A False Alarm

During the winter of 1852-3, Jesse Starkey and Mr. Johnson, comrades of
the Mariposa battalion and expert hunters, were engaged in supplying
miners along the Mariposa Creek with venison and bear meat. They were
encamped on the head waters of the Chow-chilla and fearing no danger,
slept soundly in their encampment. They had met Indians from time to
time, who seemed friendly enough, and even the few escaped Yosemites
who recognized Starkey, showed no sign of dislike; and hence no proper
precautions were taken against their treachery.

A few days only had passed in the occupation of hunting, when a night
attack was made upon the hunters. Starkey was instantly killed, but
Johnson, though wounded, escaped to Mariposa on one of their mules.

James M. Roan, Deputy Sheriff under Captain Boling, took direction of
the wounded man, and with a posse of but 15 miners, went out to the
Chow-chilla, where they found the naked and mutilated remains of poor
Starkey, which they buried uncoffined at the camp.

After that sad duty was accomplished, the little party of brave men
pursued the trail of the savages into the Snowy Mountains, where they
were overtaken and given merited chastisement. Three Indians fell dead
at the first fire, while others were wounded and died afterwards.

No united effort was made to repel the whites, and panic-stricken, the
renegade robbers fled into their hidden recesses. Cossom, an Indian
implicated, confessed, long afterwards, that their loss in the attack
was at least a dozen killed and wounded, and that the robber murderers
of Starkey were renegade Yosemite and other Indians who had refused
to live at the reservation. It was several months after Mr. Roan’s
encounter with those Indians before I learned the full particulars, and
when any of the remnants of the band of Yosemites appealed to me for
aid, I still gave them relief.

DURING the summer of 1853, Mr. E. G. Barton and myself were engaged in
trading and mining on the Merced. We had established a station on the
north side of the river, several miles above the mouth of the North
Fork. We here had the patronage of the miners on the river and its
branches above, as well as in our own vicinity, and from the North
Fork. From some of the miners who visited our store from the vicinity
of the South Fork, I learned that a short time before, a small party
of the Yosemities had come to their diggings and asked for food and
protection from their enemies, who, they said, had killed their chief
and most of their people, and were pursuing themselves. The affrighted
and wounded wretches reported to them that they had been attacked while
in their houses by a large party of Monos from the other side of the
mountains, and that all of their band had been killed except those who
had asked protection.

The miners had allowed the Indians to camp near by, but refused to give
them any but a temporary supply of food.

Knowing that I was familiar with the Valley, and acquainted with the
band, they asked my advice as to what they ought to do with their

Feeling some sympathy for the people who had made their homes in the
Yosemite, and thinking that I might aid and induce them to work as
miners, I sent them word to come down to our store, as there were
plenty of fish and acorns near by. A few came, when I told them that if
in future they were _good Indians_, the whites would protect them from
their enemies, and buy their gold. They expressed a willingness to work
for food and clothing if they could find gold.

I furnished them some tools to prospect, and they came back sanguine of
success. A Tu-ol-um-ne Indian named “Joe,” and two or three families
of Yosemities came down and camped on Bull Creek and commenced to
gather acorns, while “Joe” as head miner, worked with the others in the
gulches and on the North Fork. This experiment of working and reforming
robbers soon proved a failure, for upon the death of one of them who
had been injured, they could not be induced to remain or work any
longer, and “Joe,” and his new followers stampeded for the Hetch-Hetchy

From these Indians, and subsequently from others, I learned the
following statements relative to the death of Old Ten-ie-ya. After the
murder of the French miners from Coarse Gold Gulch, and his escape from
Lieut. Moore, Ten-ie-ya, with the larger part of his band, fled to the
east side of the Sierras. He and his people were kindly received by the
Monos and secreted until Moore left that locality and returned to Fort

Ten-ie-ya was recognized, by the Mono tribe, as one of their number, as
he was born and lived among them until his ambition made him a leader
and founder of the Pai-Ute colony in Ah-wah-ne. His history and warlike
exploits formed a part of the traditionary lore of the Monos. They were
proud of his successes and boasted of his descent from their tribe,
although Ten-ie-ya himself claimed that his father was the chief of an
independent people, whose ancestors were of a different race. Ten-ie-ya
had, by his cunning and sagacity in managing the deserters from other
tribes, who had sought his protection, maintained a reputation as a
chief whose leadership was never disputed by his followers, and who
was the envy of the leaders of other tribes. After his subjugation by
the whites, he was deserted by his followers, and his supremacy was no
longer acknowledged by the neighboring tribes, who had feared rather
than respected him or the people of his band. Ten-ie-ya and his refugee
band were so hospitably received and entertained by the Monos that they
seemed in no hurry to return to their valley.

According to custom with these mountaineers, a portion of territory
was given to them for their occupancy by consent of the tribe;
for individual right to territory is not claimed, nor would it be
tolerated. Ten-ie-ya staid with the Monos until late in the summer
or early autumn of 1853, when he and his people suddenly left the
locality that had been assigned to them, and returned to their haunts
in the Yosemite valley, with the intention of remaining there unless
again driven out by the whites. Permanent wigwams were constructed by
the squaws, near the head of the valley, among the rocks, not readily
discernable to visitors. Not long after Ten-ie-ya had re-established
himself in his old home, a party of his young men left on a secret
foraging expedition for the camp of the Monos, which was then
established at or near Mono Lake. According to the statement made to
me, there had just been a successful raid and capture of horses by the
Monos and Pai-Utes from some of the Southern California ranchos, and
Ten-ie-ya’s men concluded, rather than risk a raid on the white men, to
steal from the Mono’s, trusting to their cunning to escape detection.

Ten-ie-ya’s party succeeded in _recapturing_ a few of the stolen
horses, and after a circuitous and baffling route through the pass at
the head of the San Joaquin, finally reached the valley with their

After a few days’ delay, and thinking themselves secure, they killed
one or more of the horses, and were in the enjoyment of a grand feast
in honor of their return, when the Mono’s pounced down upon them.
Their gluttony seemed to have rendered them oblivious of all danger
to themselves, and of the ingratitude by which the feast had been
supplied. Like sloths, they appear to have been asleep after having
surfeited their appetites. They were surprised in their wig-wams by the
wronged and vengeful Monos and before they could rally for the fight,
the treacherous old chief was struck down by the hand of a powerful
young Mono chief. Ten-ie-ya had been the principal object of attack
at the commencement of the assault, but he had held the others at bay
until discovered by the young chief, who having exhausted his supply of
arrows, seized a fragment of rock and hurled it with such force as to
crush the skull of “the old grizzly.” As Ten-ie-ya fell, other stones
were cast upon him by the attacking party, after the Pai-ute custom,
until he was literally stoned to death. All but eight of Ten-ie-ya’s
young braves were killed; these escaped down the valley, and through
the cañon below.

The old men and women, who survived the first assault, were permitted
to escape from the valley. The young women and children were made
captives and taken across the mountains to be held as slaves or drudges
to their captors. I frequently entertained the visitors at our store on
the Merced with descriptions of the valley. The curiosity of some of
the miners was excited, and they proposed to make a visit as soon as it
could be made with safety. I expressed the opinion that there would be
but little danger from Indians, as the Mono’s and Pai-utes only came
for acorns, and that the Yo-sem-i-ties were so nearly destroyed, that
at least, while they were mourning the loss of their chief, and their
people, no fear need be entertained of them.

Three of these miners, from the North Fork of the Merced, visited the
valley soon after this interview. These men were from Michigan. Their
glowing descriptions on their return, induced five others from the
North Fork to visit it also. On their return trip they missed the trail
that would have taken them over the ridge to their own camp and kept
on down to the path which led to our establishment. While partaking of
our hospitalities, they discussed the incidents of their excursion, and
I was soon convinced that they had been to the Yosemite. They spoke
of the lower and the high fall rather disparagingly, and expressed
disappointment, when told of the existence of cascades and cataracts,
that they had not known of or seen. I questioned them as to Indians,
and learned that they had not seen any on the trip, but had seen
deserted huts below the cañon.

