Annie K[ennedy] Bidwell


John Muir



attach your autograph. Did you know I accompanied my sister as far as Battle Mountain on her journey home. Well I did, and we stopped at Lake Tahoe, and sailed over these wonderful wa- ters from nine A.M. until four P.M. ever amazed at the varied beauties thereof. Beautiful gems seemed to sparkle in the sunlight as the spray was strown up by the boat. Even saphires of exquisite brilliancy, and emeralds, & innumerable gems. I sit now and closing my eyes see it all, and look down into the wondrous beauty of the water; silver, pearl, blue, green, [underlined: black], and [underlined: purple], and in all their varied shades. Is there else where such won- drous water? It passed any concept- tion of water I had ever had, and is to me a constant wonder & enjoyment. I had thought the water of the big Spring at Big Meadows must sur- pass all other waters, so wondrous clear & beautiful it is; but Lake Tahoe surpasses it immeasurably. I did

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Rancho Chico Jan 27th 1878

My Dear Mr Muir.

I had set apart this evening for you, but as on similar oc- casions, have been interrupted by visit- ors, until now it is almost too late to move than commence a letter; but com- mence one I must, having really worried over my delay in responding to your very welcome received last month. General thought it so instruct- tive and interesting that he enclosed it to my sister to read; who reports that she also enjoyed it, and asks me to say to you that you will receive a pamphet, containing engraving of Sir Joseph Hooker, which will be rather out of date as she was not able to get it under six weeks from the time she

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ordered it, and it was a month old when she saw the copy. I am to have one also, she tells me. Recently I received a very kind letter from Sir Joseph, enclosing an excellent photograph of himself and wife. He said Dr Gray had communicated news of your sail down the Sacramento river, received from me, and that he was very anxious to learn how the expedi- tion terminated, and added “I want to hear from Muir, am writing him now.” So ere this you doubtless have re- ceived & answered his letter, but, lest you might not be able to write immediately, I ventured in my acknowledgemen of his favors to give him a few items regarding your expe- ditions. I hope you will tell him about our trip from Mt Shata, & what you saw at cinder cone, and of the [illegible] inch high tree of which I have the cone! I told Dr Gray, or rather asked Mrs Gray to, but I fear they will think me mis- taken. If you repeat it they will have assurance. I also told of the grand “Williamsonii” on Sassen. Do tell them all you can, for Mrs & Dr Gray say they are anxious to hear from you; & Dr Gray says he feels that he only had a taste where he wished a good meal & time to digest it. Mrs Gray recently sent me views of their camp on Abeyta Pass, taken by Prof. Hayden. Also a group taken while out here, of herself, Dr Gray and Sir Joseph. In the Abeyta Pass photographs the entire party is taken as it was in Colorado, including Prof. Hayden Dr Lamboon & others unknown to me, and is sufficiently large to frame and hang on the wall. Now I want [underlined: yours]. A real good one of you, too, and I want it [underlined: very] soon, for you see the collection is not complete until I have it. Also please

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that it was so in other countries, that in Africa certain white animals were dying out and the black surviving; that the white ate a poisonous weed the odor of which they seemed unable to discover while the black discovered it, avoided it, and lived. As the Professor was continually claiming our descent [ route?] & relationship to animals, I remarked here, [deleted: that] “Then it is different with man, for it is claimed the black is giving way before the white”. His answer was that “all circumstances being equal- ly favorable the black would survive the white. That the improved surround- ings of the white made them the stronger where as the black naturally were the stronger.” Did you ever hear such ar- guments.” How did the white get their superior surroundings? If Prof. Gunning is really a wise man I want you to tell me so I could not resist comparing the benefit derived from our intercourse with Dr Gray. Sir Joseph & yourself, to that derived from our several days with Prof. Gunning. He did not teach us one new

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not enjoy the surrounding scenery of Lake Tahoe as I do that of Big Meadows, and thought I could understand your compare- ison bet the two. Lake Tahoe’s scenery was sad and oppressive to me, while that of Big Meadows always is so cheerful, harmonious, and exalting. There is a gladness combined with its grandeur which impresses me with a sense of its perfection. I love to sit, and gaze, and drink it in; and each succeeding visit renders it more attractive to me. We also stopped at Virginia City and after studying to science of mining as ex- hitited above ground, descended into the Ophir mine nineteen hundred feet! I confess to being very [illegible] to descend into the blackness & depth, but the per- suasions of the party conquered, and the result was that I saw more than I had ever expected to, of mining. It was a most interesting and in- structive experience, and while thank- ful for having enjoyed the [underlined: benefit], con-

