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William Frederic Badè Tribute

by William E. Colby

The year 1903 will always be memorable in the annals of the Sierra Club. It was in June of that year that a young instructor, who had but recently been added to the teaching staff of the Pacific Theological Seminary, joined the Club and applied for membership in its summer outing. The Club was planning what at that time was an ambitious trip for so large a party - a trip to the Kern River Canyon and Mount Whitney.

It is difficult for Club members of today to realize what an undertaking it was in 1903 for even a small party to visit the headwaters of the Kern. That basin could only be entered in those days from the west, by one or two very steep, rocky, and dangerous trails, which stand out in vivid contrast with he wide easy-grade,boulevard-like trails of today. The trip was one of real pioneering and adventure for the more than two hundred members of the outing party, and no one of that large group enjoyed it more or got more out of it or added more to the pleasure of his fellow-members than the young theologian, William Frederic Badè.

He was swell-sponsored,for he had as his camp-mate, Dr. John Knox McLean,the beloved and elderly president of the Pacific Theological Seminary, who had a wealth of mountain experience back of him. He was also a close friend of Warren Olney, who was there with his wife and two daughters. It was in Mr. Olney's law office that the Sierra Club had literally been born, for Mr. Olney had done most of the drafting of its charter and bylaws. Dr. McLean was also a charter member and staunch supporter of the Club, so that Dr. Badè traveled under an aegis that represented the finest and best in the Club's life and activities.

It was little wonder, then, that Dr. Badè became such a militant champion of all the principles that the Club stands for. He was by nature an out-of-doors man and reveled in the opportunities for adventure and study afforded by the Kern River outing. After a youth spent in the East, the vastness and majesty of the rugged peaks which rimmed the Kern River basin and the enormous depths of the canyon made a profound impression upon him and easily won him over as a staunch defender of those priceless regions of the High Sierra. His multifold impressions of that trip were presently set forth in his own delightful way in the Sierra Club Bulletin. [1]

It was on this Kern outing that Dr. Badè had his first chance to study the water-ouzel - that saucy sprite of mountain stream made immortal by John Muir's famous "bird biography." [2] A pair were nesting on a ledge behind a waterfall on Coyote Creek, where the Club had its main camp in the Kern River Canyon, and to rech their nest and feed their young the parent birds had to fly through this sheet of crystal which poured down in front of their home.

This chance to observe the life habits of an unusual and shay bird made a great appeal to a man of Dr. Badè's instincts and he spent many patient hours watching and photographing these birds; though it must be said these vigils created great consternation among the fair members of the party, for this pool was in the women's portion of the camp area,and afforded an ideal opportunity for bathing. That Dr. Badè's observations were of a high order, both from the standpoint of scientific description and poetic insight as well, is amply proved by the splendid account of these studies which appeared in the Sierra Club Bulletin. [3]

This intense interest in the natural life about him was one od Dr. Badè's chief characteristics. On subsequent outings, for he went with the Club frequently, unless on some trip abroad, he amazed and delighted everyone with his almost uncanny knowledge of bird and animal habits. Within a few hours after arrival in a new campsite, and with the aid of those also interested whom he would conscript as willing assistants, he would have located every bird's nest in the vicinity and laid plans for photographing the elusive occupants. [4].

As might be expected, he was fond of the flowers, shrubs, and trees, as well, and studied them scientifically. He also had a more than ordinary knowledge of geology and other allied subjects. He was one of the most popular speakers at the campfire gatherings, and many were the nights when he held his audience entranced by his tales of the habits of birds or of his travels in foreign lands. He seemed to have more eyes than the rest of us, and his powers of observation and retention of what he observed were exceptional.

He would often come into camp with a fungus growth that was new to most of us and proceed to have it cooked and served to a favored few; not, however, without emphatic protests from our faithful Chinese chef, Charley Tuck, who invariably prophesied that the novel diet would "heap killum evlybody." But the partakers all survived,and not without good reason, for Dr. Badè, in his younger days in Pennsylvania, had been a student under Machelvain, the greatest mycologist in America. In this way we were introduced to the edible qualities of the coral mushroom and the sierran puffball. He was also interested in the study of mosses and was a corresponding member of the Sullivant Moss Chapter.