I learned soon after, from some miners from the mouth of the “South
Fork,” that all of the Yosemites who had camped on the flats below the
cañon, had left suddenly for the Tuolumne. These two parties were the
first white men that visited the Yosemite Valley after the visit of
Lieut. Moore, the year before (1852). The names of these miners have
now passed from my memory, but I afterwards met one of these gentlemen
at Mr. George W. Coulter’s Hotel, in Coultersville, and another at Big
Oak Flat, and both seemed well known to Lovely Rogers and other old
residents. I was shown, by the first party, some good specimens of gold
quartz that had been found on the north side of the Merced below the
cañon. Late in the fall of this year (1853), three of the remnant of
Ten-ie-ya’s band came to our store. They did not offer to trade, and
when questioned, told me that they had been camping on the Tuolumne,
and had come down to the Merced to get some fish. I gave them some
provisions, and they left, apparently satisfied if not thankful. A
few nights afterwards, one of our best mules disappeared. This mule
was a favorite mountain animal, sure footed and easy gaited under the
saddle. In following up its tracks, I discovered that it had been
stolen by Indians, and my suspicions were that my Yosemite friends were
the culprits. I made every effort to recover the animal, but without

After the close of the mining season in the fall of 1853, we left our
trading establishment and mining works in charge of two men in our
employ, Robt. D. Sevil, of Smyrna, Delaware, and Robt. Smith, a Dane.
The establishment was visited from time to time, by either Barton or
myself during the winter of 1853-54, when upon one occasional visit,
it was found by Mr. Barton to have been plundered. With Nat. Harbert,
a brave Texan, I at once started for the establishment, only to find
it a scene of desolation. I was informed by some miners who had been
out prospecting, that the body of Smith had been found on a slaty
point in the river below, but that nothing could be discovered of
Sevil, or the murderers. We found the tracks of Indians and traced
them to the mountains, but failed to find their hiding places. We lost
their trail over the bare, slaty ground above the river. The tracks
had indicated to us that Indians were the murderers, before we had
learned from the miners the circumstances connected with the finding
of Smith’s body. It had been pierced by nine arrows, five of which
were still found quivering in his flesh. Upon the discovery of the
body by the miners, a burial party was led by Doctor Porter, from the
North Fork, to the scene of the murders; and with the assistance of his
associates, Mr. Long, and others, it was given proper burial. The body
of Sevil was not found until long afterwards. When discovered, it was
undistinguishable, but from the location in the river, we had no doubt
of its identity. I reported the murders and robbery to the authorities
of Mariposa county. Captain Boling was sheriff; but having business
that required his urgent attention, deputized me to act for him in
the matter. He expressed a decided belief that the murders had been
committed by the Yosemities. He recommended me to take a strong posse
with me, and to be cautious and guarded against treachery; saying:
“You know as well as I do, that all of the Yosemities are murderers
and thieves.” In reply, I informed him of the killing of Ten-ie-ya
and nearly all of his band by the Monos; and told him that I had
ridden alone through the country wherever business called me, and that
whenever I had met any of the old band they seemed quite friendly. The
Captain said he would not visit the valley without sufficient force to
protect himself. Upon telling him of the encampment on the Tuolumne,
Captain Boling said that was beyond his jurisdiction.

Mr. Harbert and myself concluded to make a thorough exploration for the
murderers, and with this object in view, rode to Marble Springs, and
commenced our search along the Tuolumne divide, hoping to find some
place where the tracks would be found once more concentrated. After a
tiresome search, without success or encouragement, we went down to the
camp of the miners, on the North Fork, to consult with them. We found
old acquaintances among these gentlemen, and Dr. Porter and Mr. Long
were especially hospitable. It was the opinion of these intelligent
gentlemen, that the murderers had gone to the Upper Tuolumne river and
were banded with the renegades of the Tuolumne tribe that had once been
under Ten-ie-ya. They expressed the belief that not less than twenty
men should undertake an expedition against them. As the principal
articles stolen from our store were clothing and blankets, it was
supposed the murderers would probably be found near some of the acorn
_caches_ in the mountain cañons.

Feeling it would be useless to attempt anything further without an
authorized expedition, we left the North Fork and our hospitable
friends, and at once returned to Mariposa, where I reported to Sheriff
Boling and Judge Bondurant the result of our trip. These officials
decided that the territory which it would be necessary to explore, was
not within their jurisdiction. That they had no authority to declare
war against the Tuolumne Indians, but said that they would report the
circumstances of the murders and robberies to the military authorities,
to the Governor, and to the officials of Tuolumne county. Here the
matter rested, and nothing more was ever done by public authority. I
was afterwards advised to put in a claim on the two hundred and fifty
thousand dollars voted by Congress for the Indians of California; but
after some consideration of this advice, my conclusion was that the
original claimants to this money would scarcely be willing to make any
division of their legitimate spoils.

Although no action had been taken by the authorities, the murders of
Sevil and Smith soon became generally known, and the inhabitants of
Mariposa became alarmed from the rumors in circulation, of another
general outbreak. I visited the Fresno Agency and found that the
Indians there had heard of the raid on our establishment, and, on
interrogating them, they expressed the opinion that the Yosemites were
the ones who had murdered the men. Their theory of the attack was,
that they had first killed the men for the sake of the clothing on
their persons, and afterwards had robbed the store of the clothing and
blankets, because they were cold in their mountain retreat, and yet
dared not live among other people. Some of these, at the Fresno, said
that if the whites would fit out an expedition, they would go and help
_kill_ the murderers; “for,” said they, “those are bad Indians. They
dare not visit the reservation, for we know that they would steal from
us and the white people, and then we would all be made to suffer from
their misconduct. We are now afraid to leave the reservation to hunt,
lest we be mistaken and killed for what they have done.”

I was convinced by my visit to the agency, that there was no grounds
for fear of another outbreak among the Indians. I traveled about as I
had usually done before. I was cautious in out-of-the-way places, but
I cannot say that I hesitated at any time to prospect. When I heard
people express an opinion that it would be dangerous to enter the
Yosemite Valley without a strong escort, I refrained from expressing my
convictions. I felt unwilling to publicly oppose the opinions of some
of my late comrades, more especially after my recent experience with
the Yosemites. During the summer of 1854 no visits were made to the
valley, as far as I know, and if there had been, I was so situated as
likely to have been acquainted with the fact. Many of my old companions
in the battalion, never shared my admiration for the Yosemite. Their
descriptions were so common-place as to lead the people of the village
of Mariposa to suppose that, as a curiosity, the scenery would scarcely
repay the risk and labor of a visit. The murders of Smith and Sevil
deterred some who had designed to visit the valley that season. The
nervous ones were still further alarmed by a general stampede of the
miners on the South Fork of the Merced, which occurred in the summer of
that year (1854). This was caused by a visit to their neighborhood of
some Pai-Utes and Monos, from the east side of the Sierras, who came to
examine the prospects for the acorn-harvest, and probably take back
with them some they had _cached_.

This visit of strange Indians to some of the miners’ camps, was not at
first understood and a wild alarm was raised without a comprehension of
the facts of the case. Captain Boling, as sheriff, summoned to his aid
a number of the old members of his company. I was one of the number.
We made a night ride to the place of alarm, and on arriving, found
that we had been sold. We felt chagrined, although it was gratifying
to learn that alarm had been made without a cause. An old ’49er, that
we found, apologized for the verdants. He said: “Probably, as long as
men continue about as they now are, we must expect to find fools in
all communities; but, if a premium for d—- fools should be offered
by any responsible party, you will see a bigger stampede from these
diggings than these Indians have made.” The whiskey was ordered for the
old stager, and the apology considered as acceptable. We returned to
Mariposa wiser, if not _better_ men.

Although no visits were made during the year 1854 to the Yosemite
Valley, it was at this time that the existence of such a locality began
to be generally known outside of the limits of Mariposa county. Many of
the inhabitants of that county, however, were still incredulous of its
being any more remarkable than some other localities among the Sierras.
As a matter of early history, I will give a few details of occurrences
indirectly connected with the bringing of this valley to the attention
of the public as a wonderful natural curiosity.

