John Muir, 1838 - 1914

portrait of John Muir
Portrait by Underwood & Underwood (29 May 1912)
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Born: 21 April 1838, Dunbar, East Lothian, Scotland, UK
Died: 24 December 1914, Los Angeles, California

Daniel Muir was a strict and religious man who was fond of the lash, and son John was a spirited and curious boy who was its frequent recipient. By the time the Muirs moved to Wisconsin in 1849, John could recite the entire New Testament and most of the Old but was fond of hunting birds nests and fighting. The family established Fountain Lake Farm near Portage, Wisconsin, then moved to Hickory Hill Farm. Muir attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison for several years but never advanced past freshman status due to his eclectic class choices. In 1864, possibly in fear of the draft, he left for Canada where he and brother Daniel worked in a lumber mill on Lake Huron. In 1866 Muir took a job as an industrial engineer in a carriage-parts plant at Indianapolis, an accident there drove a tool into one eye causing blindness for several weeks. Taken aback by that he set out on foot towards the south, seeking the "wildest, leafiest, and least trodden way I could find". He intended to continue into South America but came down with malaria in Florida and booked sea passage to San Francisco. He immediately went into the Yosemite Valley, working there for a season as a shepherd, then built a cabin such that Yosemite Creek went through one corner. After reading from a battered volume of Ralph Waldo Emerson for three years he was delighted when Emerson visited Yosemite. They spent a day together and Emerson offered Muir a teaching position at Harvard, which was declined. In 1878 Muir married Louisa Strentzel and they moved into a large home on her family's orchard. Muir was devoted to the family and the farm but it clearly wasn't what his spirit needed so after six years his wife would "shoo him back up" to the mountains for a while and he devoted most of his time at the farm to writing. In 1890 Muir attempted to have Yosemite transferred to the custody of the National Park Service, and in 1892 he formed the Sierra Club. In 1903 President Theodore Roosevelt came to Yosemite with his entourage but asked Muir to show him "the real Yosemite". The two left the others and spent a day together and a night under the stars, waking to fresh snow; in 1905 Yosemite Valley and Mariposa Grove were transferred to the federal park system. His final battle was to block a dam that would flood the Hetch Hetchy valley, which Muir felt was even more stunning than Yosemite, to provide drinking water for San Francisco. Roosevelt saw that no action was taken, William Howard Taft suspended Interior Department approval of the project, but Woodrow Wilson authorized the dam in December of 1913. He was profoundly disheartened by this development, and the following year he came down with pneumonia.

Biography from Wikipedia and Sierra Club with Google Earth

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