THE sudden death of Dr.
Strentzel on the last of October, 1890, brought in its train a change of
residence for the Muir family. At the time of his marriage, Muir had first
rented and later purchased from his father-in-law the upper part of the
Alhambra ranch. Dr. Strentzel thereupon left the old home to his daughter,
and removed to the lower half of the ranch, where he and his wife built and
occupied a large new frame house on a sightly hill-top. Since Mrs. Strentzel,
after her husband's death, needed the care of her daughter, the Muirs left
the upper ranch home, hi which they had lived for ten years, and moved to
the more spacious, but on the whole less comfortable, house which thereafter
became known as the Muir residence.
At the beginning of his
father-in-law's illness, Muir was on the point of starting on a trip up the
Kings River Cañon in order to secure additional material for a" Century"
article. The project, naturally, had to be abandoned. "It is now so snowy
and late," he wrote to Mr. Johnson in November, "I fear I shall not be able
to get into the caflons this season. I think, however, that I can write the
article from my old notes. I made three trips through the Kings River Cañon,
and one through the wild Middle Fork Cañon with its charming Yosemite." The
deeper purpose of this article was to serve as a starter for another
national park. It means that two weeks after the successful issue of the
campaign for the creation of the Yosemite National Park, Muir, ably assisted
by Mr. R. U. Johnson, began to advocate the enlargement of the Sequoia
National Park so as to embrace the Kings River region and the Kaweah and
Tule Sequoia groves. John W. Noble was then Secretary of the Interior
(188993), and it is fair to say that, measured by the magnitude of benefits
conferred upon the country, no more useful incumbent has ever filled that
office. He at once declared himself ready to withdraw the region from entry
if Muir would delimit upon Land Office maps the territory that should go
into a park.
"I am going to San Francisco
this morning," Muir wrote to Johnson on May 13, 1891, "and will get the best
map I can and will draw the boundaries of the proposed new park. . . . This
map I shall send you to-morrow." During the same month he made another trip
up the cañon of the Kings River, particularly the South Fork, and afterwards
wrote for the "Century" [November, 1891.] an unusually telling description
of it under the title of "A Rival of the Yosemite." "This region," he said
in concluding the article, "contains no mines of consequence; it is too high
and too rocky for agriculture, and even the lumber industry need suffer no
unreasonable restriction. Let our law-givers then make haste, before it is
too late, to save this surpassingly glorious region for the recreation and
well-being of humanity, and the world will rise up and call them blessed."
Advance sheets of the
article, placed in the hands of Secretary Noble, moved him to bring Muir's
proposal to the immediate attention of Congress with the recommendation of "favorable
consideration and action." But over thirty years have passed since then, and
Muir's dream of good still awaits realization at the hands of our
law-givers. The Roosevelt- Sequoia National Park bill, now before Congress,
is substantially Muir's original proposal, and fittingly recognizes the
invaluable service which Theodore Roosevelt rendered to the cause of forests
and parks, partly in coöperation with Muir, as shown in a succeeding
chapter. This bill should be speedily passed, over the paltering objections
of adventurers who place their private farthing schemes above the
immeasurable public benefit of a national playground that not only rivals
the already overcrowded Yosemite in beauty and spaciousness, but is, in the
words of Muir, "a veritable song of God."
Muir had now reached the
stage in his career when he had not only the desire, but also the power, to
translate his nature enthusiasms into social service. Increasing numbers of
progressive citizens, both East and West, were looking to him for leadership
when corrupt or incompetent custodians of the public domain needed to be
brought to the bar of public opinion. And there was much of this work to be
done by a man who was not afraid to stand up under fire. Muir's courageous
and outspoken criticism of the mismanagement of Yosemite Valley by the State
Commissioners aroused demands in Washington for an investigation of the
abuses and a recession of the Valley to the Federal Government as part of
the Yosemite National Park.
Since there was likelihood of
a stiff battle over this and other matters, Muir's friends, particularly Mr.
R. U. Johnson, urged him to get behind him a supporting organization on the
Pacific Coast through which men of kindred aims could present a united
front. This led to the formal organization of the Sierra Club on the 4th of
June, 1892. It declared its purpose to be a double one: first, "to explore,
enjoy, and render accessible the mountain regions of the Pacific Coast," and
"to publish authentic information concerning them"; and, second, "to enlist
the support and cooperation of the people and government in preserving the
forests and other natural features of the Sierra Nevada Mountains." The
Club, in short, was formed with two sets of aims, and it gathered into its
membership on the one hand persons who were primarily lovers of mountains
and mountaineering, and on the other hand those whose first interest was to
conserve the forests and other natural features for future generations. In
no single individual were both these interests better represented than in
the person of Muir, who became the first president of the Club, and held the
office continuously until his death twenty-two years later. Among the men
who deserve to be remembered in connection with the organization and early
conservation activities of the Club were Warren Olney, Sr., and Professors
Joseph LeConte, J. H. Senger, William Dallam Armes, and Cornelius Beach
One of the first important
services of the Club was its successful opposition to the so- called "Caminetti
Bill," a loosely drawn measure introduced into Congress in 1892 with the
object of altering the boundaries of the Yosemite National Park in such a
way as to eliminate about three hundred alleged mining claims, and other
large areas desired by stockmen and lumbermen. The bill underwent various
modifications, and finally, in 1894, it was proposed to authorize the
Secretary of the Interior to make the alterations. Muir's public interviews
and the organized resistance of the Club, fortunately, repelled this
contemplated raid upon the new park; for watchful guardians of the public
domain regarded it as of ill omen that Secretary Hoke Smith, who had
succeeded John W. Noble in 1893, reported that he had no objection to
interpose to the bill's passage.
It should be recorded to the
lasting honor of President Harrison and the Honorable John W. Noble that
they established the first forest reserves under an Act of Congress [The
authorization of the President to make forest reservations is contained in a
clause inserted in the Sundry Civil Bill of that year. The credit of it
belongs to Edward A. Bowers ,whose name deserves to be held in remembrance
for other noble services to the cause of forest conservation.] passed March
3, 1891. It was the first real recognition of the practical value of forests
in conserving water-flow at the sources of rivers. The Boone and Crockett
Club on April 8, 1891, made it the occasion of a special vote of thanks
addressed to the President and Secretary Noble on the ground that "this
society recognizes in these actions the most important steps taken in recent
years for the preservation of our forests." Though not so recognized at the
time, it was a happy augury for the future that the resolution was inspired,
signed, and transmitted by Theodore Roosevelt.
