John Muir


John Muir


Louie [Wanda & Helen Muir]



Aug. 23, 1900.

Dear Louie & lassies

We reached this lovely grove yesterday after a cool fine rough ride over the mountains. Once we had a little snow storm Once a hail storm & for the last three or four mornings the meadows were white with hoarfrost The weather here is just right cool calm warm at noon in the sun delicious in the shade. How fine if you could all enjoy it. Mr [illegible] & Miss Sperry are here & Mr & Mrs Hutchings. Dr Merriam & Mr & Mrs Baily


are pleasant companions & I am learning lots about birds & chipmunks. We expect to be in Yosemite in two or three weeks from now & hope to get letters there. Direct postmaster to hold till called for. But for a week from now send a letter or two to Bridgeport, Mono Co. Cal. that is have the letters there in a week from now - later to Yosemite. Tomorrow we start for Murphy, & Sonora thence over the mountains again to Bridgeport & Mono Lake & thence up Bloody Canon to Tuelumne Meadows & Yosemite Then home. I dread the next three days in the heat & horrible dust but soon we will be high and cool again Remember me to Maggie & Sarah & the rest

Ever Yours John Muir

I am sending a telegram from here to be forwarded from Murphy & hope for answer at Sonora



The Mammoth Grove is situated in a small valley, near the head waters of the San Antonio, one of the largest streams in Central Calaveras, California, and five miles east of the Falls of said stream, which are one hundred and fifty feet in height, and surrounded by the grandest of scenery.


The Hotel can accommodate one hundred guests. It has a laundry, hot and cold baths, a billiard table, bar, verandahs, parlor, ball-room, the most pleasant sleeping apartments, and furnishes the best of fare at the table. It faces the Grove, having the greater number of trees to the left, looking from the verandah, and the two "Sentinels" immediately in the front, about two hundred yards to the eastward.
The valley in which this Grove is situated contains of the sequoia trees, ninety-three, not including those of from one to ten years' growth. There are also hundreds of sugar and pitch pines of astonishing proportions, ranging to the height of two hundred and seventy-five feet, and having not unfrequently a diameter of ten to eleven and a half feet. Anywhere else these pines would be regarded as vegetable monsters. Here, by the side of the sequoia, they look like dwarfs. During the Summer and Spring months this valley is exempt from the heat of the lower country and from the cold of the snow range. Vegetation blooms early in May, remaining fresh and green until the middle of October. The water is always pure and cold, and the Hotel furnished with ice throughout the Summer and Autumn. Snow falls usually about the middle of December, and disappears from the Grove entirely by the middle of April.
There is good hunting ground in the vicinity--- mountain quail are abundant near by, and on the Stanislaus, three miles distant, grouse and deer abound. The numerous streams in the vicinity of the hotel, are well stocked with trout. Delightful horseback or buggy rides conduct the visitor to many interesting points of scenery, or objects of curiosity, among which, besides the Falls of San Antonio, may be mentioned the Basaltic Cliff, on the North Fork of the Stanislaus River, and the Cave at Cave City, fifteen miles to the west.


