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Helen Muir

1886-1964 Helen Muir, National Park Service photo - -
  • The youngest of John Muir's two daughters. Her sister was Wanda Muir Hanna (1881 - 1942). She was born January 23, 1886 in Martinez, California. ┬áIn 1905 Helen contracted tuberculosis. Her doctors felt that her health would improve in the drier desert climate of Southern California and Arizona. She lived for a time in Adama, Arizona, and later lived in Daggett, California, both near railroad stations, where her father frequently visited her. At old age she moved to Spokane, Washington.

  • Helen at an early age developed a love for locomotives and trains. In 1897 her father John Muir sold a right of way on his property to the Santa Fe Railroad for a nominal fee of $10.00. A trestle bridge was erected through the vineyards and the trains passed by the Muir home several times a day. The sale of the right of way offered the Muir family free fare on the train. It also provided endless hours of amusement for Helen. Helen's facination with trains led her to learn the timetables and the numbers on the trains as they passed by her bedroom window. She ordered different publications about trains which she believed "would teach me a great many things about an engine that I have long wanted to know." She placed her orders under the name "H.L. Muir" rather than using her full first name for fear the publishers wouldn't send the "precious books" to a girl. Her journal entry in January, 1902 record that she received "18 lovely locomotive pictures with which to decorate my room." She hung the prints on the walls and claimed "my room is a dream, over twenty locomotive pictures adorn the walls, nearly 30 posters and railroad maps beside." Helen loved her room and records "I guess there never was a girl who owned such a room as mine, I am perfectly satisfied with it, and think it is the loveliest girls room I ever saw any where." As a young girl Helen learned how to flag (to stop the train) at Muir Station. In her journal entry of January 11, 1902 she says "Another foggy morning, so foggy I fear I won't be able to catch more than a glimpse of No.4. About fifteen minutes ago a special went through here with the No.35 on it, I think it was a soldier train but owing to the fog can't be sure. Papa's pass is "Not good on limited trains," so he will have to take No.8. Now what I am thinking of mostly just now is this. I am wild to flag No.8, but at present see no way of doing so, for who would come home with me? As to flagging that would be easy for the agent does not go up there except when he has to flag, so I could have the pleasure of "swinging her down". My how I do want to."
  • Helen married Buel Alvin Funk in October 1909. Together they had four sons:
    • Muir Haley FUNK - b. February 2, 1911. d. Dec. 28, 1978
    • Stanley MUIR (born Stanley M. Funk) - b. July 17, 1912. d. August 17 1962
    • John MUIR (born Buel Funk) - b. June 28, 1914. d. April 23, 1973
    • Walter MUIR born Walter Muir Funk)- b. May 27, 1916, d. December 9, 2004

  • See our John Muir (1838-1914) Genealogy for further descendants.

  • After her husband Buel Funk died in a tragic automobile accident at the age of 47, (1934) Helen and three of her sons changed their name from Funk to Muir - in 1940. The oldest son, Muir Funk, did not, because his first name was Muir. Another son, Walter, who died in 2004, told an interviewer that he had every book written by his famous grandfather and many written about him by other authors. He told the interviewer, "The more I study him and the things he did, the more amazed I am. He had the most incredible way of describing things, in words I wouldn't even think of."
Photo of Helen Muir Funk courtesy of John Muir National Historic Site, JOMU 4287

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