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


The National Parks

Until 1890, with the exception of the Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove, none of the public lands in the Sierra Nevada had been withdrawn from entry and reserved for public use, excepting by occasional temporary orders. It now became apparent to men of vision that the entire watershed of the Sierra was so valuable for the general welfare that its exploitation for private gain would be an irreparable injury. John Muir was foremost in urging the people of the country to protect their property before it was too late. In the summer of 1889 he accompanied Robert Underwood Johnson of the Century Magazine on a trip to Yosemite and the Tuolumne Meadows, and enlisted big aid. In the following summer two articles by Muir appeared in the Century Magazine. 98

At about the same time the threatened destruction of the big trees of the Giant Forest by the Kaweah colonists and other timber claimants aroused the public-spirited men of Tulare County and, led by George W. Stewart, Frank J. Walker, D. K. Zumwalt, John Tuohy, Tipton Lindsey, and others, they succeeded in having the big tree lands withdrawn from entry pending action by Congress. The California Academy of Sciences, with the assistance of Dr. Gustav Eisen, took up the campaign and a bill proposing a national park was introduced by Representative William Vandever and enacted September 25, 1890. A few days later General Vandever’s bill establishing the Yosemite National Park came up and on the tide of success an amendment was added practically doubling the Sequoia National Park and tacking on the General Grant National Park for good measure. This bill was enacted October 1, 1890.

By this act the Yosemite National Park was constituted from territory surrounding Yosemite Valley embracing most of the upper watersheds of the Merced and Tuolumne rivers and put of the upper San Joaquin. The Valley itself remained under management of the State of California until receded to the federal government by act of the state legislature of March 3, 1905, and accepted by joint resolution of Congress June 11, 1906, after which it was consolidated with the national park. An adjustment of boundaries was made by act of February 7, 1905, by which the portion of the park in the San Joaquin watershed was eliminated and the northern tributaries of the Tuolumne added. A considerable portion of the forest lands in the western portion of the original park was in private ownership before 1890, and in 1905 this area was also eliminated.

The establishment of the national parks had an important effect on the exploration of the Sierra as it placed upon the government a responsibility for protection and in management. No provision was made, however, in the enactments in, guarding and maintaining the parks other than placing them under the authority of the Secretary of the Interior. Following a precedent recently established in the Yellowstone National Park, the Secretary called upon the War Department for assistance, and from 1891 until 1914 the administration was in the hands of officers of the Army with troops of cavalry detailed for patrol and other duties.

The first superintendent of Sequoia National Park was Captain Joseph Haddox Dorst, 4th Cavalry, who was in charge in 1891 and 1892. In Yosemite the first superintendent was Captain Abram Epperson Wood, 4th Cavalry, in charge from 1891 until his death in the spring of 1894. These two officers inaugurated a regime of vigorous protection of the public interests, which was ably maintained by their successors.

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98 Treasures of the Yosemite, in Century Magazine, August 1890; Features of the Proposed Yosemite National Park, in Century Magazine, September 1890.


Next: McClure, Davis and BensonContentsPrevious: A New Epoch

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