- July 12, 1927
- December 3, 2004
- Shirley Sargent
was a historian and author. She was the author of nearly two dozen
books on Yosemite and the High Sierra, including John Muir and other
mountaineers, and on the history of the Ahwahnee and Wawona hotels.
- Sargent's best-selling book has been John Muir in Yosemite,
first published in 1971.
The book is filled with Muir quotes and historic photographs, detailing the
significant role of John Muir in exploring, describing, and studying
the glacial origin of Yosemite, and efforts leading to its protection.
Unlike most of Sargent's books, this one has almost no footnotes nor
a bibliography. At 48 pages it is a wonderful introduction to John
- Sargent was included as a reader on the John
Muir Tribute CD issued
by the John Muir Association in 1999. Sargent was honored to
read what is perhaps Muir's most famous quote: "Climb the mountains
and get their good tidings. Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine
flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you,and
the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves."
- Sargent wrote not only about Muir,
but also about less-known park pioneers: Galen
Clark, Yosemite's first
paid guardian; Theodore Solomons, who mapped most of the John Muir
Trail; Theodore Parker Lukens, one of the first foresters; and Granny
Meyer, who first saw Yosemite in 1883 and became a valuable source
of information for Sargent and a character in her book "Pioneers
- She also wrote
about many people and places in and around Yosemite, where she
lived for many years: "The Ahwahnee: Yosemite's Classic Hotel," "Wawona's
Yesterdays," "Yosemite's Historic Wawona," "Yosemite's
High Sierra Camp" and "The Yosemite Chapel, 1879-1979," "Yosemite
Tomboy" (1967), and "Enchanted Childhoods:
Growing Up in Yosemite, 1864-1945" (1993).
- Sargent said in a 1985 interview: "I don't like just plain history
with a lot of facts. I want something that makes the people real
to me. ... Say you're a tourist in the valley. You may look up and
see a pillar of rock and say, `Wow, look at that,' and then you remember
from what you've read that a woman first climbed it in 1875. Wouldn't
that make it more singular to you, more exciting?"
- Sargent had suffered from a rare crippling disease, dystonia
musculorum deformans, which had forced her to use a wheelchair from
age 14. Dismissive of her physical limitations, Sargent zipped around
her property on an adult tricycle, drove her own car and camped in
Yosemite's most remote areas. The neurological disorder made
her shake and forced her to steady one hand with the other
while she typed with one finger. For many years, she lived in her
4,600-foot elevation forest home in Foresta, which she called "Flying
Spur," year-round, relishing the
quiet, snowbound winters.
With neighbor and fellow author Hank Johnston, she founded Flying Spur Press
to publish many of her books. The company also published calendars and postcards
reproducing early Yosemite scenes.
- Yosemite historian Leroy Radanovich, who worked with Sargent on
some of her books, told the Fresno Bee in 2003 that Sargent "has done
a very credible job of preserving the history of Yosemite for future
generations." "She has compiled what I consider to be a definitive
body of work," he said, "which in all likelihood will not be matched
by anyone soon."
National Park Service historian Jim Snyder stated: "She was
spunky and persistent. She
had the personality and interest to draw people in."
Portrait photo of Shirley Sargent courtesy of Fresno
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