[Robert Underwood] Johnson
Martinez Oct 24. 1890
My dear Johnson -
I mean to start for Kings River Yosemite next Monday the 27th to take another dip into the Canon & gather fresh facts for that article you want. I hope to have the M.S. ready by December unless something unusual prevents. I saw Robinson the other day. He wants to borrow money, but does not seem to be earning much. I dont think the sketches he showed me for the Kings R. Yo. are very teling Ill send some of my own
Have got off the most valuable of the grapes but 200 tons or so yet remain on the vines. I shall leave others to look after them as much as possible. Dr Strentzel my father-in-law is in very poor low health & I have to help in disposing of his crop of grapes also. I hope to get a lawyer to go with me into the Canon & will ask him about the description of the proposed reservation. As for Irish his case is hopeless & I dont mean to answer him at all. His moral sense seems to have given way & sloughed off in
utter ruin & rottenness like a stranded jellyfish trampled & decomposed. To argue with a dead man would be more hopeful labor that with John P. As to the sawmill business In the spring of 1868 I made my first visit to the valley wh lasted 8 or 10 days, then returned to the San Joaquin plains & worked in the harvest field to earn a little money. In the fall being anxious to see more of the valley I returned to it just before winter set in walking all the way up the mountains. I wanted to stay in the valley all winter for the sake of seeing it in its crystal garb & was therefore anxious to obtain
work. Mr. Hutchings had built a small sawmill to get lumber for the cottages that are still standing about the old hotel. But the mill would not work. While I was camped in the valley Mr. Hutchings came to my fire one night & asked me whether I knew anything about mills. I told him I was a millwright. He then requested me to look at his mill & tell him whether or no I could make it work. Next day I told him the waterwheel & the machinery in general would have to be made over again. He then prevailed on me to undertake the job at $90.00 per month & board. I put in new machinery of the simplest kind, & by the end of winter had made
a few thousand feet of lumber. I continued to run the mill for two or three seasons, working only in time of high water. One of the large mills on Puget Sound cuts more lumber in half a day than I sawed in all these years. A year or two before I entered the valley a tremendous wind storm blew down a considerable number of the large yellow pines & it was from these fallen trees that the mill logs were obtained. I never cut down a single tree in the valley or sawed one cut down by others as far as I know. This is all there is by way of foundation for the statement that I was making lumber for sale out of Yo groves.
I never had the slightest pecuniary interest in this or any other mill. All this was done with the consent & approval of Clark the guardian as far as I know. He frequently came to the mill & expressed admiration for its simplicity & cheapness praising me as a great genius. He joined me on several of my excursions & was always decidedly friendly. So much for John Muir & his mill being hastily driven out of Yosemite ere he had completed the destruction of its trees. After I left the mill & had earned money enough to go on with my studies without interruption the mill was operated for several years. It was while running
this little mill that Emerson visited me climbing a slanting plank to my nest like study in the gable over the stream. But remember this is for you only - none of it to be published. Life is too short for defense of character - mine is not worth so much trouble anyhow & has nothing to do with Yo. Here are some photos all I have
1890 Oct 24
Original letter dimensions unknown.
Muir, John, "Letter from John Muir to [Robert Underwood] Johnson, 1890 Oct 24." (1890). John Muir Correspondence (PDFs). 1960.
Reel 06, Image 0685
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