Among the few surviving Muir
letters of the early nineties is the following one to his Indianapolis
friend Mrs. Graydon, who had expressed a hope that, if he returned to her
home city during the current year, she might be able to arrange for a social
evening with the poet James Whitcomb Riley.
To Mrs. Mary Merrill Graydon
MARTINEZ, February 28, 1893
MY DEAR MRS. GRAYDON:
I am glad to hear from you
once more. You say you thought on account of long silence we might be dead,
but the worst that could be fairly said is "not dead but sleeping" - hardly
even this, for, however silent, sound friendship never sleeps, no matter how
seldom paper letters fly between.
My heart aches about Janet -
one of the sad, sad, sore cases that no human wisdom can explain. We can
only look on the other side through tears and grief and pain and see that
pleasure surpasses the pain, good the evil, and that, after all, Divine love
is the sublime boss of the universe.
The children greatly enjoy
the [James Whitcomb] Riley book you so kindly sent. I saw Mr. Riley for a
moment at the close of one of his lectures in San Francisco, but I had to
awkwardly introduce myself, and he evidently couldn't think who I was.
Professor [David Starr] Jordan, who happened to be standing near, though I
had not seen him, surprised me by saying, "Mr. Riley, this man is the author
of the Muir Glacier." I invited Mr. Riley to make us a visit at the ranch,
but his engagements, I suppose, prevented even had he cared to accept, and
so I failed to see him save in his lecture.
I remember my visit to your
home with pure pleasure, and shall not forget the kindness you bestowed, as
shown in so many ways. As to coming again this year, I thank you for the
invitation, but the way is not open so far as I can see just now.
I think with Mr. Jackson that
Henry Riley [One of his fellow workmen in the wagon factory in Indianapolis,
1866-67. "Your name is a household word with us," wrote Mr. Riley in
acknowledging Muir's gift. "The world has traveled on at a great rate in the
twenty-five years since you and I made wheels together, and you, I am proud
to say, have traveled with it."] shows forth one of the good sides of human
nature in so vividly remembering the little I did for him so long ago. I
send by mail with this letter one of the volumes of "Picturesque California"
for him in your care, as I do not know his address. Merrill Moores knows
him, and he can give him notice to call for the book. It contains one of my
articles on Washington, and you are at liberty to open and read it if you
Katie [Graydon] I have not
seen since she went to Oakland, though only two hours away. But I know she
is busy and happy through letters and friends. I mean to try to pass a night
at McChesney's, and see her and find out all about her works and ways. The
children and all of us remember her stay with us as a great blessing.
Remember me to the Hendricks
family, good and wholesome as sunshine, to the venerable Mr. Jackson, and
all the grand Merrill family, your girls in particular, with every one of
whom I fell in love, and believe me, noisy or silent,
Ever your friend
Muir had long cherished the
intention of returning to Scotland in order to compare his boyhood memories
of the dingles and dells of his native land with what he described, before
the California period of his life, as "all the other less important parts of
our world." In the spring of 1893 he proceeded to carry out the plan. The
well-remembered charms of the old landscapes were still there, but he was to
find that his standards of comparison had been changed by the Sierra Nevada.
On the way East he paid a visit to his mother in Wisconsin, lingered some
days at the Chicago World's Fair, and then made his first acquaintance with
the social and literary life of New York and Boston. The following letters
give some hint of the rich harvest of lasting friendships which he reaped
during his eastern sojourn.
To Mrs. Muir
3420 MICHIGAN AVE., CHICAGO
May 29, 1893, 9 A.M.
I leave for New York this
evening at five o'clock and arrive there to-morrow evening at seven, when I
expect to find a letter from you in care of Johnson at the "Century"
Editorial Rooms. The Sellers' beautiful home has been made heartily my own,
and they have left nothing undone they could think of that would in any way
add to my enjoyment. Under their guidance I have been at the [World's] Fair
every day, and have seen the best of it, though months would be required to
see it all.
You know I called it a
"cosmopolitan rat's [Refers to the wood rat or pack rat (Neotoma) which
builds large mound-like nests and "packs" into them all kinds of amusing
odds and ends.] nest," containing much rubbish and commonplace stuff as well
as things novel and precious. Well, now that I have seen it, it seems just
such a rat's nest still, and what, do you think, was the first thing I saw
when I entered the nearest of the huge buildings? A high rat's nest in a
glass case about eight feet square, with stuffed wood rats looking out from
the mass of sticks and leaves, etc., natural as life! So you see, as usual,
I am "always right."
I most enjoyed the art
galleries. There are about eighteen acres of paintings by every nation under
the sun, and I wandered and gazed until I was ready to fall down with utter
exhaustion. The Art Gallery of the California building is quite small and of
little significance, not more than a dozen or two of paintings all told:
four by Keith, not his best, and four by Hill, not his best, and a few
others of no special character by others, except a good small one by Yelland.
But the National Galleries are perfectly overwhelming in grandeur and bulk
and variety, and years would be required to make even the most meager
curiosity of a criticism.
The outside view of the
buildings is grand and also beautiful. For the best architects have done
their best in building them, while Frederick Law Olmsted laid out the
grounds. Last night the buildings and terraces and fountains along the
canals were illuminated by tens of thousands of electric lights arranged
along miles of lines of gables, domes, and cornices, with glorious effect.
It was all fairyland on a colossal scale and would have made the Queen of
Sheba and poor Solomon in all their glory feel sick with helpless envy. I
wished a hundred times that you and the children and Grandma could have seen
it all, and only the feeling that Helen would have been made sick with
excitement prevented me from sending for you.
I hope Helen is well and then
all will be well. I have worked at my article at odd times now and then, but
it still remains to be finished at the "Century" rooms. Tell the children
I'll write them from New York to-morrow or next day. Love to all. Good-bye.
To Mrs. Muir
BOSTON, MASS., June 12, 1893
I have been so crowded and
overladen with enjoyments lately that I have lost trace of time and have so
much to tell you I scarce know where and how to begin. When I reached New
York I called on Johnson, and told him I meant to shut myself up in a room
and finish my articles and then go with Keith to Europe. But he paid no
attention to either my hurry or Keith's, and quietly ordered me around and
took possession of me.
NEW YORK, June 13
I was suddenly interrupted by
a whole lot of new people, visits, dinners, champagne, etc., and have just
got back to New York by a night boat by way of Fall River. So I begin again.
Perhaps this is the 13th, Tuesday, for I lose all track of time.
First I was introduced to all
the "Century" people, with their friends also as they came in. Dined with
Johnson first. Mrs. J. is a bright, keen, accomplished woman.
Saw Burroughs the second day.
