The Life and Letters of John Muir
by William Frederic Badè
Unto the Last
Though little evidence of the fact appears in extant letters, the year
1897 was one of great importance in Muir's career. So significant, indeed,
was his work in defending [This service was specially recognized
in 1897 by the University of Wisconsin, his alma mater, in the bestowal
of an LL.D. degree.] the recommendations of the National Forest
Commission of 1896 that we must reserve fuller discussion of it for a chapter
on Muir's service to the nation. With the exception of his story of the
dog Stickeen and a vivid description of an Alaska trip, appearing respectively
in the August and September numbers of the "Century," nearly the entire
output of his pen that year was devoted to the saving of the thirteen forest
reservations proclaimed by President Cleveland on the basis of the Forest
During the month of August he joined Professor C. S. Sargent and Mr.
William M. Canby on an expedition to study forest trees in the Rocky Mountains
and in Alaska. To this and other matters allusion is made in the following
excerpt from a November letter to Professor Henry Fairfield Osborn.
I spent a short time [he writes] in the Rocky Mountain forests
between Banff and Glacier with Professor Sargent and Mr. Canby, and then
we went to Alaska, mostly by the same route you traveled. We were on the
Queen and had your state-rooms. The weather was not so fine as during your
trip. The glorious color we so enjoyed on the upper deck was wanting, but
the views of the noble peaks of the Fairweather Range were sublime, They
were perfectly clear, and loomed in the azure, ice-laden and white, like
very gods. Canby and Sargent were lost in admiration as if they had got
into a perfectly new world, and so they had, old travelers though they
I've been writing about the forests, mostly, doing what little I can
to save them. "Harper's Weekly" ["Forest Reservations and
National Parks," June 5, 1897.] and the "Atlantic Monthly" have
published something; the latter published an article ["American
Forests."] last August. I sent another two weeks ago and am
pegging away on three others for the same magazine on the national parks--Yellowstone,
Yosemite, and Sequoia--and I want this winter to try some more Alaska.
But I make slow, hard work of it--slow and hard as glaciers. . . . When
are you coming again to our wild side of the continent and how goes your
big book? I suppose it will be about as huge as Sargent's Silva."
One of the pleasant by-products of Muir's spirited defense of the reservations
was the beginning of a warm friendship with the late Walter Hines Page,
then editor of the "Atlantic." The latter, like Robert Underwood Johnson,
stimulated his literary productiveness and was largely responsible for
his final choice of Houghton, Mifflin & Company as his publishers.
Some years later, in 1905, Mr. and Mrs. Page paid a visit to Muir at his
home in the Alhambra Valley. The articles contributed to the "Atlantic"
during the nineties were in 1901 brought out in book form under the title
of "Our National Parks."
Apropos of Muir's apologetic references to the fact that he found writing
a slow, hard task, Page remarked: "I thank God that you do not write in
glib, acrobatic fashion: anybody can do that. Half the people in the world
are doing it all the time, to my infinite regret and confusion. . . . The
two books on the Parks and on Alaska will not need any special season's
sales, nor other accidental circumstances: they'll be Literature!" On another
occasion, in October, 1897, Page writes: "Mr. John Burroughs has been spending
a little while with me, and he talks about nothing else so earnestly as
about you and your work. He declares in the most emphatic fashion that
it will be a misfortune too great to estimate if you do not write up all
those bags of notes which you have gathered. He encourages me to put
it in his own words, to 'keep firing at him, keep firing at him."'
In February, 1898, Professor Sargent wrote Muir that he was in urgent
need of the flowers of the red fir to be used for an illustrative plate
in his "Silva." The following letter is in part a report on Muir's first
futile effort to secure them. Ten days later, above Deer Park in the Tahoe
region, he succeeded in finding and collecting specimens of both pistillate
and staminate flowers, which up to that time, according to Sargent, "did
not exist in any herbarium in this country or in Europe."
To Charles Sprague Sargent
Martinez, June 7, 1898
My dear Professor Sargent:
Yesterday I returned from a week's trip to Shasta and the Scott Mountains
for [Abies] magnifica flowers, but am again in bad luck.
I searched the woods, wallowing through the snow nearly to the upper limit
of the fir belt, but saw no flowers or buds that promised anything except
on a few trees. I cut down six on Shasta and two on Scott Mountains west
of Sissons. On one of the Shasta trees I found the staminate flowers just
emerging from the scales, but not a single pistillate flower. I send the
staminate, though hardly worth while, Last year's crop of cones was nearly
all frost. killed and most of the leaf buds also, so there is little chance
for flowers thereabouts this year.
Sonne writes that the Truckee Lumber Company is to begin cutting Magnifica
in the Washoe Range ten miles east of Truckee on the 8th or 10th of this
month, and he promises to be promptly on hand among the fresh-felled trees
to get the flowers, while Miss Eastwood starts this evening for the Sierra
summit above Truckee, and I have a friend in Yosemite watching the trees
around the rim of the Valley, so we can hardly fail to get good flowers
even in so bad a year as this is.
I have got through the first reading of your Pine volume. [Volume
XI of Sargent's Silva, devoted to the Coniferae. The author's dedication
reads, "To John Muir, lover and interpreter of nature, who best has told
the story of the Sierra forests, this eleventh volume of The Silva of North
America is gratefully dedicated."] It is bravely, sturdily, handsomely
done. Grand old Ponderosa you have set forth in magnificent style, describing
its many forms and allowing species-makers to name as many as they like,
while showing their inseparable characters. But you should have mentioned
the thick, scaly, uninflammable bark with which, like a wandering warrior
of King Arthur's time, it is clad, as accounting in great part for its
wide distribution and endurance of extremes of climate. You seem to rank
it above the sugar pine. But in youth and age, clothed with beauty and
majesty, Lambertiana is easily King of all the world-wide realm of pines,
while Ponderosa is the noble, unconquerable mailed knight without fear
and without reproach.
By brave and mighty Proteus-Muggins [Probably Pinus contorta
of the Silva, one of its variants being the Murray or Tamarac Pine of the
High Sierra.] you have also done well, though you might have praised
him a little more loudly for hearty endurance under manifold hardships,
defying the salt blasts of the sea from Alaska to the California Golden
Gate, and the frosts and fires of the Rocky Mountains--growing patiently
in mossy bogs and on craggy mountain-tops crouching low on glacier granite
pavements, holding on by narrow cleavage joints, or waving tall and slender
and graceful in flowery garden spots sheltered from every wind among columbines
and lilies, etc. A line or two of sound sturdy Mother Earth poetry such
as you ventured to give Ponderosa in no wise weakens or blurs the necessarily
dry, stubbed, scientific description, and I'm sure Muggins deserves it.
However, I'm not going faultfinding. It's a grand volume--a kingly Lambertiana
job, and on many a mountain trees now seedlings will be giants and will
wave their shining tassels two hundred feet in the sky ere another pine
book will be made. So you may well sing your nunc dimittis, and so, in
sooth, may I, since you have engraved my name on the head of it.
That Alleghany trip you so kindly offer is mighty tempting. It has stirred
up wild lover's longings to renew my acquaintance with old forest friends
and gain new ones under such incomparable auspices. I'm just dying to see
basswood and shell-bark and liriodendron once more. When could you start,
and when would you have me meet you? I think I might get away from here
about the middle of July and go around by the Great Northern and lakes,
stopping a few days on old familiar ground about the shores of Georgian
Bay. I want to avoid cities and dinners as much as possible and travel
light and free. If tree-lovers could only grow bark and bread on their
bodies, how fine it would be, making even handbags useless!
While trying to avoid people as much as possible and seeing only
you and trees, I should, if I make this Eastern trip, want to call on Mrs.
Asa Gray, for I heartily love and admire Gray, and in my mind his memory
fades not at all,
The projected trip into the Alleghanies with Sargent and Canby was undertaken
during September and October when the Southern forests were in their autumn
glory. Muir had entered into the plan with great eagerness. "I don't want
to die," he wrote to Sargent in June, "without once more saluting the grand,
godly, round-headed trees of the east side of America that I first learned
to love and beneath which I used to wee for joy when nobody knew me." The
task of mapping a route was assigned by Sargent to Mr. Canby on account
of his special acquaintance with the region. "Dear old streak o' lightning
on ice," the latter wrote to Muir in July, "I was delighted to hear from
the glacial period once more and to know that you were going to make your
escape from Purgatory and emerge into the heavenly forests of the Alleghanies.
. . . Have you seen the Luray Caverns or the Natural Bridge? If not, do you
care to? I should like to have you look from the summit of Salt Pond Mountain
in Virginia and the Roan in North Carolina."
For a month or more the three of them roamed through the Southern forests,
Muir being especially charmed by the regions about Cranberry, Cloudland,
and Grandfather Mountain, in North Carolina. From Roan Mountain to Lenoir,
about seventy-five miles, they drove in a carnage--in Muir's judgment "the
finest drive of its kind in America." In Tennessee, Georgia, and Alabama
he crossed at various times his old trail of 1867.
On his return to Boston, he "spent a night at Page's home and visited
Mrs. Gray and talked over old botanic times." On the first of November
he is at "Four Brook Farm," R. W. Gilder's country-place at Tyringham in
the Berkshire Hills, whence he writes to his daughter Wanda: "Tell mamma
that I have enjoyed Mr. and Mrs. Gilder ever so much. On the way here,
on the car, I was introduced to Joseph Choate, the great lawyer, and on
Sunday Mr. Gilder and I drove over to his fine residence at Stockbridge
to dinner, and I had a long talk with him about forests as well as glaciers.
To-day we all go back to New York. This evening I dine with Johnson, and
to-morrow I go up the Hudson to the Osborns'."
To Helen Muir
My darling Helen:
November 4, 1898
This is a fine calm thoughtful morning, bracing and sparkling, just
the least touch of hoar-frost, quickly melting where the sunbeams, streaming
through between the trees, fall in yellow plashes and lances on the lawns.
Every now and then a red or yellow leaf comes swirling down, though there
is not the slightest breeze. Most of the hickories are leafless now, but
the big buds on the ends of the twigs are full of baby leaves and flowers
that are already planning and thinking about next summer. Many of the maples,
too, and the dogwoods are showing leafless branches; but many along the
sheltered ravines are still rejoicing in all their glory of color, and
look like gigantic goldenrods. God's forests, my dear, are among the grandest
of terrestrial things that you may look forward to. I have not heard from
Professor Sargent since he left New York a week ago, and so I don't know
whether he is ready to go to Florida, but I'll hear soon, and then I'll
know nearly the time I'll get home. Anyhow, it won't be long.