On these outings Dr. Badè seldom mentioned his lifework, and except for the fact that sometimes on a Sunday morning he would hold services in some quiet secluded spot, where those who chose might attend, no one would have suspected him to be one of the outstanding authorities on the study of religion. To appreciate the depth and beauty of his religious thought one should read the beautiful verse which he wrote and which he read on a local Sierra Club walk in the Berkeley hills on Thanksgiving Day, 1921. [5].

He was fond of adventure and sport,and with all his patient observation of birds and flowers he still found time for trout fishing and mountain climbing. On several different years I was accompanied by Dr. Badè on a favorite trip I used to take, starting from Tehama and drifting down the Sacramento River in a scull boat with blind in front, hunting ducks and geese and studying the wild life. Those were exciting and adventuresome days filled with novel experiences, and it gave me the very best of opportunities to know the real Dr. Badè - his fine comradeship, his even temper, his unfailing humor, and his catholic and sympathetic views of life and people.

The gorgeous curtains of grapevines in rich autumn coloring festooned from giant sycamores and oaks hanging into the very waters of the river, violent storms that threatened to blow down our little tent at night and impeded our progress by day, myriads of wild fowl that filled the sky, schools of spawning salmon that crowded the river, the elusive otter and other wild life - all made a profound impression on us, and we both counted them among the rare experiences of life.

It was characteristic of him to have joined a party on the 1904 outing which knapsacked down the great and, at that time, seldom traveled canyon of the Tuolumne, and from the Tuolumne Meadows to Hetch Hetchy Valley. All of the knapsackers came into the camp from the main party, which by that time had been established in Hetch Hetchy, literally in rags and tatters. This wear and tear suffered from the rocks and brush of the gorge must have been particularly disconcerting to Dr. Badè because he had the reputation of being dressed most immaculately for a mountaineer. He has described this rough pioneering trip in the Sierra Club Bulletin [6]

I have narrated the foregoing incidents to bring out the fact that Dr. Badè entered enthusiastically and actively into the life of the Sierra Club from his first contact with it. The Club represented everything that he himself stood for - love of nature, teaching others the value of the out-of-doors, and, above all, crusading so that these priceless gifts might not be destroyed or mutilated. John Muir was still the great living source of inspiration in such matters, and Dr. Badè very naturally gravitated into his sphere of influence and formed a friendship which, strong at first, became increasingly greater. HIs appreciation of John Muir's life-work is expressed in the article he wrote for the Sierra Club Bulletin entitled "to Higher Sierra." [7].

I can enumerate only a few of Dr. Badè's activities in the Sierra Club. In 1907 he became a director of the Sierra Club, an office in which he continued for the rest of his life. After several years in which he showed his interest in the Sierra Club Bulletin by contributing articles and conducting its book-review section, he was appointed Editor. From 1910 to 1922 he served the Club in this capacity and was largely responsible for bringing this publication to the high standard of excellence which it still enjoys. In May, 1919, he was elected President of the Club, which office he held for three years, presiding with dignity and rare ability. He early became a champion of the causes which the Club sponsored.

He was particularly prominent in the fight to preserve Hetch Hetchy Valley and took more than one trip east to present the Club's viewpoint, with telling effect upon members of Congress and in strengthening the support of other outdoor organizations. He could always be relied upon when the best interests of our national parks were jeopardized, and both wrote and spoke so effectively that his services were in great demand in time of need. His intimate knowledge of the mountains and all that pertained to them made him an exceptionally valuable and militant disciple of John muir "in combating the works of Satan," as Muir used to express it.