He had been at a Walt Whitman Club the night before, and had made a speech,
eaten a big dinner, and had a headache. So he seemed tired, and gave no sign
of his fine qualities. I chatted an hour with him and tried to make him go
to Europe with me. The "Century" men offered him five hundred dollars for
some articles on our trip as an inducement, but he answered to-day by letter
that he could not go, he must be free when he went, that he would above all
things like to go with me, etc., but circumstances would not allow it. The
"circumstances" barring the way are his wife. I can hardly say I have seen
him at all.
Dined another day with
[Richard Watson] Gilder. He is charming every way, and has a charming home
and family.... I also dined in grand style at Mr. Pinchot's, whose son is
studying forestry. The home is at Gramercy Park, New York. Here and at many
other places I had to tell the story of the minister's dog. Everybody seems
to think it wonderful for the views it gives of the terrible crevasses of
the glaciers as well as for the recognition of danger and the fear and joy
of the dog. I must have told it at least twelve times at the request of
Johnson or others who had previously heard it. I told Johnson I meant to
write it out for "St. Nicholas," but he says it is too good for "St. Nick,"
and he wants it for the "Century" as a separate article. When I am telling
it at the dinner-tables, it is curious to see how eagerly the livened
servants listen from behind screens, half-closed doors, etc.
Almost every clay in town
here I have been called out to lunch and dinner at the clubs and soon have a
crowd of notables about me. I had no idea I was so well known, considering
how little I have written. The trip up the Hudson was delightful. Went as
far as West Point, to Castle Crags, the residence of the [Henry Fairfield]
Osborns. Charming drives in the green flowery woods, and, strange to say,
all the views are familiar, for the landscapes are all freshly glacial. Not
a line in any of the scenery that is not a glacial line. The same is true of
all the region hereabouts. I found glacial scoring on the rocks of Central
Last Wednesday evening
Johnson and I started for Boston, and we got back this morning, making the
trip both ways in the night to economize time. After looking at the famous
buildings, parks, monuments, etc., we took the train for Concord, wandered
through the famous Emerson village, dined with Emerson's son, visited the
Concord Bridge, where the first blood of the Revolution was shed, and where
"the shot was fired heard round the world." Went through lovely, ferny,
flowery woods and meadows to the hill cemetery and laid flowers on
Thoreau'sand Emerson's graves. I think it is the most beautiful graveyard I
ever saw. It is on a hill perhaps one hundred and fifty feet high in the
woods of pine, oak, beech, maple, etc., and all the ground is flowery.
Thoreau lies with his father, mother, and brother not far from Emerson and
Hawthorne. Emerson lies between two white pine trees, one at his head, the
other at [his] feet, and instead of a mere tombstone or monument there is a
mass of white quartz rugged and angular, wholly uncut, just as it was
blasted from the ledge. I don't know where it was obtained. There is not a
single letter or word on this grand natural monument. It seems to have been
dropped there by a glacier, and the soil he sleeps in is glacial drift
almost wholly unchanged since first this country saw the light at the close
of the glacial period. There are many other graves here, though it is not
one of the old cemeteries. Not one of them is raised above ground. Sweet
kindly Mother Earth has taken them back to her bosom whence they came. I did
not imagine I would be so moved at sight of the resting- places of these
grand men as I found I was, and I could not help thinking how glad I would
be to feel sure that I would also rest here. But I suppose it cannot be, for
Mother will be in Portage.
After leaving Thoreau and
Emerson, we walked through the woods to Walden Pond. It is a beautiful lake
about half a mile long, fairly embosomed like a bright dark eye in wooded
hills of smooth moraine gravel and sand, and with a rich leafy undergrowth
of huckleberry, willow, and young oak bushes, etc., and grass and flowers in
rich variety. No wonder Thoreau lived here two years. I could have enjoyed
living here two hundred years or two thousand. It is only about one and a
half or two miles from Concord, a mere saunter, and how people should regard
Thoreau as a hermit on account of his little delightful stay here I cannot
We visited also Emerson's
home and were shown through the house. It is just as he left it, his study,
books, chair, bed, etc., and all the paintings and engravings gathered in
his foreign travels. Also saw Thoreau's village residence and Hawthorne's
old manse and other home near Emerson's. At six o'clock we got back from
Walden to young Emerson's father- in-law's place in Concord and dined with
the family and Edward Waldo Emerson. The latter is very like his father -
rather tall, slender, and with his father's sweet perennial smile. Nothing
could be more cordial and loving than his reception of me. When we called at
the house, one of the interesting old colonial ones, he was not in, and we
were received by his father-in-law, a college mate of Thoreau, who knew
Thoreau all his life. The old man was sitting on the porch when we called.
Johnson introduced himself, and asked if this was Judge Keyes, etc. The old
gentleman kept his seat and seemed, I thought, a little cold and careless in
his manner. But when Johnson said, "This is Mr. Muir," he jumped up and said
excitedly, "John Muir! Is this John Muir?" and seized me as if I were a
long-lost son. He declared he had known me always, and that my name was a
household word. Then he took us into the house, gave us refreshments, cider,
etc., introduced us to his wife, a charming old- fashioned lady, who also
took me for a son. Then we were guided about the town and shown all the
famous homes and places. But I must hurry on or I will be making a book of
We went back to Boston that
night on a late train, though they wanted to keep us, and next day went to
Professor Sargent's grand place, where we had a perfectly wonderful time for
several days. This is the finest mansion and grounds I ever saw. The house
is about two hundred feet long with immense verandas trimmed with huge
flowers and vines, standing in the midst of fifty acres of lawns, groves,
wild woods of pine, hemlock, maple, beech, hickory, etc., and all kinds of
underbrush and wild flowers and cultivated flowers - acres of rhododendrons
twelve feet high in full bloom, and a pond covered with lilies, etc., all
the ground waving, hill and dale, and clad in the full summer dress of the
region, trimmed with exquisite taste.
The servants are in livery,
and everything is fine about the house and in it, but Mr. and Mrs. Sargent
are the most cordial and unaffected people imaginable, and in a few minutes
I was at my ease and at home, sauntering where I liked, doing what I liked,
and making the house my own. Here we had grand dinners, formal and informal,
and here I told my dog story, I don't know how often, and described glaciers
and their works. Here, the last day, I dined with Dana, of the New York
"Sun," and Styles, of the "Forest and Stream," Parsons, the Superintendent
of Central Park, and Matthews, Mayor of Boston. Yesterday the Mayor came
with carriages and drove us through the public parks and the most
interesting streets of Boston, and he and Mr. and Mrs. Sargent drove to the
station and saw us off. While making Sargent's our headquarters, Mr. Johnson
took me to Cambridge, where we saw the classic old shades of learning, found
Royce, who guided us, saw Porter, and the historian Parkman, etc., etc. We
called at Eliot's house, but he was away.
