Geer, Musa C.
|BORN: 23 Dec 1872
||DIED: 7 Jan 1968
||OCCUPATION: Teacher, Merchant, Postmistress
|BIRTH PLACE: Oregon
|DEATH PLACE: Marion Co., Oregon
*OSBH DC (Marion County 1968) #652
1880 WA CENSUS - Musa C. Geer, age 7, b. Oregon, is enumerated with father L. Byington Geer, age 35, occupation raising fine stock, b. Illinois, and Tina, age 28, b. Illinois, along with Carrie B., age 9, b. Oregon, Myrtle T., age 2, b. Washington Territory and Bertie B., age 5 months, b. Washington Territory.
1900 OR CENSUS - Musa Geer, age 27, single, occupation teacher, b. Dec 1872 in Oregon, is enumerated as a boarder in the home of Louisa Forstner, age 57, widow, b. Pennsylvania.
1910 WA CENSUS - Musa C., identified as sister, age 38, single, b. Oregon, is enumerated in the home of her brother Arch A. Geer, age 25, occupation farmer, b. Washington, along with her mother Eglantine Geer, age 58, widow, mother of 6 children, b. Illinois.
1930 WA CENSUS - Musa Geer, age 55, wd [sic?], occupation merchant, b. Oregon.
Goodnoe Hills Pioneer to be Honored Sunday, Friend and Confidant of Indians Plans Departure; Reception Sunday – Miss Musa Geer, our Goodnoe Hills correspondent for many years, proprietor of the little grocery store there and postmaster for 47 years until the office was closed, plans to move to the Willamette Valley in February. Her friends have arranged a reception in her honor at the Goodnoe Hills schoolhouse, on the afternoon of New Year’s Day.
Miss Geer was born near Silverton, Ore., in December 1872. During part of her youth her family lived in the Walla Walla country, where her father, Bye Geer, established himself as a pioneer Northwest breeder of sheep. Later the family lived at Baker and other Eastern Oregon points, and at Boise, before returning to the Willamette Valley at about the time she was 15.
She was graduated from Willamette University in 1895, one of a class of 12. She immediately began teaching at “Coon Hollow” in the Waldo Hills and continued in the Salem schools until she went to New York in 1904 on a vacation trip sponsored by her cousin, the famous cartoonist, Homer Davenport.
She found employment on the New York American, the Hearst newspaper on which Davenport and her brother, Bert Geer, then were employed, and later continued at a variety of work in the metropolis, until 1901, when she returned to the northwest. The accompanying article describes her arrival in Klickitat County, to join her mother and her younger brother, Arch, who had sought relief from tuberculosis in the dry climate of the Goodnoe Hills.
During the early years of World War I she taught school in Portland one year, but returned to live near and care for her mother when her brother left home to be married. She agreed to stay while her mother lived, which proved to be 20 years.
During this time, she became proprietor of the store and postmaster and friend and adviser to the Rock Creek Indian people. The latter role became a guiding motive in her life which kept her “on the job” until the need for closer medical care prompted her plans for moving.
Her brother, Arch Geer of Salem, has repaired the “old Geer home, oldest in the state of Oregon with original timbers and foundation,” she says, as a home for Musa and as a family museum.
The Goodnoe Hills store has been purchased by Robert Imrie, who “has promised to keep it open to supply needs of the Goodnoe Hills School,” which is patronized largely by children of the Rock Creek people.
The reception will give an opportunity to all Miss Geer’s many friends, to gather to greet her before she leaves the community.
The Goldendale Sentinel 29 Dec 1960 5:1,2.
BIOGRAPHCIAL (From The Klickitat County News, (Goldendale, WA.) 4 Oct 1934 pg 2, article entitled, LUMIJARVI'S IMPRESSIONS OF COUNTY CHRONICLED HERE):
I enjoyed my trip to Goodnoe Hills best of any that I made. Many people go there and find only sand, dust, and run-down orchards. I found kindred spirits with whom it was a pleasure to sit and chat. If some of that water that goes to waste in the Columbia river could be used on that deep, sandy loam what a garden spot this would be! The development of the Columbia river for power and irrigation, and the building of the highway east, hold much promise for Goodnoe Hills, and some day the mail carrier there will need an assistant and a couple of trucks to carry the mail to the hundreds of people that will be living in that vicinity. I also enjoyed meeting Musa Geer, and I can only say that I couldn't hope to find a more interesting and charming person no matter where I might go.
