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Place Names of the High Sierra (1926)
by Francis P. Farquhar

[ A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, M, N, O, P, Q, R, S, T, U, V, W, Y, & Z. ]


WALES LAKE[Mount Whitney]
Name proposed, 1925, by Sierra Club for lake northwest of Mount Whitney (altitude, 11,732). In 1881, Captain Michaelis of Langley’s party gave the name Mount Wales to a peak near Milestone Mountain. This name never became established, and it now seems preferable to group the names of Wallace, Wales, and Wright in a series of lakes rather than to place them upon mountain peaks.

Frederick Henry Wales (1845-1925), born in Massachusetts; corporal, Massachusetts Volunteers in Civil War; graduated from Dartmouth, 1872; Hartford Theological Seminary, 1875; came to California and resided in Tulare County for many years as minister, editor of Alliance Messenger, and farmer; accompanied W. B. Wallace and J. W. A. Wright on trip to Kern River Cañon and Mount Whitney, 1881; maintained interest in Sierra for a number of years. (Mount Whitney Club Journal, 1902, 1, pp. 1-17, 28— Elliott: Guide to the Grand and Sublime Scenery of the Sierra Nevada, 1883. —Dartmouth College Catalogue.)

WALKER PASS[Kernville]
WALKER RIVER[Dardanelles, Bridgeport]
Joseph Reddeford Walker; born in Tennessee, December 13, 1798; emigrated to Missouri 1819; went to the Rocky Mountains, 1832; led a party of Bonneville’s expedition from Great Salt Lake to California, 1833, ascending Walker River and crossing the Sierra Nevada between the Tuolumne and Merced rivers; returned to the Rocky Mountains, 1834, crossing the Sierra at head of Kern River by Walker Pass; continued as trapper and guide in Rocky Mountains and West; in 1843 guided a division of the Chiles immigrant party across Walker Pass to California, guide of Fremont party of 1845-1846, leading a portion of the party across Walker Pass; after further extensive wanderings and explorations, settled in Contra Costa County, California, where he died October 27, 1876. (Bancroft: History of California, v, pp. 765-766.)

Walker and his party, crossing the Sierra in 1833, were undoubtedly the first white men to see Yosemite Valley and the big trees (Merced or Tuolumne Grove). (Narrative of Zenas Leonard, Clearfield, Pennsylvania, 1839; republished, Cleveland, 1904, pp. 170-181.) If Walker Lake at the foot of Bloody Cañon was named for Joseph R. Walker on the assumption that he passed that way, it is probably an error, as it seems most unlikely that he crossed by that route. (Farquhar: Exploration of the Sierra Nevada, in California Historical Society Quarterly, March, 1925, IV:1, pp. 6-8, portrait.— Portraits also in S.C.B., 1914, IX:3, plate LXXIV; S.C.B., 1925, XII:2, plate XLVII.)

[Editor’s note: today historians generally believe the Walker party looked down The Cascades, which are just west of Yosemite Valley, instead of Yosemite Valley itself.—dea]

Name proposed, 1925, by Sierra Club for lake northwest of Mount Whitney (altitude, 11,470), and for creek leading therefrom to junction Meadow in Kern Cañon. In 1881 a peak in this vicinity was named for W. B. Wallace, but the name never became well known. The name Mount Wallace has long been established as one of the Evolution Group, and it seems undesirable to duplicate the name among the mountain peaks.

William B. Wallace, born in Missouri, 1849; family came to California same year; settled in Placerville; attended school in Sacramento County; graduated State Normal School; taught school in Sacramento, El Dorado, and Amador counties; came to Tulare County, 1876, and settled in Visalia, 1891; admitted to bar, 1882; district attorney, Tulare County, 1884-1886; judge of the Superior Court, Tulare County, since 1899; for many years visited the Kings, Kern, and Kaweah regions of the High Sierra annually. (See, W. B. Wallace: A Night on Mount Whitney, in Mount Whitney Club Journal, May, 1902, pp. 1-12.)

WALLACE, MOUNT (13,328)[Mount Goddard]
“At a distance of two miles it [the wall of Mount Darwin] rises perpendicularly five or six hundred feet, forming Mt. Haeckel, and a mile beyond again rises several hundred feet higher, though not quite so sharply, forming the peak called Mt. Wallace. . . . Next morning [July 16, 18951 we climbed Mt. Wallace.” (Solomons: Mount Goddard and Its Vicinity, in Appalachia, 1896, pp. 48-49.) The name was subsequently transposed on the U.S.G.S. map to the westerly ridge of Mount Darwin, but has since been restored to original location.