I am enjoying a fine rest, I have "the blue room" in this charming home,
and it has the daintiest linen and embroidery I ever saw. The bed is so
soft and fine I like to lie awake to enjoy it, instead of sleeping. A servant
brings in a cup of coffee before I rise. This morning when I was sipping
coffee in bed, a red squirrel looked in the window at me from a branch
of a big tulip-tree, and seemed to be saying as he watched me. "Oh, John
Muir! camping, tramping, tree-climbing scrambler! Churr, churr I why have
you left us? Chip churr, who would have thought it?"
Five days after the date of the above letter he writes to his wife:
"Dear Lassie, it is settled that I go on a short visit to Florida with
Sargent. . . . I leave here [Wing-and-Wing] to-morrow for New York, dine
with Tesla and others, and then meet Sargent at Wilmington, Wednesday.
I've had a fine rest in this charming home and feel ready for Florida,
which is now cool and healthy. I'm glad to see the South again and may
write about it."
The trip to Florida, replete with color and incident, is too full of
particularity for recital here. A halt in Savannah, Georgia, stirred up
old memories, for "here," he writes in a letter to his wife, "is where
I spent a hungry, weary, yet happy week camping in Bonaventure graveyard
thirty one years ago. Many changes, I'm told, have been made in its groves
and avenues of late, and how many in my life!"
A dramatic occurrence was the finding at Archer of Mrs. Hodgson, who
had nursed him back to health on his thousand-mile walk to the Gulf. The
incident is told in the following excerpt from a letter to his wife under
date of November 21, 1898:
The day before yesterday we stopped at Palatka on the famous
St. Johns River, where I saw the most magnificent magnolias, some four
feet in diameter and one hundred feet high, also the largest and most beautiful
hickories and oaks. From there we went to Cedar Keys. Of course I inquired
for the Hodgsons, at whose house I lay sick so long. Mr. Hodgson died long
ago, also the eldest son, with whom I used to go boating, but Mrs. Hodgson
and the rest of the family, two boys and three girls, are alive and well,
and I saw them all to-day, except one of the boys. I found them at Archer,
where I stopped four hours on my way from Cedar Keys. Mrs. Hodgson and
the two eldest girls remembered me well. The house was pointed out to me,
and I found the good old lady who nursed me in the garden. I asked her
if she knew me. She answered no, and asked my name. I said Muir. "John
Muir?" she almost screamed. "My California John Muir? My California
John?" I said, "Why, yes, I promised to come back and visit you in about
twenty-five years, and though a little late I've come." I stopped to dinner
and we talked over old times in grand style, you may be sure.
The following letter, full of good-natured badinage and new plans
for travel, was written soon after his return home in December:
To Charles Sprague Sargent
Martinez, December 28, 1898
My dear Professor Sargent:
I'm glad you're miserable about not going to Mexico, for it shows that
your heartwood is still honest and loving towards the grand trees down
there, though football games and Connecticut turkey momentarily got the
better of you. The grand Taxodiums were object enough for the trip, and
I came pretty near making it alone--would certainly have done it had I
not felt childishly lonesome and woe-begone after you left me. No wonder
I looked like an inland coot to friend Mellichamp. But what would that
sharp observer have said to the Canby huckleberry party gyrating lost in
the Delaware woods, and splashing along the edge of the marshy bay "froggin'
and crabbin'" with devout scientific solemnity! ! !
Mellichamp I liked ever so much, and blessed old Mohr more than ever.
For these good men and many, many trees I have to thank you, and I do over
and over again as the main blessings of the passing year. And I have to
thank you also for Gray's writings--Essays, etc.--which I have read with
great interest. More than ever I want to see Japan and eastern Asia. I
wonder if Canby could be converted to sufficient sanity to go with us on
that glorious dendrological trip. . . . Confound his Yankee savings bank!
He has done more than enough in that line. It will soon be dark. Soon our
good botanical pegs will be straightened in a box and planted, and it behooves
us as reasonable naturalists to keep them trampling and twinkling in the
woods as long as possible. . . .
Wishing you and family and "Silva" happy New Year, I am,
There were not a few among Muir's literary friends, men like Walter
Hines Pagee and Richard Watson Gilder, who as early as 1898 began to urge
him to write his autobiography. "I thank you for your kind suggestions
about 'Recollections of a Naturalist,'" he replies to Gilder in March,
1899. "Possibly I may try something of the sort some of these days, though
my life on the whole has been level and uneventful, and therefor hard to
make a book of that many would read. I am not anxious to tell what I have
done, but what Nature has done--an infinitely more important story."
In April, 1899, he accepted an invitation to join the Harriman Alaska
Expedition. During the cruise a warm friendship sprang up between him
and Mr. Harriman, who came to value highly not only his personal qualities,
but also his sturdy independence. It was some years afterward, while he
was the guest of Mr. Harriman at Pelican Lodge on Klamath Lake, that Muir
was persuaded to dictate his memoirs to Mr. Harriman's private secretary.
We owe it to the use of this expedient that Muir was enabled to complete
at least a part of his autobiography before he passed on. The little book
Henry Harriman, by John Muir. 1916.] written by Muir in appreciation
of Mr. Harriman after his death sprang from memories of many kindnesses,
and unheralded occasions too, when Mr. Harriman's influence turned the
scales in favor of some important conservation measure dear to Muir's heart.
Both held in warm regard Captain P. A. Doran, of the Elder, which in 1899
carried the expetionary party. "I am deeply touched at your letter of the
second just received," wrote Mr. Harriman to Muir on August 8, 1907, shortly
after a tragedy of the sea in which Captain Doran perished. "We all grieved
much over poor Doran. I had grown to look upon him as a real friend and
knew him to be a true man. I am glad to have shared his friendship with
you. I am fortunate in having many friends and am indeed proud to count
you among the best. My troubles are not to be considered with yours and
some others, for they are only passing and will be eventually cleared up
and understood even by the 'some' to whom you refer. The responsibilities
weigh most when such misfortunes occur as the loss of the poor passenger
who passed on with brave Doran."
To Charles Sprague Sargent
Martinez, April 30, 1899
My dear Professor Sargent:
You are no doubt right about the little Tahoe reservation--a scheme
full of special personalities, pushed through by a lot of lawyers, etc.,
but the more we get the better anyhow. It is a natural park, and because
of its beauty and accessibility is visited more than any other part of
the Sierra except Yosemite.
All I know of the Rainier and Olympic reservations has come through
the newspapers. The Olympic will surely be attacked again and again for
its timber, but the interests of Seattle and Tacoma will probably save
Rainier. I expect to find out something about them soon, as I am going
north from Seattle to Cook Inlet and Kodiak for a couple months with a
"scientific party." . . . This section of the coast is the only one I have
not seen, and I'm glad of the chance.
Good luck to you. I wish I were going to those leafy woods instead of
icy Alaska. Be good to the trees, you tough, sturdy pair. Don't frighten
the much-enduring Crataeguses and make them drop their spurs, and don't
tell them quite eternally that you are from Boston and the Delaware Huckleberry
My love to Canby--keep his frisks within bounds. Remember me to the
Biltmore friends and blessed Mohr and Mellichamp. And remember me also
to the Messrs. Hickory and Oak, and, oh, the magnolias in bloom! Heavens,
how they glow and shine and invite a fellow! Good-bye. I'll hope to see
you in August.
To Walter Hines Page
[Martinez, California, May, 1899]
My dear Page:
I send the article on Yosemite Park to-day by registered mail. It is
short, but perhaps long enough for this sort of stuff. I have three other
articles on camping in the park, and on the trees and shrubs, gardens,
etc., and on Sequoia Park, blocked out and more than half written. I wanted
to complete these and get the book put together and off my hands this summer,
and, now that I have all the material well in hand and on the move, I hate
to leave it.
I start to-morrow on a two months' trip with Harriman's Alaska Expedition.
John Burroughs and Professor [W. H.] Brewer and a whole lot of good naturalists
are going. But I would not have gone, however tempting, were it not to
visit the only part of the coast I have not seen and one of the scenes
that I would have to visit sometime anyhow. This has been a barren year,
and I am all the less willing to go, though the auspices are so good. I
lost half the winter in a confounded fight with sheep and cattlemen and
politicians on behalf of the forests. During the other half I was benumbed
and interrupted by sickness in the family, while in word works, even at
the best, as you know, I'm slow as a glacier. You'll get these papers,
however, sometime, and they will be hammered into a book--if I live long
I was very glad to get your letter, as it showed you were well enough
to be at work again.
With best wishes, I am,
Faithfully yours J. M.
To Mrs. Muir
Victoria, June 1, 1899
We sail from here in about two hours, and I have just time to say another
good-bye. The ship is furnished in fine style, and I find we are going
just where I want to go--Yakutat, Prince William Sound, Cook Inlet, etc.
I am on the Executive Committee, and of course have something to say as
to routes, time to be spent at each point, etc. The company is very harmonious
for scientists. Yesterday I tramped over Seattle with John Burroughs. At
Portland the Mazamas were very demonstrative and kind. I hope you are all
busy with the hay. Helen will keep it well tumbled and tramped with Keenie's
help. I am making pleasant acquaintances. Give my love to Maggie. Good-bye.
Ever your affectionate husband
To Wanda and Helen Muir
Fort Wrangell, June 5, [1899,] 7 A.M.
How are you all? We arrived here last evening. This is a lovely morning--water
like glass. Looks like home. The flowers are in bloom, so are the forests.
We leave in an hour for Juneau. The mountains are pure white. Went to church
at Metlakatla, heard Duncan preach, and the Indians sing. Had fine ramble
in the woods with Burroughs. He is ashore looking and listening for birds.
The song sparrow, a little dun, speckledy muggins, sings best. Most of
the passengers are looking at totem poles.
Have letters for me at Seattle. No use trying to forward them up here,
as we don't know where we will touch on the way down home.
I hope you are all well and not too lonesome. Take good care of Stickeen
and Tom. We landed at four places on the way up here. I was glad to see
the woods in those new places,
Love to all. Ever your loving papa
To Louie, Wanda, and Helen
Juneau, June 6, [1899,] 9 A. M.
Cold rainy day. We stop here only a few minutes, and I have only time to
scribble love to my darlings. The green mountains rise into the gray cloudy
sky four thousand feet, rich in trees and grass and flowers and wild goats.
We are all well and happy. Yesterday was bright and the mountains all
the way up from Wrangell were passed in review, opening their snowy, icy
recesses, and closing them, like turning over the leaves of a grand picture
book. Everybody gazed at the grand glaciers and peaks, and we
saw icebergs floating past for the first time on the trip.
We landed on two points on the way up and had rambles in the woods,
and the naturalists set traps and caught five whitefooted mice. We were
in the woods I wandered in twenty years ago, and I had many questions to
answer. Heaven bless you. We go next to Douglas Mine, then to Skagway,
then to Glacier Bay.