It is little wonder that on John Muir's death, his daughters selected Dr. Badè to act as literary executor of the numerous notebooks and unpublished writings which Muir had left, some in fairly complete form. As a result of his editorship the following volumes were published: A Thousand Mile Walk to the Gulf (1916); The Cruise of the Corwin (1917); and Steep Trails (1918). He also wrote the preface for Travels in Alaska, a posthumous volume edited by Marion Randall Parsons, 1915. The crowning achievement of his literary executorship, however, was the publication, in 1923-24, of the two volumes of The Life and Letters of John Muir.

I wonder whether we fully realize how fortunate we are that to Dr. Badè should have fallen the task of writing this biography and editing these letters. John Muir, from his early boyhood,knew the Bible from cover to cover and could repeat most of it word for word. He was particularly fond of the poetic passages of the prophets of the Old Testament. This is evidenced by his continuous use of those stirring metaphors and allusions in his own writings. Muir saw the countenance and manifestation of a living God in all of the wonderful landscapes that he beheld in his world wanderings. How appropriate then that such a thorough student and admirer of the Old Testament as was

Dr. Badè should have edited the writings of Muir, which reflected its inspiring language to such a marked degree!

No one who was not in close contact with what went on behind the scenes can begin to grasp the prodigious amount of labor and thought which went into these volumes. Dr. Badè was unusually thorough in all that he did, in fact he was so determined to gather all the available material on a subject before he started to present it that some would be inclined to think him meticulous. If that be a fault it is one that others might well commit with profit.

In any event, Dr. Badè turned into a veritable Sherlock Holmes and ran down clues of every available sort until he had amassed either the originals or at least copies of most of Muir's voluminous correspondence. He even discovered, in a garret in an old house in Indiana where John Muir once stayed, his long since forgotten botanical specimens collected on an early trip through Canada. From the dates and notations on these specimens, Dr. Badè was able to fill in a period of Muir's life which was otherwise not covered with sufficient data. This biography will always be one of Dr. Badè's outstanding monuments.

Dr. Badè, like John Muir, was born to be a rover, and it was not long after he became interested in the Sierra Club that he began to travel during his vacations. His articles in the Sierra Club Bulletin, "An Ascent of the Matterhorn" (January 1907, 6:2, pp. 75-86) and "Haleakela and Kilauea" (1922, 11:3, pp. 231-243) are accounts of two trips widely separated in point of time, as well as in geography.

Thus far I have not touched upon the most important phase of Dr. Badè's life,thinking that the members of the Sierra Club would be primarily interested in his contacts with the Club. It might be well at this point to turn back for a moment to his boyhood and his antecedents. William Frederic Badè was born in Carver, Minnesota, January 22, 1871. His parents were William Brauns Badè and Anna Voigt Badè, Moravian emigrants from Germany. His boyhood was spent on a farm in Minnesota. He early gave evidence of the fire that was burning within him, and, Lincoln-like, devoted his spare time to reading and the acquisition of knowledge.

Learning of this insatiable thirst, the president of the Moravian College, at Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, offered him the opportunity to be educated there. Following his graduation he spent a year at Yale University, and then taught for a few years at Moravian College before accepting the invitation from the Pacific Theological Seminary at Berkeley, California, to take the chair of Old Testament Literature and Semitic Languages. With the latter institution (the name of which was later changed to the Pacific School of Religion) he was connected in one or more capacities until his death in Berkeley, at his home, March 4, 1936. To tell of all his achievements in his chosen field and of the honors conferred upon him both here and abroad would fill so much space that it seems best to include them in a condensed chronology following this article.

Dr. Badè's teaching was alive with inspirational enthusiasm. Many of his students brought to the school orthodox beliefs inherited from ultra-conservative sources and he delighted in causing "the bark to crack," as he humorously expressed it, and in seeing their ideas broaden and develop under his convincing tutelage. Ministers were occasionally shocked at the liberality of his teachings, but his grounding and the enthusiasm which comes with conviction of truth were invariably too much for his critics, who, if they were reckless enough to cross swords with him, retired confounded, if not convinced.