Alfred Russel Wallace (1823-1913), English scientist, who developed theory of evolution contemporaneously with Darwin.

WAMELO ROCK (7535)[Mariposa]
“A few days ago while camped in the fir woods on the head of one of the southernmost tributaries of the Merced, I caught sight of a lofty granite dome, called Wa-mello by the Indians, looming into the free sky far above the forest, and though now studying trees, I soon found myself upon its commanding summit.” (John Muir, writing from Fresno Grove of Big Trees, September, 1875, in San Francisco Evening Bulletin, September 21, 1875.—See, also, Muir: Our National Parks, 1901, p. 286.)

Shown on Hoffmann map, 1873, Wheeler Survey map, 1879, and Sierra Club maps (Le Conte), 1893, 1896, 1904. On U.S.G.S. map, Mariposa quadrangle, edition of 1912, shown as Fresno Dome.

WANDA LAKE[Mount Goddard]
Named by R. B. Marshall, U.S.G.S., for one of the daughters of John Muir, Mrs. Wanda Muir Hanna. (R. B. Marshall.) Described as one of the Crystal Lakes by J. N. Le Conte in 1904. (S.C.B., 1905, V:3, pp. 236-237.)

WARREN, MOUNT (12,387)[Mount Lyell]
“By some unaccountable mistake, the name of Castle Peak was afterwards [after G. H. Goddard had given the name “about ten years ago"] transferred to a rounded and not at all castellated mass about seven miles north of Mount Dana; but we have returned the name to the peak where it belongs, and given that of General Warren, the well-known topographer and engineer, to the one on which the entirely unsuitable name of Castle Peak had become fixed.” (Whitney: The Yosemite Book, 1868, p. 85.)

In Whitney’s Yosemite Guide Book, pocket edition, 1871, p. 82, the latter part of this passage was changed to read: “And it has become so firmly established here, that it is now impossible to transfer it back to its rightful ownership.” This refers to the present Dunderberg Peak. (See Dunderberg and Tower Peak.) Meanwhile the name of Warren was placed on another peak nearer Mount Dana, where it now rests. The map by Hoffmann and Gardiner, 1863-1867, issued with Whitney’s Yosemite Guide Book, 1870, shows the name on its present location. From Whitney’s description it appears that in 1867 he supposed the local name Castle Peak to be applicable to the present Mount Warren, but in 1870 discovered that it applied to the present Dunderberg. This left his name Mount Warren undisturbed where he had originally placed it.

“Of the high peaks adjacent to Mount Dana, Mount Warren was ascended by Mr. Wackenreuder.” (Whitney: The Yosemite Book, 1868, p. 92; Yosemite Guide Book, 1870, p. 103; Yosemite Guide Book, pocket edition, 1871, p. 89.)

Gouverneur Kemble Warren; graduate of West Point, 1850; commissioned in Engineer corps; distinguished in battle of Gettysburg; brevet major-general in Civil War; lieutenant-colonel in regular establishment, 1879; died 1882. Wrote notable memoir of early western explorations, published in Pacific Railroad Survey Reports, vol. XI, 1859.

Named by Lieutenant McClure in 1895 for Albert Henry Washburn, of Wawona. (N. F. McClure.)

WATKINS, MOUNT (9100)[Yosemite]
Carleton E. Watkins, one of the earliest photographers of Yosemite, whose views were widely celebrated in the sixties. A view of Mirror Lake with Mount Watkins reflected was especially popular, and doubtless led to his name being affixed to the mountain. (See: Charles B. Turrill, in News Notes of California Libraries, January, 1918, pp. 29-37.)

Watkins furnished illustrations for the Whitney Survey publications. (Whitney Survey: Geology, 1865, p. 408; Whitney: The Yosemite Book, 1868, p. 12.)

Indian name Waijau, meaning Pine Mountain. (Whitney: Yosemite Guide Book, 1870, p. 17.)

Origin of name not ascertained. Galen Clark gives the meaning “Big Tree.” (Clark: Indians of the Yosemite Valley and Vicinity, 1904, p. 109.) Professor Kroeber says the Indian origin is doubtful. (Kroeber: California Place Names of Indian Origin, 1916, p. 66.)

