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Wawona’s Yesterdays (1961) by Shirley Sargent


A Short History of YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK

THE FRAMEWORK

A Short History of
YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK

Yosemite Falls
Yosemite Falls

Until recently, the established date for the discovery of Yosemite Valley by the Mariposa Battalion was March 25, 1851. This group, in angry pursuit of marauding Indians, included Dr. Lafayette Bunnell, who chose the name Yosemite for the then unknown wonder. A diary kept by Pvt. Robert Eccleston of the Battalion re-established the discovery date as March 27, 1851, 1 but even that has been replaced significantly bye date two years earlier found in the diary of William Penn Abrams, a gold-seeker.

Sometime between October 7 and 17, 1849, Abrams, with his friend, U. N. Reamer, first saw Yosemite Valley, probably from a spot near the old Inspiration Point. The two men, working out from the Savage trading post on the South Fork of the Merced, were tracking a grizzly, became lost and, abruptly, came upon the stupendous sight of Bridalveil Foil, Cathedral Racks and Half Dome, which they called "The Rock of Ages.”

Evidently, their discovery was recorded in Abrams’ diary 2, and not with any notable impression upon others, because the 1851 date has been widely recognized as the first sighting of the Valley; although historians quarrel endlessly as to whether the Walker party looked down into it in their 1833 crossing of the Sierra.

Dates and disputes aside, Yosemite Valley with its magnificent granite cliffs and domes, grassy meadows and adjective deserving waterfalls received scant attention until James Hutchings visited it in 1855 and began to write and speak of its wonders in true Chamber of Commerce style.

Attracted by his rhapsodic descriptions, rugged visitors came on foot and horseback. They stopped overnight at Clark’s Station (Wawona) which, travel-wise, was about halfway from Mariposa on the only trail into the Valley from the south.

By 1864, the Valley’s unique grandeur and that of the sequoias in the Mariposa Grove, became a public trust of the State of California. From 1864 to 1905, these two valuable areas 35 miles apart and containing some 20,000 acres, were administered and protected as the Yosemite Grant — a California State Park. 3

Galen Clark of Clark’s Station served as oble guardian of the Grant for thirteen years. One of his first and thorniest problems was to clear Yosemite Valley of the private holdings of James Hutchings and other pioneer homesteaders.

Thanks largely to the inspired and intelligent efforts of John Muir, Yosemite was made a National Park in 1890. 4 Conservation of scenic, scientific and historical features was assured forever. California, however, continued to manage the Mariposa Grove and Yosemite Valley while the remainder of the new park was governed by the U. S. Department of the Interior with the help of Army cavalry units. Despite the conflicting dual control of a park within a park, conserving strides were made in no longer allowing sheep, cattle or hunters within the boundaries.

Wawona, which was private property surrounded by State and National Park lands, became Army headquarters. From there troopers patrolled extensively, exploring, building trails and mapping the rough scenic terrains California re-ceded the Mariposa Grove and Yosemite Valley to the nation in 1905, 5 but coherent, truly progressive administration was not possible until 1916 when civilian rangers succeeded Uncle Som’s soldiers on a year-round basis. [6]

The Army left in 1914 and until the National Park Service was organized in 1916, Yosemite was under the summer jurisdiction of a handful of college boys and the watchful winter eyes of two reliable forest rangers. 7

After 1916 the congressionally designated National Park Service took over its job, to conserve, interpet, explore and administer all of Yosemite’s approximately 1200 square miles for the fullest enjoyment of its millions of owners.

1. See Sources P. 100


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Online Library: Title Author California Geology History Indians Muir Mountaineering Nature Management

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