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masthead for The View

The View From John Muir's Window

February 1996
Issue 86

Newsletter of the John Muir Memorial Association

As Dale Sees It

by Dale Cook, President

The annual celebration commemorating the birth in 1838 of John Muir will be celebrated at the John Muir National Historic Site this year on Saturday, June 1. Joining the Park Service and the Association in the day's festivities will be the St. Andrew Society. Specifics of the day's activities are still being developed; we do know that they will include the traditional pipe bands, Site tours, picnicking, and lemonade.

National Trail Day also will be observed June 1. Patrons taking part in the event will be encouraged to join the activities at the Site and hike the Mt. Wanda Nature Trail.

The week in April wherein John Muir's birth anniversary falls, the Site will be hosting a couple of activities: the opening session of an international academic seminar on John Muir and, in cooperation with the City of Martinez, taking part in the nation wide March for Parks. The Board, wanting to keep the familiar birthday festivities of the past, felt the Birthday Gala date should be changed as attention directed towards these other two activities might well overshadow the marking of Muir's 158th birthday.

The Association's annual dinner will be held May 7 at the Martinez Masonic Hall

The Manor House was closed mid-January to permit the installation of the long-awaited ceiling fire suppression equipment. The work will take about two to three months. Visitors to the Site during the mansion's closure will be afforded tours of the grounds and the Martinez Adobe.

I am pleased to report Mario Menesini accepted my invitation to serve as Association Secretary and Betty Zarn will serve as Board Activities Coordinator. Other key Board posts include: Don Denton, fund development; Carol Tretten, membership; Betsy Little, donation and sales coordinator; Joe Hearst, Boy Scout liaison; and Steve Pauly, The View Editor.

Witherspoon Ltd., a fine arts gallery in Lafayette, has donated to the Association 100 large lithographs valued at $50 - $100 each. The Limited Edition Lithographs - 50 each of "The Yosemite Valley" and "Bridal Veil" are struck from paintings by Mark Fernwood, noted Yosemite area artist. Stan Hutchinson has offered to donate copies of an Art Smith portrait of John Muir for our use. Copies of each were displayed at the Muir-Burns Dinner on February 3rd. The prints will be used as award incentives.

For several years, the Association has offered T-shirts for sale. Now, we expect to have shortly a line of polo-type shirts available. The Board also is looking into obtaining and offering for sale John Muir National Historic Site pins and patches. Funds raised by such items will be used by the Association for its educational programs and costs such as insurance which currently is more than $1,200 a year.

As Phyllis Sees It

by Phyllis Shaw, Superintendent, John Muir NHS

We are all back on the job and working hard to catch up on work put aside during the government shutdowns.

The Muir House was beautifully decorated for the Christmas holidays, the volunteers had baked cookies, and the group from the California Theatre Arts, the Young Performers Company was ready to perform. Unfortunately this event was cancelled due to the shutdown. School groups and the teachers workshop for the Environmental Living Program were cancelled. The janitorial service was unable to clean the buildings.

Our visitation for December was down by 1200 from last year and our book sales were off by $ 1500 from December 94.

In the words of John Muir "When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe."

Artifacts And Antiques

By Pat Thomas

The museum collection at John Muir NHS numbers 4259 items. Of these, 825 are Muir related.

The Muir collection consists of letters, photographs, court documents, mementos from Alaska and the Southwest and much more. The specific objects range from a bill made out to Muir for wallpapering the house to a botanical collection of over 1000 specimens. It is Muir's botanical collection, or Herbarium, that is among the more interesting objects.

Muir botanized all his life. From 1864 to 1867 he explored Canada and Indiana, collecting over 500 plant specimens. On his world tour in 1903 and 04 he saved plants from Australia, New Zealand, China, Japan, and Hawaii. The entire collection was pressed in a primitive fashion between old copies of Scientific American magazine and original drawings by Muir.

Muir family members gave the collection to John Muir NHS.

In 1985 museum employee at the Site, Louis Juliano, with the aid of two knowledgeable volunteers, Nellie Katerhine Seth and Jim Seth, cataloged and mounted the entire collection. A container list was prepared. File cards list the items alphabetically, arranged by Latin names, Order, and Common name. The herbarium is stored in a controlled museum environment.

John Muir was always interested in the microcosm and the macrocosm understanding of nature. He may have felt empathy for William Blake's poetry:

"To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower:
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
And eternity in an hour."

