Lilja Rogers is an often-quoted but little known New Hampshire poet. We share her with Wallingford, Connecticut, her birth place in 1901, where she was brought up in a talented family.
Her father Henrik Hillbom (sometimes mis-spelled Hillborn) was a noted landscape painter and silverware designer. Lilja was also called “Lilly” but most often she used the name Lillian. She attended Wallingford schools, and attended one year at the Tilton School (1918), then a finishing school in New Hampshire. She graduated from Wallingford High School (Wallingford CT) in 1919.
In June 1922 she married Percy Couch Rogers. A few months later they applied for passports to travel to Europe, where Percy studied languages at Toulouse University and the University of Granada. While in Europe she attended the University of Toulouse, France 1922-23 Ecole des Beaux Arts, and when living in Stockholm Sweden from 1939-40, she attended the School of Foreign Languages.
By 1923 the couple were living in Exeter, New Hampshire where Percy Rogers was Professor of Romance Languages–an instructor at Phillips Exeter Academy, in French and Spanish. During his 43 years there, he also coached tennis and hockey, and was prominent in amateur tennis on the regional and national levels.
Lilja was a housewife, faculty wife, and mother, raising their son, Brandon Miles Rogers. She was active in the local community, and was a professional writer of poetry and prose. Her works appeared in the Saturday Evening Post, The British American, Skiing, The Skipper, The Diplomat, Our Dumb Animals, New Hampshire Profiles, Independent School Bulletin, Avalon International Anthology, National Parks Magazine, and Reader’s Digest. In December of 1983 “More Laughter Than Tears,” her first (and only) volume of poetry was published, many of these poems already having appeared in magazines or newspapers.
Between 1939 and 1940 Lillian and Percy spent a year living in Stockholm, Sweden, where she attended the School of Foreign languages. The January 1941 Portsmouth Herald reported that Mrs. Lillian Rogers offered a program lecture on the subject of “Sweden” to the Exeter Supervisory Union, composed of teachers of the Exeter public school district. The article goes on to say that Lillian and her husband, had both spent time in Sweden, and Mrs. Rogers talked of her actual experiences in that country.
In 1956 after her husband Percy retired from teaching, they moved from Phillips Exeter Academy to “Sea Wind Farm” at Little Boar’s Head, North Hampton, a 160-year old farmhouse, “where I [Lilja] can hear the surf and look at the stars.” Her husband died in 1976. Near the end of her life, she moved to a retirement home in Rye, New Hampshire. She died in 1993.
Her writings reveal a great deal about this little-known woman. She had a quick wit, and a very kind and protective attitude toward both people and animals. She was civic minded, and often involved in her community. Examples follow.
The Portsmouth Herald of 22 Dec 1934 reported on elections of the Exeter Relief Society, with officers listed, among directors, Mrs. Lillian H. Rogers. (This was a group organized in 1933, and dissolved in 1986, to help the town’s poor.) In the 1940’s Lillian Rogers was involved with teaching members of girl scout Troop 4. In 1944 she belonged to the York Art Club. In 1954 the same newspaper reported how she was assisting with a blood drive [active in the local Red Cross].
In 1963 the Boston Herald published her letter to the editor. She commented on a recent law change in New Hampshire that stated “paraplegics and double amputees will be granted the privilege of hunting deer on islands–a practice heretofore prohibited by the game laws of New Hampshire.” She shared her indignation by writing:
Few of those so wounded
that they will not walk again
could have read this invitation
too well they know the value
of a lovely, leaping strength–
these men who dream they’re running,
in the night.
The end of the letter says: “But no. These men are being wheeled into the woods in bleak November and December solely for the purpose of killing. What a waste of opportunity! What a pity! Lilja Rogers, North Hampton, N.H.”
In September of 1964 she submitted a lengthy letter to the Portsmouth Herald (that they printed) on “Guidelines for Picking Candidates.” She poses this question near the end, “Am I just a dreamy eyed idealist?”
Another letter that was published in the July 1966 issue of The Rotarian, where she writes that she had read a copy of their recent magazine at the dentist’s office–an article “Rodeo: Sport of Flings) by Ivan Doig. She explains that the story does not reveal the cruelty of bucking-straps used on rodeo horses. She ends her letter by suggesting that “It would be even more thrilling if the horse’s rider were also forced to wear a bucking-strap, just as strategically placed and as tightly cinched. That would make it a more sporting contest, and I doubt that it would be the horse that gave up first. — Lilja Rogers, North Hampton, New Hampshire.”