We also went to the seaside
at Manchester, forty miles or so from Boston, to visit Mrs. [James T.
Fields, a charming old lady, and how good a time! Sarah Orne Jewett was
there, and all was delightful. Here, of course, Johnson made me tell that
dog story as if that were the main result of glacial action and all my
studies, but I got in a good deal of ice-work better than this, and never
had better listeners.
Judge Howland, whom I met in
Yosemite with a party who had a special car, came in since I began this
letter to invite me to a dinner to-morrow evening with a lot, of his
friends. I must get that article done and set the day of sailing for Europe,
or I won't get away at all. This makes three dinners ahead already. I fear
the tail of my article will be of another color from the body. Johnson has
been most devoted to me ever since I arrived, and I can't make him stop. I
think I told you the "Century" wants to publish my book. They also want me
to write articles from Europe.
Must stop. Love to all. How
glad I was to get Wanda's long good letter this morning, dated June 2! All
letters in Johnson's care will find me wherever I go, here or in Europe.
To Mrs. Muir
July 6, 1893
I left Liverpool Monday
morning, reached Edinburgh early the same day, went to a hotel, and then
went to the old book-publisher David Douglas, to whom Johnson had given me a
letter. He is a very solemn-looking, dignified old Scotchman of the old
school, an intimate friend and crony of John Brown, who wrote "Rab and His
Friends," knew Hugh Miller, Walter Scott, and indeed all the literary men,
and was the publisher of Dean Ramsay's "Reminiscences of Scottish Life and
Character," etc. He had heard of me through my writings, and, after he knew
who I was, burst forth into the warmest cordiality and became a perfect
gushing fountain of fun, humor, and stories of' the old Scotch writers.
Tuesday morning he took me in hand, and led me over Edinburgh, took me to
all the famous places celebrated in Scott's novels, went around the Calton
Hill and the Castle, into the old churches so full of associations, to Queen
Mary's Palace Museum, and I don't know how many other places.
In the evening I dined with
him, and had a glorious time. He showed me his literary treasures and
curiosities, told endless anecdotes of John Brown, Walter Scott, Hugh
Miller, etc., while I, of course, told my icy tales until very late - or
early - the most wonderful night as far as humanity is concerned I ever had
in the world. Yesterday forenoon he took me out for another walk and filled
me with more wonders. His kindness and warmth of heart, once his confidence
is gained, are boundless. From feeling lonely and a stranger in my own
native land, he brought me back into quick and living contact with it, and
now I am a Scotchman and at home again.
In the afternoon I took the
train for Dunbar and in an hour was in my own old town. There was no
carriage from the Lorne Hotel that used to be our home, so I took the one
from the St. George, which I remember well as Cossar's Inn that I passed
every day on my way to school. But I'm going to the Lorne, if for nothing
else [than] to take a look at that dormer window I climbed in my nightgown,
to see what kind of an adventure it really was.
I sauntered down the street
and went into a store on which I saw the sign Melville, and soon found that
the proprietor was an old playmate of mine, and he was, of course, delighted
to see me. He had been reading my articles, and said he had taken great
pride in tracing my progress through the far-off wildernesses. Then I went
to William Comb, mother's old friend, who was greatly surprised, no doubt,
to see that I had changed in forty years. "And this is Johnnie Muir! Bless
me, when I saw ye last ye were naething but a small mischievous lad." He is
very deaf, unfortunately, and was very busy. I am to see him again to-day.
Next I went in search of Mrs.
Lunam, my cousin, and found her and her daughter in a very pretty home half
a mile from town. They were very cordial, and are determined to get me away
from the hotel. I spent the evening there talking family affairs, auld lang
syne, glaciers, wild gardens, adventures, etc., till after eleven, then
returned to the hotel.
Here are a few flowers that I
picked on the Castle hill on my walk with Douglas, for Helen and Wanda. I
pray heaven in the midst of my pleasure that you are all well. Edinburgh is,
apart from its glorious historical associations, far the most beautiful town
I ever saw. I cannot conceive how it could be more beautiful. In the very
heart of it rises the great Castle hill, glacier-sculptured and wild like a
bit of Alaska in the midst of the most beautiful architecture to be found in
the world. I wish you could see it, and you will when the babies grow up.
To Helen Muir
July 12, 1893
HELLO, MIDGE, MY SWEET HELEN:
Are you all right? I'm in
Scotland now, where I used to live when I was a little boy, and I saw the
places where I used to play and the house I used to live in. I remember it
pretty well, and the school where the teacher used to whip me so much,
though I tried to be good all the time and learn my lessons. The round tower
on the hill in the picture at the beginning of the letter is one of the
places I used to play at on Saturdays when there was no school.
Here is a little sprig of
heather a man gave me yesterday and another for Wanda. The heather is just
beginning to come into bloom. I have not seen any of it growing yet, and I
don't know where the man found it. But I'm going pretty soon up the
mountains, and then I'll find lots of it, and won't it be lovely, miles and
miles of it, covering whole mountains and making them look purple. I think I
must camp out in the heather.
I'm going to come home just
as soon as I get back from Switzerland, about the time the grapes are ripe,
I expect. I wish I could see you, my little love.
To Mrs. Muir
July 12, 1893
I have been here nearly a
week and have seen most of my old haunts and playgrounds, and more than I
expected of my boy playmates. Of course it is all very interesting, and I
have enjoyed it more than I anticipated. Dunbar is an interesting place to
anybody, beautifully located on a plateau above the sea and with a
background of beautiful hills and dales, green fields in the very highest
state of cultivation, and many belts and blocks of woods so arranged as to
appear natural. I have had a good many rides and walks into the country
among the fine farms and towns and old castles, and had long talks with
people who listen with wonder to the stories of California and far Alaska.
I suppose, of course, you
have received my Edinburgh letter telling the fine time with David Douglas.
I mean to leave here next Monday for the Highlands, and then go to Norway
I am stopping with my cousin,
who, with her daughter, lives in a handsome cottage just outside of town.
They are very cordial and take me to all the best places and people, and pet
me in grand style, but I must on and away or my vacation time will be past
ere I leave Scotland.
At Haddington I visited
Jeanie Welch Carlyle's grave in the old abbey. Here are two daisies, or
gowans, that grew beside it.
I was on a visit yesterday to
a farmer's family three miles from town - friends of the Lunarns. This was a
fine specimen of the gentleman-farmers' places and people in this, the best
part of Scotland. How fine the grounds are, and the buildings and the
I begin to think I shall not
see Keith again until I get back, except by accident, for I have no time to
hunt him up; but anyhow I am not so lonesome as I was and with David
Douglas's assistance will make out to find my way to fair advantage.
