life became a series of boarding schools. One of these was the Sillig School, in the town of Vevey, on Lake Geneva. I was there nearly two years. There were walks and climbs every Saturday and occasionally longer trips. With this exposure a love of mountains was inevitable—it sure took—I never recovered. Altogether I had seven seasons in the Alps, although two of these were more bicycle trips than mountaineering, although we did some climbing. One of these was wonderful—we landed at Antwerp—rode the bicycles to Köln—up the Rhine to Mainz, Worms—through the Black Forest—across precious La Suisse—over the St. Bernard, and down to Rome. From Sillig’s I went to Westminster School, then to Yale, class of 1903 (Sheffield).

You ask about occupation. I’m retired, but in order to keep out of mischief I have a little workshop and make sets of wooden play-blocks for children—have sold over 850 sets. But to go back—Father got spread out too thin with all his activities and the panic of ’93 started him on the skids and he went broke. Shortly after I left Yale the carbon paper business was on the rocks; I took it over and put it back on its feet. I had an excellent offer for it, and as I was fed up with the subway, I accepted it and beat it for the open spaces. That was the summer of 1909. I finally decided on Hood River Valley and bought some acreage there—to have an orchard— but didn’t—instead, turned the place into an inn—we called it Mount Hood Lodge. I had nearly a quarter of a century in the saddle. I did a little guide work on the mountain (Mount Hood)—have been up it 34 times. Later, when I bought Cloud Cap Inn, I engaged a fine young fellow to do the guiding—George R. Miller—I believe he has the record for climbing Mount Hood—535 times. It was a grand life—of course you don’t make any money doing a crazy thing like that—I’m still working on the first million—no regrets when I think of these wonderful years—or when I watch my three daughters on horseback, all three superb horsewomen.

I was never in the slightest degree outstanding as a mountaineer. Different things lure different people—with some it’s the fascination of rock work—that never interested me especially, although I’ve done some of it. With a few it’s ego-expansion—of course, we’ve all got at least a little of that—but let’s aim to keep it at a minimum. With me it was mostly the gorgeous scenery. One learns after a while that the finest scenery is at the middle altitudes—I tended in the last two or three seasons toward the great passes rather than summits. For instance, Professor Ford, of Yale, and I were at Zermatt and proposed to climb Le Cervin—but there were thirteen parties scheduled for that day—that’s a good time to stay off the Matterhorn—so instead we did what I consider incomparably finer—we made the three-day trip around that magnificent peak: 1st day, Zermatt to Breuil over the Furggjoch; 2nd day, Breuil to Prarayé over the Col de Valcournera; 3rd day, Prarayé to Zermatt over the Col de Valpelline. It seems to me it would be hard to beat that anywhere.

This might interest some of the boys: In 1899 I was in Chamonix— at the Hotel Couttet. At one of the little round tables in front of the hotel sat Edward Whymper, and I made so bold as to step right up and address him. He seems to have gained the reputation of being an old sourball—I found him just the opposite—genial, responsive, friendly— and perfectly disposed to talk to a youngster such as I—we talked for perhaps half an hour. Maybe he had the feeling that some people looked askance at him—his only mistake on the Matterhorn climb was ever to have allowed Lord Francis Douglas to go along—otherwise, it seems to me, his conduct was faultless.

My father was a member of the Authors Club of New York. Once he invited me to go with him to the Club when the guest of the evening was Sir Martin Conway. We all lined up to be introduced. When our turn came, my father mentioned that I had climbed Mont Blanc. Well, Sir Martin insisted in hearing all about it—it got to be quite embarrassing, holding up that whole line of distinguished authors for maybe five minutes. The fourth one in line behind me was Andrew Carnegie—so, if I’ve accomplished nothing else in life, at least I made Andrew Carnegie wait in line for five minutes. Sir Martin asked me to be sure to let him know the next time I was in London, so I called and spent a wonderful afternoon at his place in Kensington. Once, in Grindelwald, I called on W. A. B. Coolidge and had a nice visit with him. My father and General Adolphus Greely were intimate friends. It was Father who persuaded his friend President Hayes to send General Greely to the Arctic. He and Greely helped organize the Explorers Club—I was an Associate Member for a number of years—knew Fred Dellenbaugh, Grinnell, Palmer, Bryant, Peary, Fred Cook, Stefansson—a grand bunch.

I went back to my class reunion (50th) at New Haven in ’53. In New York I dropped in at the Club and your charming secretary was good enough to suggest that I renew my membership. I’d love to, but would better not do so, at least for a while—we’re not in the money—but give me a little time and I’ll be off that first million and onto the second—and then, if permitted, I’ll become one of you in actuality instead of just in spirit.

1000 S.W. Vista Avenue

Portland, Oregon,

3 January 1959