Good-bye John Muir
To Mrs. Muir and daughters
Sitka, Alaska, June 10, 1899
Dear Louie, Wanda, and Helen:
I wrote two days ago, and I suppose you will get this at the same time
as the other. We had the Governor at dinner and a society affair afterward
that looked queer in the wilderness. This eve we are to have a reception
at the Governor's, and to-morrow we sail for Yakutat Bay, thence to Prince
William Sound, Cook Inlet, etc. We were at the Hot Springs yesterday, fifteen
miles from here amid lovely scenery.
The Topeka arrived last eve, and sails in an hour or so. I met Professor
Moses and his wife on the wharf and then some Berkeley people besides;
then the Raymond agent, who introduced a lot of people, to whom I lectured
street. The thing was like a revival meeting, The weather
is wondrous fine, and all goes well. I regret not having [had] a letter
forwarded here, as I long for a word of your welfare. Heaven keep you,
darlings. Ever yours
To Mrs. Muir
Sitka, June 14, 1899
Dear Louie and bairns:
We are just entering Sitka Harbor after a delightful sail down Peril
Straits, and a perfectly glorious time in Glacier Bay--five days of the
most splendid weather I ever saw in Alaska. I was out three days with Gilbert
and Palache revisiting the glaciers of the upper end of the Bay. Great
changes have taken place. The Pacific Glacier has melted back four miles
and changed into three separate glaciers, each discharging bergs in grand
style. One of them, unnamed and unexplored, I named last evenmg, in a lecture
they made me give in the social hall, the Harriman Glacier, which was received
with hearty cheers. After the lecture Mr. Harriman came to me and thanked
me for the great honor I had done him. It is a very beautiful glacier,
the front discharging bergs like the Muir--about three quarters of a mile
wide on the sea wall.
Everybody was delighted with Glacier Bay and the grand Muir Glacier,
watching the beautiful bergs born in thunder, parties scattered out in
every direction in rowboats and steam and naphtha launches on every sort
of quest. John Burroughs and Charlie Keeler climbed the mountain on the
east side of Muir Glacier, three thousand feet, and obtained a grand view
far back over the mountain to the glorious Fairweather Range. I tried hard
to get out of lecturing, but was compelled to do it. All seemed pleased.
Lectures every night. The company all good-natured and harmonious. Our
next stop will be Yakutat.
I'm all sunburned by three bright days among the bergs. I often wish
you could have been with us. You will see it all some day. Heaven bless
you. Remember me to Maggie. Good-bye
To Mrs. Muir
Off Prince William Sound
Dear Louie and darlings:
June 24, 1899
We are just approaching Prince William Sound--the place above all others
I have long wished to see. The snow and ice-laden mountains loom grandly
in crowded ranks above the dark, heaving sea, and I can already trace the
courses of some of the largest of the glaciers, It is 2 P.M., and in three
or four hours we shall be at Orca, near the mouth of the bay, where I will
mail this note.
We had a glorious view of the mountains and glaciers in sailing up the
coast along the Fairweather Range from Sitka to Yakutat Bay. In Yakutat
and Disenchantment Bays we spent four days, and I saw their three great
glaciers discharging bergs and hundreds of others to best advantage. Also
the loveliest flower gardens. Here are a few of the most beautiful of the
rubuses. This charming plant covers acres like a carpet. One of the islands
we landed on, in front of the largest thundering glacier, was so flower-covered
that I could smell the fragrance from the boat among the bergs half a mile
I'm getting strong fast, and can walk and climb about as well as ever,
and eat everything with prodigious appetite.
I hope to have a good view of the grand glaciers here, though some of
the party are eager to push on to Cook Inlet. I think I'll have a chance
to mail another letter ere we leave the Sound.
Love to all
To Wanda Muir
Unalaska, July 8, 1899
My dear Wanda and Helen and Mama:
We arrived here this cloudy, rainy, foggy morning after a glorious
sail from Sand Harbor on Unga Island, one of the Shumagin group, all the
way along the volcano-dotted coast of the Alaska Peninsula and Unimak Island.
The volcanoes are about as thick as haycocks on our alfalfa field in a
wet year, and the highest of them are smoking and steaming in grand style.
Shishaldin is the handsomest volcanic cone I ever saw and it looked like
this last evening. [Drawing.]
I'll show you a better sketch in my notebook when I get home. About
nine thousand feet high, snow and ice on its slopes, hot and bare at the
top. A few miles from Shishaldin there is a wild rugged old giant of a
volcano that blew or burst its own head off a few years ago, and covered
the sea with ashes and cinders and killed fish and raised a tidal wave
that lashed the shores of San Francisco -and even Martinez.
There is a ship, the Loredo, that is to sail in an hour, so Pin in a
hurry, as usual. We are going to the Seal Islands and St. Lawrence Island
from here, and a point or two on the Siberian coast--then home. We are
taking on coal, and will leave in three or four hours. I hope fondly that
you are all well. . . . I'll soon be back, my darlings. God bless you.
"To the 'Big Four': the Misses Mary and Cornelia Harriman, and the
Misses Elizabeth Averell and Dorothea Draper, who with Carol and Roland
[Harriman], the 'Little Two,' kept us all young on the never-to-be-forgotten
[Harriman Alaska Expedition.]
[Martinez,] August 30, 1899
I received your kind compound letter from the railroad washout with
great pleasure, for it showed, as I fondly thought, that no wreck, washout,
or crevasse of any sort will be likely to break or wash out the memories
of our grand trip, or abate the friendliness that sprung up on the Elder
among the wild scenery of Alaska during these last two memorable months.
No doubt every one of the favored happy band feels, as I do, that this
was the grandest trip of his life. To me it was peculiarly grateful and
interesting because nearly all my life I have wandered and studied alone.
On the Elder, I found not only the fields I liked best to study, but a
hotel, a club, and a home, together with a floating University in which
I enjoyed the instruction and companionship of a lot of the best fellows
imaginable, culled and arranged like a well-balanced bouquet, or like a
band of glaciers flowing smoothly together, each in its own channel, or
perhaps at times like a lot of round boulders merrily swirling and chafing
against each other in a glacier pothole.
And what a glorious trip it was for you girls, flying like birds from
wilderness to wilderness, the wildest and brightest of America, tasting
almost every science under the sun, with fine breezy exercise, scrambles
over mossy logs and rocks in the spruce forests, walks on the crystal prairies
of the glaciers, on the flowery boggy tundras, in the luxuriant wild gardens
of Kodiak and the islands of Bering Sea, and plashing boat rides in the
piping bracing winds, all the while your eyes filled with magnificent scenery--the
Alexander Archipelago with its thousand forested islands and calm mirror
waters, Glacier Bay, Fairweather Mountains, Yakutat and Enchantment Bays,
the St. Elias Alps and glaciers and the glorious Prince William Sound,
Cook Inlet, and the Aleutian Peninsula with its flowery, ley, smoky volcanoes,
the blooming banks and bracs and mountains of Unalaska, and Bering Sea
with its seals and Innuits, whales and whalers, etc., etc., etc.
It is not easy to stop writing under the exhilaration of such an excursion,
so much pure wildness with so much fine company. It is a pity so rare a
company should have to be broken, never to be assembled again. But many,
no doubt, will meet again. On your side of the continent perhaps
half the number may be got together. Already I have had two trips with
Merriam to the Sierra Sequoias and Coast Redwoods, during which you may
be sure the H.A.E. was enjoyed over again. A few days after I got home,
Captain Doran paid me a visit, most of which was spent in a hearty review
of the trip. And last week Gannett came up and spent a couple of days,
during which we went over all our enjoyments, science and fun, mountain
ranges, glaciers, etc., discussing everything from earth sculpture to Cassiope
and rhododendron gardens--from Welsh rarebit and jam and cracker feasts
to Nunatak. I hope to have visits from Professor Gilbert and poet Charlie
ere long, and Earlybird Ritter, and possibly I may see a whole lot more
in the East this coming winter or next. Anyhow, remember me to all the
Harrimans and Averells and every one of the party you chance to meet, Just
to think of them!! Ridgway with wonderful bird eyes, all the birds of America
in them; Funny Fisher ever flashing out wit; Perpendicular E., erect and
majestic as a Thlinket totem pole Old-sea-beach G., hunting upheavals,
downheavals, sideheavals, and hanging valleys, the Artists reveling in
color beauty like bees in flower-beds; Ama-a-merst tripping along shore
like a sprightly sandpiper, pecking kelp-bearded boulders for a meal of
fossil molluscs; Genius Kincaid among his beetles and butterflies and "red
tailed bumble-bees that sting awful hard"; Innuit Dall smoking and musing,
flowery Trelease and Coville; and Seaweed Saunders our grand big-game Doctor,
and how many more! Blessed Brewer of a thousand speeches and stories and
merry ha-has, and Genial John Burroughs, who growled at and scowled at
good Bering Sea and me, but never at thee. I feel pretty sure that he is
now all right at his beloved Slabsides and I have a good mind to tell his
whole Bering story in his own sort of good-natured, gnarly, snarly, jungle,
There! But how unconscionably long the thing is! I must stop short.
Remember your penitential promises. Kill as few of your fellow beings as
possible and pursue some branch of natural history at least far enough
to see Nature's harmony. Don't forget me. God bless you. Good-bye.
Ever your friend
To Julia Merrill Moores
July 25, 1900
My dear friends:
I scarce need say that I have been with you and mourned with you every
day since your blessed sister was called away, and wished I could do something
to help and comfort you. Before your letter came, I had already commenced
to write the memorial words you ask for, and I'll send them soon.
Her beautiful, noble, helpful life on earth was complete, and had she
lived a thousand years she would still have been mourned, the more the
longer she stayed. Death is as natural as life, sorrow as joy. Through
pain and death come all our blessings, life and immortality.
However clear our faith and hope and love, we must suffer--but with
glorious compensation. While death separates, it unites, and the Sense
of loneliness grows less and less as we become accustomed to the new light,
communing with those who have gone on ahead in spirit, and feeling their
influence as if again present in the flesh. Your own experience tells you
this, however. The Source of all Good turns even sorrow and seeming separation
to our advantage, makes us better, drawing us closer together in love,
enlarging, strengthening, brightening our views of the spirit world and
our hopes of immortal union. Blessed it is to know and feel, even at this
cost, that neither distance nor death can truly separate those who love.
My friends, whether living or dead, have always been with me in my so-called
lonely wanderings, so kind and wonderful are God's compensations. Few,
dear friends, have greater cause for sorrow, or greater cause for joy,
than you have. Your sister lives in a thousand hearts, and her influence,
pure as sunshine and dew, can never be lost. . . .
Read again and again those blessed words, ever old, ever new: "Who redeemeth
thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with loving kindness and tender
mercy," who pities you "like as a father pitieth his children, for He knoweth
our frame, He knoweth that we are dust. Man's days are as grass, as a flower
of the field the wind passeth over it and it is gone, but the mercy of
the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting."
In His strength we must live on, work on, doing the good that comes
to heart and hand, looking forward to meeting in that City which the streams
of the River of Life make glad.