Eagle Scout Projects at JMNHS

by Herb Thurman

The Eagle Scout Award, Scouting's highest achievement, requires a community service project. Over the past eight years, numerous Eagle Scout candidates have contacted the Maintenance Division at the Site to discuss worthwhile service projects. Ideally, the project is permanent or long lasting construction work in which a team effort is required. When the Site and Scout troop council accept a project, each Eagle candidate plans and directs the effort. Often the Scouts contact service clubs, hardware stores, or church groups or organize pizza parties or car washes to raise the cost of the construction material. Examples of completed projects include the Mt. Wanda gates, wooden benches, trail signs, information kiosks, water well irrigation systems, redwood trash can covers, nature trail construction, flower gardens, major stump removal, Franklin Canyon creek bed clean-up, and restriping the Visitor Center parking lot. Not only do these contributions fulfill the Eagle Scout requirements, they are a source of pride for the Scouts, the NPS staff, and the visitors to the Site.

William Keith, A Friend of John Muir

by Steve Pauly

John Muir developed a diverse set of long time friends from many different walks of life: educators, scientists, writers, philosophers, artists, mountaineers, and confidants. In this issue we discuss one of these friends, landscape artist William Keith.

Muir and Keith met in October 1872 in Yosemite Valley. Keith carried a letter of introduction from a mutual friend, Jeanne Carr. Floy Hutchings led Keith and two other painters to Muir who was at his cabin below the Royal Arches. Keith inquired whether Muir knew of any views that would make a picture. Muir replied that he did, and two days later led the a group of five (Muir, Keith, Irwin Benoni, Thomas Ross, and Merrill Moores) to the upper Tuolumne River area. As it turned out, Willie and Johnnie, as they soon called each other, were born in the same year in Scotland. They became close friends for the next forty years, until Keith's death in 1911. Keith wrote in his journal that "When we got to Mount Lyell, it was the grandest thing I ever saw. It was late in October, and at an elevation of 10,000 fttet. The frost had changed the grasses and a kind of willow to the most brilliant yellows and reds; these contrasting with the two-leafed pine and Williamson spruce, the cold gray rocks, the colder snow, made a glorious sight." Muir reported the outing rather differently, writing that when they rounded a corner and Mt. Lyell came into view, "Keith dashed forward, shouting and gesticulating and waving his arms like a madman." Keith, an epicure, also wrote that Muir was a poor provider on their outings, and that he tired of bread, dried meat, and sugarless coffee.

Muir and Keith enjoyed serveral other outings together, including the Tuolumne Canyon (with Mrs. Carr and Albert Kellogg, 1873); Yosemite Creek, Lake Tenaya, past Mt. Hoffman, Tuolumne Meadows, Soda Springs, Mts. Dana and Gibbs, and down Bloody Canyon to Mono Lake (with John Swett and J.B. McChesney, 1875), Mt. Shasta (1888), and Muir Woods (1908).

The two Scots had differing opinions on many topics. For example, in Keith's early career, he included great detail in his paintings and worked hard, following John Ruskin's admonition "to copy nature," to recreate the scene with great accuracy. Naturally, Muir approved. In later years, Keith avoided detail and became more impressionistic. Muir chided him to put the detail back in. For his part, Keith kept after Muir to take the detail out of his writing.

In 1876 when Muir was highly nervous over his first public lecture in Sacramento, Keith knowing this loaned one of his paintings, The Headwaters of the Merced, telling Muir to take it to the Congregational Church and "Just look at the painting Johnny. You'll think you're back in the mountains. You'll relax and be fine." Muir did take the painting to Sacramento and placed it in the church before the guests arrived. The painting did rescue Muir from a dismal, aploogetic, beginning, and during the lecture, Muir pronounced it "as topographically correct as it is beautiful and artistic."

Several Keith paintings hung in the Muir ranch house, including Yosemite, Tuolumne Meadows, Mt. Shasta, Sierra Scene, Yosemite (on a cigar box lid), Mt. Rainier, a sketch of Wanda, The Berkeley Oaks, and portraits of Dr. Strentzel and Mrs. Strentzel. The Strentzel portraits hang in the County Museum in Martinez. The ranch house has photographic reproductions of several of these, and the originals are in the homes of the descendents. The Hearst Art Gallery at St. Mary's College in Moraga has a collection of 150 Keiths, and a permanent exhibition of a small portion of these can be seen in the Keith room at the Gallery. Keith's Mt. Lyell, painted from sketches done on the 1872 trip to the upper Tuolumne area with John Muir, is in the St. Mary's collection.