During the year 1854 an effort was made by a party of engineers from
Tuolumne county, to explore a route by which water could be brought
from the South Fork of the Merced river into the “dry diggings.”
After a reconnoissance, the route was pronounced too expensive to be
profitable, as the supply of water would be insufficient, unless the
ditch should be extended to the main river, which was not considered

Notwithstanding this adverse report, the Mariposa “Chronicle” continued
to advocate the practicability of the proposed plan, and made some
effort to induce capitalists to take an interest in the enterprise,
claiming that like investments had proved profitable in the northern
mines. To test the feasibility of such a project, Colonel Caruthers and
Angevine Reynolds, then of Stockton, came up to explore and run a line
of levels over the route. They brought with them, as engineer, Capt.
Kiel, a practical surveyor, and a most accomplished mathematician.
Captain Boling, having referred these gentlemen to me as one most
likely to aid in their undertaking, and practically familiar with that
part of the country, I joined them in their enterprise. We started our
survey at the “Snow Creek” divide. Col. Caruthers was enthusiastic over
the prospect of success, as we advanced, but after rounding the point
at “Devil’s Gulch,” and while Mr. Reynolds and myself were establishing
a flag station on the opposite side, the Colonel collapsed and ordered
a discontinuance of the survey.

Not feeling satisfied with this decision, Mr. Reynolds and myself,
mutually agreed to complete the survey. Reynolds was a man of energy
and indomitable perseverance. He was the first to establish an
express to the Southern mines, and afterwards was for fourteen years
successively elected to responsible offices in Mariposa county. I
handled the instrument, and Mr. Reynolds acted as rodman. We continued
the line up, passed all real obstacles, and then Captain Kiel, who was
quite an old gentleman, completed the survey and mapped out the route.
During this survey, Mr. Reynolds and myself crossed the South Fork
and explored along the divide. We were within six or seven miles of
the Yosemite, but did not go to it. _This was the only year since its
discovery, that it was not visited by white men._ No Indians were seen
by our party, during the time of this survey.

The next season, 1855, the survey began by Caruthers, Reynolds and
myself, was pushed with vigor, and although the subject matter of
extending the ditch to the main stream was freely discussed and
advocated by the _Chronicle_, no action was taken. Up to this time, the
Yosemite was scarcely thought of by the generality of gold hunters and
denizens of Mariposa county; that is, in connexion with its stupendous
cliffs and wonderful scenery. The solemn grandeur of the locality, and
the immensity of the rocks which formed the sides of its inclosing
walls, as well as its lofty water-falls, were but barely noticed by
Lt. Moore in his report, to which allusion has been made in a previous

Lt. Moore made no measurements, nor attempted to give any specific
descriptions. He only stated unadorned facts and practical impressions.
These, however, had in 1854 gone out into the world, and the wonders
of the place were more generally known and appreciated by the literary
and scientific, than by those in its more immediate vicinity. During
the summer of 1855, Mr. J. M. Hutchings, editor and publisher of
“Hutchings’ California Magazine,” conceived the idea of visiting the
Calaveras “Big Trees” and the Yosemite Valley. As a literary man he
was aware that these objects of wonder and curiosity would provide
many interesting articles for his periodical. He engaged the services
of a well-known artist of San Francisco, Mr. Thomas Ayres, to provide
sketches for his descriptive articles. He first visited “The Big Trees”
of Calaveras; at Coultersville and Horse Shoe Bend, Mr. Alex. Stair
and Wesley Millard joined his party. Mr. Hutchings’ announcement at
Mariposa that he was on his way to visit “_their wonderful valley_,”
was considered as an indifferent joke by some; others, who had heard of
it in connection with the “Indian war,” asked him if he was not afraid
of the Indians; if it was worth the risk to go there. Mr. Hutchings
failed to get much information from those of whom he made inquiries at
Mariposa. He finally interviewed Captain Boling, who told him where he
could procure a guide.

In anticipation of meeting with numerous difficulties on the way, or
for other reasons, he hired two guides and started for the valley. The
difficulties of the journey vanished as he approached. The excitement
of the trip made the party forgetful of the fatigue and roughness of
the mountain journey.

I met Stair and Millard,–who were especial friends of mine,–not long
after their return from this trip. They were very enthusiastic on the
subject of the Yosemite. The enthusiastic descriptions given by the
Hutchings party, on its return, aroused the curiosity of the people,
staggered the skeptics, and silenced the croakers. Not long afterwards,
two parties visited it; one from Sherlocks and the other from Mariposa.
With the party from Sherlocks, were the Mann brothers, who afterwards
built a trail from Mariposa to the valley. They commenced it in the
fall of that year, 1855. Mr. Hutchings’ publications and lithographic
illustration of the Yosemite, or highest fall, served to advertise the
attractions. From this period may be dated the commencement of the
visits of tourists. His influence has aided materially in affording
improved facilities of access to it, and in providing for the comfort
of visitors. The interest growing out of Mr. Hutchings’ visit to the
Yosemite, together with the rumored prospect that Fremont & Co. were
about to do something with the “Mariposa Estate,” aroused the energy of
local capitalists, and encouraged the advent of settlers and miners.
Another company was organized to bring water from the foot of the
valley into the “dry diggings.” The limited supply from the South Fork,
it was thought, would be insufficient for the prospective demand.
Sufficient inducements having been offered to warrant the undertaking,
Mr. George K. Peterson, an engineer by profession, and myself, joined
in making the necessary survey. We leveled two lines down through the
cañon, below the Yosemite, on to the divide of the South Fork. To
cross the South Fork without expending too much altitude, we found a
long tunnel would be required, besides a suspension of over 800 feet.

This, for a time, discouraged a continuance of the survey. We returned
to Mariposa and frankly reported the results of our work and explained
the difficulties of the route to those who were most interested in the
project. For certain reasons it was deemed advisable to complete the
survey between the branches of the river; when it was thought that some
equitable arrangement could be made with the South Fork Company for
a union of interests in case of sale. The Yosemite Company proposed
to convey water over or near the same route as the other, and also to
supply water to the miners on the north side of the Merced. By this
stroke of policy, it was supposed that a _legal_ division of water
could be obtained, that the New Yorkers (Fremont & Co.) would only
be too glad to pay for. I did not feel sanguine in the success of
this scheme, and so expressed myself. My experience in the cañon with
Peterson taught me that an equivalent in cash, which was offered for
my services (and which I accepted), was better than any speculative
interest _in Spain_, or even New York. The survey was accordingly
recommenced. Four of the company put up the body of a house in the
valley. This was the first house ever erected there. It was of white
cedar “_puncheons_,” plank split out of logs. The builders of it
supposed that a claim in the valley would doubly secure the water
privileges. We made this building our headquarters; covering the
roof with our tents. We continued work on this survey until late in
November; and until the falling snow rendered the hillside work most
difficult; we then returned to Mariposa.

During this survey, while exploring the dividing ridges of the Merced
river and the South Fork, our party ran on to an encampment of the
wretched Yosemites; mostly old men and women. They had gone out on the
extreme southwestern point of the divide on the slope of the South Fork.

As Peterson planted his instrument for an observation, the Indians
cried out in alarm, thinking no doubt that he was aiming some infernal
machine to destroy them. I approached to see if I could recognize any
of them as those who had visited our store, before the murders of our
men. I also scrutinized their clothing; but their ragged garments would
not admit of even a surmise as to their quality or pattern.

Although I failed to recognize our visitors among these miserable
people; it was quite evident that I was known to them. I asked “who
it was that had killed the men at our store?” They at first pretended
not to understand me; but seeing that they were not believed, one came
forward, and in a mixture of Spanish and Indian informed me that it was
the Tuolume Indians that were the criminals; while they themselves (if
not the cleanest) were certainly the best Indians in the mountains.
Upon being asked why they were camped in such a place–without water,
they said they were at first afraid of our party and the glistening
instrument that had been aimed at them; but, that when they saw we
were measuring the ground, and marking the trees, they were no longer
alarmed, but were afraid of the Monos, whom they said were still angry
with them. I told them that it was because of their treachery and
dishonesty that they had been made to suffer, and then left them in
their wretchedness.

