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The New York Times, April 4, 1909

Show Recognition of His Accomplishment in Building the Virginian Railway.
Rogers Says Road is a Business Enterprise, but His Interests Are Common with State

Special to The New York Times.

NORFOLK, Va., April 3. - As a mark of recognition of the successful accomplishment of Henry H. Rogers in the building of the Virginian Railway a dinner, the most elaborate ever spread in Norfolk, was tendered Mr. Rogers here tonight.

Two hundred and fifty of the most distinguished men of the Old Dominion and places beyond her borders assembled to honor him. The main dining room of the Monticello Hotel was banked with flowers and festooned with flags as it has never before been. And the dinner - it was almost too rich for people who are partial to the dollar-a-plate variety. This cost $20. Rogers was lionized. Samuel L. Clemens, (Mark Twain,) who is his guest here, was surprised at the magnificence of the feast.

The speechmaking commenced a few minutes before 10 o'clock. Judge William H. White, President of the Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac Railroad, served as toastmaster.

Just as Judge White arose for his speech Mark Twain, who had remained out of the room while the dinner was being eaten, made his appearance at the door adorned in a white flannel suit and other negligee attire. He was at once recognized.

A great ovation was accorded him. He took a seat on the left of the toastmaster, Mr. Rogers being on the right. After the applause for Mark Twain had subsided the toastmaster arose to make his speech.

Judge White's Speech.

"The occasion which has brought us together is one very much out of the ordinary. The men of affairs of other communities have assembled to pay tribute to some guest who has achieved a large and lasting good for the community life, but it has been reserved for us to have as our honored guest tonight one who, single-minded and alone, has constructed a great railway from the distant mountains of West Virginia to the Atlantic Ocean here at our door. It is this product, this manifestation of individual wealth and sagacity that lends special significance to the occasion.

"In building the Virginian Railway from mountain to ocean, a monument has been erected to its author which will survive all the other masterful successes of his long and eventful life. In conception, construction, and selection of its route and traffic the same practical sagacity has been displayed which has made success for Mr. Rogers in all of his life work.

"He has selected as the commodity to supply most of his traffic one of the finest varieties of coal known to our manufacturing interests, a commodity growing in demand more rapidly than any other, and more essential to the material growth and development of our land. He has selected the most approved grades and methods known to modern railroad construction, and he has located his deep-water terminals with unerring provision.

"Wisdom, almost prophetic in character, has governed the builder of this great artery of trade, destined to become a most important factor in the life of this State and community."

Mr. Rogers's Speech

Mr. Rogers said in part:

"It is a great honor, and I shall not deny a great pleasure, to be your guest on this occasion. I am not gifted with the art of oratory, and am forced to say my thanks in plain and homely words. Yet they are none the less heartfelt. I make no pretense that the building of the Virginian Railway was intended wholly as a public service, and it is a business enterprise. I have faith that the resources of this Old Dominion State, when properly developed, mean a great deal, not for you who live here alone, but for the whole country.

"And I have simply sought to bear what share I could in the development of these resources. You gentlemen of Virginia and I have a common interest. I shall endeavor to deal fairly by you and I am sure you propose doing the same by me. Again I thank you from the bottom of my heart for the honor you have conferred upon me."

This morning Mr. Rogers and others left by special car for an inspection of the Virginian Railway's great terminal property at Sewell's Point, located a few miles beyond the corporate limits of Norfolk, where the Elizabeth River empties into Hampton Roads. Mr. Rogers spent some time on the great steel pier leading out from shore, and from which the coal brought from West Virginia will be dumped into ship bottoms foreign and coastwise. While on the pier Mr. Rogers witnessed the loading of the steamboat Everett of Boston with 7,200 tons cargo coal, this being the first cargo vessel to be loaded therefrom.

The party start from here for an inspection of the Virginian system, extending from Norfolk to the coal fields of West Virginia, a distance of nearly 450 miles.

Related Special Feature: Mark Twain and Henry Huttleston Rogers in Virginia
Related news story on Mark Twain in Norfolk from the Norfolk Ledger-Dispatch of April 5, 1909.

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