Musa Geer letter to R. J. Hendricks, Statesman “Bits for Breakfast” editor, 24 Sept. 1933
“Under the heading “Items from one of the five who reached the top of Mount Jefferson in 1897 (July 14)” this communication, dated Sept. 20 reached the desk of the Bits man on Thursday, the 21st.
“Quite a bit has been told about the six early ascents of Mount Jefferson, emphasizing different features of the climbs. I want to emphasize the importance of ample preparations for the trip.
We took warm clothing. My mother made regular Turkish bloomers and a knee length skirt of what is known as ladies’ cloth. It is like broadcloth but much heavier.
Blackerby from his hardware store in Silverton brought each one a heavy hoe handle with a well tempered ferrule on the end to be used as an alpenstock. Pearl (Blackerby) also brought Hungarian nails to stud the soles and heels of our shoes. Added to these nails were medium sized screws to be driven into our shoe heels the morning of the ‘big climb.’ These screws, with the heads downward, made it impossible for us to slip backward as we walked over the snow.
All had short jackets or coats that could be donned when we stopped to rest. And, of course, we had the inevitable flannel outing shirts. I had full length leggings to match my skirt and bloomers. I am constrained to smile now when I recall how immodest a short skirt was in those days.
Some lampblack and Vaseline had been brought along, which gave us a negro minstrel look as we climbed over the snow going up. The lampblack and Vaseline added to our smoke colored glasses, kept our faces from being blistered and our eyes from the glare of the shimmering snow.
For something to eat on the way up we had cakes of chocolate. Some one, of experience knew beforehand that chocolate would not make us thirsty when there was a tendency to eat snow.
On July 13th, we camped beside a lit5tle trickling stream a mile or more above the snow line. The horses and ‘Molly,’ the patient donkey, who could carry 200 pounds, were led back to some clear grassy plots and left to eat and rest all day while we climbed the mountain.
There were eight in our party: Major Roblin, Helen Hibbard, Mr. and Mrs. ‘Eph’ Moores, Pearl Blackerby, Lemuel Gates, young Foley, and the writer.
Sleeping on the snow was no discomfort, as there was no wind in the little cove where we camped, and the men cut wood (above the snow line) and built a fire.
At 4 o’clock the days are light in July, so we got an early start, each with an unexpressed doubt as to reaching the very top of the pinnacles. At 10 o’clock we stopped for a rest and blacked our faces.
At 11 o’clock we reached what we called Kirby’s landing. Here we found the copper box of the Mazamas. Inside were the names of a number of Salemites who had previously reached this point, and turned back without climbing the pinnacles. Also a request to ‘take the box with you if you succeed in reaching the top.’
At this place we made coffee, ate our lunch, and Mrs. Moores confessed herself unable to go further. So, with a streak or two of white on her cheeks where tears had trickled down over the lampblack, she and Mr. Moores reluctantly started down the slope toward our camp of the night before. It was agreed Mr. Moores should make a fire to guide us back to camp in the event that we did not get back before dark.
From 6 o’clock until 8 we climbed the pinnacles. Before doing the rope stunt, young Foley left us and made his way back to camp. This left five to finish the climb.
Tribute has been paid to Lemuel Gates and is well deserved. He scaled the pinnacles first, using a hatchet to cut into the ice coat that covered the side of the big rocky wall. With his free hand he held to the projecting rocks jutting through the ice in places. Over one shoulder and under an arm was the coil of new heavy rope to be used by the rest of the party in climbing.
Just as Mr. Gates reached the top of the wall, the hatchet dropped from his cold fingers. It cam hurtling down to the narrow ledge where two of us were standing, looking up. The handle slid harmlessly down Major Roblin’s shoulder blade – and was saved from falling a mile or more down the slope. Suppose the sharp edge had struck one of us! No time to think of that, for the man at the top of that icy, perpendicular wall had secured one end of the rope around a solid rock, and his voice was saying, ‘Let Miss Geer come first.’
I went up hand over hand. The Turkish bloomers puffed out like balloons and the short skirt went up to my elbows, for a strong stiff wind roars up that mountain side.
