John Muir


Louie [Wanda & Helen Muir]


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DESCRIPTION OF THE MAMMOTH AND SOUTH PARK GROVES.THE MAMMOTH GROVE.The Mammoth Grove is situated in a small valley, near the head waters of the San Antonio, one of the largest streams in Central Calaveras, California, and five miles east of the Falls of said stream, which are one hundred and fifty feet in height, and surrounded by the grandest of scenery.ACCOMMODATIONS AT THE GROVE.The Hotel can accommodate one hundred guests. It has a laundry, hot and cold baths, a billiard table, bar, verandahs, parlor, ball-room, the most pleasant sleeping apartments, and furnishes the best of fare at the table. It faces the Grove, having the greater number of trees to the left, looking from the verandah, and the two "Sentinels" immediately in the front, about two hundred yards to the eastward.The valley in which this Grove is situated contains of the sequoia trees, ninety-three, not including those of from one to ten years' growth. There are also hundreds of sugar and pitch pines of astonishing proportions, ranging to the height of two hundred and seventy-five feet, and having not unfrequently a diameter of ten to eleven and a half feet. Anywhere else these pines would be regarded as vegetable monsters. Here, by the side of the sequoia, they look like dwarfs. During the Summer and Spring months this valley is exempt from the heat of the lower country and from the cold of the snow range. Vegetation blooms early in May, remaining fresh and green until the middle of October. The water is always pure and cold, and the Hotel furnished with ice throughout the Summer and Autumn. Snow falls usually about the middle of December, and disappears from the Grove entirely by the middle of April.There is good hunting ground in the vicinity--- mountain quail are abundant near by, and on the Stanislaus, three miles distant, grouse and deer abound. The numerous streams in the vicinity of the hotel, are well stocked with trout. Delightful horseback or buggy rides conduct the visitor to many interesting points of scenery, or objects of curiosity, among which, besides the Falls of San Antonio, may be mentioned the Basaltic Cliff, on the North Fork of the Stanislaus River, and the Cave at Cave City, fifteen miles to the west.NOTABLE TREES AND GROUPS.The Grove contains ten trees each thirty feet in diameter, and over seventy that are between fifteen and thirty feet. Hittell, in his "Resources of California," says: "One of the trees, which is down---'The Father of the Forest'---must have been four hundred and fifty feet high and forty feet in diameter." In 1853, one of the largest trees, ninety-two feet in circumference and over three hundred feet high, was cut down. Five men worked twenty-five days in felling it, using large augers. The stump of this tree has been smoothed off and now easily accommodates thirty-two dancers. Theatrical performances have been held upon it, and in 1858 a newspaper---"The Big Tree Bulletin" ---was printed there.Near the stump lies a section of the trunk; this is twenty-five feet in diameter and twenty feet long; beyond lies the immense trunk as it fell, measuring three hundred and two feet from the base to its extremity. Upon this was situated a bar-room and ten pin alley, stretching along its upper surface for a distance of eighty-one feet, affording ample space for two alley-beds side by side.About eighty feet from this stump stand the "Two Sentinels," each over three hundred feet high, and the larger twenty-three feet in diameter. The carriage road approaching the hotel passes directly between the "Two Sentinels." South of the ''Sentinels," and to the right of the road as you approach them, on the hillside, stands a tree over fourteen feet in diameter, which has been named "Old Dowd," in honor of the discoverer of the Grove, which discovery was made in 1852.Starting from the Hotel for the walk that visitors generally take, entering the Grove by the left-hand pathway, after walking one hundred and twenty yards, we come to the first cluster of Sequoias. They are on our left, close at hand, and were named, respectively, in 1865, "U. S. Grant," "W. T. Sherman," and " J. B. McPherson," after three leading Generals in the Union Army. To the right and southward thirty yards from these is a group of three unnamed trees.Sixty yards east from "Grant" and "Sherman " is the "Pride of the Forest," originally named "The Eagle." It is twenty-three feet in diameter and three hundred feet high, and altogether one of the healthiest