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Edward Taylor Parsons Tribute

by William E. Colby

I first met Edward Taylor Parsons in the fall of 1900. Learning that I was Secretary of the Sierra Club, he called at my office in San Francisco with a letter from the Mazama Club, stating that he was interested in mountaineering, and since he expected to spend considerable time in California he wished to join the Sierra Club. From that day an unusually close and intimate friendship sprang up between us.

Inspired by what the Mazamas had accomplished, I had already proposed to the Board of Directors the plan of conducting annual outings under the auspices of the Sierra Club and in conjunction with the Club work. This proposal had been reluctantly indorsed by the Board, as some of the Directors had doubts as to the success of the plan, and authority to conduct the initial outing in the summer of 1901 had been granted.

There was considerable inertia to overcome and innumerable problems to be solved in this venture. Mr. Parsons arrived on the scene at the critical time. The frontispiece pictures him at this period, in the prime of his life, possessed of tireless energy and enthusiasm. His experience gained on the Mazama trips proved invaluable and I had him added to the Outing Committee as my chief assistant.

It is impossible to describe adequately the debt the Club owes to Mr. Parsons, or for that matter which I owe him personally, for his aid and wise counsel during these early outings when we were breaking ground and overcoming the multitude of difficulties that were encountered. He was ever ready to accept responsibility and proved especially helpful in the organization and leadership of side trips and mountain climbs. He was alert to guard against possibility of accident, and while some felt that his caution in this respect was excessive, doubtless there are many who joined in these expeditions who have him to thank for avoidance of accident which his extreme care and foresight averted.

The Sierra Club meant more to Mr. Parsons than it can possibly mean to all but a very few. It filled a distinct place in his life and became a vital part of his existence. This was due to his inherited character and clean, strong personality. His years of continuous travel all over the United States in the interest of the company he so efficiently represented had not the slightest effect as it does with many, of breaking down and lowering the high mental and moral standards he had acquired in his youth and during his university career.

The better things in life continued to interest him with undiminished force. His taste for the best literature was an ever-present source of enjoyment, and because of his fondness for "God's out-of-doors," he joined in the early Mazama expeditions, heart and soul. The ideals of the Sierra Club, the inspiration of its leaders, John Muir, Joseph LeConte, and others, as well as the delightful summer outings in the hospitable Sierra, made the strongest kind of appeal to him and satisfied the higher longings of his nature. It was on these outings that he met the girl he chose for his wife, and her interest in all these same ideals and their similar literary tastes made their married life one of enviable harmony.

His devotion to the Club was most strongly evidenced by his untiring labor in connection with the Sierra Club publications. No amount of time-consuming drudgery such as the revision of copy, proof-reading, or supervision of mechanical details of the printing, caused him to shirk a task whose only compensation was the personal satisfaction of having done a good work faithfully and well, and which, because of its nature, was fully appreciated by only the very few who labored with him.

Seldom is a Club so fortunate as to have a man of such splendid character and intellectual attainments so thoroughly devoted to its welfare, and who gave so freely and generously of his time to promote its cause. The Sierra Club and all his friends have suffered a loss that cannot be measured.

As a tribute to his devotion to the Club his friends have started a subscription known as the "Parsons Memorial Fund," and the response has been so generous that nearly a thousand dollars has already been subscribed. This fund will be used for the erection of an appropriate memorial. It has been decided that this shall be a building or lodge of stone and as large as the fund will justify, to be erected on the Soda Springs property in the Tuolumne Meadows, which is now controlled by the Club. This will be a single room containing a large fireplace and will sere as a permanent Club headquarters and meeting place in that region. In this manner will Mr. Parson's usefulness and devotion to the Club be suitably perpetuated.

It will interest Club members to learn that his wife, Marion Randall Parsons, has been elected a Director of the Club by the remaining members of the Board. Her devotion to the interests of the Club has been such that it seems particularly appropriate that she should have been selected to aid in carrying forward the work which meant so much to Mr. Parsons.

Source: Sierra Club Bulletin. Vol. IX, No. 4, January, 1915.


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