In October of 1976 she wrote a lengthy letter to the editor of the Portsmouth Herald explaining in careful detail the dangers of a nuclear reactor proposed to be built at Seabrook, New Hampshire. She was concerned about the potential negative impact on both nature and people.
Her most frequently quoted poem is called “Hocus Pokus.” “
First a howling blizzard woke us,
Then the rains came down to soak us,
Now before the eye can focus —
This poem was originally published in The Saturday Evening Post, then again in 1963 in the Boston Herald newspaper.
Lilja Rogers was a talented and pro-active person who lived for more than 60 years on our seacoast, and is now buried there. She deserves to be remembered among the best of New Hampshire’s talented women. Her partial genealogy is offered below.
I want to thank Susan Grant, a librarian at the North Hampton Library (NH), whose help was integral of my learning more about Lilja. I had tried previously to research Lilja Rogers, without success. Guided by an address that was used in a letter to a newspaper, Susan was able to provide me with Lillian’s name, that of her husband, and also of her son through land transfers. Thank you, Susan!
PARTIAL GENEALOGY OF LILLIAN (HILLBOM) ROGERS
aka LILJA ROGERS
Henrik Ferdinand Hillbom, b. 3 April 1863 Sweden [possibly Österfärnebo in Gävleborg], died 22 March 1948 New Haven Hospital, New Haven, New Haven Co., CT; he married 28 May 1893 at Rock Island IL to Alma A. Sahlin, daughter of Johanna Sahlin. She was b. 13 Nov 1870 in Sweden, d. 27 Dec 1950 in Meriden CT . At the time of his marriage he listed his occupation as Designer, Silver Factory, R. Wallace & Sons. In 1904 he designed the “Violet” pattern for Wallace sterling silver flatware. Henrick Hillbom submitted several patents for ornaments and handles on flatware between 1908 into the 1920s. [Handicraft, Volume 3]. . He was elected the first president of the Art-Crafts Society of Wallingford CT (inception August 31, 1909, when 15 men met as designers, die sinkers, silversmiths, etc. in the local factories). In 1916 he was a member of the New Haven Paint and Clay Club. In 1935 living at 25 N. Elm Street. Wallingford CT. Henrick and his wife are buried at In Memoriam Cemetery in Wallingford, New Haven Co. CT. [Editor’s Note: in online records and newspapers this surname is often mis-indexed as Hillborn]
OBITUARY, NEW YORK TIMES – Tuesday, March 23, 1948
Hartford, Conn. – March 22 – Henrik Hillbom, landscape painter of Wallingford, Conn., died today in New Haven Hospital. His age was 85. Mr. Hillbom studied in Stockhold at the Julian Academy, in Paris under [Benjamin] Constant and [Jules] Lefebvre, in London and at the Art Students League in New York. He was an illustrator for Harpers Weekly in the Eighteen Nineties. A member of the Salmagundi Club, he belonged also to the New Haven Paint and Clay Club and the Connecticut Academy. He had studios in Woodstock, NY and Old Lyme Conn. His work is represented in the Metropolitan Museum of Art and he has exhibited at the National Academy of Design. Surviving are his widow; three sons, Ralph H. of Akron, Ohio, Erik A. of Wallingford and Waldo S. of Miami, Fla.; two daughters Mrs. Percy C. Rogers of Exeter, N.H. and Mrs. H.H. Collett of Wallingford; a brother and a sister in Stockholm.
1917 The Making of an American, a painting by Henrick Hillbom.
Henrik Hillbom was active/lived in Connecticut, New York / Sweden, France. Henrik Hillbom is known for landscape painting, illustration, silver design.
1920 US Census > CT > New Haven > Wallingford > 487 North Main Street
Henrik Hillborn Head M W 55 Sweden married, imm 1882, naturalized 1887 Designer, Silver Factory
Alma Hillbom wife F 49 Sweden Sw Sw, immigrated 1892.