The Grove contains ten trees each thirty feet in diameter, and over seventy that are between fifteen and thirty feet. Hittell, in his "Resources of California," says: "One of the trees, which is down---'The Father of the Forest'---must have been four hundred and fifty feet high and forty feet in diameter." In 1853, one of the largest trees, ninety-two feet in circumference and over three hundred feet high, was cut down. Five men worked twenty-five days in felling it, using large augers. The stump of this tree has been smoothed off and now easily accommodates thirty-two dancers. Theatrical performances have been held upon it, and in 1858 a newspaper---"The Big Tree Bulletin" ---was printed there.
Near the stump lies a section of the trunk; this is twenty-five feet in diameter and twenty feet long; beyond lies the immense trunk as it fell, measuring three hundred and two feet from the base to its extremity. Upon this was situated a bar-room and ten pin alley, stretching along its upper surface for a distance of eighty-one feet, affording ample space for two alley-beds side by side.
About eighty feet from this stump stand the "Two Sentinels," each over three hundred feet high, and the larger twenty-three feet in diameter. The carriage road approaching the hotel passes directly between the "Two Sentinels." South of the ''Sentinels," and to the right of the road as you approach them, on the hillside, stands a tree over fourteen feet in diameter, which has been named "Old Dowd," in honor of the discoverer of the Grove, which discovery was made in 1852.
Starting from the Hotel for the walk that visitors generally take, entering the Grove by the left-hand pathway, after walking one hundred and twenty yards, we come to the first cluster of Sequoias. They are on our left, close at hand, and were named, respectively, in 1865, "U. S. Grant," "W. T. Sherman," and " J. B. McPherson," after three leading Generals in the Union Army. To the right and southward thirty yards from these is a group of three unnamed trees.
Sixty yards east from "Grant" and "Sherman " is the "Pride of the Forest," originally named "The Eagle." It is twenty-three feet in diameter and three hundred feet high, and altogether one of the healthiest and noblest trees of the forest. Near by stands "Phil Sheridan," a stout, graceful tree, three hundred feet high; and near this lies the "Miner's Cabin,'' which was blown down by a terrific gale, November, 1860. It is three hundred and nineteen feet long, and twenty-one and a half feet in diameter.
Seventy yards east of the "Miner's Cabin" brings us to the "Three Graces," a group of three trees, close together in a straight line, regarded by many as the most beautiful cluster in the Grove.
Fifteen yards north of the "Three Graces" stands "Andrew Johnson" so named early in the summer of 1865. Making this tree a central point of observation, to the west twenty paces is "Florence Nightingale," originally "Nightingale," to which the word Florence was added in 1865, by an admiring nephew of the philanthropic English lady whose name the tree now bears. Thirty paces eastward (of A. J.) is the "Bay State," and forty yards north "W. O. Bryant," so named in 1865, by a lady admirer of that distinguished American poet. To the left of "Bryant" twenty feet is "Win. H. Seward."
After passing "Seward," is the "Pioneer's Cabin" (so named from the cabin-like chamber and chimney its hollow trunk exhibits), one of the largest of the trees. To the west of this, forty yards, are two beautiful sequoias, say seventy-five years old, of beautiful and vigorous growth, two feet in diameter, and one hundred and forty feet high.
South of the "Pioneer's Cabin," seventy yards, in the centre of the Grove, is a tree two hundred and eighty feet high, seventeen feet in diameter, singularly hollowed out on one side by fire, and named " Pluto's Chimney." The "Chimney " made by the fire is on the north side, and extends from the ground ninety feet upward. A hundred feet north of the "Pioneer's Cabin" stands the "Quartette" cluster, the highest of which is two hundred and twenty feet; and fifty yards east of this is a healthy young tree thirteen feet in diameter, two hundred and eighty feet high, named in 1865 by a San Francisco lady, "America." It has been well named.
Eighty yards east of the "Pioneer's Cabin," the one on the right, the other on the left of the path, are "California" and "Broderick," so named in 1865. Originally they were called "Ada" and "Mary." The next tree is "Henry Ward Beecher," two hundred and eighty feet high and fourteen feet in diameter.
A few steps further brings us to the "Fallen Monarch," the base section of a huge trunk, which has to all appearance been down for centuries. It is still eighteen feet in diameter, though all the bark and much of the wood have been wasted away by time. What is left is perfectly sound; but the upper half or two-thirds, which struck the earth with greatest force in its fall, has all disappeared, and trees nearly a century old are growing where it struck. This tree must have been over three hundred feet high and twenty-five feet in diameter.
Fifty paces east of this is the "Hermit," now named "Abraham Lincoln." It is eighteen feet in diameter and three hundred and twenty feet high---sound from root to top. One hundred yards north of this is a tree which has been named "Elihu Burritt." The next tree, twenty paces to the right of the path, is "Uncle Sam." Near it stands "Alta (Upper) California," and fifteen steps north of this is "Union." Next, and right on the trail, comes "General Wadsworth," named in honor of the noble soldier who was slain in Grant's campaign against Richmond. This cluster contains twelve trees, in size of the second class --- averaging fifteen feet in diameter and two hundred and sixty feet in height.
