Apr 20, 1896
John Muir Esq.
My dear Sir,
Your esteemed favor to hand - came during my late absence at San Jose. Glad to hear from you.
In the inclosed statement I have tried to comply with your request.
So you are going to Alaska again! lookout, for the glaciers there are full
of crevasses. (Please pardon poor pencil writing, my nervous hand being too unstead to use the pen.)
Mrs. Bidwell joins in best wishes and kindest remembrances.
Come and see us when you can.
The Silva of North American I shall hope some time to see, but cannot fix the date.
The Democrats and Republicans have brought the country to the very brink of ruin-- the times are terrible financially we are literally crushed - fruit practically all killed - grain brings scarcely cost. Yet I intend to have the "Silva" if I ever get able.
Please do me the favor to revise and discard every thing in the said inclosed Statement you deem unnecessary. I have no time to revise or condense and put in presentable shape. Do please
In 1841, before Fremont had seen or named Great Salt Lake, Humboldt, Carson or Walker's rivers, or, so far as I know, before any white man had ever crossed the Sierra Nevada mountains, I crossed the plains to California and saw them all. The party I came with consisted of thirty two men one woman and child
We struck a stream and ascended it to the eastern base of said mountains. This proved to be what is now known as Walker's river, which was named by Fremont in 1845 after a noted Rocky Mountain trapper, Jo Walker. There we scaled the now famous Sierra Nevada. and first struck waters flowing west. The stream
we descended was the Stanislaus river, a tributary of the San Joaquin, both names to us being then unknown. Our party was now entirely out of provisions. One of the last two oxen had been killed before we began the climb, the other when in mid journey down the western slope. The oxen become so poor that the bones contained no marrow. Fires
had desolated the mountians and it seemed impossible to find or kill any game. It took about three weeks to get over the great chain, and during that time no game was killed except one wildcat and one crow. The last ox gone, mules and horses could not be spared, except when some became too poor to travel or crippled by falling down precipitous places and so were our only resource
spend the night, for Indian fires were seen and tracks fresh and plentiful.
I had come to the conclusion that the party had gone north (and not west), so at daylight I struck out east with all haste, but found no trail. Then I bore south till I found the camping ground where I left the party the day before. But the party had changed direction, followed an Indian path
down into the deep canon [diacritic], and scaled the canon [diacritic] wall on the south side of the Stanislaus. As I climbed along their rugged trail I found several horses and mules had given out (too weak to go farther) and been left to the mercy of the Indians who were cutting them to pieces even when standing and alive unable to run or kick. My rifle I carried cocked in my hand; but, though
alone and several hours after the party had passed, the Indians made no attempt to molest me.
But to return to the big three which I had seen. The conditions under which I saw it. The darkness that was coming on - the haste to leave as soon as I could see in the morning tc. must be my excuse for the meagre report I am able to give. This tree was, beyond a
doubt, that huge wonder of the Calaveras grove of Sequoias known as the Father of the Forest. Though I entered the grove and found a hiding place for the night near the east side I saw no standing Sequoias.
We had for several ayds been meandering among (to me) wonderful conifers, of which many must have been that monarch of all
pines, the Sugar pine.
Besides, tho to me every thing was new and wonderful, there was at the moment no time to consider. And yet the impression that tree made upon my mind could not be forgotten.
Ever after when the mention of big trees happened to be made, I never failed to tell
my big tree story.
In March, 1844, when Fremont first came to California, I told him in the presence of Capt. Sutter, P.B. Reading, Col. Jos. B. Chiles and others, (at the breakfast table one morning at Sutter's Fort) of the big tree I had seen.
Col. Chiles was of
our party. He had seen the Redwoods of the coast, and through the big tree I had seen was Redwood, and declared he saw Redwood when we were in the Sierra Nevada tc.
But of course he was in this mistaken. And certainly too he was never within ten miles of my
big tree when we were coming to Calilfornia.
Finally, after the Calaveras grove of Sequoias had been rediscoverd in the early fifties I went there and recognized the tree that I saw and the lay of the ground.
[illegible], against [illegible],AKB
Dear Mr Muir
When Genl & my sister & I visited Calaveras grove Genl recognized many features of the locality, saying, "Yes, I was here," and when we reached the hotel he so described the Father of the Forest" to the guide that the latter replied "You have been here." Tears filled my husbands eyes & he turned away, but in a few moments said to me, "let us slip off alone to that tree." & without any wavering he led us to it. We were all much moved: he as the memories surging in upon him; we in sympathy with those memories.
1896 Apr 20
Original letter dimensions: 22.5 x 14.5 cm.
Bidwell, John, "Letter from John Bidwell to John Muir, 1896 Apr 20." (1896). John Muir Correspondence (PDFs). 29.
Reel 09, Image 0124
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