Emily [O. Pelton]
and the barn yard at hand with its old strawstack and street of dilapidated stables and sheds, with cows, dirty children, and broken plows sprinkled over all. But judge Emily of our sur- prise when upon a piece of ground where the bluffs had curved backward a little from the river we at once seen the [illegible] old house with four gandily dressed females in an even row in front with two idle men seated a little to one side looking complacently upon them like a successful merchant upon a stock of newly arrived goods, not a broken fence dirty boy or squealing pig was to be seen but there on such a back ground the old decaying logs and the dark majestic hills on which the soft shades of evening were beginning to fall. [Near?] in clothes which had been dipped many times in most glaring dyes sat the strange [four?]. It was long before I could judge of the character of the establishment but I saw at once there was something very strange about it and instinctively fell behind my companion he was equally ignorant but boldly marched forward and asked for the glen where fossils were found This was a subject of which they new but little. They told us that the path wen [sic] no farther - that the hills were unclimbable, etc We then took the alarm - gained the summit of the bluffs after an hours hard labor - built our camp fire congratulated each other on our escape and spoke much from the first chap of Proverbs
Sideways at top of page" you will perhaps soon hear from us again [ through?] your family JM
Fountain Lake Feb 27th /64
Dear Friend Emily You speak in your last letter of the pleasure which a letter written during the ramble would have given but it is not yet too too late. "Backward [ roll?] backward O time in your flight"
Recess in the bluffs near MacGregor [illegible] July 7th 1863 ______________________________________________
Dear friend Emily This evening finds us encamped near McGregor, we have spent a toilsome day, but it has not been without interest. In the morning we were di- rected to a romantic glen down which a little stream sought a path, turning the mosses to stone as it went, and watering many interesting flowers. "The road that leads to it", said the man
"lies close along the river brink - it is not very far and a log house marks the glens narrow entrance", we remarked, that in following our directions, when we had inquired more particularly about the exact position of the log house after we had proceeded some distance on our way, the person we inquired of gave us some very curious glances which we could not understand, so we proceeded on our way we could not withstand the temptation to climb the bluffs that butted so majestically overhead, and after many vain attempts we at last found a place where the ascent was [practical?] We had to make many a [halt?] for [illegible], and made as much use of our hands as of our feet, but the splendid view [illegible] repaid the toil. After enjoying the delightful scenery and analyzing some specimens which we gathered on our way, we began
to wish ourselves down again, as the afternoon was wearing away and we wished to visit the glen before night but descending was still more [difficult?] and we several times reached an almost unstoppable [illegible]. We found the first specimen of [illegible] in this vicinity and several beautiful [illegible]. After traveling a good way down the river we began to fear that we had already passed the object of our search but when the suns rays were nearly [illegible] and we had just emerged from a mass of low leafy trees we were suddenly struck with the most g[illegible] astonishment at the unique and unexpected sight so full before us we expected that a log house in such a place would be a faultless specimen of those pioneer establishments with outside chimney, the single window, and door over run with [illegible] or wild honeysuckle the door yard alive with [illegible] and figs
with you again this evening and give you the result of todays labor. I wish you would write immediately on receiving this address to [Wanzeka?] Wis. I shall pass near that place in a few days
Truly your friend J Muir
[1863, July 8]
Dear friend Emily
When morning had dawned after our evening log house adventure, we found ourselves upon the brink of one of the highest points overhanging the river. It seemed as though we might almost leap across it The sun was unclouded, and s[illegible] with fine effect upon the fleecy sea of fog contained by its simple banks of bluffs - later it flowed smoothly away as we g[illegible] and g[illegible] us the noble Mississippi in full view. Breaking the spell which bound us here so long we leisurely proceeded to explore the pretty glen which we hoped before in the dark. here we spent some hours of great interest and added some fine plants and fossils to our growing wealth, and soon found ourselves upon the shore [illegible] the great river
The genuine calm of a July morning was now master of all - the river followed on, smooth as a woodland lake, reflecting the full beams of the dreamy light - While out on all the dark foliage which feathered its mountain wall, moved a single h[illegible]. We stood harnessed and half asleep with the settled calm, looking wishfully upon the cool waters, when suddenly the thought struck us "How fine it would be to purchase a boat and sail merrily up the Wisconsin to Portage" We would read and work the oars by turns as our heavy packs would be stowed snugly away beneath the seats and every few miles we would land at an inviting place and gather new spoils - and so in a few minutes we had our effects packed snugly as I have described in a pretty boat, and were joyfully floating on the bo[illegible] of the Father of waters, [illegible] Alas how vain our [illegible] [illegible] [illegible] [illegible]
