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Pathways: A Story of Trails and Men (1968), by John W. Bingaman


First Tourist Party in Yosemite

In the summer of 1855, the first tourist party made its way into the Yosemite Valley; it was organized and led by James M. Hutchings, a San Franciscan, the author of Hutchings California Magazine. Having heard tales of the spectacular scenery of the area, he, with three companions, one of whom was the pioneer California landscape artist, Thomas Ayers, proceeded to the foothill town of Mariposa, and from there, picking up two Indian guides, pushed on into the mountains. After an arduous journey the party reached the valley’s floor, where they spent “five glorious days in luxurious scenic banqueting,” before returning to the lowlands. The publication a few weeks later of his description of the grandeur, together with the sketches Ayers had made, helped to set in motion a stream of visitors that has continued in steadily growing volume ever since.

Hutchings’ visit of 1859 apparently convinced him of the desirability of residing in Yosemite Valley. During the next few years he gave to the world information through his California Magazine, of the wonders of Yosemite. In 1864 he became proprietor of the Old Hutchings House, and later a snug cabin on the sunny north side of the valley was their home until his death, October 31, 1902. His daughter, Cosie Hutchings Mills, was the second white child born in the valley, October 5, 1867. Elizabeth H. Godfrey formerly of the Yosemite Museum, obtained written and oral statements from Mrs. Mills regarding the pioneer experiences of the Hutchings family in Yosemite. His life described his early history of Yosemite. See his book, In the Heart of the Sierras.

Here is a quote from his writing, Mountain Travel - “There is nothing more fascinating than going over the top at a pass—the thrill, the excitement, the mystery of what is beyond. You plod up and up, ever watching your step, over rough rocks, rolling and sliding, over loose, steep shale and sand. You are out of breath, you are weary, the blazing sun beats down upon you, you may say, what’s the use? When all at once you reach the top and get that grand expansive view and look over into a promised land, on to weird snow fields, to silvery, flashing streams down into azure lakes, up to ragged peaks, into the purest of pure air and the bluest of blue skies. It is the call of the high country; the call of the main crest; the call toward heaven; it is irresistible.”

The Yosemite Commissioners

The Yosemite Valley or Grant, having been ceded to the State of California, 1864, by Congress and being accepted by this state the following year, has been managed by a state board of Commissioners, eight in number. These were appointed by the governor and held office four years. There was no salary, but their necessary traveling expenses were paid by the state. The annual meeting was held in the office of the guardian on the first Wednesday of June, the governor presiding. And other meetings were held from time to time. The secretary and the guardian were the only two salaried officers of the commission. The first funds for disposal of the board was about $10,000 a year from the state, and about $3,000 from rentals. The Commissioners gave franchises to numerous parties to build roads and trails.

Frederick Law Olmsted was chairman of the first Board of Commissioners to manage Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Big Tree Grove, and, as such, the first administrative officer of this area from September 28, 1864, to May 21, 1886.

Governor F. F. Low, of California, in his proclamation of September 28, 1864, named the eight original commissioners. These men were Frederick Law Olmsted, J. D. Whitney, William Ashburner, I. W. Raymond, E. S. Holden, Alexander Deering, George W. Coulter, and Galen Clark. Galen Clark was appointed Guardian.

Galen Clark

Guardian of the Yosemite Grant, first term, May 22, 1866 to October 1880. Second term, June 5, 1889, to 1896.

Galen Clark was born at Shipton, Canada, on March 28, 1814. Died at Oakland, California March 24, 1910. Buried in the pioneer cemetery in Yosemite Valley.

Galen Clark was intimately associated with Yosemite from the time of his first visit to the area in 1855, until the end of his life in 1910. He himself planted the trees and selected the granite marker upon which he carved his name some twenty years before his death at the age of 96 years. Mount Clark (11,506 feet) in the Clark Range is named for him.

Next: Yosemite TrailsContentsPrevious: James D. Savage

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