The weather here reminds me
of Alaska, cool and rather damp. Nothing can surpass the exquisite fineness
and wealth of the farm crops, while the modulation of the ground stretching
away from the rocky, foamy coast to the green Lammermoor Hills is charming.
Among other famous places I visited the old castle of the Bride of
Lammermoor and the field of the bat- tie of Dunbar. Besides, I find fine
glacial studies everywhere.
I fondly hope you are all
well while I am cut off from news.
To Wanda Muir
July 13, 1893
It is about ten o'clock in
the forenoon here, but no doubt you are still asleep, for it is about
midnight at Martinez, and sometimes when it is to-day here it is yesterday
in California on account of being on opposite sides of the round world. But
one's thoughts travel fast, and I seem to be in California whenever I think
of you and Helen. I suppose you are busy with your lessons and peaches,
peaches especially. You are now a big girl, almost a woman, and you must
mind your lessons and get in a good store of the best words of the best
people while your memory is retentive, and then you will go through the
Ask mother to give you
lessons to commit to memory every day. Mostly the sayings of Christ in the
gospels and selections from the poets. Find the hymn of praise in Paradise
Lost "These are thy glorious works, Parent of Good, Almighty," and learn it
Last evening, after writing
to Helen, I took a walk with Maggie Lunam along the shore on the rocks where
I played when a boy. The waves made a grand show breaking in sheets and
sheaves of foam, and grand songs, the same old songs they sang to me in my
childhood, and I seemed a boy again and all the long eventful years in
America were forgotten while I was filled with that glorious ocean psalm.
Tell Maggie I'm going to-day
to see Miss Jaifry, the minister's daughter who went to school with us. And
tell mamma that the girl Agnes Purns, that could outrun me, married a
minister and is now a widow living near Prestonpans. I may see her.
Good-bye, dear. Give my love to grandma and everybody.
Your loving father
To Mrs. Muir
STATION HOTEL, OBAN, N.B.
July 22, 1893
I stayed about ten days at
Dunbar, thinking I should not slight my old home and cousins. I found an
extra cousin in Dunbar, Jane Mather, that I had not before heard of, and she
is one to be proud of, as are the Lunams. I also found a few of the old
schoolmates, now gray old men, older-looking, I think, and grayer than I,
though I have led so hard a life. I went with Maggie Lunam to the old
schoolhouse where I was so industriously thrashed half a century ago. The
present teacher, Mr. Dick, got the school two years after I left, and has
held it ever since. He had been reading the "Century," and was greatly
interested. I dined with him and at table one of the guests said, "Mr. Dick,
don't you wish you had the immortal glory of having whipped John Muir?"
I made many short trips into
the country, along the shores, about the old castle, etc. Then I went back
to Edinburgh, and then to Dumfries, Burns's country for some years, where I
found another cousin, Susan Gilroy, with whom I had a good time. Then I went
through Glasgow to Stirling, where I had a charming walk about the castle
and saw the famous battle-field, Bruce's and Wallace's monuments, and
This morning I left Stirling
and went to Callander, thence to Inversnaid by coach and boat, by the
Trossachs and Loch Katrine, thence through Loch Lomond and the mountains to
a railroad and on to this charming Oban. I have just arrived this day on
Lochs Katrine and Lomond, and the drives through the passes and over the
mountains made famous by Scott in the "Lady of the Lake" will be long
remembered - "Ower the muir amang the heather."
The heather is just coming
into bloom and it is glorious. Wish I could camp in it a month. All the
scenery is interesting, but nothing like Alaska or California in grandeur.
To-morrow I'm going back to Edinburgh and next morning intend to start for
Norway, where I will write.
Possibly I may not be able to
catch the boat, but guess I will. Thence I'll return to Edinburgh and then
go to Switzerland. Love to all. Dear Wanda and Helen, here is some bell
heather for you.
To Mrs. Muir
EUSTON HOTEL, LONDON
September 1, 1893
Yesterday afternoon I went to
the home of Sir Joseph Hooker at Sunningdale with him and his family.. . .
Now I am done with London and shall take the morning express to Edinburgh
to-morrow, go thence to the Highlands and see the heather in full bloom,
visit some friends, and go back to Dunbar for a day....
I have been at so many places
and have seen so much that is new, the time seems immensely long since I
left you. Sir Joseph and his lady were very cordial. They have a charming
country residence, far wilder and more retired than ours, though within
twenty-five miles of London. We had a long delightful talk last evening on
science and scientific men, and this forenoon and afternoon long walks and
talks through the grounds and over the adjacent hills. Altogether this has
been far the most interesting day I have had since leaving home. I never
knew before that Sir Joseph had accompanied Ross in his famous Antarctic
expedition as naturalist. He showed me a large number of sketches he made of
the great icecap, etc., and gave me many facts concerning that little known
end of the world entirely new to me. Long talks, too, about Huxley, Tyndall,
Darwin, Sir Charles Lyell, Asa Gray, etc. My, what a time we had! I never
before knew either that he had received the Copley Medal, the highest
scientific honor in the world.
I hope to hear from you again
before sailing, as I shall order my mail forwarded from London the last
thing. I feel that my trip is now all but done, though I have a good many
people to see and small things to do, ere I leave. The hills in full heather
bloom, however, is not a small thing.
To Helen Muir
September 7, 1893
MY OWN DEAR HELEN:
After papa left London he
went to the top of Scotland to a place called Thurso, where a queer Scotch
geologist [Robert Dick] once lived; hundreds of miles thereabouts were
covered with heather in full bloom. Then I went to Inverness and down the
canal to Oban again. Then to Glasgow and then to Ireland to see the
beautiful bogs and lakes and Macgillicuddy's Reeks. Now I must make haste
tomorrow back towards Scotland and get ready to sail to New York on the big
ship Campania, which leaves Liverpool on the sixteenth day of this month,
and then I'll soon see darling Helen again. Papa is tired traveling so much,
and wishes he was home again, though he has seen many beautiful and
wonderful places, and learned a good deal about glaciers and mountains and
things. It is very late, and I must go to bed. Kiss everybody for me, my
sweet darling, and soon I'll be home.
To James and Hardy Hay
CUNARD ROYAL MAIL STEAMSHIP
September 16, 1893
James and Hardy Hay and all
the glorious company about them, young and old.