Ever your loving friend J.M.
To Walter Hines Page
Martinez, June 12, 1900
My Dear Mr. Page:
I sent by mail to-day manuscript of ice article for the Harriman book,
the receipt of which please acknowledge, and as it is short I hope you
will read it, not for wandering words and sentences out of plumb, but for
the ice of it. Coming as you do from the unglacial South, it may "fill
a long-felt want." And before you settle down too hopelessly far in book
business take a trip to our western Iceland. Go to Glacier Bay and Yakutat
and Prince William Sound and get some pure wildness into your inky life.
Neglect not this glacial advice and glacial salvation this hot weather,
and believe me
Faithfully yours John Muir
Very many letters of appreciation were written to Muir by persons who
were strangers to him, except in spirit. One such came during the
autumn of 1900 from an American woman resident in Yokohama. "More than
twenty years ago," said the writer," when I was at my mountain home in
Siskiyou County, California, I read a short sketch of your own, in which
you pictured your sense of delight in listening to the wind, with its many
voices, sweeping through the pines. That article made a lifelong impression
on me, and shaped an inner perception for the wonders of of Nature which
has gladdened my entire life since. . . . It has always seemed that I must
some time thank you."
To Mrs. Richard Swain
Martinez, California October 21, 1900
Mrs. Richard Swain:
That you have so long remembered that sketch of the windstorm in the
forest of the Yuba gives me pleasure and encouragement in the midst of
this hard life work, for to me it is hard, far harder than tree or mountain
climbing. When I began my wanderings in God's wilds, I never dreamed of
writing a word for publication, and since beginning literary work it has
never seemed possible that much good to others could come of it. Written
descriptions of fire or bread are of but little use to the cold or starving.
Descriptive writing amounts to little more than "Hurrah, here's something!
Come !" When my friends urged me to begin, saying, "We cannot all go to
the woods and mountains; you are free and love wildness; go and bring it
to us," I used to reply that it was not possible to see and enjoy for others
any more than to eat for them or warm for them. Nature's tables are spread
and fires burning. You must go warm yourselves and eat. But letters like
yours which occasionally come to me show that even nature writing is not
Some time I hope to see Japan's mountains and forests. The flora of
Japan and Manchuria is among the richest and most interesting on the globe.
With best wishes, I am
Very truly yours
To Katherine Merrill Graydon
Martinez, October 22, 1900
My dear Miss Graydon:
. . . Of course you know you have my sympathy in your loneliness--loneliness
not of miles, but of loss--the departure from earth of your great-aunt
Kate, the pole-star and lode" stone of your life and of how many other
lives. What she was to me and what I thought of her I have written and
sent to your Aunt Julia for a memorial book [The Man Shakespeare,
and Other Essays. By Catharine Merrill. The Bowen-Merrill Company,
1902.] her many friends are preparing. A rare beloved soul sent
of God, all her long life a pure blessing. Her work is done; and she has
gone to the Better Land, and now you must get used to seeing her there
and hold on to her as your guide as before. . . .
Wanda, as you know, is going to school, and expects soon to enter the
University. She is a faithful, steady scholar, not in the least odd or
brilliant, but earnest and unstoppable as an avalanche. She comes home
every Friday or Saturday by the new railway that crosses the vineyards
near the house. Muir Station is just above the Reid house. What sort of
a scholar Helen will be I don't know. She is very happy and strong. My
sister Sarah is now with us, making four Muirs here, just half the family.
. . .
Ever your friend John Muir
To Dr. C. Hart Merriam
My dear Dr. Merriam:
October 23, 1900
I am very glad to get your kind letter bringing back our big little
Sierra trip through the midst of so many blessed chipmunks and trees. Many
thanks for your care and kindness about the photographs and for the pile
of interesting bird and beast Bulletins. No. 3 [North
American Fauna, No. 3--Results of a Biological Survey of San Francisco
Mountains and the Desert of the Little Colorado, Arizona, by C. Hart Merriam,
September, 1900.] contains lots of masterly work and might be expanded
into a grand book. This you should do, adding and modifying in accordance
with the knowledge you have gathered during the last ten years. But alas!
Here you are pegging and puttering with the concerns of others as if in
length of life you expect to rival Sequoia. That stream and fountain ["Fountains
and Stream of the Yosemite National Park," Atlantic, April, 1901.]
article, which like Tennyson's brook threatened to "go on forever," is
at last done, and I am now among the Big Tree parks. Not the man with the
hoe, but the poor toiler with the pen, deserves mile-long commiseration
in prose and rhyme.
Give my kindest regards to Mrs. and Mr. Bailey, and tell them I'll go
guide with them to Yosemite whenever they like unless I should happen to
be hopelessly tied up in some way.
With pleasant recollections from Mrs. Muir and the girls, I am
Very truly yours John Muir
To Mrs. Henry Fairfield Osborn
My dear Mrs. Osborn
November 18, 1900
Nothing could be kinder than your inventation to Wing-and-Wing, and
how gladly we would accept, you know. But grim Duty, like Bunyan's Apollyon,
is now "straddling across the whole breadth of the way," crying "No." .
I am at work on the last of a series of park and forest articles to
be collected and published in book form by Houghton, Mifflin & Company
and which I hope to get off my hands soon, But there is endless work in
sight ahead--Sierra and Alaska things to follow as fast as my slow, sadly
interrupted pen can be spurred to go.
Yes, I know it is two years since I enjoyed the dainty chickaree room
you so kindly call mine. Last summer as you know I was in Alaska. This
year I was in the Sierra, going up by way of Lake Tahoe and down by Yosemite
Valley, crossing the range four times along the headwaters of the Truckee,
Carson, Mokelumne, Stanislaus, Calaveras, Walker, Tuolumne and Merced Rivers,
revisiting old haunts, examining forests, and learning what I could about
birds and mammals with Dr. Merriam and his sister and Mr. Bailey--keen
naturalists with infinite appetite for voles, marmots, squirrels, chipmunks,
etc. We had a delightful time, of course, and in Yosemite I remembered
your hoped-for visit to the grand Valley and wished you were with us. I'm
sorry I missed Sir Michael Foster. Though prevented now, I hope ere long
to see Wing-and-Wing in autumn glory. In the mean time and always
I am ever your friend
To Walter Hines Page
Big thanks, my dear Page, for your great letter. The strength and shove
and hearty ringing inspiration of it is enough to make the very trees and
rocks write. The Park book, the publishers tell me, is successful. To you
and Sargent it owes its existence; for before I got your urgent and encouraging
letters I never dreamed of writing such a book. As to plans for others,
I am now at work on--
January 10, 1902
1. A small one, "Yosemite and Other Yosemites," which Johnson has been
trying to get me to write a long time and which I hope to get off my hands
this year. I'll first offer it to the Century Company, hoping they will
bring it out in good shape, give it a good push toward readers and offer
fair compensation. . . .
2. The California tree and shrub book was suggested by Merriam last
summer, but I have already written so fully on forest trees and their underbrush
I'm not sure that I can make another useful book about them. Possibly a
handy volume, with short telling descriptions and illustrations of each
species, enabling the ordinary observer to know them at sight, might be
welcomed. This if undertaken will probably be done season after next, and
you shall have the first sight of it.
3. Next should come a mountaineering book--all about walking, climbing,
and camping, with a lot of illustrative excursions,
4. Alaska--glaciers, forests, mountains, travels, etc.
5. A book of studies--the action of landscape-making forces, earth sculpture,
distribution of plants and animals, etc. My main real book in which I'll
have to ask my readers to cerebrate. Still I hope it may be made readable
to a good many.
6. Possibly my autobiography which for ten years or more all sorts of
people have been begging me to write. My life, however, has been so smooth
and regular and reasonable, so free from blundering exciting adventures,
the story seems hardly worth while in the midst of so much that is infinitely
more important. Still, if I should live long enough I may be tempted to
try it. For I begin to see that such a book would offer fair opportunities
here and there to say a good word for God.
The Harriman Alaska book is superb and I gladly congratulate you on
the job. In none of the reviews I have seen does Dr. Merriam get half the
credit due him as editor.
Hearty thanks for the two Mowbray volumes. I've read them every word.
The more of such nature books the better. Good luck to you. May your shop
grow like a sequoia and may I meet you with all your family on this side
the continent amid its best beauty.
Ever faithfully yours
To Dr. C. Hart Merriam
My dear Dr. Merriam:
I send these clippings to give a few hints as to the sheep and forests.
Please returrn them. If you have a file of "The Forester" handy, you might
turn to the February and July numbers of 1898, and the one of June, 1900,
to solemn discussions of the "proper regulation" of sheep grazing.
With the patronage of the business in the hands of the Western politician,
the so-called proper regulation of sheep grazing by the Forestry Department
is as hopelessly vain as, would be laws and regulations for the proper
management of ocean currents and earthquakes.
The politicians, in the interest of wealthy mine, mill, sheep, and cattle
owners, of course nominate superintendents and supervisors of reservations
supposed to be harmlessly blind to their stealings. Only from the Military
Department, free from political spoils poison, has any real good worth
mention been gained for forests, and so, as far as I can see, it will be,
no matter how well the Forestry Department may be organized, until the
supervisors, superintendents, and rangers are brought under Civil Service
Reform. Ever yours
To Charles Sprague Sargent
Martinez, September 10, 1902
My dear Sargent:
What are you so wildly "quitting" about? I've faithfully answered all
your letters, and as far as I know you are yourself the supreme quitter--Quitter
gigantea--quitting Mexico, quitting a too trusting companion in swamps
and sand dunes of Florida, etc., etc. Better quit quitting, though since
giving the world so noble a book you must, I suppose, be allowed to do
as you like until time and Siberia effect a cure.
I am and have been up to the eyes in work, insignificant though it be.
Last spring had to describe the Colorado Grand Cañon--the toughest
job I ever tackled, strenuous enough to disturb the equanimity of even
a Boston man. Then I had to rush off to the Sierra with [the Sierra] Club
outing. Then had to explore Kern River Cañon, etc. Now I'm at work
on a little Yosemite book. Most of the material for it has been published
already, but a new chapter or two will have to be written. Then there is
the "Silva" review, the most formidable job of all, which all along I've
been hoping some abler, better equipped fellow would take off my hands.
Can't you at least give me some helpful suggestions as to the right size,
shape, and composition of this review?
Of course I want to take that big tree trip with you next season, and
yet I should hate mortally to leave either of these tasks unfinished. Glorious
congratulations on the ending of your noble book!
Ever faithfully yours
To Mrs. Anna R. Dickey
Martinez, October 12, 1902
Dear Mrs. Dickey :
I was glad to get your letter. It so vividly recalled our memorable
ramble, merry and nobly elevating, and solemn in the solemn aboriginal
woods and gardens of the great mountains--commonplace, sublime, and divine.