Quite early in the next year (1856), the survey for the water supply
was recommenced under instructions from Colonel Fremont, and, under
direction of his chief engineer, Mr. J. E. Clayton, Mr. Peterson was
placed in charge of the field-work. This work was executed with great
care, as on its accuracy the estimates depended. They were to be made
by a very eminent engineer of the Erie Canal, upon whose report, it was
supposed, Wall street would be governed. Peterson engaged me as his
assistant in this survey. During this season the Mann Brothers finished
their trail to the Yosemite, so that it was used by visitors. Hearing
that they had felled some immense trees and bridged the South Fork,
Mr. Peterson had hopes to reach the valley earlier in the season by
crossing the river at that place.

On reaching the South Fork, where we supposed the bridge to be we
found that a large tree had been felled across the stream with the
design of forming the foundation of a bridge, but it had fallen so
low, or so near the water on the opposite side, that a flood would be
likely to sweep it away, and it had, therefore, been abandoned. This
was a great disappointment to Mr. Peterson. As we could not ford the
stream, we would have to go into camp or wait for the water to fall or
go back, for the snow-clad ridges were impassable. While Peterson was
considering the matter, I took an axe and sloped and notched the butt
of the tree so that I was able to get my horse, an intelligent animal,
to clamber up on the prostrate trunk; when, without difficulty, I led
him safely across and landed him on the other side of the stream. We
had two mules, whose natural timidity caused them to hesitate before
attempting to climb the log, but their attachment for the horse, which
they had seen safely cross, with some _persuasion_ effected with a
stout cudgel counteracted their fears, and they too were safely led

The tree was about six feet in diameter. Its cork-like bark afforded
sure footing for the animals. Peterson–very much pleased–pronounced
this the most primitive bridge ever crossed by a pack-train, and
declared that it should be recorded as an original engineering feat.

While we were re-loading our animals the Mann Brothers came down to
us, as they said to learn how we had crossed the rushing torrent; and
were surprised to hear that we had utilized the tree abandoned by them.
They informed us that they were constructing a bridge further up the
stream, which would be ready for crossing in a week or two. We found no
further difficulty in reaching the valley. Not long after we had gone
into camp, and commenced our survey again, visitors began to come into
the valley. Several gentlemen from San Francisco visited our camp, one
of whom I remember was the Rev. Doctor Spier, of the Chinese Mission,
in San Francisco. Mr. Peterson had, upon my solicitation, “roded up”
to the level of the Pohona Fall, and made as accurate an estimate of
the probable height of El Capitan as could be done without the aid of
his transit. Mr. Peterson was therefore able to enlighten some of the
gentlemen from “the Bay,” as to the approximate height of El Capitan
and other prominent objects. Mr. Peterson afterwards made more accurate
measurements of heights.

I have no doubt that the four gentlemen referred to as living in
the valley, noticed in the note on page 18, in “Whitney’s Yosemite
Guide Book,” were of our party, who had notified the public of their
claim and intention to make that their residence. The house erected,
however, was never honored with a roof, and the material of which it
was composed, soon disappeared, after we ceased to occupy it. The
difficulties developed by our survey, disheartened the claimants. The
claim rights, as well as the claim shanty were alike abandoned.

The first white woman that ever visited the Yosemite was a Madame
Gautier, the housekeeper at the Franklin House, Mariposa. A few days
afterwards Mrs. Johnny Neil, of Mariposa, and Mrs. Thompson, of
Sherlocks, came up. Their courage and endurance should certainly be
made a matter of record. The next ladies to visit the place were of the
party with Mr. Denman, of “Denman’s High School,” in San Francisco.
After this it ceased to be a novelty to see ladies in the Yosemite.
Mr. Denman published an account of his trip. His communication was a
well written and instructive article. It was the _first_ description
that gave the public any definite idea of the magnitude of the scenery,
or any accuracy of measurements of the heights of the cliffs and
water-falls. I was present when Mr. Peterson gave to Mr. Denman the
results of his observations, and consequent estimate of heights. I
was amused at Mr. Denman’s expressions of surprise, and his anxious
but polite inquiries of Mr. Peterson if he was _sure_ his angles had
been correctly marked. Peterson colored slightly at the doubt implied
of his professional skill, but with unusual politeness and apparent
cheerfulness offered to make a resurvey of El Capitan or any other
prominent cliff that Mr. Denman would select for measurement.

The offer was quickly accepted, and a new determination of several
points of interest were made.

From the notes taken, each of the gentlemen computed the heights.

Mr. Peterson soon figured up the result of his work, and patiently
awaited the result of Mr. Denman’s, before he announced his own.

After figuring for sometime, Mr. Denman expressed a belief that
he had made a grand mistake somewhere in his calculations, for he
had made the result more than the previous estimates and above all
seeming probabilities. They then compared figures and found but little
difference in their heights. Mr. Denman again worked up the notes, and
was convinced of their correctness and reported his conclusions in
his descriptions. The first house erected in the valley for the
accommodation of visitors was _commenced_ in 1856, by Mr. Walworth and
Mr. Hite. It, was made of “boards” rived out of pine logs. The site was
that of our old camp-ground of 1851, or a little above it, and nearly
opposite the Yosemite Fall.

The next season a blue canvas-covered building was put up just above.
In 1858, Mr. Beardsley joined with Mr. Hite, and erected a wooden
house. This was afterwards kept by Mr. Peck, Mr. Longhurst, and after
1864, by Mr. Hutchings. Other accommodations for the public were also
opened, a popular one of which was a house kept by G. F. Leidig, known
to tourists as “Leidig’s Hotel.” The first permanent resident, was J.
C. Lamon, who made a claim in the upper part of the valley in 1860,
and who occupied it both summer and winter for many years. The other
residents in the valley only remaining during the season of tourists
visits. Before hotel accommodations were provided for the public,
visitors to the valley carried with them camp equipage and supplies
according to the necessities and inclinations of the parties interested.

In order to dispense with a retinue of camp followers, and the expense
of numerous employees, the duties of camp life were ordinarily divided
among the party, without regard to wealth, rank, or station in life.
It was usually made a point of honor, to at least try to share in
the necessary laborious requirements of their associates; although
the various duties were not always assigned to the capacity of the
individual, or to his adaptation to the position. The blunders were as
often sources of amusement, as serious inconveniences. As illustration,
I will narrate an incident with a party of excursionists in those early

By invitation, I met and accompanied a party from San Francisco on a
visit to the Yosemite. The gentlemen composing the party, were Mr.
Thomas Ayers, Mr. Forbes, of the firm of Forbes & Babcock, agents of
Pacific Mail S. S. Co.; Mr. Holladay, of same company; Mr. Easton,
of San Francisco, and Col. Riply, of the Commodore Perry expedition,
who, I believe, afterwards became General Riply, Chief of Ordinance,
U. S. A. Mr. Ayers was the artist who accompanied Mr. Hutchings on
his first visit to the valley. He was the first to sketch any of the
scenery of the Yosemite. He was afterwards employed in sketching by the
Harpers, of New York. While so employed, he was lost off the Farrilones
Islands by the capsizing of the schooner “Laura Beven.” Mr. Ayers was
a gentleman in feeling and manners. His ingenuity and adaptability to
circumstances, with his uniform kindness and good nature, made him the
very soul of the party.

