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Guardians of the Yosemite (1961) by John W. Bingaman


Chapter VIII

VEEPS—SPECIAL GUESTS AND OLD TIMERS

It is generally considered that the success of a business, an organization, a state or a country largely depends on the one at the top who makes the final decisions. The late Stephen T. Mather, our first Director of National Parks from 1916 to 1930 was such a leader and I am sure we will never know all the good he did for this country. Had it not been for his foresight, determination and ability to get things done, the National Parks would never be what they are today.

I always felt honored by his friendship and benefited by our association. No ranger who came in personal contact with him could help but be inspired by his personality and quality leadership. In rough words, “he was a shot in the arm for the Park Service,” this is meant as the greatest compliment I am capable of paying to Stephen T. Mather. Today the things he stood for remain intact and are progressing with the times.

Horace M. Albright was another great leader dedicated to the betterment and protection of our Parks and the sound guidance of those men and women who made the Park Service their careers.

Many visitors from over the world have come to visit our Parks. We of the Park Service have through the years enjoyed the friendship of many fine people who visited the Park. It is not possible to write about all of the many who have come our way and was our pleasure to know.

John and Ralph Crow were two old-timers who camped with their families in the Tuolumne Meadows for many summers. They were early pioneers that took up land in what is known as Crows Landing, California. Their first trip to Yosemite was in 1900 with wagon teams over the Old Tioga Road. They camped on Dana Fork and later their camp was used by Mr. Mather. The Crows no doubt were the oldest family that kept coming each summer to the Park. They hiked and rode horseback over most of the park trails and knew many of the park officials. Mrs. Ralph Crow and son, James, live on the Old Homestead.

Ansel S. Williams, a teacher, and later City Superintendent of City Schools in Stockton, California, was an ardent camper and conservationist who visited Yosemite often. His first trip was made in 1900 with a companion and leading a burro who packed their food and camp gear. They spent one month in the Valley hiking over the trails. Once he accompanied me on a patrol trip into the north end of the Park. He loved Benson Lake and thought it the most beautiful lake in the Park. Mrs. Williams and Martha have been life long friends.

In 1928, Martha’s foster mother Mrs. James B. Wood of Bellevue, Ohio, paid us a visit. Mrs. Wood was the daughter of Peter G. Sharp, an early pioneer family, who had crossed the plains by wagon train in the early Gold Rush Days. During the long difficult trip Mrs. Sharp died and was buried on the plains. Mr. Sharp, left with two small children, settled at French Camp where he established a large grain ranch. Later he made a trip back to Ohio, married Emaline Wood of Bellevue, Ohio, and brought her to California. They had two daughters, Emma and Sophy. About this time Martha’s mother died in Stockton and Martha’s father was left with seven small children to look after. The Sharps took Martha to raise and be company for Mrs. Sharp. Soon after, Peter Sharp died and the family was forced to sell the ranch. Prior to this Miss Emma had married James B. Wood of Bellevue, Ohio. On the death of Mr. Sharp, his widow and Martha returned to Bellevue, to spend part of their time with the Woods. Mrs. Sharp died in 1910 .and Mrs. Wood in 1943. Both are buried in Rural Cemetery in the Peter G. Sharp lot in Stockton, California.

Mrs. Wood told me about the first camping trip to Yosemite the Sharp family made in 1900. They drove a six horse freight wagon into Wawona where they camped for one month. The road was hot and dusty and the trip most difficult. On the way to Glacier Point two of the horses died, perhaps from too much cold mountain water or poison weed. The dust was a foot deep on the road but in spite of the long difficult trip they remembered Yosemite as a most scenic place.

Among the early pioneers who came to the Park for many summers was Doctor Chester Moyle and family of Merced, California. He had some interesting tales to tell about his family who were early settlers around Merced. In 1902 the James Mark Moyle family made their first camping trip to Yosemite Valley, driving a team of horses hitched to a small freight wagon called a sheep wagon. They camped on Yosemite Creek near the Swinging Bridge. Chester was a boy of seven years at the time. One day while riding up the Yosemite Falls trail his horse fell on Chester breaking his leg. Doctor Sease, who was the resident doctor at that time, set the bone and splinted it. The Moyles make many camping trips in the Park and the doctor is active in the Private Riding Clubs of Merced and Mariposa Counties.

Many of our Park visitors were nationally known. Will Rogers loved the Yosemite. Mr. Albright brought Congressmen and Senators on inspections as well as Duncan McDuffie and Dr. Buwalda of the Yosemite Advisory Board. Even Cardinals and Bishops came to the Park to relax. In 1930 Cardinal Hayes, Arch Bishop Hanna and party of Priests, twenty in all, arrived as special guests. Park Naturalist Harwell was in charge and I was assigned to drive one of the official cars to the Mariposa Grove where lunch was served under the Big Trees and from there back to the Railroad Station in Merced. This Party was very gracious and appreciative of the service and courtesy extended them. They praised the Park Service and rangers for their fine work.

On July 15, 1938, President Franklin D. Roosevelt visited Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove of Big Trees. All rangers were given special instructions and detailed to their respective posts of duty. As a result, the protection of the President was most successfully carried through as planned.

Ranger Billy Nelson. The old camp ground ranger.
Ranger Billy Nelson. The old camp ground ranger.
The Chief Ranger was in charge of special details and I was one of the rangers assigned to the luncheon place near the Sunset Tree in Upper Grove. The President had his Secret Service men with him including a former ranger, Charles Rich. The Chief did a splendid job on this protection. It was a most interesting experience and I am happy to have played a small part in the event.

Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt on inspection trip of the C.C.C. Camp
 at Wawona. A Ranger escort.
Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt on inspection trip of the C.C.C. Camp
at Wawona. A Ranger escort.

Earlier we had the pleasure of welcoming Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt and her secretary when they visited the Park from July 21 to 24, 1934. A camping trip to Young Lake with Chief Ranger Townsley in charge was planned for them. Ranger Nelson, Ranger Brown and I set up the camp and looked after the food and sleeping gear. Ranger Brown was the cook, Nelson had charge of the equipment, the Chief, the guide, and I handled the mail, telegrams and messages to and from camp.

Mrs. Roosevelt was a most charming and gracious camper extremely interested in all Park activities. At the time an unnamed lake near Mt. Conness was being stocked with Rainbow Trout and was named Roosevelt Lake in her honor. She assisted with the plant, showing great interest in how it was done. Mrs. Roosevelt offered to help with the cooking. Ranger Brown the Cook, declined the offer for he figured he should do the work himself. A few years later Mrs. Roosevelt made another trip to the Park and visited our Station at Wawona. She said she wanted to know how the rangers lived. Martha had the pleasure of showing her around our quarters. Our display of maps and information circulars at the Station interested her particularly. We had the pleasure of being luncheon guests of the CCC Camp that day at Captain Rockwell’s invitation and were seated at Mrs. Roosevelt’s table.

Soon after this event I received a token of appreciation, a paper knife, made of redwood coming from the White House roof, Washington, D.C., with my name and date engraved on it. This I have prized very highly. So in reminiscing back through the years of our contacts and friendships of people from all walks of life it gives one a feeling of great satisfaction, to have served some in a small way.


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