I am now fairly aff and awa'
from the old home to the new, from friends to friends, and soon the braid
sea will again roar between us; but be assured, however far I go in sunny
California or icy Alaska, I shall never cease to love and admire you, and I
hope that now and then you will think of your lonely kinsman, whether in my
bright home in the Golden State or plodding after God's glorious glaciers in
the storm-beaten mountains of the North.
Among all the memories that I
carry away with me this eventful summer none stand out in so divine a light
as the friends I have found among my own kith and kin: Hays, Mathers, Lunams,
Gilroys. In particular I have enjoyed and admired the days spent with the
Lunams and you Hays. Happy, Godful homes; again and again while with you I
repeated myself those lines of Burns: "From scenes like these old Scotia's
grandeur springs, that makes her loved at home, revered abroad."
Don't forget me and if in
this changing world you or yours need anything in it that I can give, be
sure to call on
Your loving and admiring
From George W. Cable
December 18, 1893
MY DEAR Mr. MUIR:
I am only now really settled
down at home for a stay of a few weeks. I wanted to have sent to you long
ago the book I mail now and which you kindly consented to accept from me -
Lanier's poems. There are in Lanier such wonderful odors of pine, and hay,
and salt sands and cedar, and corn, and such whisperings of Eolian strains
and every outdoor sound -I think you would have had great joy in one an-
other's personal acquaintance.
And this makes me think how
much I have in yours. Your face and voice, your true, rich words, are close
to my senses now as I write, and I cry hungrily for more. The snow is on us
everywhere now, and as I look across the white, crusted waste I see such
mellowness of yellow sunlight and long blue and purple shadows that I want
some adequate manly partnership to help me reap the rapture of such beauty.
In one place a stretch of yellow grass standing above the snow or blown
clear of it glows golden in the slant light. The heavens are blue as my
love's eyes and the elms are black lace against their infinite distance.
Last night I walked across
the frozen white under a moonlight and starlight that made the way seem
through the wastes of a stellar universe and not along the surface of one
Write and tell me, I pray
you, what those big brothers of yours, the mountains, have been saying to
you of late. It will compensate in part, but only in part, for the absence
of your spoken words.
G. W. CABLE
To Robert Underwood Johnson
MARTINEZ, April 3, 1894
MY DEAR Mr. JOHNSON:
The book, begotten Heaven
knows when, is finished and out of me, therefore hurrah, etc., and thanks to
you, very friend, for benevolent prodding. Six of the sixteen chapters are
new, and the others are nearly so, for I have worked hard on every one of
them, leaning them against each other, adding lots of new stuff, and killing
adjectives and adverbs of redundant growth - the verys, intenses, gloriouses,
ands, and buts, by the score. I feel sure the little alpine thing will not
disappoint you. Anyhow I've done the best I could. Read the opening chapter
when you have time. In it I have ventured to drop into the poetry that I
like, but have taken good care to place it between bluffs and buttresses of
bald, glacial, geological facts.
Mrs. Muir keeps asking me
whether it is possible to get Johnson to come out here this summer. She
seems to regard you as a Polish brother. Why, I'll be hanged if I know. I
always thought you too cosmically good to be of any clannish nation. By the
way, during these last months of abnormal cerebral activity I have written
another article for the "Century" which I'll send you soon.
The book mentioned in the
preceding letter was his "Mountains of California," which appeared in the
autumn of 1894 from the press of the Century Company. "I take pleasure in
sending you with this a copy of my first book," he wrote to his old friend
Mrs. Carr. "You will say that I should have written it long ago; but I
begrudged the time of my young mountain-climbing days." To a Scotch cousin,
Margaret Hay Lunam, he characterized it as one in which he had tried to
describe and explain what a traveler would see for himself if he were to
come to California and go over the mountain- ranges and through the forests
as he had done.
The warmth of appreciation
with which the book was received by the most thoughtful men and women of his
time did much to stimulate him to further literary effort. His friend
Charles S. Sargent, director of the Arnold Arboretum, then at work upon his
great work "The Silva of North America," wrote as follows: "I am reading
your Sierra book and I want to tell you that I have never read descriptions
of trees that so picture them to the mind as yours do. No fellow who was at
once a poet, naturalist, and keen observer has to my knowledge ever written
about trees before, and I believe you are the man who ought to have written
a silva of North America. Your book is one of the great productions of its
kind and I congratulate you on it."
Equally enthusiastic was the
great English botanist J. D. Hooker. "I have just finished the last page of
your delightful volume," he wrote from his home at Sunningdale, "and can
therefore thank you with a full heart. I do not know when I have read
anything that I have enjoyed more. It has brought California back to my
memory with redoubled interest, and with more than redoubled knowledge.
Above all it has recalled half-forgotten scientific facts, geology,
geography, and vegetation that I used to see when in California and which I
have often tried to formulate in vain. Most especially this refers to
glacial features and to the conifers; and recalling them has recalled the
scenes and surroundings in which I first heard them."
The acclaim of the book by
reviewers was so enthusiastic that the first edition was soon exhausted. It
was his intention to bring out at once another volume devoted to the
Yosemite Valley in particular. With this task he busied himself in 1895,
revisiting during the summer his old haunts at the headwaters of the
Tuolumne and passing once more alone through the cañon to Hetch-Hetchy
Valley. As in the old days he carried no blanket and a minimum of
provisions, so that he had only a handful of crackers and a pinch of tea
left when he reached Hetch-Hetchy. "The bears were very numerous," he wrote
to his wife on August 17th, "this being berry time in the cañon. But they
gave no trouble, as I knew they wouldn't. Only in tangled underbrush I had
to shout a good deal to avoid coming suddenly on them."
Having no food when he
reached Hetch-Hetchy, he set out to cover the twenty miles from there to
Crocker's on foot, but had gone only a few miles when he met on the trail
two strangers and two well-laden pack-animals. The leader, T. P. Lukens,
asked his name, and then told him that he had come expressly to meet John
Muir in the hope that he might go back with him into Hetch-Hetchy. "On the
banks of the beautiful river beneath a Kellogg oak" the bonds of a new
mountain friendship were sealed while beautiful days rolled by unnoticed. "I
am fairly settled at home again," he wrote to his aged mother on his return,
"and the six weeks of mountaineering of this summer in my old haunts are
over, and now live only in memory and notebooks like all the other weeks in
the Sierra. But how much I enjoyed this excursion, or indeed any excursion
in the wilderness, I am not able to tell. I must have been born a
mountaineer and the climbs and 'scootchers' of boyhood days about the old
Dunbar Castle and on the roof of our house made fair beginnings. I suppose
old age will put an end to scrambling in rocks and ice, but I can still
climb as well as ever. I am trying to write another book, but that is harder
During the spring of the
following year, Mr. Johnson saw some article on Muir which moved him to ask
whether he had ever been offered a professorship at Harvard, and whether
Professor Louis Agassiz had declared him to be "the only living man who
understood glacial action in the formation of scenery."
