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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. ]


“As the ‘High Fall,’ near which we were encamped, appeared to be the principal one of the Sierras, and was the fall par excellence, I gave that the name of ‘Yosemite Falls,’ and in so naming it I but followed out the idea of the Indians who called it ‘Choolook’ or ‘Schoolook,’ which signifies in this case ‘The Fall,’ while the creek appeared to be known to some as ‘Scho-tal-lo-wi,’ interpreted to mean ‘the creek of the fall’.” (Bunnell: Discovery of the Yosemite, 1880, pp. 201-202.)

C. Hart Merriam gives the Indian name as “Ah-wah'ning chu'luk-ah-hu, slurred to Cho'luk” (S.C.B., 1917, X:2, p. 205.) Stephen Powers says Cho'lok is the generic name for “fall.” ( Tribes of California, in Contributions to North American Ethnology, III, 1877, p. 363.)

“Here we began to encounter in our path, many small streams which would shoot out from under these high snow-banks, and after running a short distance in deep chasms which they have through ages cut in the rocks, precipitate themselves from one lofty precipice to another, until they are exhausted in rain below. Some of these precipices appeared to us to be more than a mile high.” (Narrative of the Adventures of Zenas Leonard, Written by Himself, Clearfield, Pa., 1839, reprinted and edited by W. F. Wagner, Cleveland, 1904, p. 174.) This description from Leonard’s journal of 1833, when he accompanied Joseph R. Walker’s party across the Sierra, appears to refer to Yosemite Falls, and if so, is the first description of any feature of Yosemite. (Farquhar: Exploration of the Sierra Nevada, in California Historical Society Quarterly, March, 1925, IV:1, p. 7.)

[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]

Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove of Big Trees were granted to the State of California by act of Congress, June 30, 1864, “upon the express conditions that the premises shall be held for public use, resort, and recreation.”

By act of October 1, 1890, a large area surrounding this grant was “reserved and withdrawn from settlement” and “set apart as reserved forest lands,” with the stipulation that regulations by the Secretary of the Interior “shall provide for the preservation from injury of all timber, mineral deposits, natural curiosities, or wonders within said reservation, and their retention in their natural condition.” The reservation was designated by the Secretary of the Interior “Yosemite National Park.”

Changes in boundaries were made by act of February 7, 1905, adding the northern watershed of Tuolumne River, and eliminating the Mount Ritter and Minaret region, a small area above Lundy, and a considerable area on the west that was largely held in private ownership.

The Legislature of the State of California, by act of March 3, 1905, voted to recede to the United States the grant of 1864. This recession was accepted by joint resolution of Congress, June 11, 1906, and at the same time a small additional area on the South Fork of the Merced was eliminated from the park. The Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove of Big Trees were by this act incorporated in Yosemite National Park.

For detailed accounts, see: Whitney: Yosemite Guide Book, 1870, pp. 9-13, 20-23—Hutchings: In the Heart of the Sierras, 1886, pp. 149-162.—Muir: Features of the Proposed Yosemite National Park, in Century Magazine, September, 1990.—Editorials and letters in Century Magazine, January, 1890, September, 1890, November, 1891.—Badè: Life and Letters of John Muir, II, 1924, pp. 234-242, 255-257, 351-357, 394-395.— Robert Underwood Johnson: Remembered Yesterdays, 1923, pp. 287-292.— Report of Yosemite Park Commission, December 5, 1904, (Senate Document no. 34, 58th Congress, 3d Session.).—S.C.B., 1905, V:3, pp. 242-253, 267-269; 1906, VI:1, pp. 58-61, 69-70.

Although Yosemite Valley was undoubtedly seen from above by Walker’s party in 1833, the first white men to enter it were the members of Major Savage’s Mariposa Battalion, March 25, 1851. In discussing what name should be given to the valley, some romantic and foreign names were offered. Dr. Lafayette H. Bunnell, one of the party, suggested “that the name of the tribe who had occupied it, would be more appropriate.”

“I then proposed ‘that we give the valley the name of Yo-sem-i-ty, as it was suggestive, euphonious, and certainly American; that by so doing, the name of the tribe of Indians which we met leaving their homes in this valley, perhaps never to return, would be perpetuated.’ Upon a viva voce vote being taken, it was almost unanimously adopted.”

