N. D. Stebbins
Dowagiac, Mich., June 6, '84. My greatly respected friend John Muir,It is true that I am still in the land of the living. I imagined yon might be curious to know just so much, as worthless as it is to know it. An old man, past 82 years, quite infirm and becoming blind with all. Still memory keeps me jogging along in the journey of thought, and how often has memory jogged me back to Yosemite Valley and the little or short, but exceedingly pleasant interviews I had with you and our conversations in regard to glacier action which gave such strong evidences of its workings in that wonderful cañon "that dropt down when the upheaval took place". Do you recollect when you climbed out and up through the Indian cañon and as you got along to Yosemite falls then you made a prayer for wisdom, on one Sunday! The result was that you found the evidences of glaciers' works in front of you! and settled with me the enigma how the Indian Cañon came to exist, as there was no appearance of a water course ever having passed through it. Well I remember somewhat that [which] I have read in the Overland Monthly of your theory of mountain structure, etc., etc. since some of your experiences with grand-father glaciers, such that those in Switzerland are mere babies--all these hints through the common channel of information, newspapers. Now let me say all these helps have disappeared. When I went to Cal. the last time I left the Overland Monthly with a young friend who died before my return. They are lost and of course the newspapers containing your exploits and scientific theories and investigations. Even the story when you came abreast of ice impossible [to pass] and forbid [ding]your return, when all hope seemed for a time to be gone. Then a sudden inspiration -- truly from your God and Saviour -- helped you over the dangerous precipice in safety. I presume you have never forgotten that escape from that narrow and dangerous trip to the head of one of the ice-fields on Mt. (the name has passed out of my mind at this moment). Are you wondering at what I am driving? In short do you mean that all this knowledge and experience shall be lost to the world? I have consoled myself after losing all that I have seen of your written travels and discoveries that some day you would publish or have one published that would give to the world a complete history of your travels and discoveries and theory of mountain structure, glacier action in cutting out those tremendous cañons along the Sierras, especially Yosemite; and still glaciers discovered by yourself. What! are you going to let all this thrilling experience and knowledge be lost! Now for the animus of this scrawl of a letter. I have been waiting many years to see your book on mountain structure, glaciers, and glacier action and your marvelous exploits and escapes doing justice to your God and His watchful care over you. That book I have not heard was in print! Must I die and all the world with me, ignorant as a world, while a few friends are permitted to know a little -- must it all go into forgetfulness? Now I am quite blind -- can just see these lines I am writing upon with good glasses; still I covet that book on mountain structure and glaciers and glacier action. Must I die never having seen it? If you can find a Dr. Jones, M.D., who formerly practiced medicine in Murphys about 14 miles from the Calaveras Trees in Calaveras Co., a few miles from Table Mountain, who lives now, if alive, in San Francisco, he can tell you all about Whitney's wonderful "Calaveras Skull". Dr. Jones told ma that he had often heard the miners tell the story and laugh over the trick they played upon Prof. Whitney in pretending that that skull was found among the gravel diggings under Table Mountain. Whitney didn't make the discovery of glaciers and glacier action on the Pacific slope, and don't you let him steal it from you -- nor LeConte. You owe it to yourself and your friends and the little daughter I hear you have and future generations of yours to have them know who made these scientific discoveries. If I was the means of Dr. Carr's getting you an opportunity to write for the Overland Monthly, let me be now the means in some measure to have a book given to the world such as will do you justice and go down to the end of time with other scientific adventures. (My eyes are badly eclipsed just now). Now, my greatly esteemed friend, do yourself the justice to give the world your knowledge expression, -theory of mountain structure and glacier action, etc., etc. I covet seeing it before I go never to be any more in this life. Hoping to meet you in Heaven where our dear Lord and Saviour is the great centre of all creation and will be eternally, I am ever truly your attached friend. I will enclose my photo for Miss "Wanda", with warmest regards for yourself and Mrs. Muir and the little cherub Miss Wanda.N.D. Stebbins.P.S. I had a postal from Mrs. Carr, saying she had been ill. May she live many years to bless the world with her whole-souled, graceful, loving, good-willing, marvelous soul and body.
1884 Jun 6
Original letter dimensions: 20.5 x 25.5 cm.
Reel 05, Image 0073
Copyright status unknown
The Huntington Library. Please contact this institution directly to obtain copies of the images or permission to publish or use them beyond educational purposes.