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Wawona’s Yesterdays (1961) by Shirley Sargent


Camp A. E. Wood

Camp A. E. Wood in 1891
Camp A. E. Wood in 1891

For sixteen summers, sleep-shattering sounds of a bugle playing reveille resounded at what is now the public camp ground at Wawona. From 1891 till 1905, the level ground between the Wawona road and the South Fork, now filled in summer with campers’ tents and trailers, was an Army encampment, Camp A. E. Wood.

When Yosemite was created a National Park in 1890, Congress ordered the U. S. Army to administer it. This control was complicated from the first because it was not complete. Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove of Big Trees, areas 35 miles apart, were administered by a board of commissioners as a California State Park and, after 1890, became a Park within a Park. 3

There were other frustrating points to hamper smooth-running supervision. The Cavalry units assigned to Camp A. E. Wood from the Presidio in San Francisco were there only from May to October most years and were not given funds for developments.

Despite handicaps, the Army mapped and built miles of trails still in use, stocked remote lakes and rivers, eventually rid the Park of trespassing cattle and “hoofed locusts” that persistent sheepherders brought in, and were responsible for such physical improvements as telephone lines, roads and trails. Many lakes in the Sierra were named for Army personnel.

Camp A. E. Wood was the well-ordered hub for all these activities. Captain Abram Epperson Wood was the first acting superintendent of Yosemite National Park, serving in this responsible post from 1891 to 1894. His efficiency was undermined by a painful, debilitating cancer of the tongue which killed him in 1894. 24

The camp had its gay times, notably the Field Day of August 7, 1896, when Companies B and K of the 4th Cavalry put on minstrel shows, military exercises and many track and field events. 27

Over the years, there were e few untoward incidents at the Camp, a couple of accidental shootings, a desertion, a prowler and a drowning, but the overall discipline record was consistently good, and the cavalrymen were liked by their Wawona neighbors. Mr. and Mrs. Albert Bruce were known as the “Father and Mother” of the Troops thanks to their generosity with food and entertainment.

Major John Bigelow was acting superintendent in 1904 and ambitiously began an arboretum, a museum and a library. He succeeded also in having a small superintendent’s office built which now stands at the Wawona Pioneer Center.

Camp A. E. Wood was abandoned in August 1906 when the Army units were moved to Yosemite Valley. California had receded its twin grants of Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove to the United States in 1905. Yosemite National Park was now administered as a single, cohesive whole; by the Army until 1914, civilian rangers until 1916, and thereafter by the National Park Service. 5

The sounds of the deserted camp after 1906 were no longer of bugle and marching feet, but of river and wind. In 1922, Camp Hoyle was established on the site and remained until 1932. 32

The Hoyle site was used as a public camp ground from 1933, but was extended, improved and modernized in 1951 when it regained the name Camp A. E. Wood.

Troop F, 6h Cavalry on Fallen Monarch, Mariposa Grove
Troop F, 6h Cavalry on Fallen Monarch, Mariposa Grove

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