bliss. We reached the mouth of the river Wis and soon our bright faces grow less and less bright till gloomy as a winters day as we paddle with all our might shooting bravely on against the current at the fearful [illegible] ten [illegible] per two hours - at last completely exhausted we give up for the present in despair and are instantly returned to the Mississippi by the coiling current but we were not yet beaten for holding a counsel of war against the bustling stream we determined to "Try Try Again" so landing we procured a pair of boards by a nocessitions act of self [illegible] and proceeded to make two pair of oars - they were nearly made before dark; we found a new camping ground and sought [illegible] with hearts again trimmed with fresh [illegible] but now goodbye for the present. I shall
[thou hast?] [illegible] me. This said a card was mailed upon a conspicuous place and directed to Mrs. Goodrich, Dubuque Iowa and two three cent stamps placed on it as it was over weight then pushing it into the current we watched it a few minutes as it sailed away now appearing and now lost as it passed the willows upon the bank then we again placed our old companion packs, and soberly marched away with [illegible] steps through the tall grass like good [illegible] with his [illegible] when [illegible] upon [illegible] [illegible] coach. After a very wearisome walk over wet places and fallen trees we reached the house where I now write we did not intend to stop here but only called for our fifth meal as we wished to make a fair average; but the old lady of the mansion gave us so good a wel- come that we entered and she made us supper. She has invited us to stay all night. She, we had observed from the first
Farm house near Wrights Ferry July 9th /63
Dear Friend Emily We started in good spirits again this morning with our long oars manufactured by our hatc[illegible], we soon applied them to our little boat and soon were again at the mouth of the Wisconsin which came tumbling down [illegible] and restless as ever - ah each pull of the oars our little fairy almost leaps from the waters but we are now in the very midst of the boiling waters we shook to this side-now to that making very acute angles, and almost capszing several times - again we pull harder than ever - again are baffled we are drenched thoroughly with streaming sweat, but we have strength remaining and have already conquered fifteen or twenty rods the com[illegible] is prolonged [illegible] splashing
and bailing now drifted back now gaining a few rods, now fast on a candbar on this side now aground on the other, till the victory was again wrenched from us and, drawing our boat upon a large sandbank we disembarked, laid our packs at our feet, and with uncovered heads, thus addressed the culprit boat, each in turn O Boat, here[illegible] and perverse, why perish in this obstimate and un- profitable determination of opposition to the reasonable demands of thy lords and masters. [Don't plead?] weakness? fearest thou the gran- elly shoals and angry waves of the whirlpool, or the jutting rock bank? These dangers have all been [illegible] a thousand times by the frailest canoe that smoothly and un- murmmingly have [illegible] their
towing masters with [them?] little ones in softy over these waters. As does fond attachment for thy parent stream bring forth this unbecoming opposition Art thou then unwilling to follow [duty?] to all places. Shall flimsy inclination overcome principle, Shame be thy portions thou art small and light as a baby cradle but ob[illegible] and unsteerable as Noahs ark, Shame [but think thee?] of the bark canoe, the tinkling gondola and whole sloop, with the vast livia[illegible] of war, all humble and [illegible]- edient to navigate all waters in glassy calmness or when t[illegible] to the sky [illegible] in the foam of the storm, depart from my service to that of another upon thy parent whom thou seemest to love and may'st thou serve her better than
was possessed of a lasting fund of everyday benevolence and just a few minutes ago she told us her reason. "I have "said she "a son who was some years in New Mexico, many times he was refused shelter from storm and compelled to pass long nights in rain and sleet. I was determined that though I should be occasionally imposed upon I should never
refuse the [illegible] of hospitality to any This I think is as noble a sentiment as ever came from mortal life, And if I live, she shall know some time that I have not forgotten her. My co[illegible] [illegible] as I write is listening to the narration of this sons adventures This is the only place where we have [meet?] with a really cordial reception Goodby You may hear from me again when I reach a convenient point
But Jacob wise at Fountain well "Has heaps of cows, and milk to sell", Then from a fallen log they rise and gravely steer for farmer Wise. Meanwhile the day of sultry June approaches past the hour of noon; Our heroes, faint and fainter still, Toil on with braced unfaltering will, Till on a ridge of thistly ground The home of Master Wise is found, And, waxing hold, our starving men Bestow their tale of want again. But Jacob with commanding air Presents on each a Yankee star, And slowly, in dull angry tone, Assures them they "had best be gone" But stanchly fixed with needful will 'Till fed with milk and bread their fill, And, wiser grown, they know their task And kindly divers questions ask - How long beside this darkened wood His house and handsome barn have stood?