I seemed to hear your voice in your letter, and see your gliding, drifting,
scrambling along the trails with all the gay good company, or seated around
our many camp-fires in the great illuminated groves, etc., etc.--altogether
a good trip in which everybody was a happy scholar at the feet of Nature,
and all learned something direct from earth and sky, bird and beast, trees,
flowers, and chanting winds and waters; hints, suggestions, little-great
lessons of God's infinite power and glory and goodness. No wonder your
youth is renewed and Donald goes to his studies right heartily.
To talk plants to those who love them must ever be easy and delightful.
By the way, that little fairy, airy, white-flowered plant which covers
sandy dry ground on the mountains like a mist, which I told you was a near
relative to Eriogonum, but whose name I could never recall, is Oxytheca
spergulina. There is another rather common species in the region we
traveled, but this is the finest and most abundant.
I'm glad you found the mountain hemlock, the loveliest of conifers.
You will find it described in both my books. It is abundant in Kings
River Cañon, but not beside the trails. The "heather" you mention
is no doubt Bryanthus or Cassiope. Next year you and Donald should make
collections of at least the most interesting plants. A plant press, tell
Donald, is lighter and better than a gun. So is a camera., and good photographs
of trees and shrubs are much to be desired.
I have heard from all the girls. Their enthusiasm, is still fresh, and
they are already planning and plotting for next year's outing in the Yosemite,
Tuolumne, and Mono regions. . . . Gannett stayed two days with us, and
is now, I suppose at home. I was hoping you might have a day or two for
a visit to our little valley. Next time you come to the city try to stop
off at "Muir Station" on the Santa Fé. We are only an hour and a
half from the city. I should greatly enjoy a visit at your Ojai home, as
you well know, but when fate and work will let me I dinna ken. . . . Give
my sincere regard to Donald.
Ever faithfully yours
To Robert Umderwood Johnson
Martinez, September 15, 1902
Dear Mr. Johnson:
On my return from the Kern region I heard loud but vague rumors of
the discovery of a giant sequoia in Converse Basin on Kings River, one
hundred and fifty-three feet in circumference and fifty feet in diameter,
to which I paid no attention, having heard hundreds of such "biggest-tree-inthe-world"
rumors before. But at Fresno I met a surveyor who assured me that he had
himself measured the tree and found it to be one hundred and fifty-three
feet in circumference six feet above ground. So of course I went back up
the mountains to see and measure for myself, carrying a steel tape-line.
At one foot above ground it is 108 feet in circumference
" four feet " "
" " 97 " 6 inches in "
" six " "
" " " 93 "
One of the largest and finest every way of living sequoias that have
been measured. But none can say it is certainly
the largest. The
immensely larger dead one that I discovered twenty-seven years ago stands
within a few miles of this new wonder, and I think I have in my notebooks
measurements of living specimens as large as the new tree, or larger. I
have a photo of the tree and can get others, I think, from a photographer
who has a studio in Converse Basin. I'll write a few pages on Big Trees
in general if you like; also touching on the horrible destruction of the
Kings River groves now going on fiercely about the mills.
As to the discovery of a region grander than Yosemite by the Kelly brothers
in the Kings Cañon, it is nearly all pure bosh. I explored the Cañon
long ago. It is very deep, but has no El Capitan or anything like it.
Ever yours faithfully
To Henry Fairfield Osborn
Martinez, California July 16, 1904
Dear Mr. Osborn:
In the big talus of letters, books, pamphlets, etc., accumulated on
my desk during more than a year's absence, I found your Boone and Crockett
address ["Preservation of the Wild Animals of North America,"
and Stream, April 16, 1904, pp. 312-13.] and have heartily enjoyed
it. It is an admirable plea for our poor horizontal fellow-mortals, so
fast passing away in ruthless starvation and slaughter. Never before has
the need for places of refuge and protection been greater. Fortunately,
at the last hour, with utter extinction in sight, the Government has begun
to act under pressure of public opinion, however slight. Therefore your
address is timely and should be widely published. I have often written
on the subject, but mostly with non-effect. The murder business and sport
by saint and sinner alike has been pushed ruthlessly, merrily on, until
at last protective measures are being called for, partly, I suppose, because
the pleasure of killing is in danger of being lost from there being little
or nothing left to kill, and partly, let us hope, from a dim glimmering
recognition of the rights of animals and their kinship to ourselves.
How long it seems since my last visit to Wing-and-Wing! and how far
we have been! I got home a few weeks ago from a trip more than a year long.
I went with Professor Sargent and his son Robeson through Europe visiting
the principal parks, gardens, art galleries, etc. From Berlin we went to
St. Petersburg, thence to the Crimea, by Moscow, the Caucasus, across by
Dariel Pass from Tiflis, and back to Moscow. Thence across Siberia, Manchuria,
etc., to Japan and Shanghai.
At Shanghai left the Sargents and set out on a grand trip alone and
free to India, Egypt, Ceylon, Australia, New Zealand. Thence by way of
Port Darwin, Timor, through the Malay Archipelago to Manila. Thence to
Hong Kong again and Japan and home by Honolulu. Had perfectly glorious
times in India, Australia, and New Zealand. The flora of Australia and
New Zealand is so novel and exciting I had to begin botanical studies over
again, working night and day with endless enthusiasm. And what wondrous
beasts and birds, too, are there!
Do write and let me know how you all are. Remember me with kindest regards
to Mrs. Osborn and the children and believe me ever
The closing period of Muir's life began with a great triumph and a bitter
sorrow--both in the same year. His hour of triumph came with the successful
issue of a seventeen-year campaign to rescue his beloved Yosemite Valley
from the hands of spoilers. His chief helpers were Mr. Johnson in the East
and Mr. William E. Colby in the West. The latter had, under the auspices
of the Sierra Club, organized and conducted for many years summer outings
of large parties of Club members into the High Sierra. These outings, by
their simple and healthful camping methods, by their easy mobility amid
hundreds of miles of superb mountain scenery, and by the deep love of unspoiled
nature which they awakened in thousands of hearts, not only achieved a
national reputation, but trained battalions of eager defenders of our national
playgrounds. No one was more rejoiced by the growing success of the outings
than John Muir, and the evenings when he spoke at the High Sierra camp-fires
are treasured memories in many hearts.
When the battle for the recession of the Yosemite Valley grew keen during
January and February, 1905, Mr. Muir and Mr. Colby went to Sacramento in
order to counteract by their personal presence the propaganda of falsehoods
which an interested opposition was industriously spreading. The bill passed
by a safe majority and the first of the two following letters celebrates
the event; the second relates to the later acceptance of the Valley by
Congress, as an integral part of the Yosemite National Park.
On the heels of this achievement came a devastating bereavement--the
death of his wife. Earlier in the year his daughter Helen had been taken
seriously ill, and when she became convalescent she had to be removed to
the dry air of Arizona. While there with her, a telegram called him back
to the bedside of his wife, in whose case a long-standing illness had suddenly
become serious. She died on the sixth of August, 1905, and thereafter the
old house on the hill was a shelter and a place of work from time to time,
but never a home again. "Get out among the mountains and the trees, friend,
as soon as you can," wrote Theodore Roosevelt. "They will do more for you
than either man or woman could." But anxiety over the health of his daughter
Helen bound him to the Arizona desert for varying periods of time. There
he discovered remnants of a wonderful petrified forest,
which he studied--with great eagerness.
He urged that it be preserved as a national monument,
and it was set aside by Theodore Roosevelt in 1906 under the name of the
Petrified Forest National Monument.
These years of grief and anxiety proved comparatively barren in literary
work. But part of the time he probably was engaged upon a revised and enlarged
edition of his "Mountains of California," which appeared in 1911 with an
affectionate dedication to the memory of his wife. In some notes, written
during 1903, for his autobiography, Muir alludes to this period of stress
with a pathetic foreboding that he might not live long enough to gather
a matured literary harvest from his numerous notebooks.
The letters of the closing years of his life show an increasing sense
of urgency regarding the unwritten books mentioned in his letter to Walter
Hines Page, and he applied himself to literary work too unremittingly for
the requirements of his health. Much of his writing durinig this period
was done at the home of Mr. and Mrs. J. D. Hooker in Los Angeles and at
the summer home of Mr. and Mrs. Henry Fairfield Osborn at
The last long journey, in which he realized the dreams of a lifetime, was
undertaken during the summer of 1911. It was the trip to South America,
to the Amazon--the goal which he had in view when he set out on his
thousand-mile walk to the Gulf in 1867.
His chief object was to see the araucaria forests
of Brazil. This accomplished, he went from South America to South Africa
in order to see the Baobab tree in its native habitat.
During these few later years of domestic troubles and anxieties [he
wrote in 1911] but little writing or studying of any sort has been possible.
But these, fortunately, are now beginning to abate, and I hope that something
worth while may still be accomplished before the coming of life's night.
I have written but three [Mountains of California, Our
National Parks, and My First Summer in the Sierra.] books
as yet, and a number of scientific and popular articles in magazines, news-papers,
etc. In the beginning of my studies I never intended to write a word for
the press. In my life of lonely wanderings I was pushed and pulled on and
on through everything by unwavering never-ending love of God's earth plans
and works, and eternal, immortal,, all-embracing Beauty; and when importuned
to "write, write, write, and give your treasures to the world," I have
always said that I could not stop field work until too old to climb mountains;
but now, at the age of seventy, I begin to see that if any of the material
collected in notebooks, already sufficient for a dozen volumes, is to be
arranged and published by me, I must make haste.
To Robert Underwood Johnson
Martinez, February 24, 
Dear Mr. Johnson:
I wish I could have seen you last night when you received my news of
the Yosemite victory, which for so many years, as commanding general, you
have bravely and incessantly fought for.
About two years ago public opinion, which had long been on our side,
began to rise into effective action. On the way to Yosemite [in 1903] both
the President and our Governor [President Theodore Roosevelt
and Governor George C. Pardee.] were won to our side, and since
then the movement was like Yosemite avalanches. But though almost everybody
was with us, so active was the opposition of those pecuniarily and politically
interested, we might have failed to get the bill through the Senate but
for the help of Mr. H---- [Harriman], though, of course, his name or his
company were never in sight through all the fight. About the beginning
of January I wrote to Mr. H---- [Harriman]. He promptly telegraphed a favorable
Wish you could have heard the oratory of the opposition--fluffy, nebulous,
shrieking, howling, threatening like sandstorms and dust whirlwinds in
the desert. Sometime I hope to tell you all about it.
I am now an experienced lobbyist; my political education is complete.
Have attended Legislature, made speeches, explained, exhorted, persuaded
every mother's son of the legislators, newspaper reporters, and everybody
else who would listen to me. And now that the fight is finished and my
education as a politician and lobbyist is finished, I am almost finished
Now, ho! for righteous management. . . . Of course you'll have a long
editorial in the "Century."
