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Dexter M. and S. Walter Rogers - 1890

By Charles Meinert
Web Site Bicycle History Consultant

The Rogers brothers from Millbury, Massachusetts made an interesting 4000-mile bicycle ride to the Pacific coast in the summer of 1890, but it is not known what type of wheels they rode. It seems likely that they used some type of ordinary for the 1890 chain driven safeties were not yet well suited to long rides. If the brothers had arrived in Portland, Oregon on safeties, the newspaper correspondent covering their arrival would likely have commented on the this unusual fact rather than simply noting that "the wheels ridden are still in good condition." It is hoped that further investigation will resolve this uncertainty.

The Rogers had a nice sense of history for they chose to begin their transcontinental ride at Plymouth Rock on Monday morning, April 26, 1890 and proceeded to Boston where Thomas Stevens had finished the first crossing. After reaching Albany they followed sections of the Erie Canal and then spent two days at Niagara Falls before heading for Cleveland, Ohio. The Rogers visited the home of Mrs. Garfield and viewed President Garfield's tomb in Cleveland's Lakewood Cemetery. Riding south they spent a day with the Dayton Bicycle Club before taking the National Pike through Indianapolis to reach Chicago. Eight days were devoted to seeing Lincoln Park, the Cribs, the City Water Works, the Union Stock Yards and other points of interest.

The brothers cycled through Iowa and reached South Dakota. Near Pierre they joined a group of delegates on their way to a political convention. "On this trip we began camp life, these delegates kindly loaning us blankets and 'grubbing' us for four days." After reaching the Black Hills they inspected mines at Deadwood and Lead City before moving on to Livingston, Montana. Bikes were left and the brother's joined a large party of tourists for a 16-day camping trip to Yellowstone Park.

Further west in Montana they took Priests' Pass across the continental divide. They used the path of the Northern Pacific Railroad at times but the country was wild and riding difficult. Near Mulian, Idaho, "we forded the St. Regis river thirty-seven times in eighteen miles, the water was almost ice-cold and knee deep or more, but as that all goes to make a trip complete, we call it pleasure and push in with a shudder and wonder how many more crossings are ahead."(Morning Oregonian, Sep. 16, 1890) When they reached Coeur d'Alene Lake they crossed by boat and passed through vast wheat fields near Walla Walla, Washington.

"From Pendelton our course takes us across country with poor and sandy roads, being some of the hardest of the whole country to ride, but as the cars (trains) had not yet had us for passengers we stayed with our wheels though our progress was slow; by hard work we reached The Dalles (an area of rapids on the Columbia River)."(Morning Oregonian, Sep. 16) The Rogers boarded a river steamer at this point to reach Portland. They arrived on September 15, 1890, bronzed, but in good health and spirits. They must have expressed a favorable opinion of the city for the Morning Oregonian correspondent commented, "They are bright, intelligent young men, and certainly good 'cyclists,' and must have plenty of pluck and energy, or they never would have reached this place. The bicycle club should endeavor to find situations for them, so that they may remain here and grow up with the country."

The brothers were also interested in California and had considered spending the winter there. They did take a ship to San Francisco, but they returned to Portland by October 1st. It is not known what rail route they used to return East, but they were in Millbury by October 14. They gave an account of their trip at a reception and dinner held in their honor. No mention was made of photographs that were taken with the camera they had carried.
 

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