S. Hall Young
Wooster (not Worcester) Ohio. Jan 26, '97.
Friend of my Soul:
Your letter has reached me this minute and I will answer it "while it is hot."
I acknowledge my culpable neglect of your much valued correspondence. (That sounds formal, but it is sincere.) But you surely got my note written last Spring, immediately after your first letter. If you did not, you must have left on your profound trip before it arrived. Not hearing any response to that, and the other being long delayed in the P.O. of Cedar Falls, Iowa, I did not send the account of Stickine which I had written & herewith enclose.
But I feel that I have had no adequate excuse for not writing much & often to
you the past five years.
My life has been a hard struggle in some respects, pleasant & successful in others. I have had work always requiring very close attention, and filling my life with toil & care. I have been successful in my lectures, preaching and pastoral labors, having large congregations & constant encouraging additions to my churches. I have learned much, inproved much (I hope) in preaching power, and enjoyed much. Have been successful in everything but in making money. During the last two or three years the "horror of proverty" as Marion Crawford says has "smitten me in the face". It has been a losing fight against debt and want. To owe money and not be able to pay it--that seems to me to be the very climax of human misery. And the added an-
guish of it that swells the heart to bursting is that others suffer in the same way. For I would not be in debt at all if I could collect what others owe me--but they cannot pay, & thus have added the bitter drops of broken promises, made in good faith, to my cup.
I don't know why I have told you this. I have never written it before to a soul. Perhaps in a vague feeling of self-justification for my long stupor of almost despair. The feeling has been so strong at times that only family ties have prevented me from breaking entirely away & fleeing back to my "beautiful, fruitful wilderness"--burying my body in the forest shades--laying my tired head on Mother Nature's breast. But I have strong ties, strong love for my own, am much beloved by them, and am, in a sense, happy. I certainly have had in good meas-
one of that highest pleasure which ever comes to mortal--for so I believe that of seeing souls born anew into the kingdom of God--lives rescued, ennobled, sweetened.
I buried my noble old Father, as you know, in 1890; stayed in Butler, Pa. one year; was in Cabery Ill, another year; moved to Cedar Falls, Iowa, where I was pastor of a growing & working church for three years. But the hard times struck that town hard--closed down the manufacturies--broke two out of the three banks--and paralyzed the finances of the church. I was starved out.
Then I received very unexpectly a call to my old Alma Mater, and here I have been for a year and a third, pastor of the University Church, ministering to one of the most intellectual and spiritual congregations in the U.S.
I have an audience of five to seven hundred bright minds & noble souls - most of them retired ministers & missionaries & their families, men & women, who have come here to educate their children, retired business men, etc. Besides the Profs & the students It takes hard study and careful work to keep ahead of such a congregation. My study is in the U. & my house near by. I am reviewing many books for our Quarterly, deliverying a good many lectures throughout the state, studying hard along the lines of Sociology and biblical criticism, teaching four classes in the College, doing the pastoral work, etc, etc. But the U. is hard pushed for funds & I have been living on half salary swimming hard but still getting choked by the bitter water.
I have improved my
Alaska lectures. Have five of them. Have lectured to six Chatauquas, & have had great success. Although I have been negligent about writing to you, I have not neglected any opportunity of talking about you, and audiences all through these states have seen Glacier Bay with your eyes and shivered as I worked up my climax - your wonderful & heroic feat of strength & skill & love on the mountain, when you saved my life at such risk to your own. Indeed the wonder of that grows upon me more & more. and I believe I feel more lively, eyefilling gratitude to you ever time I recall it.
Your splendid article in the June Century of 1895 has been read by me & my friends with great delight. How fresh the whole journey seemed to me. And the other
articles - wonder if I have missed any of them?
Your book I have not seen. Who is the publisher?
My own hangs fire. Impecuniosity is the chief difficulty; - I've actually not had sufficient money to buy the books, pictures & cuts needed; for I want to make it good. I have a great part of it written. Perhaps I will be able to publish it this summer.