This party spent several days in the valley. On the last day, it was
proposed to have a grand dinner. To make the event a memorable one,
it was decided that each one should have a representative dish of
his own individual preparation. We had a plentiful supply of canned
meats, fruits, etc., but it was proposed that our bill of fare should
consist of game and fish. Trout, grouse and quail, were then tolerably
abundant. To guard against a possibility of failure to supply a full
variety, Colonel Riply volunteered to provide a dish of beans of
his own cooking, which he thought he was prepared to furnish. The
cooking of beans was theoretically familiar to him, the Colonel said,
from having frequently observed the process among his soldiers. He
admitted that, practically, he had never tested the theory, but he
felt confident that he would not disgrace his position as a soldier
in the cooking of such a prominent army dish. From my knowledge of
their haunts, it was assigned to me to provide the game, while Messrs.
Easton, Ayers and Holladay, engaged to supply the spread with trout.
Mr. Forbes engaged to perform the duty of supplying wood and water,–a
very important office, he claimed, the very foundation of all our
endeavors. I left the Colonel busy on his part of the programme, and
soon acquired a liberal supply of grouse and quail.

As I came into camp from my hunt, my nostrils were saluted with the
smell of burnt beans. Mr. Forbes had supplied the fire most liberally,
and was resting from his labors to the _windward_. I removed the kettle
and inquired for the Colonel. Mr. Forbes replied that “Col. Riply
went down where the fishermen are engaged, and has been gone an hour
or more; no doubt he has forgotten his beans.” I hastened to repair
damages as far as I was able by removing those not scorched from off
the burnt ones. After scouring the kettle with sand, I succeeded in
getting them over a slow fire before Col. Riply returned. He soon came
hurriedly into camp, and after taking a look at his cookery, pronounced
them all right, but said he had _almost_ forgotten that he was on duty
as cook.

Observing that he was about to charge the kettle with an undue
proportion of salt pork, I again saved the beans, this time from
petrifaction, by remarking that their _delicacy_ would be enhanced by
parboiling the pork.

With my guardianship, the Colonel’s dish was brought on to the board in
a very good condition for eating, and all united in bestowing upon him
unstinted praise for providing so palatable an addition to our feast.
Col. Riply regretted that he had not provided _more_, but explained by
saying that he had supposed _they would swell more while cooking_.

The secret of the _burnt beans_, was known to all the others, but was
kept inviolate from the Colonel. He was unconscious of the joke, and
bestowed more attention on this standard New England dish than he did
upon the delicious trout and game. Our dinner was finished in bumpers
to Colonel Riply as _chef de cuisine_.

During the survey of the year, in addition to measurements, we gave
some attention to the geological features of the country we were
passing over. We found that the cañon below the Yosemite is about six
miles long, and so filled with vast granite bowlders and talus, that
it is impossible for any but the agile and sure-footed to pass safely
through. The river has to be crossed and recrossed so many times, by
jumping from bowlder to bowlder, where the water goes whirling and
dashing between–that if the rocks be moss-grown or slimy, as they may
be outside of continuous current–one’s life is endangered. During our
survey through this cañon, in the month of November, 1855, we failed to
get through in one day on our preliminary survey, and were compelled to
camp without food or blankets, only sheltered from a storm–half snow,
half rain–by an overhanging rock. The pelting mountain storm put out
our fires, as it swept down the cañon, and baffled all our attempts to
kindle a new flame.

The fall through the cañon is so great, that none but the largest
bowlders remain in the current. Some of these immense rocks are so
piled, one upon another, as to make falls of nearly one hundred feet.
The fall for the entire distance is about fifteen hundred feet.
Notwithstanding the fall is so great in so short a distance, advantage
may be taken of the configuration of the walls on either side to
construct a railroad up through the cañon into the valley, upon a
grade and trestle, that may be made practicable. This will, of course,
cost money, but it will probably be done. By tunneling the divide and
spanning the South Fork with a bridge, a narrow-gauge road could very
readily be built that would avoid the necessity of going _entirely_
through the cañon. This could be accomplished most economically by
trestling over the talus–at a favorable point–high enough to obtain
and preserve a suitable grade, until the sloping mountains below can
be reached, when the line can be run without difficulty to the most
favorable point of crossing the divide and the South Fork.

The obstructions from snow, encountered in a winter trip to the valley,
would by this route, be entirely avoided. Beside, the distance would be
somewhat lessened. By rail and stage it is now about 225 miles from San

After emerging from the cañon, with its precipitous granite cliffs and
water falls, the entire character of the river’s bed and banks are
changed. The cliffs have now all disappeared with the granite, and
although the steep high mountain divides encroach hard upon the river;
high bars or low flats continue on down to the mouth of the South Fork
on one side or the other, and then the flats rise higher to the plains.

The fall of the Merced river from the foot of the cañon to the valley
of the San Joaquin, averages about thirty-five feet to the mile as
estimated by Mr. Peterson.

The outcroppings from the rocky divides below the cañon, are
porphyritic, metamorphic, and trappean rocks, silicious limestone,
gneiss, green stone, quartz and several varieties of slate. At a point
on the left bank of the Merced, near the plain, there is an outcropping
of very good limestone, and it is also found, at one point in the

The quartz lodes drained by the Merced river, especially those of
Marble Springs, Gentry’s gulch and Maxwells creek, bore a good
reputation in early days; and as the drainage may be made complete, no
difficulty in working them need be encountered. In some cases, the more
prominent lodes, maintain their general direction and thickness (seldom
richness) on both sides of the Merced; as, for instance, the celebrated
Carson vein. This vein outcrops at the Peña Blanca, near Coultersville,
and again south of the Merced river, on a spur running down from Mount
Bullion. Here the vein is known as the Johnson Lode, and is divided
into the Pine Tree and Josephine sections. These were made famous as
the subject of a legal dispute, and were occupied by opposing and armed
forces in the interest of “The Merced Mining Company,” on the one side,
and Col. Fremont and his associates on the other.

This lode was discovered in the winter of 1850-’51, by a progressive
Virginia liberal, named B. F. Johnson, familiarly known as “Quartz

His discoveries led to the investment of millions of capital in mining
enterprises, and if the share-holders of Mariposa Stock have not yet
realized upon their investments, it cannot be for want of material;
but, I must return to my subject. After having completed the survey of
this year, 1856, and having interests at Marble Springs, I joined with
George W. Coulter, of Coultersville, and other citizens in constructing
what became known as “_The Coultersville Free Trail_.” We thought the
scheme advisable, but the “_general public_” thought the trail a little
too progressive for the wants of Coultersville, and the burden of
construction was left to be borne by a few. I never realized any return
from this investment. This trail was well located, and considering the
amount expended, a comparatively easy one, for the trip to and from the
valley was made with comfortable ease.

The trail completed this year by the Mann brothers required greater
labor, and was not as good a route, but the views of the Yosemite from
their trail, were the best. The Mann brothers did not find theirs
a paying investment. They never realized their expenditures, and
eventually sold the trail at a loss.

In locating the Coultersville trail, little or no aid was afforded me
by the Indian trails that existed at that time; for horses had not
seemingly been taken into the valley on the north side, and the foot
trails used by the Indians left no traces in the loose granite soil
of the higher ridges, but what were soon obliterated by the wash from
the melting snow. Where trails were found, they had been purposely
run over ground impassable to horses, and they were, consequently,
unavailable for our use. Through liberal aid from the “Empire State
Mining Company,” located at their quartz lode near the Marble Springs,
Mr. Barton and myself had built a wagon road from Coultersville to Bull
Creek. This road afforded a good commencement for the Yosemite trail.

The first encampment reached after leaving Bull creek, was “Deer Flat,”
so named by us from having startled a small drove, as we went into camp
here. One of the deer was shot, and afforded an addition to our camp

The next camp named was “Hazel Green,” from the number of hazel bushes
growing near a beautiful little meadow.

Our next move was to “Crane Flat.” This name was suggested by the
shrill and startling cry of some sand-hill cranes we surprised as they
were resting on this elevated table. Going from this camp, we came to
what I finally called “Tamarack Flat,” although the appealing looks of
the grizzlies we met on their way through this pass to the Tuolumne,
caused me to hesitate before deciding upon the final baptism; the
Grizzlies did not stay to urge any claim, and being _affectionately_
drawn to the trees, we named the camp “Tamarack Flat.” From this flat
I blazed out two trails, the lower one for early, the upper for later
use; as from this point the snow remains upon the upper trail until
quite late; and although much nearer, the snow renders it difficult
to travel in the early part of the season. From “Tamarack Flat” to
the edge of the valley is but little more than three miles. The whole
distance from Coultersville being 41½ miles as stated by Prof. Whitney.

