ROOSEVELT, Theodore, President (1858-1919). Two autograph letters signed ("Theodore Roosevelt") to Alden Sampson (1853-1925), Long Island, N.Y., 30 June 1887 and 20 April 1888. Together 8 pp., 8vo, mat burn, faint matburn, traces of mounting.
"I HAVE NEVER KILLED BLACK BEAR, MOOSE OR CARIBOU; CAN YOU GIVE ME INFORMATION ABOUT ANY PLACES WHERE I COULD BE PRETTY SURE TO GET ONE OF THOSE THREE ANIMALS?"
TWO FINE EARLY LETTERS CONCERNING THE CRUCIAL MONTANA CHAPTER OF TR'S LIFE. In the first letter, Roosevelt fends off Sampson's inquiries about guides and hunting grounds, evidently wanting to keep prime territory--and a valuable tracker--to himself. Nevertheless, he can't help bragging about his kills: "I wish I could give you the definite information you ask, but I fear it will have to be general, for I have always made my hunting trips with my own cowboys and ranch wagon, equipment, etc. I have been but twice in Montana, once going to the Bighorn after elk and bear, where I used the wagon until I got to the mountains where I left it and tracked the team animals; and once in the Coeur d'Alenes [sic] last fall after white goat (after a fortnight's work I got three by the way), where I used nothing but pack ponies. About guides I know nothing; the one man I do know, though one with whom I am personally first class friends, could not be trusted to 'keep his place' with a stranger. He is up in the Rockies."
The second letter is more forthcoming, but Roosevelt's still wary about Sampson cutting in on his game: "The guide I wrote you about is named John Willis; his address is Thompson Falls, Montana...He writes me that there is a fair show for bear and cougar. When I was out with him I devoted my whole time to mountain goats (the white goat), killing three...Willis is now a butcher, but I think he would go with you. He is a wiry, tough mountaineer, a good shot, a good tracker, knows the diamond hills, always good humoured & willing to work. I hesitated to make him known to you; for he is a type of borderer more common in Arizona than in the north; and, to put it mildly, is not straight-laced; but he is a very pleasant companion, and was very faithful to me. You are an old westerner, and know all the types...Were I going out myself I should certainly employ Willis. In telling you of my hunting ground I take it for granted that early in the season you do not intend to kill any does. I do not want to be 'particeps criminis' in any killing out of our game; but of this I know it is needless to speak to a gentleman of your reputation. Your hunting experience has been much greater than mine....Of course I would prefer for you not to speak of the guide to any one else; you know how soon hunting grounds are spoiled. I have never killed black bear, moose or caribou; can you give me information about any places where I could be pretty sure to get one of those three animals? Again asking you to keep the information for your use."
TR's trust in Sampson grew in time, as he recognized a fellow conservationist as well hunter. He won membership into TR's Boone and Crockett Club, and contributed an essay, along with TR, to one of the Club's publications: American Big Game in its Haunts, (N. Y.: Forest and Stream Publishing Co., 1904).