In 1915, as the result of his years of research and constant study, he published a volume entitled "The Old Testament in the Light of Today." This met with instant response, and from recognized authorities in many parts of the world came expressions of emphatic approval. I well remember the great satisfaction Dr. Badè expressed when Theodore Roosevelt took the time to write and tell him how deeply gratifying and stimulating he had found the work.

Instead of resting content with his well-earned laurels in the field of letters Dr. Badè, in 1925, entered upon what was perhaps the outstanding achievement of a career filled with extraordinarily accomplishments. He had long been vitally interested in archeological research, especially that carried on in Palestine. Convinced that he could successfully conduct such work of exploration himself, he not only imbued some of his generous friends with like faith, but contributed largely to the financing of the undertaking from his own means.

With almost prophetic foresight he selected for this work the site of the biblical city of Mizpah of Benjamin - known today as Tell-en-Nasbeh. There was great difference of opinion among Old Testament scholars as to the true location of this fortified city. The site selected by Dr. Badè was about seven miles north of Jerusalem. He was aided in this selection by airplane photographs, which disclosed evidence of ancient fortification walls not readily identifiable by inspection on the ground. The first year he uncovered a portion of the city wall, later completing the entire circuit of the wall and bringing to view the imposing gateway where the elders sat in judgment. Very soon he had indisputable evidence that he was excavating on the site of the real Mizpah.

During this ten-year period (1925-1935) he made five separate expeditions and carried the excavation to a successful completion. Never was a job done more thoroughly nor the knowledge gained more systematically and scientifically recorded. Temples, humble homes, and tombs were uncovered with equal skill. Rare and beautiful artifacts, including pottery jars and other utensils, many in fragments later pieced together by skilful hands, were brought to light in great quantities. Much of this material, under the concession agreement, had to remain with the government in Jerusalem, but a large part of the remarkable findings was brought back to the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley. There it remains, a priceless possession of the Palestine Institute which he founded in the hope that others would carry on his work and eventually erect an appropriate museum to house these treasures.

Dr. Badè had become not only a world authority on Old Testament literature, but also a leading authority on the difficult and delicate work of archeological exploration. He published many articles and one rather complete report on his excavations, and, in 1934, "A Manual of Excavation in the Near East." The latter contains a veritable mine of information and advice on the technique of excavation of sites of ancient cities - the mature results of his own years of successful exploration.

This account would not be complete without some mention of Dr. Badè's home life, for it is of special interest to members of the Sierra Club. In 1906 he married Evelyn Marianne Ratcliff, whom he had met on a Sierra Club outing and who, like him, was fond of mountain climbing and outdoor life. Her death occurred the following year, but there survives a daughter, now married - Evelyn Mary Gulick. In 1917 he married Elizabeth Le Breton Marston, also a member of the Sierra Club, whom he had met on its outings and who was and is a great lover of mountain and out-of-door life. There are two children of this marriage, Elizabeth Le Breton and William George. It would be difficult to find a more devoted and thoughtful husband and father than Dr. Badè. He carried into his home an earnestness and sincere devotion to whatever he undertook, and behind that veil which serves to separate each family from the rest of the world, there was enacted a rare felicity that might well serve as a model.

It was also characteristic of Dr. Badè that he should have selected a remarkable country place where he might retire on week-ends and during vacations and, in the peace and quiet of woodland surroundings, write the many manuscripts that came from his seemingly inexhaustible pen. The wooded tract of 160 acres, lying on the slopes of Howell Mountain, in Napa County, he and Mrs. Badè named "Labrusca," the Latin name for the wild grape which grows there and turns such a beautiful gold and crimson in the autumn.

It was not long before he had catalogued the wealth of flowers, shrubs, trees, birds, and animals which inhabit this wilderness area, and they continued to be a never-ending source of interest and study. The acquisition of this place was but another expression of his great love for Nature and his desire to spend as many of his days as possible in her intimate and immediate presence. In this and in many other respects he resembled John Muir to an extraordinary degree. To him, as to Muir, religion was found speaking through the voice of Nature."

