John Muir


[David Gilrye Muir]


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[Original letter in possession of David Gilrye Muir][Yosemite, May, 1870]You say that you have some thoughts of retiring from the dry goods business. I think you had better not be discouraged by these hard times. So great a number of depressing influences do not often occur at the same time. After learning your business "stay with it," as Californians say, until you make a competence. If, however, you have come to dislike your business in itself, apart from the accidental losses and depressions of hard times, then by all means leave it [as] soon as possible. You are still a young man, and it is well worth your while to battle with the vexations and inconveniences which attend the labor of making a new home, if by so doing you can make yourself and family permanently more happy. If business is overdone in Portage, seek another market for your goods, and if you decide to move at all, give a serious thought to California and to the Pacific Coast in general. Money is much more abundant here than in the Atlantic states. Still there is a good deal of competition in the dry goods business, but you may find a place where you can establish yourselves. I am not qualified to give advice about the matter in anything like particular terms, but I am sure that in a new country, rapidly developing - and which abounds in the essential elements of natural wealth success is sooner or later sure to the talented and enterprizing.If you resolve to spend your life in agricultural pursuits do not choose California for a home. But I will likely see you ere you are found following the plow to your old song of "success to the jolly old farmer." Farming was a grim, material, debasing pursuit under father's generalship, but I think much more favorably of it now.The sawmill I have been at work upon belongs to Mr. Hutchings. It is in full operation now and runs extremely well, so you perceive I am of some practical benefit to humanity as well as the strictly useful people.Mr. Hutchings claims a quarter section of land in the Valley, because he settled upon it under the preemption laws, before it was donated by Congress to the State for a pleasure ground, etc. But his claims are contested, and he is in Washington at present seeking satisfaction from government.I am not annoyed with overmuch gold at present. I will have about a thousand dollars in the fall. I may need one or two hundred doll[ar]s myself, and I promised to let Mary have enough to keep her at Madison a year or so, if she wishes it, and you may have the rest. Dan or the girls may want some of it, and "if in the course of human events" I be overtaken with calamities such as sickness or marriage I shall need it myself. I fear that so small a sum with so many indeterminate conditions dangling about it will be of little use to you.I do not know how soon I may escape from Yosemite. I am under a spell in this place. Here is a cluster of flower cups from the curious manzanita bush (Arctostapholos glauca). I found it this morning in the rocks. The manzanita is for Katie. You, of course, cannot look at flowers amid the ill-natured distractions of hard times.Most cordially yours. Remember me to Mr. Parry and warmly to your own family.J. M. [John Muir][Place, Yosemite, supplied, as Muir states the sawmill is in operation. Year 1870 supplied, as Muir refers to completion of sawmill, and month May supplied, as this letter seems to follow closely upon Muir's letter to his brother David of April 10th,(1870)].



Date Original

[1870 May]


Original letter dimensions: 20.5 x 25.5 cm.

Resource Identifier


File Identifier

Reel 02, Image 0295

Copyright Statement

The unpublished works of John Muir are copyrighted by the Muir-Hanna Trust. To purchase copies of images and/or obtain permission to publish or exhibit them, see

Owning Institution

University of the Pacific Library Holt-Atherton Special Collections. Please contact this institution directly to obtain copies of the images or permission to publish or use them beyond educational purposes.

Copyright Holder

Muir-Hanna Trust

Copyright Date


Page Number

Page 3


John Muir, correspondence, letters, author, writing, naturalist, California, correspondent, mail, message, post, exchange of letters, missive, notes, epistle