To Robert Underwood Johnson
MARTINEZ, May 3, 1895
MY DEAR MR. JOHNSON:
To both your questions the
answer is, No. I hate this personal rubbish, and I have always sheltered
myself as best I could in the thickest shade I could find, celebrating only
the glory of God as I saw it in nature.
The foundations for the
insignificant stories you mention are, as far as I know, about as follows.
More than twenty years ago Professor Runkle was in Yosemite, and I took him
into the adjacent wilderness and, of course, night and day preached to him
the gospel of glaciers. When he went away he urged me to go with him, saying
that the Institute of Technology in Boston was the right place for me, that
I could have the choice of several professorships there, and every facility
for fitting myself for the duties required, etc., etc.
Then came Emerson and more
preaching. He said, Don't tarry too long in the woods. Listen for the word
of your guardian angel. You are needed by the young men in our colleges.
Solitude is a sublime mistress, but an intolerable wife. When Heaven gives
the sign, leave the mountains, come to my house and live with me until you
are tired of me and then I will show you to better people.
Then came Gray and more fine
rambles and sermons. He said, When you get ready, come to Harvard. You have
good and able and enthusiastic friends there and we will gladly push you
ahead, etc., etc. So much for Ha-a-a-rvard. But you must surely know that I
never for a moment thought of leaving God's big show for a mere profship,
call who may.
The Agassiz sayings you refer
to are more nearly true than the college ones. Yosemite was my home when
Agassiz was in San Francisco, and I never saw him. When he was there I wrote
him a long icy letter, telling what glorious things I had to show him and
urging him to come to the mountains. The reply to this letter was written by
Mrs. Agassiz, in which she told me that, when Agassiz read my letter, he
said excitedly, "Here is the first man I have ever found who has any
adequate conception of glacial action." Also that he told her to say in
reply to my invitation that if he should accept it now he could not spend
more than six weeks with me at most. That he would rather go home now, but
next year he would come and spend all summer with me. But, as you know, he
went home to die.
Shortly afterward I came down
out of my haunts to Oakland and there met Joseph LeConte, whom I had led to
the Lyell Glacier a few months before Agassiz's arrival. He (LeConte) told
me that, in the course of a conversation with Agassiz on the geology of the
Sierra, he told him that a young man by the name of Muir studying up there
perhaps knew more about the glaciation of the Sierra than any one else. To
which Agassiz replied warmly, and bringing his fist down on the table, "He
knows all about it." Now there! You've got it all, and what a mess of mere
J. M. you've made me write. Don't you go and publish it. Burn it.
Ever cordially yours
What of the summer day now
dawning? Remember you have a turn at the helm. How are you going to steer?
How fares Tesla and the auroral lightning? Shall we go to icy Alaska or to
the peaks and streets and taluses of the Sierra? That was a good strong word
you said for the vanishing forests.
To Robert Underwood Johnson
MARTINEZ, September 12, 1895
MY DEAR MR. JOHNSON:
I have just got home from a
six weeks' ramble in the Yosemite and Yosemite National Park. For three
years the soldiers have kept the sheepmen and sheep out of the park, and I
looked sharply at the ground to learn the value of the military influence on
the small and great flora. On the sloping portions of the forest floor,
where the soil was loose and friable, the vegetation has not yet recovered
from the dibbling and destructive action of the sheep feet and teeth. But
where a tough sod on meadows was spread, the grasses and blue gentians and
erigerons are again blooming in all their wild glory.
The sheepmen are more than
matched by the few troopers in this magnificent park, and the wilderness
rejoices in fresh verdure and bloom. Only the Yosemite itself in the middle
of the grand park is downtrodden, frowsy, and like an abandoned backwoods
pasture. No part of the Merced and Tuolumne wilderness is so dusty,
downtrodden, abandoned, and pathetic as the Yosemite. It looks ten times
worse now than when you saw it seven years ago. Most of the level meadow
floor of the Valley is fenced with barbed and unbarbed wire and about three
hundred head of horses are turned loose every night to feed and trample the
flora out of existence. I told the hotel and horsemen that they were doing
all they could to prevent lovers of wild beauties from visiting the Valley,
and that soon all tourist travel would cease. This year only twelve hundred
regular tourists visited the Valley, while two thousand campers came in and
remained a week or two....
I have little hope for
Yosemite. As long as the management is in the hands of eight politicians
appointed by the ever-changing Governor of California, there is but little
hope. I never saw the Yosemite so frowsy, scrawny, and downtrodden as last
August, and the horsemen began to inquire, "Has the Yosemite begun to play
At the June Commencement in
1896, Haryard bestowed upon Muir an honorary M. A. degree. [President
Eliot's salutation, spoken in Latin, was as follows: "Johannem Muir, loeorum
ineognitoruxn exploratorem insignem; fluminum qui stint in Alaska
serratisque montibus conglaciatorum studiosum; diligentem silvarum et rerum
agrestium ferarumque indagatorem, artium magistrurn."] The offer of the
honor came just as he was deciding, moved by a strange presentiment of her
impending death, to pay another visit to his mother. Among Muir's papers,
evidently intended for his autobiography, I find the following description
of the incident under the heading of "Mysterious Things":
As in the case of father's
death, while seated at work in my library in California in the spring of
1896, I was suddenly possessed with the idea that I ought to go back to
Portage, Wisconsin, to see my mother once more, as she was not likely to
live long, though I had not heard that she was failing. I had not sent word
that I was coming. Two of her daughters were living with her at the time,
and, when one of them happened to see me walking up to the house through the
garden, she came running out, saying, "John, God must have sent you, because
mother is very sick." I was with her about a week before she died, and
managed to get my brother Daniel, the doctor, to come down from Nebraska to
be with her. He insisted that he knew my mother's case very well, and didn't
think that there was the slightest necessity for his coming. I told him I
thought he would never see her again if he didn't come, and he would always
regret neglecting this last duty to mother, and finally succeeded in getting
him to come. But brother David and my two eldest sisters, who had since
father's death moved to California, were not present.
The following letter gives a
brief summary of his Eastern experiences up to the time when he joined the
Forestry Commission in Chicago. It should be added that Muir went along
unofficially at the invitation of C. S. Sargent, the Chairman of the
Commission. Of the epochal work of this Commission and Muir's relation to
it, more later.
