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


The Yosemite Valley Established as a Park

Following the discovery of Yosemite and the first exploitation of the scenic attractions for tourists, the destiny of the Valley was for a time in suspense. James Mason Hutchings, James C. Lamon, and a few others settled in the Valley and began to claim portions of the land as homesteads. Inasmuch as no survey had been made, no legal applications could be filed, but for several years claims were bought, sold, and exchanged on a somewhat speculative basis. Fortunately public opinion became sufficiently aroused to bring about the preservation of the Valley for the benefit of all the people, and in 1864, a bill was introduced in Congress backed by many influential citizens of California, for the purpose of setting aside the Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove of Big Trees “for public use, resort, and recreation.” This bill was enacted, and approved by President Lincoln June 30, 1864. The act granted the territory to the State of California to be held inalienable for all time for public use. The grant was accepted by the State and a commission appointed to manage it. The first commissioners were Frederick Law Olmsted, James Dwight Whitney, William Ashburner, L W. Raymond, E. S. Holden, Alexander Deering, George W. Coulter, and Galen Clark. The administration was at first closely connected with the work of the State Geological Survey under Whitney and, as noted above, two members of the Whitney Survey were among the commissioners. Galen Clark, who had already become identified with the Mariposa Grove and was established at Clark’s Station, now better known as Wawona, was appointed Guardian of the Grove and Valley, and continued to serve in that capacity for some time.

Hutchings very actively contested the authority of the commissioners to require him to lease the property that he regarded as his own. He began a long and bitter contest which was not even terminated when the Supreme Court of the United States ruled against him. He brought his fight into the legislature of California where at last an appropriation was made by which he and the other claimants were paid substantial amounts in settlement of their alleged rights. Even then, Hutchings continued to grumble for many years at what he considered an injustice and an inadequate compensation. 64

Many absurd stories regarding the Indians and their legends became current during the early years of tourist travel to Yosemite and are still popular among visitors who know nothing of Indians and who are sentimentally inclined. The pity of it is that the genuine Indian legends, which are far superior, are rarely to be heard. Fortunately, Dr. C. Hart Merriam box preserved many of them in his book, “The Dawn of the World,” and others may be found in ethnological and folk-lore publications.” 65

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64 Hutchings: Heart of the Sierras, 1886, pp. 149-162.

65 Bibliography, in The Dawn of the World; Myths and Weird Tales Told by the Mewan Indians of California, collected and edited by C. Hart Merriam, Cleveland, 1910, pp. 243-246.


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