To Robert Underwood Johnson
Yes, my dear Johnson, sound the loud timbrel and let every Yosemite tree
and stream rejoice!
July 16, 1906
You may be sure I knew when the big bill passed. Getting Congress to
accept the Valley brought on, strange to say, a desperate fight both in
the House and Senate. Sometime I'll tell you all the story. You don't know
how accomplished a lobbyist I've become under your guidance. The fight
you planned by that famous Tuolumne camp-fire seventeen years ago is at
last fairly, gloriously won, every enemy down derry down.
Write a good, long, strong, heart-warming letter to Colby. He is the
only one of all the Club who stood by me in downright effective fighting.
I congratulate you on your successful management of Vesuvius, as Gilder
says, and safe return with yourself and family in all its far-spreading
branches in good health. Helen is now much better. Wanda was married last
month, and I am absorbed in these enchanted carboniferous forests. Come
and let me guide you through them and the great Cañon.
Ever yours John Muir
To Francis Fisher Browne
[Editor of The Dial from 1880 to his death in
1913. A tribute by Muir under the title "Browne the Beloved" appeared in
Dial during June, 1913.]
325 West Adams Street
My dear Mr. Browne:
Los Angeles, California
June 1, 1910
Good luck and congratulations on the "Dial's" thirtieth anniversary,
and so Scottishly and well I learned to know you two summers ago, with
blessed John Burroughs & Co., that I seem to have known you always.
I was surprised to get a long letter from Miss Barrus written at Seattle,
and in writing to Mr. Burroughs later I proposed to him that he follow
to this side of the continent and build a new Slabsides "where rolls the
Oregon," and write more bird and bee books instead of his new-fangled Catskill
Silurian and Devonian geology on which he at present seems to have gane
gite, clean gite, having apparently forgotten that there is a single
bird or bee in the sky. I also proposed that in his ripe, mellow, autumnal
age he go with me to the basin of the Amazon for new ideas, and also to
South Africa and Madagascar, where he might see something that would bring
his early bird and bee days to mind.
I have been hidden down here in Los Angeles for a month or two and have
managed to get off a little book to Houghton Mifflin, which they propose
to bring out as soon as possible. It is entitled "My First Summer in the
Sierra." I also have another book nearly ready, made up of a lot of animal
stories for boys, drawn from my experiences as a boy in Scotland and in
the wild oak openings of Wisconsin. I have also rewritten the autobiographical
notes dictated at Harriman's Pelican Lodge on Klamath Lake two years ago,
but that seems to be an endless job, and, if completed at all, will require
many a year. Next month I mean to bring together a lot of Yosemite material
into a hand-book for travelers, which ought to have been written long ago.
So you see I am fairly busy, and precious few trips will I be able to
make this summer, although I took Professor Osborn and family into the
Yosemite for a few days, and Mr. Hooker and his party on a short trip to
the Grand Cañon.
Are you coming West this year? It would be delightful to see you once
I often think of the misery of Mr. Burroughs and his physician, caused
by our revels in Burns' poems, reciting verse about in the resonant board
chamber whose walls transmitted every one of the blessed words to the
sleepy and unwilling ears of John. . . . Fun to us, but death and broken
slumbers to Oom John!
With all best wishes, my dear Browne, and many warmly cherished memories,
Ever faithfully your friend
Wapama Falls (1700 feet)
in Hetch-Hetch Valley
To Henry Fairfield Osborn
325 West Adams Street
My dear Mr. Osborn:
Los Angeles, California
June 1, 1910
Many thanks for the copy you sent me of your long good manly letter
to Mr. Robert J. Collier on the Hetch-Hetchy Yosemite Park. As I suppose
you have seen by the newspapers, San Francisco will have until May 1, 1911,
to show cause why Hetch-Hetchy Valley should not be eliminated from the
permit which the Government has given the city to develop a water supply
in Yosemite Park. Meantime the municipality is to have detailed surveys
made of the Lake Eleanor watershed, of the Hetch-Hetchy, and other available
sources, and furnish such data and information as may be directed by the
board of army engineers appointed by the President to act in an advisory
capacity with Secretary Ballinger. Mr Ballinger said to the San Francisco
proponents of the damming scheme, "I want to know, what is necessary so
far as the Hetch-Hetchy is concerned." He also said, "What this Government
wants to know and the American people want to know is whether it is a matter
of absolute necessity for the people of San Francisco to have this water
supply. Otherwise it belongs to the people for the purpose of a national
park for which it has been set aside." Ballinger suggested that the Lake
Eleanor plans should be submitted to the engineers at once so that they
could have them as a basis for ascertaining if the full development of
that watershed is contemplated, and to make a report of its data to the
engineers as its preparation proceeded so that they may be kept in immediate
touch with what is being done. Of the outcome of this thorough examination
of the scheme there can be no doubt, and it must surely put the question
at rest for all time, at least as far as our great park is concerned, and
perhaps all the other national parks.
I have been hidden down here in Los Angeles a month or two working hard
on books. Two or three weeks ago I sent the manuscript of a small book
to Houghton Mifflin Company, who expect to bring it out as soon as possible.
It is entitled "My First Summer in the Sierra," written from notes made
forty-one years ago. I have also nearly ready a lot of animal stories for
a boys' book, drawn chiefly from my experiences as a boy in Scotland and
in the wild oak openings of Wisconsin. I have also rewritten a lot of autobiographical
notes dictated at Mr. Harriman's Pelican Lodge on Klamath Lake two years
ago. Next month I hope to bring together a lot of Yosemite sketches for
a sort of travelers' guidebook, which ought to have been written many years
So you see, what with furnishing illustrations, reading proof, and getting
this Yosemite guidebook off my hands, it will not be likely that I can
find time for even a short visit to New York this summer. Possibly, however,
I may be able to get away a few weeks in the autumn. Nothing, as you well
know, would be more delightful than a visit to your blessed Garrison's-on-the-Hudson,
and I am sure to make it some time ere long, unless my usual good luck
should fail me utterly.
With warmest regards to Mrs. Osborn and Josephine and all the family,
I am, my dear Mr. Osborn,
Ever faithfully your friend John Muir
To Mrs. J. D. Hooker
Martinez, September 15, 1910
Dear Mrs Hooker:
Be of good cheer, make the best of whatever befalls; keep as near to
headquarters as you may, and you will surely triumph over the ills of life,
its frets and cares, with all other vermin of either earth or sky.
I'm ashamed to have enjoyed my visit so much. A lone good soul can still
work miracles, charm an outlandish, crooked, zigzag flat into a lofty inspiring
Do you know these fine verses of Thoreau?
"I will not doubt for evermore,
Nor falter from a steadfast faith,
For though the system be turned o'er,
God takes not back the word which once he saith.
"I will, then, trust the love untold
Which not my worth nor want has bought,
Which wooed me young and wooes me old,
And to this evening hath me brought."
Ever your friend
To Mrs. J. D. Hooker
Martinez, December 17,1910
Dear Mrs. Hooker:
I'm glad you're at work on a book, for as far as I know, however high
or low Fortune's winds may blow o'er life's solemn main, there
is nothing so saving as good hearty work. From a letter just received from
the Lark I learn the good news that Mr. Hooker is also hard at work with
As for myself, I've been reading old musty dusty Yosemite notes until
I'm tired and blinky blind, trying to arrange them in something like lateral,
medial, and terminal moraines on my den floor. I never imagined I had accumulated
so vast a number. The long trains and embankments and heaped-up piles are
truly appalling. I thought that in a quiet day or two I might select all
that would be required for a guidebook; but the stuff seems enough for
a score of big jungle books, and it's very hard, I find, to steer through
it on anything like a steady course in reasonable time. Therefore, I'm
beginning to see that I'll have to pick out only a moderate-sized bagful
for the book and abandon the bulk of it to waste away like a snowbank or
grow into other forms as time and chance may determine.
So, after all, I may be able to fly south in a few days and alight in
your fine cañon garret. Anyhow, with good will and good wishes,
to you all, I am
Ever faithfully, affectionately
To Mrs. J. D. Hooker
[June 26, 1911]
. . . I went to New Haven Tuesday morning, the 20th, was warmly
welcomed and entertained by Professor Phelps and taken to the ball game
in the afternoon. Though at first a little nervous, especially about the
approaching honorary degree ceremony, I quickly caught the glow of the
Yale enthusiasm. Never before have I seen or heard anything just like it.
The alumni, assembled in classes from all the country, were arrayed in
wildly colored uniforms, and the way they rejoiced and made merry, capered
and danced, sang and yelled, marched and ran, doubled, quadrupled, octupled
is utterly indescribable; autumn leaves in whirlwinds are staid and dignified
Then came memorable Wednesday when we donned our radiant academic robes
and marched to the great hall where the degrees were conferred, shining
like crow blackbirds. I was given perhaps the best seat on the platform,
and when my name was called I arose with a grand air, shook my massive
academic plumes into finest fluting folds, as became the occasion, stepped
forward in awful majesty and stood rigid and solemn like an ancient sequoia
while the orator poured praise on the honored wanderer's head--and in this
heroic attitude I think I had better leave him. Here is what
the orator said. Pass it on to Helen at Daggett.
My love to all who love you.
To John Burroughs
Garrison, N. Y.
Dear John Burroughs:
July 14, 1911
When I was on the train passing your place I threw you a hearty salute
across the river, but I don't suppose that you heard or felt it. I would
have been with you long ago if I had not been loaded down with odds and
ends of duties, bookmaking, book-selling at Boston, Yosemite and Park affairs
at Washington, and making arrangements for getting off to South America,
etc., etc. I have never worked harder in my life, although I have not very
much to show for it. I have got a volume of my autobiography finished.
Houghton Mifflin are to bring it out. They want to bring it out immediately,
but I would like to have at least part of it run through some suitable
magazine, and thus gain ten or twenty times more readers than would be
likely to see it in a book.
I have been working for the last month or more on the Yosemite book,
trying to finish it before leaving for the Amazon, but I am not suffering
in a monstrous city. I am on the top of as green a hill as I have seen
in all the State, with hermit thrushes, woodchucks, and warm hearts, something
like those about yourself.
I am at a place that I suppose you know well, Professor Osborn's summer
residence at Garrison's, opposite West Point. After Mrs. Harriman left
for Arden I went down to the "Century" Editorial Rooms, where I was offered
every facility for writing in Gilder's room, and tried to secure a boarding-place.
near Union Square, but the first day was so hot that it made my head swim,
and I hastily made preparations for this comfortable home up on the hill
here, where I will remain until perhaps the 15th of August, when I expect
Nothing would be more delightful than to go from one beautiful place
to another and from one friend to another, but it is utterly impossible
to visit a hundredth part of the friends who are begging me to go and see
them and at the same time get any work done. I am now shut up in a magnificent
room pegging away at that book, and working as hard as I ever did in my,
life.. making so many books all at once. It is not natural. . . .