and noblest trees of the forest. Near by stands "Phil Sheridan," a stout, graceful tree, three hundred feet high; and near this lies the "Miner's Cabin,'' which was blown down by a terrific gale, November, 1860. It is three hundred and nineteen feet long, and twenty-one and a half feet in diameter.Seventy yards east of the "Miner's Cabin" brings us to the "Three Graces," a group of three trees, close together in a straight line, regarded by many as the most beautiful cluster in the Grove.Fifteen yards north of the "Three Graces" stands "Andrew Johnson" so named early in the summer of 1865. Making this tree a central point of observation, to the west twenty paces is "Florence Nightingale," originally "Nightingale," to which the word Florence was added in 1865, by an admiring nephew of the philanthropic English lady whose name the tree now bears. Thirty paces eastward (of A. J.) is the "Bay State," and forty yards north "W. O. Bryant," so named in 1865, by a lady admirer of that distinguished American poet. To the left of "Bryant" twenty feet is "Win. H. Seward."After passing "Seward," is the "Pioneer's Cabin" (so named from the cabin-like chamber and chimney its hollow trunk exhibits), one of the largest of the trees. To the west of this, forty yards, are two beautiful sequoias, say seventy-five years old, of beautiful and vigorous growth, two feet in diameter, and one hundred and forty feet high.South of the "Pioneer's Cabin," seventy yards, in the centre of the Grove, is a tree two hundred and eighty feet high, seventeen feet in diameter, singularly hollowed out on one side by fire, and named " Pluto's Chimney." The "Chimney " made by the fire is on the north side, and extends from the ground ninety feet upward. A hundred feet north of the "Pioneer's Cabin" stands the "Quartette" cluster, the highest of which is two hundred and twenty feet; and fifty yards east of this is a healthy young tree thirteen feet in diameter, two hundred and eighty feet high, named in 1865 by a San Francisco lady, "America." It has been well named.Eighty yards east of the "Pioneer's Cabin," the one on the right, the other on the left of the path, are "California" and "Broderick," so named in 1865. Originally they were called "Ada" and "Mary." The next tree is "Henry Ward Beecher," two hundred and eighty feet high and fourteen feet in diameter.A few steps further brings us to the "Fallen Monarch," the base section of a huge trunk, which has to all appearance been down for centuries. It is still eighteen feet in diameter, though all the bark and much of the wood have been wasted away by time. What is left is perfectly sound; but the upper half or two-thirds, which struck the earth with greatest force in its fall, has all disappeared, and trees nearly a century old are growing where it struck. This tree must have been over three hundred feet high and twenty-five feet in diameter.Fifty paces east of this is the "Hermit," now named "Abraham Lincoln." It is eighteen feet in diameter and three hundred and twenty feet high---sound from root to top. One hundred yards north of this is a tree which has been named "Elihu Burritt." The next tree, twenty paces to the right of the path, is "Uncle Sam." Near it stands "Alta (Upper) California," and fifteen steps north of this is "Union." Next, and right on the trail, comes "General Wadsworth," named in honor of the noble soldier who was slain in Grant's campaign against Richmond. This cluster contains twelve trees, in size of the second class --- averaging fifteen feet in diameter and two hundred and sixty feet in height."The Mother of the Forest" ends the northward course of our walk, and here the path turns toward the Hotel. This tree has been stripped of her bark for one hundred and sixteen feet upwards from the ground. It is of course dead, and the top limbs are beginning to fall. The "Mother" is three hundred and twenty-seven feet high, and, without the bark, seventy-eight feet in circumference. North of the "Mother," and outside of the enclosure, are "The Twins" and a nameless tree sixteen feet in diameter and three hundred feet high.Fifty yards on the trail after it turns southward, is "General Sutter," which, dividing thirty feet from the ground, forms two distinct trees, each two hundred and eighty feet high."Salem Witch," "Longfellow," "Prof. Asa Gray" and "Dr. John Torrey" (the two last named in honor of distinguished American botanists) are next, all close together, and are all fine trees. Fifty feet to the west of these stand "The Trinity," three trees growing from one trunk. The