"The Mother of the Forest" ends the northward course of our walk, and here the path turns toward the Hotel. This tree has been stripped of her bark for one hundred and sixteen feet upwards from the ground. It is of course dead, and the top limbs are beginning to fall. The "Mother" is three hundred and twenty-seven feet high, and, without the bark, seventy-eight feet in circumference. North of the "Mother," and outside of the enclosure, are "The Twins" and a nameless tree sixteen feet in diameter and three hundred feet high.
Fifty yards on the trail after it turns southward, is "General Sutter," which, dividing thirty feet from the ground, forms two distinct trees, each two hundred and eighty feet high.
"Salem Witch," "Longfellow," "Prof. Asa Gray" and "Dr. John Torrey" (the two last named in honor of distinguished American botanists) are next, all close together, and are all fine trees. Fifty feet to the west of these stand "The Trinity," three trees growing from one trunk. The circumference below the point of divergence is sixty feet.
One hundred feet from "Longfellow" brings us amidst the family group.
Standing near the uprooted base of "The Father of the Forest," the scene is grand and beautiful beyond description: The "Father" long since bowed his head in the dust yet how stupendous even in his ruin! He measures one hundred and twelve feet in circumference at the base, and can be traced three hundred feet, where the trunk was broken by falling against another tree; it here measures sixteen feet in diameter, and according to the average taper of the other trees, this venerable giant must have been four hundred and fifty feet in height when standing. A hollow chamber or burnt cavity extends through the trunk two hundred feet, large enough for a person to ride through; near its base, a never-failing spring of water is found. Walking upon the trunk and looking from its uprooted base, the mind can scarce conceive its prodigious dimensions, while on the other hand tower his giant sons and daughters, forming the most impressive scene in the forest.
Ninety yards east of this and the same distance from the road, is a cluster of three trees named "Starr King," "Richard Cobden" and "John Bright." "Starr King" is the highest standing tree in the group---three hundred and sixty-six feet. "Daniel O'Con-nell," "Edward Everett" and "Fred L. Gould" stand next south of this trio. They are young trees --- say eight hundred years old --- and quite vigorous.
Midway of the trunk of the "Father" are "James King of William" and "Keystone State." "Sir John Franklin" and " Dr. Kane" are close north of the "Father." They were so named in 1862 by Lady Franklin. Near "Dr. Kane" is the "Century" named in 1865, in honor of the notable Century Club, of New York, of which the poet Bryant was President. Ten feet from "The Keystone," close together, stand "John" and "Joseph LeConte."
"J. M. Wooster," formerly "Hercules," stretches his huge body across the path next. This was the largest tree standing in the Grove until 1862, when during a heavy storm it fell. It is three hundred and twenty-five feet long and ninety-seven in circumference. When standing, it leaned about sixty feet from perpendicular. A few paces north of the roots of "J. M. Wooster" are the "Sequoia Queen" and her "Maids of Honor"---one on each side of the "Queen."
"Sir Joseph Hooker," "John Lindley" (English Botanists) and "Humboldt" stand together on the hill near the shattered top of "J. M. Wooster." Near these are two young sequoias, say sixty years old. "The Mother and Son" are directly on our path to the right approaching the hotel. South of these, twenty yards, is an ancient fallen trunk, very large, and near to the east, on the hillside, is an unnamed tree three hundred feet high, sixteen feet in diameter. Thirty yards north [illegible]. The Mother and Son" is "General Scott," three hundred and twenty-five feet high. The "Old Maid," sixty feet in circumference, which fell toward her friend, the "Old Bachelor," January, 1865, lies along the hill all broken to pieces. The "Old Bachelor" still lives. Near this, on the hillside, stands "Kentucky."
"The Siamese Twins," "Daniel Webster" and "Granite State" are in a cluster right on the trail. They are first-class trees in size, with an average diameter of twenty feet and three hundred and five feet in height. "The Old Republican," "Henry Clay," "Andrew Jackson" and "Vermont" next greet us. They are of the second-class. Then come the "Empire State" and "Old Dominion," first-class. The former is ninety-four feet in circumference. We next reach "George Washington." "Uncle Tom's Cabin," a tree of the second-class, stands between" George Washington" and the "Empire State."
Emerging into the open space near the carriage road, we reach "The Beauty of the Forest," "The Two Sentinels" and "Old Dowd." These are of the first and second class. One of the "Sentinels" measures three hundred and fifteen feet in height. In this part of the Grove close observation will detect a number of young trees-say from ten to three hundred years-and from forty to two hundred feet high. They are all growing finely, and promise-barring accidents of wind and fire-to be well brought up, middle-aged trees of their kind in about one thousand years.
Admission to the Grove, 25c.