Ralph Hillbom son M 25 NY [b abt 1895]
Erik Hillbom son M 23 NJ Bank Teller
Waldo Hillbom son M 21 NJ stock clerk, Silver Factory
Lilly Hillbom daughter F 18 CT
Helen Hillbom daughter F 14 CT
Johanna Sahlin mother-in-law F 71 Sweden
Children of Henrik P. & Alma A. (Sahlin) Hillbom:
1. Ralph Henrik Hillbom, b 30 May 1894 New York, d. 30 March 1977 in Pinellas Co. FL; m. 17 June 1939 in Summit Ohio to Meta E. Patton, dau of Ernest & Mary (Moore) Patton. Landscape painter
2. Erik Andrew Hillbom, b. 25 June 1896 Arlington, NJ, d. 18 Aug 1964 at Newtown, Fairfield CT; in 1947 President of the First National Bank of Wallingford (CT), wife Martha A. –. She b. 13 Dec 1899 CT, d. 15 Dec 1985 Hamden CT; He served 8 months cavalry Arizona prior to 1918
3. Sven Waldo Hillbom, b. 5 Oct 1898 Arlington, NJ; attended Middlebury College, Vermont, 1918
4. +Lilja “Lilly” “Lillian” Hilbom, b 3 July 1901 Wallingford, CT
5. Helen Viola Henrietta Hillbom, b. 13 March 1905 in Wallingford CT; m. Clifford A. Collett. He was b. 1904 and d.8 April 1954 in Middletown CT, aged 49. In 1940 living in Wallinford CT with husband and 2 children [COLLETT]: Nancy H. b abt 1932, and Erie B., b abt 1935. His occupation: production manager, purchasing agent in 1939. In 1955 she removed to Meriden CT.
Percy Couch Rogers, son of George H. & Evelyn B. (Miles) Rogers, b 15 December 1897 in Gloucester MA; d January 1976 in Rockingham Co. NH; m. 17 June 1922 in Wallingford CT to Lilja aka Lillian Hillbom, daughter of Henrik & Alma A. (Sahlin/Sahalin) Hillbom. She was b. 3 July 1901 in Wallingford CT and d. 16 Feb 1993 in NH. At the time of their marriage, he was a teacher. He was in the graduating Class of 1918 Wesleyan University, A.X.P. House. In 1922 his passport contains a photograph of himself and his wife, and indicates that they were leaving from NYC to travel and study in France and Spain. Reportedly they are buried in Little River Cemetery, North Hampton NH.
Who’s who in New England: A Biographical Dictionary of Leading Living Men, by Albert Nelson Marquis, 1915, page 920 [Percy Couch Roger’s father]
ROGERS, George Henry; clergyman, b. Portadown, County Armagh, Ireland, Nov. 20, 1865; A.B. Wesleyan U., Conn., 1891; m. Belle Evelyn Miles of New London, Conn., Oct 11, 1892; 3 children: George Miles, Percy Couch, Raymond Henry. Ordained M.E. Ministry 1893; pastor East Gloucester Mass 1896-9, Brightwood, Springfield 1899-01, Upton 1901-2, Chester 1902-3, Wales 1903-4, Charlton City 1904-7, Franklin 1907-9, Plainville, 1909-11, West Springfield, 1911-14, Riverdale, Gloucester 1914-15; Address: Riverdale, Gloucester, Mass.
Springfield Republican, Springfield MA, page 7, Sunday, June 18, 1922
PERCY ROGERS WEDS WALLINGFORD GIRL
Son of Former Local Pastor Married to Lillian A. Hillborn in Church Ceremony
The marriage of Miss Lillian A. Hillborn, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Henrik Hillborm of Wallingford, CT and Percy C. Rogers, son of the late Rev. George R. and Mrs. Evelyn M. Rogers, formerly of this city and West Springfield, took place yesterday at the Congregational Church at Wallingford. Rev. John J. Blair performed the ceremony. The bride was given in marriage by her father, a noted landscape painter of New York city and Wallingford.
Miss Hellen Hillborn, sister of the bride, was maid of honor. The bridemaids were Miss Martha Patten of North Haven XCT, Miss Harriet Hoyt of Thomaston CT, Miss Margaret Butler of Meriden CT, Miss Dorothy Collett of Wallingford, and Miss Muriel Lee of Wallingford. The bride’s brother, Ralph Hillborn of Yale university was best man. The ushers were three masters at Choate school. Ray Brown, George Steele, Dallas Smith and two brothers of the bride, Erik Hillborn of the First National bank of Wallingford and Waldo Hillborn of Middlebury College. Douglas Shephardson, a Choate master, played the organ.
