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Yosemite Nature Notes 47(3) (1978)


F. K. LANE—A CLUE TO THE PAST

Jim Huning

The merits of Hetch Hetchy Reservoir as a water storage facility for the City of San Francisco have been argued for decades. Regardless of one’s personal feelings, two general observations seem reasonable. First, Hetch Hetchy Valley cannot serve to relieve the congested seasonal camping facilities in Yosemite Valley; that is, Hetch Hetchy has been effectively removed from ‘use’ by future generations of Americans and international visitors. Second, a seeming injustice was done to the American people when a portion of our National Park trust was used for a purpose not in line with National Park objectives.

For those familiar with the long and politically volatile ‘battle’ over Hetch Hetchy1, a visit to the Hodgdon cabin in the Pioneer Yosemite History Center at Wawona may be of particular interest. Carved into the door frame is the following inscription:
F. K. Lane carving
[click to enlarge]
Could this have been carved by the F. K. Lane, City Attorney of San Francisco under Mayor Phelan and author, in part, of many of the city’s early legal briefs in the fight for Hetch Hetchy? In 1903, San Francisco city officials first applied to the Interior Department for rights to use Hetch Hetchy Valley. The application was denied by then Interior Secretary Hitchcock. Franklin Knight Lane later went on to become Secretary of the Interior Department under President Woodrow Wilson and, not too surprisingly, supported the City of San Francisco’s application to dam Hetch Hetchy Valley (authorized by the Raker Act of 1913).

The carving on the Hodgdon cabin door frame appears old. It is weathered and, according to a number of individuals at the Pioneer Yosemite History Center, the carving has been there for as long as anyone can recall. It is very possible that the carving might well be the handiwork of the same F. K. Lane. To be sure, much more historical research would be required in order to determine, with a high degree of confidence, if F. K. Lane had visited the Hodgdon cabin2. Then, too, one may never really know if it was the same F. K. Lane of political significance who was responsible for the carving.

As one gleans the graffiti on the Hodgdon cabin door frame, the historical struggle between those who wished to dam Hetch Hetchy Valley and those who sought to preserve its status quo within Yosemite National Park, led by John Muir and the Sierra Club, comes into clear focus. On a quiet day at the History Center one can almost hear the eloquence of John Muir: “Dam Hetch Hetchy. As well dam for water-tanks the peoples’ cathedrals and churches, for no holier temple has ever been consecrated by the heart of man.”3

REFERENCES

1An excellent chronology of the Hetch Hetchy controversy appears in: Jones, Holway R. John Muir and the Sierra Club: The Battle for Yosemite. Sierra Club, San Francisco, CA, 1965.

2A possible source is: Wiens, Henry. The Career of Franklin K. Lane in California Politics. M.A. thesis, University of California, 1937.

3Muir, John. The Yosemite. The Century Co., New York, 1912 (reference on page 262).



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