National Park Service: The First 75 Years
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Roger Wolcott Toll

                                          by Sharon A. Brown

Roger Wolcott Toll

A premature death is always a tragedy, but there still exists the feeling that the National Park Service lost a future director when Roger Toll died unexpectedly in 1936. He was born October 17, 1883, in Denver, Colorado, the son of a pioneer Colorado family, and educated at Denver University and Columbia University earning a degree in civil engineering. Following graduation in 1906, he traveled around the world and started working in Boston for the Massachusetts State Board of Health. In March 1908, he worked in Washington, D.C., with the Coast and Geodetic Survey, and for a short time, surveyed the coastline of Cook Inlet in Alaska. In 1908 Toll returned to Denver, becoming chief engineer of the Denver City Tramway Company. During World War I, he served in the army and reached the rank of major.

According to Horace Albright, Toll "had come around the Interior Department to talk about national parks" while working in D.C., and Albright had kept in touch with him even after Toll had left the army and moved to Hawaii. During a trip to the islands in the spring of 1919, Albright suggested that Stephen Mather contact Toll as a possible candidate for the vacant superintendent's position at Mount Rainier National Park. (Mather was impressed with young Toll and hired him for the job.) Toll joined the National Park Service in May 1919, and two and 1/2 years later, he transferred as superintendent to Rocky Mountain National Park. On February 1, 1929, Toll followed Horace Albright as Yellowstone's superintendent and field assistant to the director.

Roger Toll's legacy to the National Park Service lay not so much in his superintendencies, but in his superb firsthand investigations and reports on proposed areas to the park system. He maintained an office in Denver, working from there in the off-season each winter on the inspection of proposed parks and monuments, boundary extensions, and other concerns. Several of the areas which benefited from Toll's work include Death Valley, Joshua Tree, Big Bend, and the Everglades. Horace Albright credited Toll with having "explored, photographed and described in reports most of the canyons of the Colorado from the headwaters in the Rockies to the California line." In early 1936, Toll served on a commission, along with George Wright, Conrad Wirth, and Frank Pinkley, among others, to investigate the possibility of establishing international parks, forest reserves, and wildlife refuges along the Mexican-American border. On February 25, while on their way to investigate the Ajo Mountains in Arizona, both Toll and George Wright were killed in an automobile accident nearing Deming, New Mexico. Toll left behind a wife and three children.

From National Park Service: The First 75 Years


Last Modified: March 27 2017 03:00:00 pm EDT

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