[From Nelson's Atlantic and Pacific Tourists' Guide.]


On a very pleasant morning we left the Mammoth Grove Hotel at 8 o'clock, for a day amidst the largest grove of the largest trees in the world. Once in the Mexican saddle---the most comfortable made---we followed the well-known mountain guide--- Abe Ritchie. Six miles had to be passed over ere reaching the goal of our ambition. A short distance from the hotel, we ascended and stood on the dividing ridge between the Big Tree Creek and the Stanislaus River. Here a remarkably fine view was obtained of the near and distant mountains. Far away the Dardanelles or summit of the Sierras towered aloft twelve thousand five hundred feet. Many of the distant peaks were snow-capped. Descending into the valley we reached Squaw Hollow, two miles from the hotel. A mile beyond we crossed the north fork of the Stanislaus River, on whose classic shores the Society of Truthful James came to grief. Here a bridge spans the pretty mountain stream; above the bridge are a series of rapids caused by the immense boulders that have rolled into the bed of the river. In places its banks were vine-clad- they are also wooded to the edge. It is a gem of mountain scenery. Ascending the Stanislaus Hill, a fine view was obtained of the valley, as well as of the basaltic cliffs opposite. Further on, the trail passed ever several small natural bridges, under which a swift brook runs. We stopped to examine a veritable freak of nature. At a distance of fully fifteen feet above the ground, a well developed gooseberry bush grows out of the side of a dead tree. A berry, no doubt, was carried there by some squirrel or bird, and from it, this phenomenon of mountain botany sprouted. Yet onward and we reached


Between Beaver Creek and the Stanislaus River. The Creek is a far-famed locality for trout-fishing. Still we wended our way through vast pine trees, of various kinds, many of them ten feet and upward in diameter, and from two hundred to two hundred and seventy feet high, and the South Grove was reached. It has only been known and visited during the last fifteen or sixteen years. Mr. J. M. Hutchings, the well-known Californian writer on the Big Trees, Yo Semite, etc., was its first possessor. It is now the property of Mr. R. B. Whiteside who has over one thousand acres there alone, apart from the Calaveras Grove. It extends three and a half miles and contains thirteen hundred and eighty large trees. Any tree there under eighteen feet in circumference is not considered a large tree. The sequoias, on first acquaintance, are rather awe-inspiring. Their vastness almost appals the beholder. At the entrance to the Grove are three immense sequoias. One is named ''Correspondent" in honor of many hard-working knights of the quill, who are constantly trying to amuse and instruct the public. Next are "Fred" and "Electra;" they form a remarkably fine row as they stand side by side, the outposts of the vast army within. They have an average circumference of forty-five feet, or a diameter of fifteen feet; their average height being two hundred and fifty feet. Our party next reached the "General Custer," an immense tree having a circumference of eighty feet, and a height of three hundred and twenty feet. Proceeding, two celebrated Canadians are met, namely, the "Sir Francis Hucks," measuring sixty feet six inches in circumference at its base, and three hundred feet high. On the opposite side of our path stands the "Dr. J. W. Dawson," measuring fifty feet at its base, and of a similar height.


