John Muir


John Muir


Louie [Wanda Muir]


[Page 1]

Portage City

Sep 10th 1885

Dear Louie,

I have just returned from a visit to the old people and old places about our first homes in America ten or twelve miles to the north of this place and am glad to hear from you at last. Your two letters dated Aug. 23 and 28 and the drs of the 1st Sept have just been received one of them having been forwarded from the Yellowstone making altogether four letters from home besides Wandas neat little notes which read and look equally well whichever side is uppermost and now I feel better for I had begun to despair of hearing from you at all, and the weeks since leaving home being so crowded with novel scenes and events seemed about as long

"[Page 2]

As years. As for the old freedom I used to enjoy in the wilderness that like youth and its enthusiasms is evidently a thing of the past though I feel that I could still do some good scientific work if the necessary leisure could be secured. Your letters and the doctors cheer and reassure me as I felt that I was staying away too long and leaving my burdens for others to carry whi had enough of their own and though you encourage me to prolong my stay and reap all the benefit I can in the way of health and pleasure and knowledge I cannot shut my eyes to the fact that the main vintage will soon be ours and requires my presence to say nothing of your uncertain state of health. Therefore I mean to begin the return journey next Saturday morning by way of Chicago"

"[Page 3]

and Kansas City. Willis Hand and Mary are now at Kansas City. They leave for home next Monday and I fear I may miss them. Still another of your letters has just arrived dated Aug. 31 by which I learn that Wanda is quite well and Grandma getting stronger while you are not well as you should be. I have tried to get you conscious of the necessity of the utmost care of your health - especially at present and again remind you of it.

The Yellowstone period was as you say far too short and it required bitter resolution to learn all. The trip however as a whole has been far from fruitless in any direction. I have gained telling glimpses of the continent from the car windows and have seen most"

"[Page 4]

Of the old friends and neighbors of boyhood times who without exception were almost oppressively kind, while a two weeks visit with mother and the family is a great satisfaction to us all however much we might wish it extended. Mother is still strong and well and alive to everything and takes long walks to church and to visit her many old friends in town and evidently enjoys life here. She will never leave Portage while any of the family remains here. Anna has decided at the last moment to come with me at least as far as Kansas City - as she dreads the winter. If she can stand the [ ] she will probably come to California.

Sarah is looking very sick and miserable and I am troubled about her. She cannot bear any excitement or exertion without suffering from nervous prostration"

"[Page 5]

The death of both son and husband and the breaking up of home, sale of the farm etc has been too heavy and she is badly crushed.

I suppose she will remain here with mother. The girls can take care of themselves except Gracie who is rapidly growing and will soon be woman and there is property enough to support her in comfort as far as property can. John Reid has been investing some of her money in Nebraska land and I think if she leaves Portage she will settle in Nebraska.

David is tied up securely in his store. He is looking very old and gray and shows too plainly the scars of life’s battles. The death of his wife to whom he was unreservedly devoted was a terrible blow and her long painful illness (cancer in the breast) "

"[Page 6]

with its night and day waiting and watching with the suffering of sympathy has made sad havoc with the David Muir I used to know. Still my visit with him to the old home and meeting all the old neighbors has brightened him up considerably and all the rest say that it was worth my journey here just to cheer and revive Dave. He looks older than I do. Carrie left the day after my arrival for some place 200 miles or so to the northward of here to teach music and as she is living with a old friend of the family and has or is likely to have plenty of scholars she will get on fast enough in a money way. Anna the next eldest is keeping house. She graduated from the high school last year. Both she and Carrie are good girls and respected by everybody, fine scholars and well behaved. "

"[Page 7]

The two boys John and Willie are fine smart well behaved fellows very quiet and bashful. Willie is about 16 years old and little John Muir is about 12 - a queer cute quiet observant narrow-faced clipper-built boy, noticing everything- saying nothing, knows every dog cow horse man woman and child in Portage.

I saw nearly all of the old neighbors. The young folk of course grown out of memory and unrecognizable but most of the old I found but little changed by the 18 yrs since last I saw them and the warmth of my welcome was in most instances excruciating. William Duncan the old Scotch stone mason who loaned me books when I was little and always declared that Johnie Moor would mak a name for himsel someday I found hale and hearty 81 yrs of age and not a"

"[Page 8]

Gray hair in is curly bushy locks, erect, firm of step, voice firm with a clear calm ring to it. Memory as good as very apparently and his interest in all the current news of the world as fresh as ever and as far reaching. I stopped over night with and talked till midnight. We were four days in making the round and had to make desperate efforts to get away. We climbed the observatory that used to be the great cloud-capped mountain of our child imagination but it dwindled now to a mere hill 250 ft high, half the height of the vineyard hill opposite the house. The porphyry cropping out on the summit is very hard and I was greatly interested in finding it grooved and polished by the ice sheet. I begin to get an appetite and feel quite well. Tell Wanda I’ll write her a letter soon. Love to all ever yours John Muir

Everybody out in the country seemed disappointed not seeing you also."


Portage City [Wisc]

Date Original

1885 Sep 10


Original letter dimensions: 28 x 21 cm.

Resource Identifier


File Identifier

MSS 301 Shone

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



8 pages


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



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