John Muir Conference at Martinez and Stockton April 18-21

The John Muir Center for Regional Studies at the University of the Pacific, Stockton, in cooperation with the John Muir National Historic Site, will present a special conference, 'John Muir in Historical Perspective.' This is the fourth in a series (previously 1980, 1985 and 1990). Muir scholars from around the world will participate. The conference begins with a reception at JMNHS on Thursday evening, April 18. On Friday the 19th in Martinez, several academic papers will be presented in two sessions: Muir as Teacher, Critic, Ideologue; and Muir's Travels. At lunch, Steve and Patty Pauly will entertain with 'John Muir's Tribute to His Wife, Louie Strentzel Muir,' an exposi of the significant but quiet work Louie did behind the scenes to support John. In the afternoon, Jim Morley will present slides on Muir Woods.

Fifteen speakers and six moderators are on the program for Saturday the 20th at UOP in six sessions: Jed Smith Society Breakfast, Muir and His Friends, Student Session, John Muir and Yosemite, Teaching Muir and the Environment, and a session sponsored by the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment. Millie Stanley, author of 'The Heart of John Muir's World' will speak at the Saturday luncheon. The evening speaker is Richard Fleck, whose topic is North by Northwest with John Muir.

Two Sessions are scheduled for Sunday the 21st at UOP: Muir as Religionist and Literary Critic; and Muir's Influence: Canada and the Pacific Northwest. Luncheon with the Muir family in the UOP Regents Dining Room concludes the conference.

Two JMNHS volunteers have papers accepted for the conference. Mark Foley's topic is In the Lands of the Master: John Muir and the Strentzels, a subject he has researched as a student at Hayward State University. Steve Pauly speaks on The Importance of John Muir's First Public Lecture.

Registration information will be sent soon, and the organizers hope for a large turnout of JMMA members.

Money Matters

by Don Denton

Here's a QUIZ for you: Do you know HOW MANY places or things are named for John Muir? You don't? Well, I don't either! -- but here are just a few that come to mind, beside the obvious ones we all know (Muir Woods, Medical Center, Trail). We're told that there's a Muir Pass, Glacier, Inlet, Beach, Wilderness Area, Gorge, Grove, Lake, Mountain, Camp, Plant (Ivesia Miurii) and Sedimentary Rock (Miurite). Some LIST, huh?! But the one that needs your attention RIGHT NOW is the place where it all STARTED, "right here in River City", er, Martinez.

Through Operation Stepping Stone, (the name for our much needed Visitor Center Plaza Project) we will give our guests a far more favorable "first impression" when they enter our site. For those of you on this 220 family membership list who have already contributed to our cause, a heartfelt thanks go to you lads and lasses!

Now, for those who have been waiting for the "right opportunity" we now have just the one for you! An anonymous friend of our Association has made available to us a most generous "Challenge Match" grant: For ALL funds that come into Operation Stepping Stone from February 1st to April 21st (which will tie in with John Muir's birthday, Earth Day, the end of John Muir Week and the special John Muir Scholars' Conference we're co-hosting that weekend), our "Mystery Donor" will match your contribution DOLLAR FOR DOLLAR---up to $5,000. So, in effect, we will be getting double (i.e. a "two-fer") with each of your contributions during that eleven week period. This offer will not be repeated or extended, so this is truly a "use it or lose it" opportunity for you as members and/or friends of our Association, to whom this offer is exclusively given.

Any amount will be gratefully acknowledged in a specially printed announcement program when we dedicate our new plaza later on this year---and for your gift of $100 (or $250 or $500) your name will also be displayed along with the others on a permanent commemorative plaque which will be prominently displayed in the patio.

Years ago, a much-beloved University president wrote that we are "beneficiaries of the past, trustees of the present, and architects of the future". This is indeed a wonderful opportunity presented to us by which we can acknowledge the heritage that our mentor John Muir has bequeathed to us---and get us a "two for one" in the process.

Let us hear from you on the attached coupon-----and thanks.

Don Denton, Chairman Fund Development


Yes, I want to be in step and buy a paver for our new Visitors Center Plaza. Here is my check for:

$100 ____
$250 ____ * Patron
$500 ____ ** Benefactor
or other amount of ____________

Name: _______________________________
Telephone: ________________
Street Address: _______________________
City: ________________________________
State: _______________
Zip: ____________

Checks are payable to:
"John Muir Memorial Association"
P.O. Box 2433
Martinez, CA 94553

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