A Breakfast Dedicated to the "Patron of all those luckless brains, which to the wrong side leaning, Indite much metre with much pains And little or no meaning."
The early breeze of morning falls Upon the trembling chamber walls, - The hours of evening, one by one, Retreat before the joyful sun, - O our heroe's task of resting oer, They leave their ever-open door And yawn, and stretch, and view the sky With locks and garments much awry, Then seek with faltering steps and slow The bustling stream that winds below, Where, like wet poultry after rain That trim disordered plumes again, They wash, and love, and dress their hair, And for the breakfast search prepare
All harnessed now, in rambling style, with bounding glee they march a while The gen'rous grass and twigs bestow their dewy honors as they go, 'Till we might deem, the stranger three All night had drifted in the sea. [illegible] now each sheltered shade, soft sedgy pool and waving glade, Is searched throughout with patient eye. If stranger plant they might disery. If such be found, no golden treasure may bring so much of honest pleasure. But smoke curls on that mountain brow, and breakfast is the question now. - The house is gained - with an half bold Their tale of morning hunger's told; They ask no bun of frickly taste, No fire complex with frosty paste, No fiery mixture striped with candy, No slimy oysters boiled in brandy, But bread and milk, at any time Procured with [illegible] by [illegible] dime Purchased with a paper dime.
But Ah! How marred was breakfast then How lost the plans of "mice and men"! For bread - "I've none good mother cries," "Because my risings did not rise - " "Ive biscuit, but a pair at most, "And as for milk the cow is lost;" "But, three miles farther on our way," "You'll come to Dick and Simon Day." With tardy steps they leave the door And more of hunger than before And slow, the lengthened miles they tread. Which lead to Simons timber shed. With growing emphasis they tell, How 'neath a cotton sheet they dwell, And,' mid the hills, all daylight hours Roam near and far for weeds and flowers But growling want still pressing sore Compels to seek the farmer's door. And add with deeply serious brow, How much they feel of hunger now. But Simon has not bread to spare - The milk is soured with sultry air -
Adventures of their Naturalist, in search of a Breakfst or
A peep into a Cranford C. Marl Bag
How old himself and curly dog? How much had weighed his fattest hog? How great the price of meadow hay? How far from here his clearing lay? These cords so struck resounding well, With kindling eye he'll warly tell, How first this woodland farm be found When all was Indian hunting ground, And coons and herds of fallow deer Were tame as sheep or broken steer, And howling wolf and savage yell Mixed all the echos up the dell. [illegible] [illegible] he inflamed before So calm as Boss, and all her store Uncreamed, with bread and Sally's pie, Bestows with kindly beaming eye, - "Nor ought" said he "will I deny -" "To honest folks as good as I," "But strolling men of riley looks" "A pedlin clothes and dirty books" "However so larned or big he be" "Much comfort [illegible] shall get from me"
With grateful toil and cares oppress The Christian day brought welcome rest 'Mong giant oaks their trembling house Shrinks cow'ing like a mountain mouse Unpacked their books and plants around Are sprinkled oer the briery ground While they intent on heavenly things Would seek the bliss which Sabbath brings All nature now is calmly gay And seems to know 'Tis sabbath day These glowing hours of holy calm Are laden with a riches balm More softly treads the morning breeze Its leafy path of arching trees Less noisy now the fearless sill, A smoother haze is on the hill, And sounds come all in harmony With the will of holy melody" Their hearts are swayed with reverent fear So heavenly footsteps come so near, And kneeling on the leafy sod Their hearts in prayer ascend to God One reads aloud the sacred page How love divine from age to age Hath marked mankind with pitying eye And spared a race condemned to die And even the Saviours blood was given That guilty man might enter heaven What love had made him leave the skies How stooped so low that man should rise Of love unstrained for all his foes What tears he shed for others woes
Of darksome love gath[illegible]ane And death upon the shameful tree How vanquished Death no terror wears And Grave is shorn of all his fears The book is closed - the golden chain I brought with joy and sign again While peeping through the leafy wall The startled birds their neighbors call And joyful well the lenghend lays And circling hills repeat the praise