To Helen Muir
S.W. CAR. LASALLE AND
CHICAGO, July 3d, 1896
MY DEAR LITTLE HELEN:
I have enjoyed your sweet,
bright, illustrated letters ever and ever so mach; both the words and the
pictures made me see everything at home as if I was there myself - the
peaches, and the purring pussies, and the blue herons flying about, and all
the people working and walking about and talking and guessing on the
So many things have happened
since I left home, and I have seen so many people and places and have
traveled so fast and far, I have lost the measure of time, and it seems more
than a year since I left home. Oh, dear! how tired I have been and excited
and swirly! Sometimes my head felt so benumbed, I hardly knew where I was.
And yet everything done seems to have been done for the best, and I believe
God has been guiding us....
I went to New York and then
up the Hudson a hundred miles to see John Burroughs and Professor Osborn, to
escape being sunstruck and choked in the horrid weather of the streets; and
then, refreshed, I got back to New York and started for Boston and Cambridge
and got through the Harvard business all right and caught a fast train. . .
back to Portage in time for the funeral. Then I stopped three or four days
to settle all the business and write to Scotland, and comfort Sarah and
Annie and Mary; then I ran down a half-day to Madison, and went to Milwaukee
and stayed a night with William Trout, with whom I used to live in a famous
hollow in the Canada woods thirty years ago. Next day I went to Indianapolis
and saw everybody there and stopped with them one night. Then came here last
night and stopped with [A. H.] Sellers. I am now in his office awaiting the
arrival of the Forestry Commission, with whom I expect to start West tonight
at half-past ten o'clock. It is now about noon. I feel that this is the end
of the strange lot of events I have been talking about, for when I reach the
Rocky Mountains I'll feel at home. I saw a wonderful lot of squirrels at
Osborn's, and Mrs. Osborn wants you and Wanda and Mamma to visit her and
stay a long time.
Good-bye, darling, and give
my love to Wanda and Mamma and Grandma and Maggie. Go over and comfort
Maggie and tell Mamma to write to poor Sarah. Tell Mamma I spent a long
evening with [Nicola] Tesla and I found him quite a wonderful and
To Wanda Muir
HOT SPRINGS, S.D.
July 5th, 1896
MY DEAR WANDA:
I am now fairly on my way
West again, and a thousand miles nearer you than I was a few days ago. We
got here this morning, after a long ride from Chicago. By we I mean
Professors Sargent, Brewer, Hague, and General Abbot - all interesting wise
men and grand company. It was dreadfully hot the day we left Chicago, but it
rained before morning of the 4th, and so that day was dustless and cool, and
the ride across Iowa was delightful. That State is very fertile and
beautiful. The cornfields and wheatfields are boundless, or appear so as we
skim through them on the cars, and all are rich and bountiful-looking.
Flowers in bloom line the roads, and tall grasses and bushes. The surface of
the ground is rolling, with hills beyond hills, many of them crowned with
trees. I never before knew that Iowa was so beautiful and inexhaustibly
Nebraska is monotonously
level like a green grassy sea - no hills or mountains in sight for hundreds
of miles. Here, too, are cornfields without end and full of promise this
year, after three years of famine from drouth.
South Dakota, by the way we
came, is dry and desert-like until you get into the Black Hills. The latter
get their name from the dark color they have in the distance from the pine
forests that cover them. The pine of these woods is the ponderosa or yellow
pine, the same as the one that grows in the Sierra, Oregon, Washington,
Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, and all the West in
general. No other pine in the world has so wide a range or is so hardy at
all heights and under all circumstances and conditions of climate and soil.
This is near its eastern limit, and here it is interesting to find that many
plants of the Atlantic and Pacific slopes meet and grow well together.
To Helen and Wanda Muir
SYLVAN LAKE HOTEL
CUSTER, S.D., July 6, 1896
HELLO, MIDGE! HELLO, WANDA!
My!! if YOU could only come
here when I call you how wonderful you would think this hollow in the rocky
Black Hills is! It is wonderful even to me after seeing so many wild
mountains - curious rocks rising alone or in clusters, gray and jagged and
rounded in the midst of a forest of pines and spruces and poplars and
birches, with a little lake in the middle and carpet of meadow gay with
flowers. It is in the heart of the famous Black Hills where the Indians and
Whites quarreled and fought so much. The whites wanted the gold in the
rocks, and the Indians wanted the game- the deer and elk that used to abound
here. As a grand deer pasture this was said to have been the best in
America, and no wonder the Indians wanted to keep it, for wherever the white
man goes the game vanishes.
We came here this forenoon
from Hot Springs, fifty miles by rail and twelve by wagon. And most of the
way was through woods fairly carpeted with beautiful flowers. A lovely red
lily, Lilium Pennsylvanicum, was common, two kinds of spirea and a beautiful
wild rose in full bloom, anemones, calochortus, larkspur, etc. etc., far
beyond time to tell. But I must not fail to mention linnaa. How sweet the
air is! I would like to stop a long time and have you and Mamma with me.
What walks we would have!!
We leave to-night for
Edgemont. Here are some mica flakes and a bit of spiraa I picked up in a
walk with Professor Sargent.
Good-bye, my babes. Sometime
I must bring you here. I send love and hope you are well.
The following letter
expresses Muir's stand in the matter of the recession of Yosemite Valley by
the State of California to the Federal Government. The mismanagement of the
Valley under ever-changing political appointees of the various Governors had
become a national scandal, and Muir was determined that, in spite of some
objectors, the Sierra Club should have an opportunity to express itself on
the issue. The bill for recession was reported favorably in the California
Assembly in February, but it encountered so much pettifogging and
politically inspired opposition that it was not actually passed until 1905.
To Warren Olney, Sr.
MARTINEZ, January 18, 1897
MY DEAR OLNEY:
I think with you that a
resolution like the one you offered the other day should be thoroughly
studied and discussed before final action is taken and a close approximation
made to unanimity, if possible. Still, I don't see that one or two objectors
should have the right to kill all action of the Club in this or any other
matter rightly belonging to it. Professor Davidson's objection is also held
by Professor LeConte, or was, but how they can consistently sing praise to
the Federal Government in the management of the National Parks, and at the
same time regard the same management of Yosemite as degrading to the State,
I can't see. For my part, I'm proud of California and prouder of Uncle Sam,
for the U.S. is all of California and more. And as to our Secretary's
objection, it seemed to me merely political, and if the Sierra Club is to be
run by politicians, the sooner mountaineers get out of it the better.
Fortunately, the matter is not of first importance, but now it has been
raised, I shall insist on getting it squarely before the Club. I had given
up the question as a bad job, but so many of our members have urged it
lately I now regard its discussion as a duty of the Club.