With all good wishes to your big and happy family, I am ever
Faithfully your friend
To Mrs. Henry Fairfield Osborn
Dear Mrs. Osborn:
August 29, 1911
Here at last is The River and thanks to your and Mrs. Harriman's loving
care I'm well and strong for all South American work in sight that looks
Arrived here last eve--after a pleasant voyage--a long charming slide
all the way to the equator between beautiful water and beautiful sky.
Approaching Para, had a glorious view of fifty miles or so of forest
on the right bank of the river. This alone is noble compensation for my
long desired and waited-for Amazon journey, even should I see no more.
And it's delightful to contemplate your cool restful mountain trip which
is really a part of this equator trip. The more I see of our goodly Godly
star, the more plainly comes to sight and mind the truth that it is all
one like a face, every feature radiating beauty on the others.
I expect to start up the river to Manaos in a day or two on the Dennis.
Will write again on my return before going south--and will hope to get
a letter from you and Mr. Osborn, who must be enjoying his well-earned
rest. How often I've wished him with me. I often think of you and Josephine
among the Avalanche Lake clintonias and linnaeas. And that lovely boy at
Castle Rock. Virginia played benevolent mother delightfully and sent me
My love to each and all; ever, dear friend and friends,
To Mrs. J. D. Hooker
. . . Of course you need absolute rest. Lie down among the pines for a
while, then get to plain, pure, white love-work with Marian, to help humanity
and other mortals and the Lord--heal the sick, cheer the sorrowful, break
the jaws of the wicked, etc. But this Amazon delta sermon is growing too
long. How glad I am that Marian was not with me, on account of yellow fever
and the most rapidly deadly of the malarial kinds so prevalent up the river.
Nevertheless, I've had a most glorious time on this trip, dreamed of
nearly half a century--have seen more than a thousand miles of the noblest
of Earth's streams, and gained far more telling views of the wonderful
forests than I ever hoped for. The Amazon, as you know, is immensely broad,
but for hundreds of miles the steamer ran so close to the bossy leafy banks
I could almost touch the out-reaching branches--fancy how I stared and
I was a week at Manaos on the Rio Negro tributary, wandered in the wonderful
woods, got acquainted with the best of the citizens through Mr. Sanford,
a graduate of Yale, was dined and guided and guarded and befriended in
the most wonderful way, and had a grand telling time in general. I have
no end of fine things for you in the way of new beauty. The only fevers
I have had so far are burning enthusiasms, but there's no space for them
Here, however, is something that I must tell right now. Away up in that
wild Manaos region in the very heart of the vast Amazon basin I found a
little case of books in a lonely house. Glancing over the titles, none
attracted me except a soiled volume at the end of one of the shelves, the
blurred title of which I was unable to read, so I opened the glass door,
opened the book, and out of it like magic jumped Katharine and Marian Hooker,
apparently in the very flesh. The book, needless to say, was "Wayfarers
in Italy." The joy-shock I must not try to tell in detail, for medical
Marian might call the whole story an equatorial fever dream.
Dear, dear friend, again good-bye. Rest in God's peace.
To Mrs. J. D. Hooker
Pyramides Hotel, Montevideo
My Dear Friend:
December 6, 1911
Your letter of October 4th from San Francisco was forwarded from Para
to Buenos Aires and received there at the American Consulate. Your and
Marian's letter, dated August 7th, were received at Para, not having been
quite in time to reach me before I sailed, but forwarded by Mrs. Osborn.
I can't think how I could have failed to acknowledge them. I have them
and others with me, and they have been read times numberless when I was
feeling lonely on my strange wanderings in all sorts of places.
But I'm now done with this glorious continent, at least for the present,
as far as hard journeys along rivers, across mountains and tablelands,
and through strange forests are concerned. I've seen all I sought for,
and far, far, far more. From Para I sailed to Rio de Janeiro and at the
first eager gaze into its wonderful harbor saw that it was a glacier bay,
as unchanged by weathering as any in Alaska, every rock in it and about
it a glacial monument, though within 23° of the equator, and feathered
with palms instead of spruces, while every mountain and bay all the way
down the coast to the Rio Grande do Sul corroborates the strange icy story.
From Rio I sailed to Santos, and thence struck inland and wandered most
joyfully a thousand miles or so, mostly in the State of Parana, through
millions of acres of the ancient tree I was so anxious to find,
Brasiliensis. Just think of the glow of my joy in these noble aboriginal
forests--the face of every tree marked with the inherited experiences of
millions of years. From Paranagua I sailed for Buenos Aires; crossed the
Andes to Santiago, Chile; thence south four or five hundred miles; thence
straight to the snow-line, and found a glorious forest of Araucaria
imbricata, the strangest of the strange genus.
The day after to-morrow, December 8th, I intend to sail for Teneriffe
on way to South Africa; then home some way or other. But I can give no
address until I reach New York. I'm so glad your health is restored, and,
now that you are free to obey your heart and have your brother's help and
Marian's cosmic energy, your good-doing can have no end. I'm glad you are
not going to sell the Los Angeles garret and garden. Why, I hardly know.
Perhaps because I'm weary and lonesome, with a long hot journey ahead,
and I feel as if I were again bidding you all good-bye. I think you may
send me a word or two to Cape Town, care the American Consul. It would
not be lost, for it would follow me.
It's perfectly marvelous how kind hundreds of people have been to this
wanderer, and the new beauty stored up is far beyond telling. Give my love
to Marian, Maude, and Ellie and all who love you. I wish you would write
a line now and then to darling Helen. She has a little bungalow of her
own now at 233 Formosa Avenue, Hollywood, California.
It's growing late, and I've miserable packing to do. Goodnight. And
once more, dear, dear friend, good-bye.
To Mr. and Mrs. Henry Fairfield Osborn
January 31, 1912
What a lot of wild water has been roaring between us since those blessed,
Castle Rock days! But, roll and roar as it might, you have never been
out of heart-sight.
How often I've wished you with me on the best of my wanderings so full
of good things guided by wonderful luck, or shall I reverently, thankfully
say Providence? Anyhow, it seems that I've had the most fruitful time of
my life on this pair of hot continents. But I must not try to write my
gains, for they are utterly unletterable both in size and kind. I'll tell
what I can when I see you, probably in three months or less. From Cape
Town I went north to the Zambesi baobab forests and Victoria Falls, and
thence down through a glacial wonderland to Beira, where I caught this
steamer, and am on my way to Mombasa and the Nyanza Lake region. From Mombasa
I intend starting homeward via Suez and Naples and New York, fondly hoping
to find you well. In the meantime I'm sending lots of wireless, tireless
love messages to each and every Osborn, for I am
Ever faithfully yours
To Mrs. Anna R. Dickey
Dear cheery, exhilarating Mrs. Dickey:
May 1, 1912
Your fine lost letter has reached me at last. I found it in the big
talus heap awaiting me here. The bright, shining, faithful, hopeful way
you bear your crushing burdens is purely divine, out of darkness cheering
everybody else with noble godlike sympathy. I'm so glad you have a home
with the birds in the evergreen oaks--the feathered folk singing for you
and every leaf shining, reflecting God's love. Donald, too, is so brave
and happy. With youth on his side and joyful work, he is sure to grow stronger
and under every disadvantage do more as a naturalist than thousands of
others with every resource of health and wealth and special training.
I'm in my old library den, the house desolate, nobody living in it save
a hungry mouse or two. . . . [I hold] dearly cherished memories about it
and the fine garden grounds full of trees and bushes and flowers that my
wife and fatherin-law and I planted--fine things from every land.
But there's no good bread hereabouts and no housekeeper, so I may never
be able to make it a home, fated, perhaps, to wander until sun. down. Anyhow,
I've had a glorious life, and I'll never have the heart to complain. The
roses now are overrunning all bounds in glory of full bloom, and the Lebanon
and Himalaya cedars, and the palms and Australian trees and shrubs, and
the oaks on the valley hills seem happier and more exuberant than ever.
The Chelan trip would be according to my own heart, but whether or no
I can go I dinna ken. Only lots of hard pen work seems certain. Anywhere,
anyhow, with love to Donald, I am,
Ever faithfully, affectionately yours
To William E. Colby
Mr. and Mrs. Edward T. Parsons
1525 Formosa Avenue
Dear Mr. Colby and Mr. and Mrs. Parsons:
June 24, 1912
I thank you very much for your kind wishes to give me a pleasant Kern
River trip, and am very sorry that work has been so unmercifully piled
upon me that I find it impossible to escape from it, so I must just stay
I heartily congratulate you and all your merry mountaineers on the magnificent
trip that lies before you. As you know, I have seen something of nearly
all the mountain-chains of the world, and have experienced their varied
climates and attractions of forests and rivers, lakes and meadows, etc.
In fact, I have seen a little of all the high places and low places of
the continents, but no mountain-range seems to me so kind, so beautiful,
or so fine in its sculpture as the Sierra Nevada. If you were as free as
the winds are and the light to choose a campground in any part of the globe,
I could not direct you to a single place for your outing that, all things
considered, is so attractive, so exhilarating and uplifting in every way
as just the trip that you are now making. You are far happier than you
know. Good luck to you all, and I shall hope to see you all on your return
--boys and girls, with the sparkle and exhilaration of the mountains still
in your eyes. With love and countless fondly cherished memories,
Ever faithfully yours
Of course, in all your camp-fire preaching and praying you will never forget
To Howard Palmer
Mr. Howard Palmer:
December 12, 1912
Secretary American Alpine Club
New London, Conn.
At the National Parks conference in Yosemite Valley last October, called
by the Honorable Secretary of the Interior, comparatively little of importance
was considered. The great question was, "Shall automobiles be allowed to
enter Yosemite?" It overshadowed all others, and a prodigious lot of gaseous
commercial eloquence was spent upon it by auto-club delegates from near
The principal objection urged against the puffing machines was that
on the steep Yosemite grades they would cause serious accidents. The machine
men roared in reply that far fewer park-going people would be killed or
wounded by the auto-way than by the old prehistoric wagon-way. All signs
indicate automobile victory, and doubtless, under certain precautionary
restrictions, these useful, progressive, blunt-nosed mechanical beetles
will hereafter be allowed to puff their way into all the parks and mingle
their gas-breath with the breath of the pines and waterfalls, and, from
the mountaineer's standpoint, with but little harm or good.
In getting ready for the Canal-celebration visitors the need of opening
the Valley gates as wide as possible was duly considered, and the repair
of roads and trails, hotel and camp building, the supply of cars and stages
and arrangements in general for getting the hoped-for crowds safely into
the Valley and out again. But the Yosemite Park was lost sight of, as if
its thousand square miles of wonderful mountains, cañons, glaciers,
forests, and songful falling rivers had no existence.