“Lieutenant Moore, of the U.S.A., in his report of an expedition to the Valley in 1852, substituted e as the terminal letter, in place of y, in use by us; no doubt thinking the use of e more scholarly, or perhaps supposing Yosemite to be of Spanish derivation. This orthography has been adopted, and is in general use, but the proper pronunciation, as a consequence, is not always attainable to the general reader.” The Indians recognized the name as that of the tribe, but not of the valley, which they called Ahwahnee. (Bunnell: Discovery of the Yosemite, 1880, pp. 61-64.)

J. M. Hutchings, in 1855, in publishing a lithograph of the falls from a drawing by T. A. Ayres, used the name “Yo-Hamite”; whereupon Dr. Bunnell wrote a letter explaining the origin of the name. Hutchings published the letter and at the same time explained the derivation of his version, which he had obtained from Indians who declared the correct pronunciation to be “Yo Ham-i-te,” or “Yo-Hem-i-te.” He unwillingly acquiesced in the use of “Yo-Semite.” (Hutchings: Scenes of Wonder and Curiosity in California, 1860, pp. 75-78.) Hutchings then insisted on using the form Yo Semite, explaining that he had it on Bunnell’s own authority that this was correct, and that the form Yosemite was due to a printer’s error. Yo Semite was used in the act of Congress of 1864, granting the valley to the State of California. (Hutchings: In the Heart of the Sierras, 1886, p. 61.) As the contentions of Hutchings subsided, the present usage became established, aided no doubt by the wide circulation of the Whitney Survey publications, which used Yosemite in all editions. (See, also, Hutchings’ California Magazine, July, 1856, I:1, pp. 2-8; May, 1859, III:11, pp. 498-505.)

“Hutchings was right, Yo-ham-i-te being the name of the band inhabiting a large and important village on the south bank of Merced River at the place now occupied by Sentinel Hotel and its cottages. These Indians hunted the grizzly bear, whose name—Oo-hoˇ-ma-te or O-ham'i-te—gave origin to their own. The tribe next north of the valley called the grizzly Oo-soˇ-ma-te, which doubtless accounts for the euphonious form given by Bunnell and now universally accepted.” (C. Hart Merriam: Indian Village and Camp Sites in Yosemite Valley, in S.C.B., 1917, X:2, p. 203.)

“The word ‘Yosemite’ is simply a very beautiful and sonorous corruption of the word for ‘grizzly bear.’ On the Stanislaus and north of it the word is u-zu'mai-ti; at Little Gap, o-so'mai-ti; in Yosemite itself, u-zu'mai-ti; on the South Fork of the Merced, uh-zu'mai-tuh.” (Powers: Tribes of California, in Contributions to North American Ethnology, III, 1877, pp. 361-362.)

[Editor’s note: For the correct origin of the word Yosemite see “Origin of the Word Yosemite.”—DEA]

YOUNG LAKE[Mount Lyell]
General Samuel Baldwin Marks Young (1840-1924); acting superintendent of Yosemite National Park, 1896; and of Yellowstone National Park, 1907 and 1908. General Young fought throughout the Civil War and in many Indian campaigns, commanded a division in the Spanish War, and was in action in the Philippines. Enlisted as private April 25, 1861; captain, September 6, 1861; colonel, 1864; brevet brigadier-general, 1865; commissioned in regular army, 1866; major, 1883; lieutenant-colonel, 1892; colonel, 1897; major-general of volunteers, 1898; brigadier-general, U.S.A., 1900; major-general, 1901; lieutenant-general, 1903; Chief of Staff, U.S.A., 1903-1904; retired by law, 1904.

YOUNG, MOUNT[Mount Whitney]
Rev. F. H. Wales climbed it on September 7, 1881, and named it “in honor of Professor Young, the noted astronomer, now at Princeton.” (Elliott: Guide to the Grand and Sublime Scenery of the Sierra Nevada, 1883, pp. 49-50.)

Charles Augustus Young (1834-1908); graduate of Dartmouth, 1853; professor of mathematics, Western Reserve, 1857-1866; professor of natural philosophy and astronomy, Dartmouth, 1866-1877; professor of astronomy, Princeton, 1877-1908.

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