With but little fatigue to one accustomed to the saddle, the trip
_down_ to Coultersville or to Mariposa was made in a day.

The wagon roads now opened, are calculated to avoid the deep snow that
delays the use of higher trails, or roads, until later in the season;
but one traveling by these routes, loses some of the grandest views to
be had of the High Sierras and western ranges of hills and mountains;
on the old Coultersville Trail, or by way of the old Mariposa Trail.
In winter or early spring, in order to avoid the snow, visitors are
compelled to take the route of the lowest altitude. The route by Hite’s
cove is called but thirty-two miles from Mariposa to the valley; while
that by Clark’s, on the South Fork, has been usually rated at about
forty-two miles. Where the time can be spared, I would suggest that
what is called “the round trip” be made; that is, go by one route and
return by another; and a “_Grand Round_” trip will include a visit to
the “High Sierra:” going by one _divide_ and returning by another.

As to guides and accommodating hosts, there will always be found a
sufficient number to meet the increasing wants of the public, and the
enterprise of these gentlemen will suggest a ready means of becoming
acquainted with their visitors. Soon, no doubt, a railroad will be laid
into the valley, and when the “_iron horse_” shall have ridden over
all present obstacles, a new starting point for summer tourists will
be built up in the Yosemite; that the robust lovers of nature may view
the divine creations that will have been lost to view in a Pullman.
The exercise incident to a summer _lounge_ in the “High Sierras,” will
restore one’s vigor, and present new views to the eyes of the curious;
while those with less time or strength at their disposal, will content
themselves with the beauties and pleasures of the valley.

The passes and peaks named in Prof. Whitney’s guide-book are only the
more prominent ones; for turn the eyes along the course of the Sierra
Nevada in a northerly or southerly direction at the head of Tuolumne,
Merced, San Joaquin, King’s, Kah-we-ah or Kern rivers, and almost
countless peaks will be seen, little inferior in altitude to those
noted in his table.

The highest of these peaks, Mount Whitney, is, according to Prof.
Whitney, at least 200 feet higher than any measured in the Rocky
Mountains by the topographers of the Hayden survey. A writer in the
Virginia (Nevada) _Enterprise_ says: “Whitney stands a lordly creation
amid a rugged and grand company of companion peaks, for his nearest
neighbor, Mount Tyndall, rises 14,386 feet, and Mount Kah-we-ah, but a
few miles off, is 14,000 feet.” Whitney affords “the widest horizon in
America; a dome of blue, immeasurable, vast sweeps of desert lowlands,
range on range of mighty mountains, grand and eloquent; grace,
strength, expansion, depth, breadth, height, all blended in one grand
and awful picture. And as the eye takes in these features, a sense of
soaring fills the mind, and one seems a part of the very heavens whose
lofty places he pierces. The breadth and compass of the world grows
upon the mind as the mighty distances flow in upon the view like waves
of the sea…. The best that can be said or written but suggests; the
eye alone can lead the mind up to a true conception of so mighty and
marvelous a group of wonders.”

It is true that one standing upon the dividing ridges of the Rio
Grande, Arkansas, Colorado or Platte, is charmed by the views presented
of far reaching plains and noble mountains, but it is doubtful if
any one view can be found in North America so grand and thrillingly
sublime as may be seen in the Sierra Nevadas. The scenery of the Yellow
Stone and of the Colorado canyon have characteristic wonders that are
_sui generis_; but those localities are not desirable for continuous

The many inquiries that the author has received concerning his views
upon the gold deposits of California, has induced him to add this
chapter to his work.

It has been said by an earnest and astute observer, that “The cooled
earth permits us no longer to comprehend the phenomena of the primitive
creation, because the fire which pervaded it is extinguished,” and
again that “There is no great foundation (of truth), which does not
repose upon a legend.” There has been a tradition among the California
Indians, that the Golden Gate was opened by an earthquake, and that
the waters that once covered the great plain of the Sacramento and San
Joaquin basins were thus emptied into the ocean. This legendary geology
of the Indians is about as good and instructive as some that has been
taught by professors of the science, and as scarcely any two professors
of geology agree in their theories of the origin and distribution
of the gold in California, I have thought it probable that a few
_unscientific_ views upon the subject will interest my readers.

The origin of the gold found in California seems to me to have been
clearly volcanic. The varying conditions under which it is found may
be accounted for by the varying heat and force of the upheaval, the
different qualities of the matrix or quartz that carried the gold
and filled the fissures of the veins or lodes, the influence that
resistance of the inclosing walls may have exerted when it was slight
or very great, and finally the disintegrating influences of air, water,
frost and attrition of the glaciers, and the deposition in water.

The theories of aqueous deposit (in the lodes) and of electrical
action, do not satisfy my understanding, and I go back in thought to
the ten years of observation and practical experience in the gold
mines, and to the problems that were then but partially solved. Looking
at California as it is to-day, it will be conceded that its territory
has been subjected to distinct geological periods, and those periods
greatly varying in their force in different parts of the State. Within
the principal gold-bearing region of California, and especially along
the line of or near the Carson vein or lode, coarse gold has been
found, and in such large masses, free of quartz, as to force the
conviction upon the mind that the gold so found had been thrown out
_through_ and _beyond_ its matrix into a bed of volcanic ashes, very
nearly assuming the appearance that lead might assume when melted
and thrown in bulk upon an ash heap. Where the resistance was great,
as when thrown through wall rocks of gneiss, or green stone, the
liquefaction of the quartz seems to have been more complete, and the
specific gravity of the gold being so much greater than that of the
quartz, its momentum, when in large quantities, carried it out beyond
its matrix, leaving the more diffused particles to be held suspended in
the fast cooling quartz, or to settle into “pockets,” or small fissures.

Prof. Le Conte says: “The invariable association of metaliferous veins
with metamorphism demonstrates the agency of heat.” Experiments of
Daubre and others prove that water at 750° Fahr. reduces to a pasty
condition nearly all rocks. Deposits of silica in a gelatinous form,
that hardens on cooling, may be seen at some of the geysers of the
Yellowstone; the heat, no doubt, being at a great depth. Quartz, like
glass and lava, cools rapidly _externally_ when exposed to air, or
a cool surface, and would very readily hold suspended any substance
_volatilized_, or crudely mixed into its substance. Its difficult
_secondary_ fusion is no obstacle to a belief in the capacity of heat
under great pressure, to account for the phenomena that may be observed
in the gold mines. Ashes derived from lavas have been found rich in
crystalline substances. Crystals and microliths, and pyrites in cubes
are, no doubt, of volcanic origin. The eruptions of moderate character
seem to be the result of igneous fusion, while those of an explosive
type are probably aquæ-igneous.

It is altogether probable from experiments tried by Stanislas Muenier
and others, that the sudden removal of pressure is a sufficient cause
of superheated water and mineral substances flashing into steam and
lava. The geysers are evidently formed by varying temperature and
interruption of flow by removal of pressure. Mr. Fanques, in an article
in the _Popular Science Monthly_ for August, 1880, says: “Discovery of
microliths enclosed in volcanic rocks is a proof of immediate formation
of crystals.”