After a short wedding trip Mr. and Mrs. Rogers will go to Lake Winnipesaukee NH for the summer. In September they will sail for France where Mr. Rogers will study for a year at the University of Toulouse. Mr. Rogers, a graduate of West Springfield High school and of Wesleyan University in the Class of 1918 has been teaching at Choate school for the past three years. His father was formerly pastor of St. James’s church of this city and of First Methodist church of West Springfield. His mother now lives at Syracuse NY, where her youngest son, Raymond is a student at Syracuse university and a member of the freshman crew.
1930 US Census > NH > Rockingham > Exeter NH
Percey C. Rogers 32 MA Ire CT Teacher Academy [Phillips Exeter]
Lillian H. Rogers 28 CT Sweden Sweden
Brandon N. Rogers 2 NH MA CT
1940 US Census > NH > Rockingham > Exeter NH
Percy C. Rogers Head M 42 MA College-5 years French Teacher private school
Lillian H. Rogers wife F 38 CT College-1 year
Brandon M. Rogers son M 11 NH 6 yrs of schooling
1947 Exeter NH City Directory
Rogers, Frederick J. (Gladys F) s r Atlantic ave
Percy C. (Lillian H) (Veazey House, Exeter) s r Atlantic ave rfd 1H
1949 & 1952 Exeter NH City Directory
Rogers, Percy C. (Lillian H) (Veazey House Exeter) s r Atlantic ave rfd 1 H
Rogers, Brandom [sic] M student (Harvard Univ) bds Percy C. Rogers rfd 1 H
Boston Record American, June 1, 1952, page 32
Exeter Tennis Coach Retires
Exeter NH, — Martin W. Souders director of athletics at the Phillips Exeter Academy announces the retirement as tennis coach of Percy C. Rogers. Rogers, who has coached varsity tennis at Exeter for 29 consecutive years, will continue his work as instructor in French and Spanish and also is expected to continue directing the annual interscholastic tennis tournaments at Exeter. Souders said he had accepted Rogers’ resignation with regret, but that he was happy to appoint as his successor Richard L. Dunnell, who has been assisting in coaching academy tennis since 1942. Both Percy Rogers and Dick Dunnell played varsity tennis at Wesleyan.
December 19, 1952 Boston Herald, page 40
Percy C. Rogers of Exeter NH, president of the New England Lawn Tennis Association since 1945, announced his resignation at the association’s 25th annual meeting at the Hotel Continental, Cambridge last night. Rogers, secretary of the association from 1938 to 1945, will become secretary of the United States Lawn Tennis Association, to which office he was nominated last fall. Chauncey D. Steele Jr. of Cambridge was elected to succeed Rogers as president.
January 21, 1957 Greensboro Record, page 18
[Article about USLTA, United States Lawn Tennis Association]
Percy C. Rogers, outgoing secretary from Exeter NH received the Samuel Hardy Award for outstanding service to the tennis education program.
–a 2nd newspaper Trenton Evening times in a similar report calls Retiring Secretary Precy C. Rogers, dean of the faculty at Exeter Academy.
The New York Times, Sunday, January 11, 1976, page 45
Percy C. Rogers, who had taught French and Spanish at Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter NH for 43 years, died Wednesday at the Exeter Hospital. He was 78 years old and lived at North Hampton NH.
Mr. Rogers had also served as secretary of the United States Lawn Tennis Association, as president of the New England Lawn Tennis Association and as a member of the International Lawn Tennis Club.
For much of his time at Phillips Exeter, Mr. Rogers was coach of the varsity tennis and hockey teams. One of his former students recently established in his honor the Percy C. Rogers Professorship in Romance Languages.
Mr. Rogers, a 1918 graduate of Wesleyan University, continued his studies at Toulouse University and the University of Granada.
He lives his wife, the former Lillian Hillbom; a son Brandon; a brother Raymond, and three grandchildren.
Child of Percy C. & Lillian (Hillborn) Rogers:
1. Brandon Miles Rogers, b. 23 April 1928 in Exeter NH, d. 1 Sep 2013; attended Harvard College; Resided Detroit, Michigan; married with several children (see link to his obituary).