Grant Rogers

This past October we had the pleasure of attending a presentation at the Delaware County Historical Association near Delhi entitled “Saving the Legacy of Grant Rogers.” This event was sponsored by the Grant Rogers Project, which is striving to preserve the important musical heritage of and bring greater awareness to this talented musician. Grant was described as the Songmaker of the Catskills, and I can attest to that as I remember attending several folk festivals in the ‘70s, several of which were at the Catskill Ski Center. They featured him playing his traditional music in his quiet, unassuming way. He left a lasting impression on me and I especially recall his rendition of “I Walk The Road Again.”

We learned more details of Grant’s life at DCHA and I had already done some genealogical research on-line. Grant was born in Walton in 1907 to parents Delbert Rogers and his wife Ethel. Grant’s mother was musically inclined, playing several instruments and clogging. For those not familiar, clogging is a type of folk dance with early Appalachian Mountain origins. Once you see it you won’t forget it.

Grant learned how to make music at an early age and often times played after supper as the family relaxed in the evening. Life was not easy. On a WWI registration card on, Delbert’s occupation is listed as “woodchopper.” He also worked as a stonecutter and his dad was a quarryman. Grant worked in the quarry as well. Later he became an accomplished fiddler and would attend barn dances and call square dances. In his spare time he would write many songs, some say as many as 300.

Grant referred to himself as a “stonecutter that makes up songs.”

Folksinger Pete Seeger was an active participant at Camp Woodland, a summer camp in Phoenicia, N.Y. The kids who attended were from the city who initially were unfamiliar with rural surroundings but often returned year after year to this special place. Grant also performed here and the kids learned not only folk songs but folklore and history. Grant appeared with Pete on television where he appeared shy but once that fiddle was in his hands he relaxed completely.

At this event we were treated to live music which Grant wrote or that inspired him. We even did a square dance! It was a fun informational time and it got me to thinking of what I could do to possibly help with this project. Interviews have been done with relevant people, musical recordings preserved, a website is available, and workshops have been organized. I applaud all of these efforts by this collaboration of The William B. Ogden Library and Music On The Delaware.

Early in the spring I obtained permission from the family to clean his gravestone in the Walton Cemetery using proper conservation methods and materials. We had recently been involved with applying to the Pomeroy Foundation, which grants money for historical markers, for a sign in Guilford Center Cemetery near where we live. I thought why not one for Grant Rogers? We had driven around Walton noting the blue and gold markers, but these seem to be primarily from the State Education Department and were done many years ago. None that we saw were from the Pomeroy Foundation which began offering grant applications in 2006. Each grant is for approximately $1,100 which covers the cost of making the sign and materials to mount it. The process requires primary sources for information, a non-profit sponsor, and permission to erect the sign.

Within Delaware County there are Pomeroy signs at Hawley’s Station school, Meridale, Delhi, Lake Delaware, Bovina Center, Bovina, and Trout Creek. Hopefully some day soon a marker will denote the grave of Grant Rogers and his contributions to our local history and musical heritage.

January 29, 2020