The phenomena attending the recent eruptions in Java demonstrate the
incredible force and chemical effects of superheated steam. Modern
researches and experiments in mechanical and chemical forces have
greatly modified the views once entertained by geologists, and I think
that it will now be conceded that repeated volcanic disturbances,
taken in connection with the action of glaciers, will account for
most, if not all, the phenomena discoverable in the gold fields and
mountains of California. As a rule, gold-bearing veins in clay or
talcose slates have the gold more evenly diffused than those found in
the harder rocks, where pockets of crystals, pyrites and gold will
most likely be found. If gold is found in seams or masses it will be
very free from impurities, and the quartz itself will be most likely
white and vitreous. When gold is found in or near to a lode that has
been decomposed, it will be found porous and ragged, but if it has
been deposited some distance from its source it will be more or less
rounded and swedged by contact with the stones and gravel that were
carried with it by the stream of water or ice that conveyed it to its
placer. In the beds of the ancient and more modern rivers the gold
is much more worn than that found in the ravines or gulches, and the
coarser gold will be found at the bottom, the scale gold in the gravel
above, and the fine or flour gold in the mixture of clay, gravel and
sand nearer the surface. The scale gold, no doubt, has been beaten by
repeated blows of stones brought in contact with it while moving in the
bed of the stream, and the flour gold is that reduced by the continual
attrition of the moving mass upon the gold.

Prof. Le Conte says: “There are in many parts of California two systems
of river beds–an old and a new…. The old, or dead, river system runs
across the present drainage system in a direction far more southerly;
this is especially true of northern members of the system. Farther
south the two systems are more nearly parallel, showing less movement
in that region. These old river beds are filled with drift gravel, and
often covered with lava.” The lava referred to is relatively of modern
origin, and the molten streams have in many instances covered the
ancient streams, and in others cut them in twain. The “Blue Lead” is a
very old river bed that has been the principal source of supply of the
placer gold of the northern mines, and it must have existed as a river
long anterior to the more modern upheavals that disturbed its course
by forming mountain torrents to rend its barriers and cut across its
channel. That channel crosses some of the present tributaries of the
Sacramento and San Joaquin and contains fossil remains of trees, plants
and fruits not now indigenous to California.

The well rounded boulders and pebbles found in the beds of these
ancient rivers render it probable that they were of considerable
length, and that they may have been the channels of very ancient
glaciers. It is also probable that the region covered by glaciers
at different epochs is much more extensive than has been generally
supposed. To me it appears probable, that during some of the eras of
formation, they may have stretched across the entire continent. I have
not space to give in detail the evidences of glacial action, but will
simply state that _remains_ of glaciers may be seen by an observing
eye at intervals from the Atlantic to the Pacific; in Minnesota and
in the Rocky Mountains, they are especially abundant. Prof. Le Conte
says: “The region now occupied by the Sierra range was a marginal sea
bottom, receiving abundant sediments from a continent to the east.
At the end of the Jurassic, this line of enormously thick off-shore
deposits yielded to horizontal thrust, was crushed together and swollen
up into the Sierra range. All the ridges, peaks and canyons, all that
constitutes the grand scenery of these mountains are the result of an
almost inconceivable subsequent erosion.”

I have no doubt of the truth of this theory of formation as it relates
to the Sierra Nevada ranges as they exist to-day, for the intrusion
of the granite into the slate formations suggests a force far greater
than can be ascribed to volcanic action alone. The _previous_ condition
of the “continental mass” can not be so well imagined; yet reasoning
from what we know of the present condition of the Sierras we may with
propriety assume that great changes had occurred in the territory
embracing the Sierras Nevada long prior to their upheaval. The changes
that have occurred since are too abundant and enduring to require more
than a reference to the localities. The “glacier pavements” of the
Sierras are so conspicuous that, as Mr. John Muir says: “Even dogs and
horses gaze wonderingly at the strange brightness of the ground, and
smell it, and place their feet cautiously upon it, as if afraid of
falling or sinking.” These glacier-smoothed rocks “are simply flat or
gently undulating areas of solid granite which present the unchanged
surface upon which the ancient glaciers flowed, and are found in the
most perfect condition in the sub-alpine region, at an elevation of
from 8,000 to 9,000 feet. Some are miles in extent, only interrupted
by spots that have given way to the weather, while the best preserved
portions are bright and stainless as the sky, reflecting the sunbeams
like glass, and shining as if polished every day, notwithstanding they
have been exposed to corroding rains, dew, frost and snow for thousands
of years.”

This statement of Mr. Muir will especially apply to the “glistening
rocks” at the sources of the Merced and Tuolumne rivers, in view on
this trail through the Mono Pass. The evidences of past glacial action
in polishing the domes, mountains and valleys _above_ the Yosemite
valley, are too undeniable for controversy, but how much of the
Yosemite itself may have been produced by glacial action will probably
always remain a theme for discussion among geologists.

Prof. Samuel Kneeland, the well known author of “Wonders of the
Yosemite,” in a letter to me upon the subject, says: “I think there
can be no doubt that the valley was filled, and 1,000 feet above, by
ice–that while the _mass above_, moved, that in the valley, conforming
to its configuration, was comparatively stationary, lasting much
longer than the first, gradually melting to a lake, now represented by
the Merced river.

“I agree with Prof. Whitney that the valley was the result of a
subsidence, long anterior to the glacial epoch, and that the valley
itself, except upon its edges and upper sides, has not been materially
modified by the glacier movement.” Prof. J. D. Whitney, in his
geological report says: “The Yosemite valley is a unique and wonderful
locality; it is an exceptional creation; … cliffs absolutely
vertical, like the upper portions of the Half Dome and El Capitan, and
of such immense height as these, are, so far as we know, to be seen
nowhere else…. How has this unique valley been formed, and what are
the geological causes which have produced its wonderful cliffs, and all
the other features which combine to make this locality so remarkable?
These questions we will endeavor to answer, as well as our ability
to pry into what went on in the deep-seated regions of the earth in
former geological ages will permit.” Mr. Whitney explicitly states his
belief that most of the great canyons and valleys have resulted from
aqueous denudation and erosion and cites the cutting through the lava
of Table Mountain at Abbey’s Ferry on the Stanislaus river as proof,
and, continuing, to the exception, says: “It is sufficient to look for
a moment at the vertical faces of El Capitan and the Bridal Veil Rock
turned down the valley, or away from the direction in which the eroding
forces must have acted, to be able to say that aqueous erosion could
not have been the agent employed to do any such work…. Much less can
it be supposed that the peculiar form of the Yosemite is due to the
erosive action of ice…. Besides, there is no reason to suppose, or
at least no proof, that glaciers have ever occupied the valley, or any
portion of it…. So that this theory, based on entire ignorance of the
whole subject, may be dropped without wasting any more time upon it.

“The theory of erosion not being admissible to account for the
formation of the Yosemite valley, we have to fall back on some one
of those movements of the earth’s crust to which the primal forms
of mountain valleys are due. The forces which have acted to produce
valleys are complex in their nature, and it is not easy to classify
the forms, which have resulted from them, in a satisfactory manner.”
After describing the generally received theories of mountain and valley
formations, Mr. Whitney says: “We conceive that, during the process
of upheaval of the Sierra, or possibly at some time after that had
taken place, there was at the Yosemite a subsidence of a limited area,
marked by lines of ‘fault’ or fissure crossing each other somewhat
nearly at right angles. In other and more simple language, the bottom
of the valley sank down to an unknown depth, owing to its support being
withdrawn from underneath, during some of those convulsive movements
which must have attended the upheaval of so extensive and elevated a
chain, no matter how slow we may imagine the process to have been.
Subsidence over extensive areas of portions of the earth’s crust is not
at all a new idea in geology, and there is nothing in this peculiar
application of it which need excite surprise. It is the great amount
of vertical displacement for the small area implicated which makes
this a peculiar case; but it would not be easy to give any good reason
why such an exceptionable result should not be brought about amid the
complicated play of forces which the elevation of a great mountain
chain must set in motion. By the adoption of the subsidence theory for
the formation of the Yosemite, we are able to get over one difficulty
which appears insurmountable to any other. This is the very small
amount of debris at the base of the cliffs, and, even at a few points,
its entire absence.” In the space allotted to this chapter, I am able
only to quote a few passages from Prof. Whitney, but refer the curious
to his recent work, “Climatic Changes of Later Geological Times.”