circumference below the point of divergence is sixty feet.One hundred feet from "Longfellow" brings us amidst the family group.Standing near the uprooted base of "The Father of the Forest," the scene is grand and beautiful beyond description: The "Father" long since bowed his head in the dust yet how stupendous even in his ruin! He measures one hundred and twelve feet in circumference at the base, and can be traced three hundred feet, where the trunk was broken by falling against another tree; it here measures sixteen feet in diameter, and according to the average taper of the other trees, this venerable giant must have been four hundred and fifty feet in height when standing. A hollow chamber or burnt cavity extends through the trunk two hundred feet, large enough for a person to ride through; near its base, a never-failing spring of water is found. Walking upon the trunk and looking from its uprooted base, the mind can scarce conceive its prodigious dimensions, while on the other hand tower his giant sons and daughters, forming the most impressive scene in the forest.Ninety yards east of this and the same distance from the road, is a cluster of three trees named "Starr King," "Richard Cobden" and "John Bright." "Starr King" is the highest standing tree in the group---three hundred and sixty-six feet. "Daniel O'Con-nell," "Edward Everett" and "Fred L. Gould" stand next south of this trio. They are young trees --- say eight hundred years old --- and quite vigorous.Midway of the trunk of the "Father" are "James King of William" and "Keystone State." "Sir John Franklin" and " Dr. Kane" are close north of the "Father." They were so named in 1862 by Lady Franklin. Near "Dr. Kane" is the "Century" named in 1865, in honor of the notable Century Club, of New York, of which the poet Bryant was President. Ten feet from "The Keystone," close together, stand "John" and "Joseph LeConte.""J. M. Wooster," formerly "Hercules," stretches his huge body across the path next. This was the largest tree standing in the Grove until 1862, when during a heavy storm it fell. It is three hundred and twenty-five feet long and ninety-seven in circumference. When standing, it leaned about sixty feet from perpendicular. A few paces north of the roots of "J. M. Wooster" are the "Sequoia Queen" and her "Maids of Honor"---one on each side of the "Queen.""Sir Joseph Hooker," "John Lindley" (English Botanists) and "Humboldt" stand together on the hill near the shattered top of "J. M. Wooster." Near these are two young sequoias, say sixty years old. "The Mother and Son" are directly on our path to the right approaching the hotel. South of these, twenty yards, is an ancient fallen trunk, very large, and near to the east, on the hillside, is an unnamed tree three hundred feet high, sixteen feet in diameter. Thirty yards north [illegible]. The Mother and Son" is "General Scott," three hundred and twenty-five feet high. The "Old Maid," sixty feet in circumference, which fell toward her friend, the "Old Bachelor," January, 1865, lies along the hill all broken to pieces. The "Old Bachelor" still lives. Near this, on the hillside, stands "Kentucky.""The Siamese Twins," "Daniel Webster" and "Granite State" are in a cluster right on the trail. They are first-class trees in size, with an average diameter of twenty feet and three hundred and five feet in height. "The Old Republican," "Henry Clay," "Andrew Jackson" and "Vermont" next greet us. They are of the second-class. Then come the "Empire State" and "Old Dominion," first-class. The former is ninety-four feet in circumference. We next reach "George Washington." "Uncle Tom's Cabin," a tree of the second-class, stands between" George Washington" and the "Empire State."Emerging into the open space near the carriage road, we reach "The Beauty of the Forest," "The Two Sentinels" and "Old Dowd." These are of the first and second class. One of the "Sentinels" measures three hundred and fifteen feet in height. In this part of the Grove close observation will detect a number of young trees-say from ten to three hundred years-and from forty to two hundred feet high. They are all growing finely, and promise-barring accidents of wind and fire-to be well brought up, middle-aged trees of their kind in about one thousand years.Admission to the Grove, 25c.


Big Trees, Calif.

Date Original

1900 Aug 23


Original letter dimensions: 26 x 41 cm.

Resource Identifier


File Identifier

Reel 11, Image 0323

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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