Galen Clark built a cabin at this site on South Fork of Merced River, 1857, known as Clark’s Station; Edwin Moore acquired half interest, 1869, after which it was known as Clark and Moore’s; purchased by Washburn brothers (John S., Edward P., and Albert Henry), 1875, who erected Wawona Hotel. (Clark: Indians of the Yosemite Valley and Vicinity, 1904, p. xii.— R. S. Ellsworth.—The Giant Sequoia, 1924, pp. 40-45.)

[Editor’s note: Wawona, or “Wa'wah'naa'h” is derived from “wah wah” (strangers, what Paiute called the Walla Walla people) and “naa'h” (men) in the Paiute Language, according to this blog posting “Wawona - The Indian name and definition of Yosemite landmark” (April 2011)dea]

Wawona Road system composed of: (a) Madera-Raymond road, from Madera-Mariposa County boundary to Wawona, date of construction not ascertained; (b) Mariposa to junction near Wawona, completed 1870; (c) Big Trees branch, built 1878; (d) Wawona to Yosemite Valley, begun 1874, completed 1875; (e) Glacier Point branch from Chinquapin, built 1874. Operated as toll-road by Yosemite Stage and Turnpike Company (incorporated, 1877) until 1917. Portion from Fort Monroe (on old state-park boundary) to Yosemite village, purchased by state, 1886. (Report of the Commission on Roads in Yosemite National Park, California, dated December 4, 1899, Senate Document 155, 56th Congress, 1st Session, 1900.— Biennial Report of the Commissioners to Manage the Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Big Tree Grove, for 1874-1875.—W. B. Lewis.)

WELLS PEAK (11,071)[Dardanelles]
Rush Spencer Wells; born in New Mexico, 1874; second lieutenant, artillery, 1898; transferred to cavalry, 1899; first lieutenant, 1901; captain, 1904; major, 1917; colonel, 1920. (R. B. Marshall.)

Austin Weston lived near Visalia, and in the summer took his stock to the mountains, making his headquarters at the meadow. (George W. Stewart.)

WHEELER PEAK (8977)[Dardanelles]
Probably named for an army officer about 1910; not for George M. Wheeler of the Wheeler Survey. (R. B. Marshall.)

WHITE WOLF[Yosemite]
Said to have been named by a sheep-herder who saw a white wolf there.

[Editor’s note: “White Wolf” was named after Chief Toha'eesha (“White Wolf” in English for his gray hair), who's English name was Captain Jim. After Indians and sheepherders saw a white wolf, some believe it was Captain Jim’s spirit, according to the blog post “Who was White Wolf? The Chief behind the Yosemite Name” (July 2011)—DEA]

WHITNEY, MOUNT (14,500)[Mount Whitney]
Josiah Dwight Whitney (1819-1896); born Northampton, Massachusetts; A.B., Yale, 1839; New Hampshire State Geological Survey, 1840-1841; Geological Survey of Lake Superior, 1847-1850; Geological Surveys of Iowa and Wisconsin, 1855-1857; State Geologist and chief of California State Geological Survey, 1860-1874; professor of geology, Harvard, 1865-1896; LL.D., Yale, 1870. (Brewster: Life and Letters of Josiah Dwight Whitney, 1909, portrait.—Portrait in S.C.B., 1925, XII:2, plate XLIV.)

In July, 1864, a field party of the California State Geological Survey under William H. Brewer, with Charles F. Hoffmann, James T. Gardiner, and Clarence King, saw from Mount Brewer the main crest of the Sierra a few miles away. One peak they named Mount Tyndall. “The other high point, eight miles south of Mount Tyndall, and, so far as known, the culminating peak of the Sierra, was named by the party Mount Whitney.” (Whitney Survey: Geology, 1865, p. 382.)

“Whitney had forbidden his subordinates to name for him the mountain which is now called after the Rev. Lorentine Hamilton. This time, in their chief’s absence, they stood upon their rights of discovery, and called their great peak, Mt. Whitney.” (Brewster: Life and Letters of Josiah Dwight Whitney, 1909, p. 238.)

“For years our chief, Professor Whitney, has made brave campaigns into the unknown realm of Nature. Against low prejudice and dull indifference he has led the survey of California onward to success. There stand for him two monuments,—one a great report made by his own hand; another the loftiest peak in the Union, begun for him in the planet’s youth and sculptured of enduring granite by the slow hand of time.” (Clarence King: Mountaineering in the Sierra Nevada, 1872, pp. 280-281.)