In broken converse now the day Goes quickly unperceived away Perhaps why mortals may be proof Against the shafts of Jesus' love What lands are stained with martyr blood When fearless hearts would worship God Of fretful crowds who gaily side In tinkling pomp the horse of pride of kinder hearts who pitying scan The fearful depths of fallen man And firm with patient purpose prove The noiseless might of Christian love Of lasting wealth for youth or age So freely spread on natures page What bounds to mortal ken are given What plants adorn the vales of heaven Of times when wasting war shall cease And all accept the Prince of Peace Of Death with huge unequal sheaves And countless too as summer leaves What wealth of various fruit is there The shriveled form with whitened hair
The thoughtless gay as in a dream And fearless as the mountain stream The babe unknown to hate or strife That taste [illegible] [illegible] of life Like early blossoms doomed to be Nipped in [illegible]less infancy
Now tired on natures sofa spread Their resting limbs seem lost and dead But sprightly thought in labor sweet Trips freely forth on dreamy feet To mix once more with absent friends And nurse the cheer which memory lends 'Till careful plants their petals close Them with birds they seek repose Thinking of the morning when With firmer limb they'ed rise again To read the glorious chart of God Spread out in beauty all abroad
How blest indeed: Their lot who may [illegible] [illegible] view form day to day with sight scarce dimmed by carnel sense These tokens of [illegible]. While friends all worn with ghastly war [be?] lost in friendless climes afar
March 1st 1864
The rest of this days ramble closes with our Woodsman adventure which I have not time to write now I have not time either to write off a copy of what I have already written you Some day when you are not very busy I wish you would draw off a copy for me. Correcting it at the same time I am to take the cars in about half an hour. I really do not know where I shall "halt" I feel like Miltons Adam and Eve. "The wild was all before them where to choose their place of rest" Write to Midland soon. I have already bidden all my friends goodbye I feel lonely again [illegible] [Goodbye Emily]
Noon rest; Evening etc -
Unt[illegible]lled now with eating toil They gather free their flow'g [illegible] Now wandering lost in verdure rank O'er broken slope and shelving bank Now wandering heedless on their way Like winding streamlet in the hay 'Till laden quite like active bees They seek a soothing place of ease Perhaps they find a hillside brook And trace it to the mossy nook Where first its cooling waters spring And grateful birds delight to sing The sun in strength and glory [moves?] Glows fiery on the mountains brow Dark shadows on the prairies fall And hazy radiance over all But sheltered from the blazing sky Their grateful task they joyful [illegible]
Their plants arranged at rest and free The time goes by in noisy glee On silent, they at rest reclined The dreams sheaves of fancy bind On thoughtful mark the future day When like the snow shall melt away This blooming life of all the land Crushed in winters icy land
Perhaps a district school is near deep in the wood all lone and dear For Yankee Sam would as he lives Prove all the bliss which giving gives By granting farms and education To seeking poor of every nation But ever doth his bowels move Towards badger youth with special love And thus his schools has sprinkled wide O'er prairie swell and dark hillside Where turning sons of every trade But chiefly young or luckless maid
Impart with care and cute precision The rule of three and long division Tis here shrewd badgers seek to rise And shew their native enterprise - This trading youth with sheltered face Will sell by signs and sly grimace His captive squirrel or whittled boat As lining from an only coat While teacher hums a favorite sound As turns the plants upon her bound That wait with flaming hues to shed The painted beauties on her head And often too they'd seek again With much of joy and much of pain That [illegible] most blast that [illegible] swell The College ground beloved so well On either side a lake is near Maple fringed and glassy clear The briery glens behind are gay Bedecked in Natures easy way While picture like from shore to shore The capital is spread before
Fountain Lake [Wisc.]
Muir, John, "Letter from John Muir to Emily O. Pelton, 1864 Feb 27-Mar 1" (1864). John Muir Correspondence (PDFs). 1161.
Reel 01, Image 0632
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Environmentalist, naturalist, travel, conservation, national parks, John Muir, Yosemite, California, history, correspondence, letters