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“Exploration of the Sierra Nevada” (1925)
by Francis P. Farquhar


McClure, Davis and Benson

The greatest difficulties at first were in convincing the sheep and cattle owners that the rights of the public were paramount in the public domain. Free grazing had been going on for so long that the stockmen considered the territory their own. The pursuit of these trespassers gave the army men some of the thrills of real warfare. The greatest deterrent proved to be the plan of Kettering the trespassing sheep over the boundary on one side of the park and conducting the herders over the opposite boundary many days’ journey away. Lieutenant Harry C. Benson became the greatest exponent of this stategy, first in Sequoia and later Yosemite. 99 In both parks the administration was hampered by the lack of detailed maps showing definitely the boundaries established by Congress. The superintendents, therefore, set about making their own maps and were fortunate in the assistance of such capable and enthusiastic officers as Lieutenants Nathaniel F. McClure, Harry C. Benson, and Milton F. Davis. McClure prepared a map of Yosemite published in 1896, which was added to and corrected in the following year by Benson. About the mine time, Davis made a reconnaissance of the region surrounding Sequoia National Park and prepared an excellent map. In 1899 Lieutenant Henry B. Clark brought out an improved map of the Sequoia National Park region, and in 1900 the boundaries of that park were accurately surveyed by Isaac M. Chapman.

McClure contributed a great deal to the knowledge of the upper Yosemite region. He made several trips in 1894 and 1895 north of the Tuolumne River exploring the canyons and endeavoring to find a satisfactory route through this northern section of the park to connect Tuolumne Meadows and Hetch Hetchy. Sergeant Alvin Arndt had made a preliminary reconnaissance in 1893. McClure also searched for a route across the head-waters of the Merced into the North Fork of the San Joaquin, and was successful in finding a pass near Triple Divide Peak which he named Isberg Pass for one of his men who discovered it. 100

Lieutenant Davis was in Yosemite from 1891 to 1893 and during that time travelled far and wide through the upper parts of the park gathering valuable information about sheep-herders, trails and passes. In 1896 he was stationed in Sequoia National Park.

In Yosemite, Lieutenant Benson not only continued the mop-raking begun by McClure, but took the lead in stocking the upper waters of the Merced and the Tuolumne with trout largely supplied in the hatchery at Wawona. William F. Breeze and Lieutenant William R. Smedberg rendered valuable assistance. A few years later Benson, then a major, returned to Yosemite as superintendent, serving from 1905 to 1908,

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99 Annual Report of the Acting-Superintendents, Sequoia National Park and Yosemite National Park, 1891-1897; California Alpine Club Trails, 1923, pp. 27-30.

100 McClure, in Sierra Club Bulletin, 1895, I, 5, pp. 168-186; 1896, I, 8, pp. 330-335.


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