Clarence King attempted to reach the summit of Mount Whitney in 1864, but failed by a few hundred feet. (Whitney Survey: Geology, 1865, pp. 388-391.) In 1871, King climbed what he supposed to be Mount Whitney and published an account of the ascent. (King: Mountaineering in the Sierra Nevada, 1872, pp. 264-281.) On July 27, 1873, W. A. Goodyear and M. W. Belshaw rode mules to the summit of the supposed Mount Whitney and perceived that a peak a few miles north was higher. King, upon learning of his mistake, hastened to the Sierra and ascended the true Mount Whitney, on September 19, 1873, but not before it had several times been ascended by residents of Owens Valley. (King: Mountaineering in the Sierra Nevada, 4th edition, 1874, pp. 281-297; James D. Hague, in Overland, November, 1873.)

First ascent, August 18, 1873, by John Lucas, Charles D. Begole, A. H. Johnson, all of Inyo County. They endeavored unsuccessfully to affix the name “Fisherman’s Peak.” (Wheeler: U. S. Geographical Surveys West of the 100th Meridian, I, Geographical Report, 1889, p. 100.)

Occupied by scientific party under Samuel Pierrepont Langley, of the Allegheny Observatory, August and September, 1881, for observations on solar heat. (Langley: Researches on Solar Heat. Professional Papers of the Signal Service, no. XV, 1884.) Occupied by parties from Smithsonian Institution and Lick Observatory, 1903, 1908, 1909, 1910, 1913. (S.C.B., 1904, V:2, pp. 87-97; S.C.B., 1910, VII:3, pp. 141-148; Annual Report of the Smithsonian Institution, 1910, pp. 65-66.)

For other records, accounts, and discussions of ascents, see: W. A. Goodyear, in Proceedings of the California Academy of Sciences, 1873-1874, V, pp. 139-144, 173-175.—W. A. Goodyear: letter to the editor of Inyo Independent, July 30, 1888, reprinted in Eighth Annual Report of the State Mineralogist, 1888, pp. 230-232.—Badè: Life and Letters of John Muir, I, 1923, pp. 392-396.— W. C. Wyckhoff: Sunlight Mysteries, in Harper’s, June, 1883, pp. 81-94.—Frank Adams: Up Whitney by the Lone Pine Trail, in Sunset, June-July, 1906, pp. 74-80.— J. N. Le Conte: The High Sierra of California, in Alpina Americana, no. 1, American Alpine Club, 1907.—Appalachia, January, 1892, VI:4, pp. 285-288; May, 1903, X:2, pp. 135-142.— Mount Whitney Club Journal, Visalia, California, 1902, 1903, 1904, nos. 1, 2, 3.— S.C.B., 1893, I:1, pp. 1-8; 1896, I:7, pp. 290-292; 1903, IV:4, pp. 289-290; 1904, V:1, pp. 60-63 1904, V:2, pp. 87-101, 138-139; 1905, V:3, pp. 258-260; 1905, V:4, pp. 316-317 1909, VII:2, pp. 105-118; 1910, VII:3, pp. 141-148; 1910, VII:4, p. 248; 1911 VIII:2, pp. 137-138; 1922, XI:3, pp. 253-254.— Farquhar: Exploration of the Sierra Nevada, in California Historical Society Quarterly, March, 1925, IV:1, pp. 32-36, 38.

“A military reservation of a certain number of legal subdivisions surrounding this peak has been declared by authority of the President [Arthur] in General Orders no. 67, of the War Department, September 26, 1883. It is understood that this reservation is for the purpose of securing the location for a prospective Signal Service station.” (Wheeler: U. S. Geographical Surveys West of the 100th Meridian, I, Geographical Report 1889, p. 101.—Map of proposed reservation, in Langley: Researches on Solar Heat. Professional Papers of the Signal Service, no. XV, 1884.)

Altitude determined in 1905 by R. B. Marshall, U.S.G.S., a fraction over 14,501 feet. The highest point in the United States exclusive of Alaska. (R. B. Marshall.)

“I visited the meadow [about 1875], and at that time I found carved on a tree the name W. J. Ryan, 1868, showing I was not the discoverer. I never knew anyone by that name, nor never could find anyone who did know him. About 1881 Brother Jeff and I camped there with a band of sheep. After dark we were startled by a lot of unearthly yells like someone in distress. After spending a large part of the night we were unable to locate anyone and finally concluded that it must have been a wild man, and so named the meadow. Later we found the noise was caused by a peculiar-looking owl.” (Letter from Frank Lewis, February 12, 1926.)

