John Muir


John Muir


[Elizabeth N. Moores]


[1] 6-18-[1867] Prairie home of Mr Neely Tuesday morning June 18th

[Dear] friends we arrived here about dusk on friday. Merrill found & made himself familiar with nearly all of his Danville relatives. There he visited the coal mines, collected fossils, & made cascades among the brotherhood of rills that sing on the green high banks of the Big Vermillion. We left Danville Thursday afternoon at one or two o'clock - ate supper at Decatur and proceeded north to the pretty town of Bloomington where we arrived about dusk - next morning we were again in motion for Ferrestown where we arrived about three - there it was my intention to botanize north eastward a few miles and take all of Saturday to find Mr Neely - after walking about half a mile, we were overtaken

[in margin: I daily find Merrill more congenial. I wish he was older. Remember us to all friends. My love to all [illegible] with most cordial gratitude. J Muir]


by some farmers who lived near Mr Neely & as Merrill was very impatient to go on we rode with them & got to Mr. Neely's the same day! Merrill would not admit that he was tired but I know that this was too far to ride in one day; besides the farmer we spoke of lived two & half instead of one & a half miles from here & we had this to walk mostly after sunset I am very sorry Mrs Moores that I have caused you uneasiness about Merrills walking - after tiring out both Miss Catherine & Miss Nina, & leaving last Tuesday with perhaps a hasty step, you certainly had good apparent cause for the anxiety you felt and I am so unhappy as often to cause my friends similar unnecessary pain, but I am sure


that under these present circum- stances I could [illegible] the smallest signs of approaching fatigue & I would not over weary my precious charge for all the floral wealth that may ever bless me - I will hope that your fears concerning this matter will disappear We are quite well - Merrill is spending days of great activity and seems to be very happy now Saturday was sheep shearing day and he had full scope for exciting fun in catching the sheep his success however was not as full as he wished. I heard him complain that they were merinos whose matted wool would not admit his fingers for a good hold He fully maintains his character as a muddy boy - such confidence & easy gestured invasion


of ditches and slush-pools exceeds all I have ever seen - he disclaims however the remotest affinity for mud I hate mud says he but somehow I get into it Charles likes mud but manages to keep out of it - when speaking of his favorite cascade with its basin of crystal rock & moonlight in the spray I ventured to ask him how he would like to exchange the clear water of his cascade for an equal pouring volume of lobbering slobbering mud - he was quite indignant - "did not like mud- couldn't see why people thought so or teased him so" etc Since his visits to the Danville coal mines he is much interest -ed in the geology of coal fields and asks many questions con- cerning their age, composition, and history of formation. I am sorry to say that I cannot always furnish him with satisfactory answers For botany to be manifest as great or greater interest as could be looked for he analyzes several plants everyday with me - remembers their names and learns the use of as many descrip- tive words as can be expected among so many exciting sights & sounds


yesterday for noon I helped him to dam the meadow brook and to make a water wheel for it. My own days of juvenile mill wrighting came back with very full recollection After making a few suggestions I left him to plan my work for his spluttering wabbling wheel he might judge it capable of performing well, I was pleased to see how eagerly he set about his work. In the afternoon he planted a pole ten feet long in the mud opposite his new precious property, then tieing a tin cup to a thread twenty feet long he passed the end of it over the pole and attached it to the water wheel shaft, then starting his mill raised and lowered the cupful of water with a seriocomic motion exactly like that of the asending flag at your society Fourth of July


Towards night he complains that his thread was wearing out from too great friction, I suggested that a horses head which lay near might be stuck upon the pole, & that a stronger elevating string of horse hair would pass smoothly over its nose, Merrill thought it strange that a horses tail should pass over a horses head - remarked that it was a curious meeting of extremes, etc - all this last night & much now of a similar nature of nonsense, wit, & invention; but here is what I wanted to tell you when the wheel had wound up the cup to the top of the pole Merrill the Engineer dashed his joined hands into the falling stream & caused the water to shoot over instead of under the wheel thus reversing its motion and lowering the cup. I objected that this was a very imperfect re- versing [contrivance], & suggested levers that would be self acting. Since com- mencing this letter he burst into the room exclaiming with glowing Archimedean enthusiasm "Ive got it!" - dont need any levers! then followed an ardent des- cutition of the newborn reversing apparatus to be regulated by clock work hidden in the dam beyond the reach of meddlesome boys and said he I can make a larger one to pump water or elevate wheat & I can patent it & said he - his eyes twinkling & sparking "all inventors have trade marks and mine shall be a horses head on a pole with hair hanging from the holes where its eyes were"

[in margin: Merrill read your [letter] a few minutes ago I [hoped] to hear that you were better. Tell [Chas] [& Laura] & Katie that we often speak of them and will soon write to them.]


[Portage, Wisc.]

Circa Date

[1867] Jun 18

Resource Identifier


File Identifier

Reel 01, Image 1078

Collection Identifier

Online finding aid for the microform version of the John Muir Correspondence

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, click here to view the Holt-Atherton Special Collections policies.

Owning Institution

Indiana Historical Society Library. 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



5 pages


Environmentalist, naturalist, travel, conservation, national parks, John Muir, Yosemite, California, history, correspondence, letters



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