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by Nicholas Clinch, Sierra Club Bulletin 60:2 (February 1975), p. 21
Francis and Mary
Farquhar as seen by
Cedric Wright during
a relaxed moment on
a Sierra Club outing
of the 1930’s.
Francis P. Farquhar, the Honorary President of the Sierra Club, died at his home in Berkeley, California on November 21, 1974. Conservationist, mountaineer, scholar and writer, he ranks with John Muir and William Colby in his influence upon the club and the conservation movement. Born on December 31, 1887 in Newton, Massachusetts, graduated from Harvard University in 1901, he came west and discovered Yosemite, the High Sierra, and the Sierra Club.
He was transformed by his exposure to John Muir’s Range of Light, and from that moment forward he became a disciple of the Sierra Nevada through his mountaineering, the chronicling of hits history, his efforts to preserve it, and his service to the Sierra Club. He served as a director for 27 years, from 1924 to 1951, as vice president and fifth officer, as treasurer, and twice as president from 1933–35 and 1948–49.
Francis was editor of the Sierra Club Bulletin from 1926 to 1945, and brought to his work a vast knowledge of the Sierra Nevada, a dedication to the English language, and a love of typographical excellence that made the Bulletin, in the words of a British authority “that model of all mountaineering periodicals.”
His writings were prodigious. Besides numerous articles in various magazines and journals, he wrote Place Names of the High Sierra in 1926, edited a new edition of Clarence King’s Mountaineering in the Sierra Nevada, and through his editing of the letters of William H. Brewer, a companion of Clarence King in the California Geological Survey, produced Up and Down California in 1864–64, one of the classics of California literature. His efforts as an historian culminated in his definitive History of the Sierra Nevada.
He hiked the length and breadth of the Sierra from Fredonia Pass to Mt. Langley and climbed every 14,000 foot mountain on the West Coast, including the first ascent of Middle Palisade in 1921, the last 14,000 foot peak in California to be climbed. He was responsible, through the person of Robert L. M. Underhill, for introducing the techniques of modern roped climbing to the Sierra, thereby starting the development of a climbing technique that is used throughout the world today. In 1934, he married Marjory Bridge, an outstanding climber, and for 40 years their home was the center of club mountaineering as climbers of all ages constantly gathered to be reconfirmed in the faith.
A pioneer conservationist, he was instrumental in the club’s efforts to get the entire Kern River country added to Sequoia national Park in 1926. In 1965, the club awarded him its John Muir Award for conservation.
Francis was a close friend of Stephen T. Mather and Horace M. Albright, cofounders of the National Park Service, and in the 1920’s his San Francisco apartment was the unofficial western headquarters of the National Park Service.
Because of his many contributions to the Sierra Club, it is difficult to appreciate that he carried on a full-time accounting practice as a partner of Farquhar and Heimbucher and that he worked with many other organizations with the same enthusiasm as he did with the Sierra Club. He served as president of the California Academy of Sciences, the California Society of Certified Public Accountants, and the California Historical Society. He received numerous awards and honors, including an honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters from the University of California at Los Angeles.
Francis Farquhar personified the traditions and principles of the Sierra Club. For over three decades, he inspired, encouraged, and showed the way. Today the Sierra Club reflects the excellence of the example he gave.