From where Lem Gates generously waited was only a gentle slope to the very highest point of the pinnacles. I made it in a few minutes – and nearly pitched headlong into a shallow crater. (Indians had told us Mount Jefferson was once a smoke mountain.)
In a very short time all of our party of five were up over the rope, and the Mazama box had been carried to the top.
The experience was glorious, and I am very sure the writer was the first woman to reach the top of this recently much talked of mountain.”
Musa Geer, Goodnoe Hills, Washington
The above from Miss Geer makes a valuable addition to the series in this column finished on Thursday, containing as it does several pieces of new and interesting information on the second ascent of Mount Jefferson to its pinnacle.
Musa Geer was a Salem teacher, she taught in the Grant(then called North Salem) and the Yew Park grade schools, and later was one of the first members of the Salem high school faculty, when it was commenced in the East (now Washington) building.
She is now postmistress as Goodnoe Hills, Klickitat county, Washington, across the Columbia river from The Dalles, Oregon; and she owns a general merchandise store in her town. Her father was L. B. (“By”) Geer of the family that produced T. T. Geer, governor of Oregon. Musa Geer remembered with affectionate regard by hosts of grown men and women, in her classes when they attended the Salem public schools, deserves the gratitude of history minded people everywhere for her timely contribution
She asked the writer to look over and make necessary corrections in her hurriedly scribbled manuscript. It needed no changes; the reader will agree that it is a gem.
The Oregon Statesman in the Bits for Breakfast column told the story of the first six ascents of Mount Jefferson from September 16 to 21, 1933
NOTE: 1st photo of Musa Geer, class of 1895, Willamette University, from personal collection of Tracey Saucy.
NOTE: 2nd Photo of Musa Geer, courtesy of Vesper Geer Rose.
Memorial services for Miss Musa Geer, 95, who died January 7 in a Salem hospital, will be 2 p.m. Tuesday at Geer Crest, the Pioneer Century Farm home that has remained in the possession of her family since it was built in 1851.
Following services at the farm, 12390 Sunnyview St. NE, private interment will be in Mt. Hope Cemetery.
After her graduation from Willamette University in 1895, Miss Geer taught school in the Salem area for nine years. In 1904 she moved to New York City, where she was employed in the advertising department of a leading newspaper. She also compiled an exclusive style book and did some modeling for Lord & Taylor there.
She returned to the West in 1910 and took a homestead claim in the Goodnoe Hills area of Washington near Goldendale. For the next 50 years she lived there, operating a general store and the local post office in her home. She also served as an adviser and unofficial interpreter for the nearby Rock Creek Indians. She returned to Salem in 1961, spending two years at the farm and the past five in a nursing home. Surviving are brothers Arch A. Geer, Salem and Bert B. Geer, Vancouver, Wash.
Oregon Statesman 14 Jan 1968 Sec III 40:1.
Musa Geer Dies; Memorial Held at Waldo Hills – Memorial services were held Tuesday afternoon at the Geer Century Farm in Waldo Hills for Miss Musa Geer, 95, who had lived much of her youth on the farm. She was a cousin of the late famed cartoonist, Homer Davenport.
She died January 7 at a Salem hospital and private interment was at Mt. Hope Cemetery in Waldo Hills. Miss Geer is survived by brothers Arch A. Geer in Salem and Bert Geer in Vancouver, Wash.
She spent several years alone on the farm within the past seven years and was an authority on the historical background of the pioneer family that lived there and on Homer Davenport, who had also lived on the farm as a youth.
Miss Geer was well known herself and had a colorful lifetime. She did a variety of things, including teaching school and working with the Indians in the Goldendale, Wash., area. She was honored and rode in the Century Parade in Silverton several years ago and with her brother Arch had started a small museum on the Geer farm.
Silverton Appeal Tribune 18 Jan 1969 5:5.
Musa C. Geer
1872 - 1968
Hellie, Mader & Rickey
1880 WA CENSUS (Walla Walla Co., ED 49, pg 226B)
1900 OR CENSUS (Marion Co., Salem, ED 128, sheet 3B)
1910 WA CENSUS (Kickitat Co., Sand Springs, ED 113, pg 254B)
1930 WA CENSUS (Klickitat Co., Spring Creek, ED 28, sheet 1A)
The Goldendale Sentinel 29 Dec 1960 5:1,2
OS Jan 1968 Sec III 40:1
SA 18 Jan 1969 5:5