In the passing of Dr. Badè the Sierra Club has lost a tireless champion - a man who was not content to excel in one field alone, but who mastered and became an authority on many difficult subjects, exhibiting a versatility and at the same time a thorough grasp of each that made him outstanding in intellectual attainment, and with it all possessing a simplicity and personal charm which won him friends and admirers wherever he went in his world-wide journeyings.


1871. Born at Carver, Minnesota, January 22
1892. M.A. Moravian College,
1894 B.D. Moravian Theological Seminary
1894 Ordained at Moravian Church, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
1895 B.D., Yale Divinity School
1896-1898. Instructor in Greek and German, Moravian College
1898. Ph.D., Moravian College
1898-1902. Professor of Hebrew and Old Testament Literature, Moravian Theological Seminary
1899-1900. Editor of "The Moravian," official organ of the Moravian denomination in America.
1900-1902. Member of the Pennsylvania Chautaugua Faculty, in charge of Botanical Department.
1901. Studied at Lihigh University.
1902-1936. Professor of Old Testament Literature and Semitic Languages, Pacific Theological Seminary [name changed after to Pacific School of Religion], Berkeley, California.
1905. Studied at University of Berlin.
1905-1910. Editor of book reviews, Sierra Club Bulletin
1907. Dean of the Federated Summer School of Theology, Berkeley
1907-1936. Member of Board of Directors of Sierra Club.
1920-1922. Editor of the Sierra Club Bulletin (Volume 8, No. 1 to Volume 11, No. 3).
1915. "The Old Testament in the Light of Today," Houghton Mifflin Company.
1915-1917. California State Chairman of the Commission for Relief in Belgium and Northern France.
1916. Editor - A Thousand Mile Walk to the Gulf, by John Muir
1917. Editor - The Cruise of the Corwin, By John Muir.
1918. Editor - Steep Trails, by John Muir.
1918-1931. Trustee of Mills College.
1919-1922. President of the Sierra Club
1920-1922. Acting President of the Pacific School of Religion
1922-1928. Dean of the Pacific School of Religion
1922. D.D., Pomona College.
1923-1924. "The Life and Letters of John Muir' Houghton Mifflin Company.
1925. Litt.D., Mills College
1926-1936. Director of the Palestine Institute of Pacific School of Religion.
1929-1936. Member of the Managing Board, American School of Research, Santa Fe, New Mexico.
1929. President of the Society for Biblical Literature and Exegisis
1931. Lecturer at the universities of Göttingen and Vienna
1934. A Manual of Excavation in the Near East, University of California Press.
1934. D.D. Glasgow University
1936 Died at his home in Berkeley, March 4.

Dr. Badè was also, at one time or another, President of the California Associated Societies for the Preservation of Wild Life, Vice-President of the American Alpine Club, Honorary Secretary of the Egypt Exploration Fund, a Fellow of the American Geographical Society, an Associate of the American Ornithological Union, a Corresponding Member of the Anthropological Society of Vienna, a Corresponding Member of the Sullivant Moss Chapter, and a members of the American Philological Association, the Archeological Institute of America, the National Institute of Social Sciences, the California Academy of Sciences, the Society of Biblical Literature and Exegesisis, Kosmos Club, the Cooper Ornithological Club, the Agricultural Institute of America and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.


[2.] "The Mountains of California" by John Muir, Chapter 13.
[3.] Sierra Club Bulletin, June 1904, 5:2, pp. 102-107.
[4.] "Some Birds of the High Sierra," in Sierra Club Bulletin, January 1912, 8:3, pp. 158-162. "The Mountain Bluebird and the Wood Pewee," in Sierra Club Bulletin, June 1912, 8:4, pp. 260-265.
[5.] "An Outdoor Litany," in Sierra Club Bulletin, 1922, 11:3, p. 270.
[6.] Sierra Club Bulletin, June 1905, 5:4, pp. 287-296.
[7.] Sierra Club Bulletin, 1916, 10:1, pp. 38-40.

Source: Sierra Club Bulletin.

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