In the development of the Park a road is needed from the Valley along
the upper cañon of the Merced, across to the head of Tuolumne Meadows,
down the great Tuolumne Cañon to Hetch-Hetchy valley, and thence
back to Yosemite by the Big Oak Flat road. Good walkers can go anywhere
in these hospitable mountains without artificial ways. But most visitors
have to be rolled on wheels with blankets and kitchen arrangements.
Of course the few mountaineers present got in a word now and then on
the need of park protection from commercial invasion like that now threatening
Hetch-Hetchy. In particular the Secretary of the American Civic Association
and the Sierra Club spoke on the highest value of wild parks as places
of recreation, Nature's cathedrals, where all may gain inspiration and
strength and get nearer to God.
The great need of a landscape gardener to lay out the roads and direct
the work of thinning out the heavy undergrowth was also urged.
With all good New Year wishes, I am Faithfully yours
To Asa K. McIlhaney
Mr. Asa K. McIlhaney
January 10, 1913
I thank you for your fine letter, but in reply I can't tell which of
all God's trees I like best, though I should write a big book trying to.
Sight-seers often ask me which is best, the Grand Cañon of Arizona
or Yosemite. I always reply that I know a show better than either of them--both
Anglo-Saxon folk have inherited love for oaks and heathers. Of all I
know of the world's two hundred and fifty oaks perhaps I like best the
chrysolepis, lobata, Virginiana, agrifolia, and Michauxii. Of
the little heather folk my favorite is Cassiope; of the trees of the family,
the Menzies arbutus, one of the world's great trees. The hickory is a favorite
genus--I like them all, the pecan the best. Of flower trees, magnolia and
liriodendron and the wonderful baobab; of conifers,
the noblest of the whole noble race, and sugar pine, king of pines, and
silver firs especially
magnifica. The grand larch forests of the
upper Missouri and of Manchuria and the glorious deodars of the Himalaya,
araucarias of Brazil and Chile and Australia. The wonderful eucalyptus,
two hundred species, the New Zealand metrosideros and agathis. The magnificent
eriodendron of the Amazon and the palm and tree fern and tree grass forests,
and in our own country the delightful linden and oxydendron and maples
and so on, without end. I may as well stop here as anywhere.
Wishing you a happy New Year and good times in God's woods,
To Miss M. Merrill
Martinez, California May 31, 1913
Dear Mina Merrill:
I am more delighted with your letter than I can tell--to see your handwriting
once more and know that you still love me. For through all life's wanderings
you have held a warm place in my heart, and I have never ceased to thank
God for giving me the blessed Merrill family as lifelong friends. As to
the Scotch way of bringing up children, to which you refer, I think it
is often too severe or even cruel. And as I hate cruelty, I called attention
to it in the boyhood book while at the same time pointing out the value
of sound religious training with steady work and restraint.
I'm now at work on an Alaska book, and as soon as it is off my hands
I mean to continue the autobiography from leaving the University to botanical
excursions in the northern woods, around Indianapolis, and thence to Florida,
Cuba, and California. This will be volume number two.
It is now seven years since my beloved wife vanished in the land of
the leal. Both of my girls are happily married and have homes and children
of their own. Wanda has three lively boys, Helen has two and is living
at Daggett, California. Wanda is living on the ranch in the old adobe,
while I am alone in my library den in the big house on the hill where you
and sister Kate found me on your memorable visit long ago.
As the shadows lengthen in life's afternoon, we cling all the more fondly
to the friends of our youth. And it is with the warmest gratitude that
I recall the kindness of all your family when I was lying in darkness.
That Heaven may ever bless you, dear Mina, is the heart prayer of your--
To Mrs. Henry Fairfield Osborn
July 3, 1913
Dear Mrs. Osborn:
Warm thanks, thanks, thanks for your July invitation to blessed Castle
How it goes to my heart all of you must know, but wae's me!
see no way of escape from the work piled on me here--the
gatherings of half a century of wilderness wanderings to be sorted and
sifted into something like clear, useful form. Never mind--for, anywhere,
every-where in immortal soul sympathy, I'm always with my friends, let
time and the seas and continents spread their years and miles as they
Ever gratefully, faithfully
To Henry Fairfield Osborn
Dear Friend Osborn:
I had no thought of your leaving your own great work and many-fold
duties to go before the House Committee on the everlasting Hetch-Hetchy
fight, but only to write to members of Congress you might know, especially
to President Wilson, a Princeton man. This is the twenty-third year of
almost continual battle for preservation of Yosemite National Park, sadly
interrupting my natural work. Our enemies now seem to be having most everything
their own wicked way, working beneath obscuring tariff and bank clouds,
spending millions of the people's money for selfish ends. Think of three
or four ambitious, shifty traders and politicians calling themselves "The
City of San Francisco," bargaining with the United States for half of the
Yosemite Park like Yankee horse-traders, as if the grandest of all our
mountain playgrounds, full of God's best gifts, the joy and admiration
of the world, were of no more account than any of the long list of tinker
Where are you going this summer? Wish I could go with you. The pleasure
of my long lovely Garrison-Hudson Castle Rock days grows only the clearer
and dearer as the years flow by.
My love to you, dear friend, and to all who love you.
Ever gratefully, affectionately
To Mr. and Mrs. Henry Fairfield Osborn
Dear Friends Osborns:
January 4, 1914
With all my heart I wish you a happy New Year. How hard you have fought
in the good fight to save the Tuolumne Yosemite I well know. The battle
has lasted twelve years, from Pinchot and Company to President Wilson,
and the wrong has prevailed over the best aroused sentiment of the whole
That a lane lined with lies could be forced through the middle of the
U.S. Congress is truly wonderful even in these confused political days--a
devil's masterpiece of logrolling road-making. But the approval of such
a job by scholarly, virtuous, Princeton Wilson is the greatest wonder of
all! Fortunately wrong cannot last; soon or late it must fall back home
to Hades, while some compensating good must surely follow.
With the new year to new work right gladly we will go--you to your studies
of God's lang-syne people in their magnificent Wyoming-Idaho mausoleums,
I to crystal ice.
So devoutly prays your grateful admiring friend
To Andrew Carnegie
Many thanks, dear Mr. Carnegie, for your admirable "Apprenticeship." To
how many fine godly men and women has our stormy, craggy, glacier-sculptured
little Scotland given birth, influencing for good every country under the
sun! Our immortal poet while yet a boy wished that for poor auld Scotland's
sake he might "sing a sang at least." And what a song you have sung with
your ringing, clanging hammers and furnace fires, blowing and flaming like
volcanoes--a truly wonderful Caledonian performance. But far more wonderful
is your coming forth out of that tremendous titanic iron and dollar work
with a heart in sympathy with all humanity.
January 22, 1914
Like John Wesley, who took the world for his parish, you are teaching
and preaching over all the world in your own Scotch way, with heroic benevolence
putting to use the mine and mill wealth won from the iron bills. What wonderful
burdens you have carried all your long life, and seemingly so easily and
naturally, going right ahead on your course, steady as a star! How strong
you must be and happy in doing so much good, in being able to illustrate
so nobly the national character founded on God's immutable righteousness
that makes Scotland loved at home, revered abroad! Everybody blessed with
a drop of Scotch blood must be proud of you and bid you godspeed.
Your devoted admirer
To Dr. C. Hart Merriam
Dear Dr. Merriam:
February 11, 1914
I was very glad to hear from you once more last month, for, as you
say, I haven't heard from you for an age. I fully intended to grope my
way to Lagunitas in the fall before last, but it is such ancient history
that I have only very dim recollections of the difficulty that hindered
me from making the trip, I hope, however, to have better luck next spring
for I am really anxious to see you all once more.
I congratulate Dorothy on her engagement to marry Henry Abbot. If he
is at all like his blessed old grandfather he must prove a glorious prize
in life's lottery. I have been intimately acquainted with General Abbot
ever since we camped together for months on the Forestry Commission, towards
the end of President Cleveland's second administration.
Wanda, her husband, and three boys are quite well, living on the ranch
here, in the old adobe, while I am living alone in the big house on the
After living a year or two in Los Angeles, Helen with her two fine boys
and her husband returned to the alfalfa ranch on the edge of the Mojave
Desert near Daggett, on the Santa Fé Railway. They are all in fine
health and will be glad to get word from you.
Our winter here has been one of the stormiest and foggiest I have ever
experienced, and unfortunately I caught the grippe. The last two weeks,
however, the weather has been quite bright and sunny and I hope soon to
be as well as ever and get to work again.
That a few ruthless ambitious politicians should have been able to run
a tunnel lined with all sorts of untruthful bewildering statements through
both houses of Congress for Hetch-Hetchy is wonderful, but that the President
should have signed the Raker Bill is most wonderful of all. As you say,
it is a monumental mistake, but it is more, it is a monumental crime.
I have not heard a word yet from the Baileys. Hoping that they are well
and looking forward with pleasure to seeing you all soon in California,
I am as ever
Faithfully yours John Muir
Despite his hopeful allusion to the grippe which he had caught early
in the winter of 1914, the disease made farther and farther inroads upon his
vitality. Yet he worked away steadily
at the task of completing his Alaska book. During the closing months he
had the aid of Mrs. Marion Randall Parsons, at whose home the transcription
of his Alaska journals had been begun in November, 1912. Unfortunately
the Hetch-Hetchy conspiracy became acute again, and the book, barely begun,
had to be laid aside that be might save, if possible, his beloved "Tuolumne
Yosemite." "We may lose this particular fight," he wrote to William E.
Colby, "but truth and right must prevail at last. Anyhow we must be true
to ourselves and the Lord."
This particular battle, indeed, was lost because the park invaders had
finally got into office a Secretary of the Interior who had previously
been on San Francisco's payroll as an attorney to promote the desired Hetch-Hetchy
legislation; also, because various other politicians of easy convictions
on such fundamental questions of public policy as this had been won over
to a concerted drive to accomplish the "grab" during a special summer session
when no effective representation of opposing organizations could be secured.
So flagrant was the performance in every aspect of it that Senator John
D. Works of California afterwards introduced in the Senate a bill to repeal
the Hetch-Hetchy legislation and in his vigorous remarks accompanying the
same set forth the points on which he justified his action. But the fate
of the Valley was sealed.
John Muir turned sadly but courageously to his note-books and memories
of the great glacier-ploughed wilderness of Alaska. Shortly before Christmas,
1914, he set his house in order as if he had a presentiment that he was
leaving it for the last time, and went to pay a holiday visit to the home
of his younger daughter at Daggett. Upon his arrival there he was smitten
with pneumonia and was rushed to a hospital in Los Angeles, where all his
wanderings ended on Christmas Eve. Spread about him on the bed, when the
end came, were manuscript sheets of his last book--"Travels in Alaska"--to
which he was bravely struggling to give the last touches before the coming
of "the long sleep."
to Chapter 16 |
to Chapter 18 |
of Contents ]