Home A - Z FAQ Online Library Discussion Forum Muir Weather Maps About Search
Online Library: Title Author California Geology History Indians Muir Mountaineering Nature Management

Previous: Table of ContentsIndexNext: Chapter I


The book here presented is the result of an attempt to correct existing errors relative to the Yosemite Valley. It was originally designed to compress the matter in this volume within the limits of a magazine article, but this was soon found to be impracticable; and, at the suggestion of Gen. C. H. Berry, of Winona, Minnesota, it was decided to “write a book.”

This, too, proved more difficult than at first appeared.

Born in Rochester, New York, in 1824, and carried to Western wilds in 1833, the writer’s opportunities for culture were limited; and in this, his first attempt at authorship, he has found that the experiences of frontier life are not the best preparations for literary effort. Beside this, he had mainly to rely upon his own resources, for nothing could be obtained in the archives of California that could aid him. It was not deemed just that California should forget the deeds of men who had subdued her savages, and discovered her most sublime scenery. Having been a member of the “Mariposa Battalion,” and with it when the Yosemite was discovered, having suggested its name, and named many of the principal objects of interest in and near the valley, it seemed a duty that the writer owed his comrades and himself, to give the full history of these events. Many of the facts incident thereto have already been given to the public by the author at various times since 1851, but these have been so mutilated or blended with fiction, that a renewed and full statement of facts concerning that remarkable locality seems desirable.

While engaged upon this work, the writer was aided by the scientific researches of Prof. J. D. Whitney, and by the “acute and helpful criticism” of Doctor James M. Cole of Winona, Minnesota.

Since the publication of the second edition of this book, and an article from the author’s pen in the Century Magazine for September, 1890, numerous letters of approval from old comrades have been received, and a few dates obtained from old official correspondence that will now be introduced.

In addition to what may properly belong to this history, there have been introduced a few remarks concerning the habits and character of the Indians. This subject is not entirely new, but the opinions expressed are the results of many years acquaintance with various tribes, and may be useful.

The incidental remarks about game will probably interest some. To the author, the study of nature in all its aspects has been interesting.

The author’s views regarding the gold deposits and glaciers of the Sierras are given simply as suggestions.

His especial efforts have been directed to the placing on record events connected with the discovery of the Yosemite, for description of its scenery he feels to be impossible.” In reverent acknowledgment of this, there are submitted as a prologue, some lines written while contemplating the grandeur of his subject.



Hail thee, Yosemite, park of sublimity!
    Majesty, peerless and old!
Ye mountains and cliffs, ye valleys and rifts,
    Ye cascades and cataracts bold!
None, none can divine the wonders of thine,
    When told of the glorious view!
The wild world of light—from “Beatitude’” height,
    Old “Rock Chief,”1 “El Capitan” true!
Thy head proud and high! white brow to the sky!
    Thy features the thunderbolts dare!
Thou o’erlookest the wall would the boldest appal
    Who enter Yosemite’s “Lair."2
Fair “Bridal Veil Fall!” the queen over all,
    In beauty and grace intertwined!
Even now from thy height water-rockets of light
    Dart away, and seem floating in wind!
And thou, high “Scho-look!” proud “Ah-wah-ne!” invoke
    To receive from “Kay-o-pha"3 a boon!
That flowing from pines, in the region of vines,
    May temper the heat of bright noon.
“Nevada” and “Vernal,” emblems eternal
    Of winter and loveliest Spring,
No language so bold the truth can unfold—
    No pen can thee offerings bring!
And yet dare I say, of the cool “Vernal Spray,”
    In the flash of the bright sun’s power,
I welcome thy “ring,”4 though a drenching it bring,
    The smile of a god’s in the shower!
And thou, “Glacier Fall,”5 from thy adamant wall,
    And winter-bound lakes at thy head—
Thy nymphs never seen, except by the sheen
    So fitful from “Mirror Lake’” bed.
Ye North and South Domes,6 “Ten-ie-ya’” lake homes,
    “Cloud’s Rest,” and high “Tis-sa-ack” lone;
Mute “Sentinel, “Brothers,” ye “Starr King,” ye others—
    Oh! what of the past have ye known?
To you has been given the mission from heaven
    To watch through the ages of earth!
Your presence sublime is the chronicled time,
    From the on the world had birth!


1"Rock Chief,” a literal translation of “Tote-ack-ah-noo-la,” rendered “El Capitan” in Spanish, from the likeness of a man’s head upon the wall.

2The Yosemites were known as the “Bear tribe.” “Ten-ie-ya” was chief.

3"Scho look” is the Indian name for the “High Fall;” “Ah-wah-ne,” the old name of Valley, and “Kay-o-pha” (the sky), the name of highest or snow-clad peaks.

4At intervals at the Vernal a round rainbow is formed, perfect as a finger-ring.

5"Glacier Fall,” in place of “Too-loo-lo-we-ack.”

6"Sentinel Dome” was known to the discoverers as the “South Dome,” and “Tis sa ack,” meaning cleft-rock, as the “Half Dome.”


Looking up the valley from a height of about 1,000 feet above the Merced River, and above sea level 5,000 feet, giving some faint idea of the beauty, grandeur and magnitude of this magnificent work of nature.

Previous: Table of ContentsIndexNext: Chapter I

Home A - Z FAQ Online Library Discussion Forum Muir Weather Maps About Search
Online Library: Title Author California Geology History Indians Muir Mountaineering Nature Management