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Louie Strentzel Muir

(July 6, 1847 - August 6, 1905)

Louie Muir Strentzel
  • Muir's wife, whom he married on April 14, 1880. The two exchanged vows at her parents' home. The makeshift altar was decorated with white Astrakhan apple blossoms.
  • Louie was the daughter of Dr. John Strentzel, a noted horticulturalist in the Alhambra Valley of California. and her mother Louisianna. She was an accomplished pianist, and was known for her kindness and gentle nature. While she encouraged Muir's need to travel in the wilderness, she preferred to stay home on their family ranch in Martinez. But they exchanged many letters with each other expressing their devotion during his many travels.
  • Louie first met John Muir on September 15, 1874 at the home of Dr. and Mrs. Carr in Oakland. Jeanne Carr had long tried to arrange a meeting of the two. Muir was first most interested in pursuing botanical conversations with Louie's father, but his interests eventually turned romantic for his daughter.
  • John and Louie had two daughters, Wanda, born March 25, 1881, and Helen, born January 23, 1886.
  • According to Louie and John's youngest daughter Helen, life at home with her parents was happy. "Mama was the perfect helpmate," she told a reporter with the Pasadena Star-News in May 1963. "My father's interest and lifework became my mother's own lifework too and she did all she could, gladly and willingly, to help him."
  • Louie enjoyed ranch living and, with the help of the ranch foreman, was able to make sure the cultivating and planting was done in the spring. John would return by the fall to harvest the crops. When Louie wasn't overseeing the daily duties at the ranch she was working on her garden around the farm house. "Mama loved flowers, especially fragrant ones," Helen recalled in her memoirs about her parents. "Of course, there were roses of all kinds, but the great thicket of single Cherokee roses were by far the sweetest; and there were jasmine, honeysuckle, lavender, lilies, wisteria, magnolias, and heliotrope."
  • John Muir's sketch of pushing Louie up a mountain in YosemiteLouie accompanied John only once to Yosemite, in 1884, and the trip proved to be a regrettable one for both. She found Yosemite valley beautiful, but did not like hiking, was anxious about the baby they had left at home in care of her parents, and was terrified of being attacked by bears. John felt Louie over-packed for the expedition and was annoyed with having to take her numerous trunks of clothes with them. He wrote his daughters a funny illustrated story about how he had to push Louie up the mountain trail with a stick pressed to her back - to him a helpful gesture - until someone came by to offer her a ride on a horse.
  • Louie supported her husband's explorations and writings, and worried about his health. While John was in Seattle, Louie wrote him a letter dated August 9, 1888. "Dear John, a ranch that needs and takes the sacrifice of a noble life, or work, ought to be flung away beyond all reach... The Alaska book and Yosemite book, Dear John, must be written, and you need to be your own self, well and strong to make them worthy of you. There is nothing that has a right to be considered besides this except the welfare of our children."
  • In addition to her affection for growing things, she was interested in astronomy, poetry, and music.
  • Louie was educated at Miss Adkins' Young Ladies Seminary in Benicia. Louie became a music scholar while in attendance at the seminary, and her teachers boasted that she had a bright future ahead of her as a concert pianist if she so chose. Once she graduated in 1864 she decided to return home to the ranch in Martinez and focus on fruit ranching and hybridizing. According to hers and John's daughter, Helen, "she was a devoted daughter and a great comfort to her parents in their later years."
  • John was by Louie's side when she passed away from lung cancer on August 6, 1905. She was fifty-eight years old. Her death devastated John. Friends close to the Muirs described her as "the mainstay of the Muir household" and noted that "if not for her understanding and willingness to unselfishly forgo demands on John's time, the work he did for Yosemite Valley might have been diminished. John regarded Louie as a "loving, sympathetic wife." "We all grieved for her," Helen told a reporter for the Pasadena Star-News. Louie was buried in the Strentzel-Muir Cemetery a mile from the family's ranch home.

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