In contrast to the conclusions arrived at by Prof. Whitney, I extract
from Prof. Le Conte’s Elements of Geology, pages 526 and 527, the
following: “1st. During the epoch spoken of (the glacial) a great
glacier, receiving its tributaries from Mount Hoffman, Cathedral Peaks,
Mount Lyell and Mount Clark groups, filled Yosemite valley, and passed
down Merced canyon. The evidences are clear everywhere, but especially
in the upper valleys, where the ice action lingered longest. 2nd.
At the same time tributaries from Mount Dana, Mono Pass, and Mount
Lyell met at the Tuolumne meadows to form an immense glacier which,
overflowing its bounds a little below Soda springs, sent a branch down
the Ten-ie-ya canyon to join the Yosemite glacier, while the main
current flowed down the Tuolumne canyon and through the Hetch-Hetchy
valley. Knobs of granite 500 to 800 feet high, standing in its pathway,
were enveloped and swept over, and are now left round and polished
and scored in the most perfect manner. This glacier was at least 40
miles long and 1,000 feet thick, for its stranded lateral-moraines may
be traced so high along the slopes of the bounding mountains.” In an
article by John Muir, published in the New York _Tribune_, and kindly
furnished me by Prof. Kneeland, will be seen views differing from those
of Prof. Whitney, but Mr. Muir has spent long years of study upon the
glacial summits of the Sierras, and if an enthusiast, is certainly a
close student of nature. The paper was written to his friend Prof.
Kunkle, of Boston, who had views similar to his own. Mr. Muir says:
“I have been over my glacial territory, and am surprised to find it
so small and fragmentary. The work of ancient ice which you and I
explored, and which we were going to christen ‘Glacial System of the
Merced’ is only a few tiny topmost branches of one tree, in a vast
glacial forest.

“All of the magnificent mountain truths that we read together last
Autumn are only beginning sentences in the grand Sierra Nevada volume.
The Merced ice basin was bounded by the summits of the main range and
by the spurs which once reached to the summits, viz.: the Hoffman
and Obelisk ranges. In this basin not one island existed; all of its
highest peaks were washed and overflowed by the ice–Starr King, South
Dome and all. Vast ice currents broke over into the Merced basin, and
most of the Tuolumne ice had to cross the great Tuolumne canyon.

“It is only the vastness of the glacial pathways of this region that
prevents their being seen and comprehended at once. A scholar might
be puzzled with the English alphabet if it was written large enough,
and, if each letter was made up of many smaller ones. The beds of those
vast ice rivers are veiled with forests and a network of tiny water
channels. You will see by the above sketch that Yosemite was completely
overwhelmed with glaciers, and they did not come squeezing, groping
down to the main valley by the narrow, angular, tortuous canyons of
the Ten-ie-ya, Nevada or South canyons, but they flowed grandly and
directly above all of its highest domes, like a steady wind, while
their lower currents went mazing and swedging down in the crooking and
dome-blocked channels of canyons.

“Glaciers have made every mountain form of this whole region; even the
summit mountains are only fragments of their pre-glacial selves.

“Every summit wherein are laid the wombs of glaciers is steeper on
its north than its south side, because of the depth and duration
of sheltered glaciers, above those exposed to the sun, and this
steepness between the north and south sides of summits is greater in
the lower summits, as those of the Obelisk group. This tells us a
word of glacial climate. Such mountains as Starr Ring, Cloud’s Rest,
and Cathedral Peak do not come under this general law because their
contours were determined by the ice which flowed about and above them,
but even among these inter-basin heights we frequently find marked
difference of steepness between their north and south sides, because
many of the higher of these mountains and crests extending east and
west, continued to shelter and nourish fragmentary glacierets long
after the death of the main trunk to which they belonged.

“In ascending any of the principal streams of this region, lakes in
all stages of decay are found in great abundance, gradually becoming
younger until we reach the almost countless gems of the summits
with basins bright as their crystal waters. Upon the Nevada and its
branches, there are not fewer than a hundred of these lakes, from a
mile to a hundred yards in diameter, with countless glistening pondlets
about the size of moons. Both the Yosemite and the Hetch-Hetchy valleys
are lake basins filled with sand and the matter of morains easily and
rapidly supplied by their swift descending rivers from upper morains.
The mountains above Yosemite have scarce been touched by any other
denudation but that of ice. Perhaps all of the post glacial denudation
of every kind would not average an inch in depth for the whole region.

“I am surprised to find that water has had so little to do with the
mountain structure of this region. None of the upper Merced streams
give record of floods greater than those of to-day. The small water
channel, with perpendicular walls, is about two feet in depth a few
miles above the Little Yosemite. The Nevada here, even in flood, never
was more than four or five feet in depth. Glacial striæ and glacial
drift, undisturbed on banks of streams but little above the present
line of high water mark, is sufficient proof.”

The views entertained by Mr. Muir are, for the most part, in consonance
with my own. That the valley was originally formed as supposed by
Prof. Whitney I do not doubt, but to suppose that the vast bodies
of ice, stated by Mr. Whitney to have existed at the sources of
the Merced river, could have halted in their glacial flow down the
steep declivities of its canyons, seems as absurd as to suppose one
entertaining opposite views “ignorant of the whole subject.” As a
matter susceptible of eternal proof, I will state that in the canyon
below the Yosemite there are existing to-day, large, well rounded
bowlders that I think a geologist would say had been brought from above
the valley; and if so, water alone could scarcely have brought them
over the sunken bed of the valley, or if filled to its present level
of about thirty-five feet descent to the mile, the laws that govern
aqueous deposits would have left those huge masses of rock far above
their present location in the canyon. Some of the bowlders referred
to will weigh twenty tons or more, and, in connection with flat or
partially rounded rocks fallen, probably, from the adjacent cliff, form
waterfalls in the middle of the canyon, of from fifty to one hundred
feet of perpendicular height. The fall through the canyon averages over
two hundred feet to the mile. Well rounded bowlders of granite and
other hard stones may be seen for long distances below the Yosemite,
on hillsides and flats far above the present bed of the river, and, in
some instances, deposited with those bowlders, have been found well
rounded and swedged masses of gold. The experiments and observations
of Agassiz, Forbes and others, render it probable that the valley of
the Yosemite was filled with ice, but that the upper surface moved more
rapidly, carrying down most of the material brought from mountains
above the valley. The observations of Prof. Tyndall render it almost
certain that a glacier does not move as a rigid mass or on its bed, but
as a plastic substance, as asphalt for instance.

Partial liquefaction by pressure would enable a glacier in the Yosemite
to conform to the inequalities of its configuration, and regelation
would perhaps retard its flow sufficiently to enable the more rapid
moving surface and center of the glacier to carry its burden on from
above without marking the lower portion of the inclosing walls, as
for instance, may be seen at Glacier Point. It has been suggested
that “the immense weight of ice that once filled the Yosemite had
an important part in the formation of it.” This idea is untenable,
because the valley must have already been formed, in order for space to
have existed for “the immense weight of ice;” and unless the earth’s
crust under the valley was previously broken as suggested in the able
theory of Prof. Whitney, no possible weight of any kind could exert a
depressing influence upon the surface.

If it were possible, for the reconciliation of geologists, to believe
that the subsidence in the valley occurred at about the close of
the glacial flow, thereby changing the appearance of the inclosing
walls, yet still leaving material to fill the chasm, a great part of
the mystery that will always remain as one of the “Wonders of the
Yosemite,” would then disappear. As it is, we are compelled to believe,
not in miracles, but that the glacier that flowed over the Yosemite was
so great in depth as to leave, like some deep sea or ocean, its bottom
undisturbed by the tumultuous aerial strife upon its surface.

Now, those glacial heights have, at times, a solitude unutterly
profound! Not a bird or beast to break the stillness, nor disturb the
solemn charm. Nor does the Indian, even, loiter on his way, but hastens
on down to his mountain meadows or wooded valleys. There, if anywhere,
the poet’s idea can be realized, that:

“Silence is the heart of all things; sound the fluttering of its
Which the fever and the spasm of the universe convulse.
Every sound that breaks the silence only makes it more profound,
Like a crash of deafening thunder in the sweet, blue stillness
Let thy soul walk softly in thee, as a saint in heaven unshod,
For to be alone with silence, is to be alone with God.”

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