WILLIAMSON, MOUNT (14,384)[Mount Whitney]
“Farther observations, by Mr. King, showed that a point about two miles northeast of Mount Tyndall was a little higher than this mountain; it was named [by Clarence King] in honor of Major R. S. Williamson, of the United States Engineers, so well known by his topographical labors on the Pacific coast, especially in connection with the United States railroad surveys.” (Whitney Survey: Geology, 1865, p. 382.)

Robert Stockton Williamson (1824-1882); graduated U. S. Military Academy, 1848, and commissioned in Topographical Engineers; first lieutenant, 1856; captain, 1861; major of Engineers, 1863; lieutenant-colonel, 1869; in charge of surveys in California for Pacific Railroad Survey, 1853, and in northern California and Oregon, 1855. (Pacific Railroad Survey Reports, XI, 1859, pp. 74-75, 77-78.)

First ascent by William L. Hunter and C. Mulholland about 1884. (S.C.B., 1894, I:3, p. 87; S.C.B., 1922, XI:3, p. 253—See, also, S.C.B., 1894, I:3, pp. 90-92; 1897, II:1, pp. 24-27; 1904, V:1, pp. 46-48; 1923, XI:4, p. 440; 1925, XII:2, pp. 192-193; 1926, XII:3, p. 307.)

WILMER LAKE[Dardanelles]
Named by R. B. Marshall, U.S.G.S., for Wilmer Seavey, daughter of Clyde L. Seavey. (R. B. Marshall.)

WILSON CREEK[Bridgeport]
Named by Lieutenant Benson for his friend Mountford Wilson, of San Francisco. (H. C. Benson.)

WINCHELL, MOUNT (13,749)[Mount Goddard]
Alexander Winchell (1824-1890; professor of physics and later of geology, University of Michigan, 1853-1872; at Syracuse University, 1872-1877, as chancellor and professor of geology; returned to Michigan University, 1879; state geologist of Michigan, 1859-1862, 1869-1871.

In 1868, Elisha Cotton Winchell, of Millerton, gave the name Mount Winchell, in honor of his cousin Alexander, to the point now known as Lookout Point, overlooking Kings River Cañon. (Daily Morning Call, San Francisco, September 11, 1872.—S.C.B., 1926, XII:3, p. 245.) Unaware of prior use of the name by his father, Lilbourne Alsip Winchell gave it in 1879 to a peak south of the Palisades. (L. A. Winchell, in letter to T. S. Solomons, 1896.) The name was transposed by the U.S.G.S. to one of the peaks north of the North Palisade.

First ascent by Harvey C. Mansfield, John M. Newell, Windsor B. Putnam, June 10, 1923. (S.C.B., 1924, XII:1, pp. 90-91.)

James Wolverton, of Three Rivers, hunter and trapper, a veteran of the Union Army, who named the General Sherman tree in Giant Forest in 1879. Died in 1893. (Walter Fry.) (See Hospital Rock.)

WOOD, MOUNT (12,663)[Mount Lyell]
Captain Abram Epperson Wood, 4th Cavalry, acting-superintendent of Yosemite National Park, seasons of 1891, 1892, 1893; sergeant of Iowa infantry in Civil War; entered U. S. Military Academy, 1868; second lieutenant, 4th Cavalry, 1872; first lieutenant, 1876; captain, 1883; breveted for gallant service against Indians in Kansas in 1878; died April, 1894. Name given by Lieutenant McClure in 1894. (N. F. McClure.)

WOODS CREEK[Mount Whitney]
Named by J. N. Le Conte for Robert Martin Woods, a sheep-owner of the Kings River region, who spent practically every summer in the Sierra from 1871 to 1900. (J. N. Le Conte, Chester Versteeg.)

WOODWORTH, MOUNT (12,214)[Mount Goddard]
Benjamin R. Woodworth, who lived for a time in Fresno; son of Commander Selim Woodworth, U.S.N., who came to California from Oregon in 1850. Named about 1888 when Woodworth was with a camping party in Simpson Meadow. (L. A. Winchell.)

Climbed by Bolton Coit Brown, August, 1895. (S.C.B., 1896, I:8, pp. 295-298.)

Name proposed by Sierra Club, 1925, for group of lakes extending from southwestern base of Mount Tyndall toward Sandy Plateau, and for creek connecting these lakes with Wallace Creek. Wright’s name was given in 1881 to a mountain on the Great Western Divide, but it never became current.

James William Albert Wright; A.B., Princeton, 1857; came to California from southern states and settled in San Joaquin Valley; accompanied W. B. Wallace and F. H. Wales to Kern River and Mount Whitney, 1881.

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