Have no limbs for fully one hundred feet above the ground. Like all the other trees of the Sequoia family, or Sequoia Gigantea (being named after an Indian chief), they show marks of the great fire that raged upward of one thousand years ago. The "Dawson" has a large cavity burnt out at its base, capable of holding many persons. Following the path, "Dr. Eugene Nelson" is seen on the tourist's right hand measuring at the base sixty-one feet in circumference, height three hundred feet. These trees form an isosceles triangle. Further on are the "Two Lovers," named by a lady, a stately pair of trees; next, a huge tree named "Massachusetts, "one hundred feet in circumference at the base, thus having a diameter of thirty-three feet and one-third, and a height of three hundred and eighty feet. The "Ohio " measures one hundred and four feet in circumference and towers aloft three hundred and twenty-eight feet; then "Connecticut," having a circumference of ninety-six feet and a height of three hundred; the "General Garfield," recently named by an admirer, is three hundred and forty feet high, and has a circumference of ninety feet. Do not imagine that "Hancock " has been forgotten. A friend of his duly named another monster after him; so the presidential contestants confront each other on the mountain top. "New York" measures one hundred and six feet in circumference, and is also three hundred and forty feet high, or a diameter of thirty-five and one-third feet. Now, what does this mean as to size? A mid section of the tree broken perpendicularly would give a front of that extent. Houses in terraces or alone, with a frontage of twenty-five feet, are considered large. Words fail to convey an idea of the exact magnitude of these gigantic denizens of the forest. Twenty yards east of "New York" stand "Grover Cleveland" and "Mrs. Grover Cleveland," each over ninety feet in circumference and more than three hundred feet in height. "Cyclops," a live tree, has an immense cavity at its base, which has actually held


Next, the "Palace Hotel," one hundred feet in circumference, and three hundred feet high. The tree is so named on account of its spacious interior, after the "Palace" at San Francisco---the largest hotel in the world---a fitting monument to one now, alas, no more, whose energy and enterprise did more to develop the Pacific Coast, than any hundred men now living---the late Mr. Ralston. The "Palace" has a burnt out cavity extending upward ninety feet, the same within is fifteen feet across, and yet these giants have survived that dreadful mutilation, and live, and "are as well as can be expected." The "Knight of the Forest" measures seventy-two feet in circumference at the base, and is three hundred feet high. Near by, on a gentle slope, is a group of five unnamed sequoias; they average twenty feet in diameter and three hundred feet high. They are followed by a host of trees of equal magnitude, and the "Three Graces" of this grove, well and fitly named. "Noah's Ark" is a monster; it has a large and long cavity caused by the action of fire, in which two horsemen could ride side by side, as it lay on the ground. Recently the upper part of the shell was broken in by a heavy snow deposit. "Old Goliath," is the largest fallen tree in the Grove; it measures as it lies one hundred and five feet in circumference, and has a present length intact of two hundred and sixty one feet. A limb alone measures twelve feet in circumference. "Smith's Cabin," so named after a hunter and guide, who lived in its burnt-out base for two years, is alive and flourishing, despite the cabin. We measured the interior carefully, and fancy our astonishment in finding it to be sixteen feet by twenty-one and a half. Its height is three hundred and forty feet. Here Smith weathered the terrible gale that was the downfall of "Old Goliath," his neighbor. During the progress of the hurricane he did not dare to venture out, as limbs and trees were constantly coming down.


He compared to an earthquake. This mountain Crusoe still lives. The Grove extends half a mile beyond the "Cabin," in a northerly direction. Having come in by the east side, we turned and left the Grove by the west. Many young sequoias are seen having an average circumference of fifteen feet, with a height of two hundred. Infants of the family also appear in various stages of growth intermediate between these and mere saplings. We paced the surface of "Old Goliath," the largest fallen tree; it was two hundred and sixty-one feet long. It required no stretch of the imagination to make it the deck of some long ship. Sitting upon the upper part of the base of the tree we were twenty-three feet above ground. At two hundred and sixty-one feet, where it is broken off, it measures forty-five in circumference. It has also suffered from fire. Its base has been put to a highly practical use, being no less than a stable for horses. Scientific men of note pronounce the trees to be from two to four thousand years old, their age being judged by the number of circular woody rings they possess. That fire of one thousand years ago raged among the sequoias alone. Nor does this seem incredible, when vast sugar pines twenty-seven and thirty feet in circumference and two hundred and fifty feet high, now growing side by side with these trees, show no sign of fire, proving conclusively that they had no existence at the time. All the sequoias, wherever found, show marks of fire. There are no exceptions among the old trees, as they and they only had existence then. A charming day, never to be forgotten, was followed by a soft moonlight, which, as seen from the Hotel, amidst the Calaveras or Home Grove, was indescribably grand.


Big Trees, Calif.

Date Original

1900 Aug 23


Original letter dimensions: 26 x 41 cm.

Resource Identifier


File Identifier

Reel 11, Image 0319

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, see

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.

Copyright Holder

Muir-Hanna Trust

Copyright Date



4 pages


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



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