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fess to a joy experienced in again breathing the free air of heaven, and beholding the light of the sun. We went through the Ophir & Consolidated Virginia, and I presume you know what we saw as well as I could tell you; There were seven of us, Prof. Gun- ning being of the party. And here I want to ask you your opin- ion of that gentleman. I promise not to betray confidence, for I am really anxious to know something about him. He had letters to General and myself, and expects to visit Chico ere returning east. Is merry and amusing, but I do not believe a word he says, scientifically, and I will tell you why. First, because he con- fessed to having deceived persons rather than confess his ignor- ance. Second – because he always evaded, or deliberately im- povised answers which I knew incorrect – when cornered. An instance – He insisted that “the whole scientific world with- out exception, admits that man is evolved out of a lower ani- mal”. I replied that Dr Gray does not, [underlined: for he had so told] me. (Prof Gunning at first declared Dr Gray does, but when I added “he told me he does not”, then Prof. Gunning replied “ Well Gray does not, but he is the only one”.) To prove his theory he would constantly twist everything [underlined: twistable] into harmony with his theory. A passing drove of hogs was turned to the same account, but seemingly un- intentionally. “I notice that in California and Nevada the white hogs are giving way to the black, the black are evolved from the white: (you can see it in these hogs, they have mostly become black”. I replied “yes, but in the cause you are mistaken: The Chester white is too delicate a hog for this country’s mode of treatment, requiring great care; while the Essex & Berkshire, both black hogs naturally, [deleted: would] thrive under the hearding system and grow fat on grass, & can bear exposure to the weather, hence are the only hogs which our people can afford to keep.” This annoyed Prof. Gunning and he replied

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But I must say good night, pray- ing that you may be kept in safe- ty and happiness, and remain Very Sincerely Your friend Anne K. Bidwell

Mr John Muir.


[second part cut off when photographed]

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thing. He assured as that the Bible is a fraud, yet quoted it to prove Adam & Eve were “people all covered with hair like ani- mals”, which he assured us the origin- al of the term “naked” signified. At Lake Tahoe, when viewing the “fish culture” establishment he announced that in the trout we could see development illustrated. That often a trout is hatched with two heads. I assured him I could not see such in the water before us, and his answer was that the two headed die. I replied that to me the argument was against his theory in as much as the monsters fail to survive. He also said all botanists, Dr Gray included, teach that plants change from one to another “Your do not mean that lily becomes a rose or a similar change occurs” I replied. He answered “yes I do, & Dr Gray will tell you so too.” I have seen a statement by “Dr Carrathers the Keeper of the botanical department of the British museum” to the

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effect that he has carefully studied this question but fails to find any facts to prove it, but rather the contrary. And I have an extract from his address before the geological Association on this subject, delivered last year. Also a statement by Prof. Davidson regard- ing another point on which Prof Gunning said [underlined: all] scientists agree; evolution in animal life. In this article Prof. Davidson says that after 15 years of careful study, at Prof. Darwin’s request, of the Brachiopoda, he has been unable to “produce a single actual fact in support of the theory”. Please tell me who is nearest right & in what you think Prof. G. right or wrong. Will you please tell me the name of the plant on which we spread our blankets, under those grand Abies Williamisonii, on Lassen. “Also the plant which you pronounced one of your favorites, and for which you named our camp”. I have forgotten both, and wish to know them. We congratulate you on the grand success of your recent explorations, and are truly thankful you were preserved through every danger, and arrived safely among the haunts of man. Against this last clause you may rebel, but we are none the less glad that it is true. I trust your life may long be spared to gather these stores of knowledge whereby the world is made wiser and better, and from which you derive such pure joy. We shall always be so glad to hear from you when you feel like writing and shall hope ere long to have our promis- ed visit. Just now the rain is copiously visiting us, and soon the flowers will [ show?] their pretty faces and we do hope you will be here to enjoy their beauty with us.


Rancho Chico, [Calif]

Date Original

1878 Jan 21


Original letter dimensions: 21 x 27 cm.

Resource Identifier


File Identifier

Reel 03, Image 0667

Collection Identifier

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

Copyright Statement

Some letters written to John Muir may be protected by the U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.). Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by copyright beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owners. Responsibility for any use rests exclusively with the user.

Owning Institution

Holt-Atherton Special Collections, University of the Pacific Library. Please contact this institution directly to obtain copies of the images or permission to publish or use them beyond educational purposes.


7 pages


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



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