For now, I'm going to astonish you. & tell you a secret. I hope to go back to Alaska next Fall as its Governor. Of course it is uncertain as yet, but things are very hopeful. I have been introduced to Maj. McKinley by one of his closest friends, and have been sent for by him, and am to go to see him this week, in company with three of the strongest and best men of O, all warm, personal
friends of his & mine. I have besides this the warm backing of the present Gov. of Alaska, and many other good men there & in Wash. & Or., including two U. S. judges, two senators & other grand men. Other influence from Iowa, Ill, Pa, Ky, Ohio, Min., N.Y., Mass. & W.VA. is gathering in--men whose character the Pres. elect will respect. The points are being urged in any favor that I was there, constituted the principle gov't during the lawless times, explored, insituted schools & missions, put down witchcraft & slavery, worked for civil gov't, drafted the first bill, acquired thorough knowledge of the country, its features, resources, peculiar conditions; expecially the natives & the whites; and had great influence with both, etc.
Now you can do me a great favor. I am asked by Maj. McKinley to get together letters and
endorsements. What he wishes is not mere political endorsement, but letters from good men, who know me and my work in Alaska.
Now if you will write him a concise letter, telling what you think are some reasons I should have the office, and send the letter to me, to forward with the others after the Fourth of March, it will have great influence with him.
I think Alaska needs me, as I need the office. I believe I am going chiefly (if I go) to do good. I have stood up for the cause of both whites & natives against their traducers, and have been studying the questions that have arisen in the Ter.
At the same time I am hungry for a sight of the mountains & glaciers again. One of the most joyful anticipations is that of doing some more exploration with you; for we will ex-
pect you and all your family to be frequent visitors at the gubernatorial mansion at Sitka.
Mrs. Y. is well, except that she is worn out by household cares. Our two bright girls are in the Prep. School of the College, studying Latin, Ger. etc. The second one, Alaska, has become quite a violinist, and will make her mark there. Should I get my appointment I would put them in some good school on the Pacif. Coast.
But "there's many a slip"- and I may not get it. If I do I hope we will yet take many trips together.
I tingle in every nerve, whenever summer comes, to be gone to the woods & wilds. I have taken several enjoyable outings, but they do not compare with Alaska. The best I have had was a canoe ride, two summers ago, from Lake & Itasca to Aitkin in Minn - 500 miles of river & lake - a solid month
of camping & sport.
Then I have run down several of the Iowa rivers in my canoe. I have a fine canoe, made by myself, in which my daughters & myself have had some fine outings.
What is your family now? Tell me about them.
Now my best old friend, write me a good long leter, & forgive my neglect.
I don't want you to think by what I said of poverty, etc, that I am lying down on my back & squealing. I am ready for a sturdier fight against the elements than ever. I feel far younger than when I went to Alaska. My troublesome shoulders haven't been out of place since I left Alaska. Ho! for a glacier climb!
Excuse the length of this epistle. I couldn't stop. My "terminal facilities" are not good when I get to writing to you. Perhaps
that is one reason I have not got at it before.
Give my warm regards to Mrs. Muir and the daughters. How the girls do grow up! Abbie, the baby you used, in your conceit, to show me how to hold, is a young lady of 17 - and Alaska is nearly 16! Wanda must be over 16, is she not?
I am still getting illustrations for my sermons from Alaska. Got some fine ones from your Glacier Bay article, especially from your "gospel of the mountain flowers". That is one of the best paragraphs you ever wrote.
Are you doing much literary work now? What was your special field of operations this summer in Alaska?
Must stop. God bless you! Good bye.
1897 Jan 26
Original letter dimensions: 23 x 14 cm.
Young, S. Hall, "Letter from S. Hall Young to [John Muir], 1897 Jan 26." (1897). John Muir Correspondence (PDFs). 2129.
Reel 09, Image 0651
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