Charles N. Elliot


John Muir


CHARLES N. ELLIOT ARCHITECT325 FAILING BUILDINGPORTLAND, OREGONDecember 30,1912.Dear Mr.Muir:-Thank you for your kind letter of the 24th inst. and for your generous offer to see that I obtain a copy of your tribute to E.H.Harriman. I would greatly appreciate your assistance in this, as I fear otherwise,I will not be able to get a copy.I had our City Librarian send for a copy for the Library,and when it came,read it with great interest..I did not ask her (Miss.Isom,our Librarian) to try for a copy for me,as I did not like to get one by round-about methods.Doubleday,Page & Co..however,have the little book for free distribution to libraries only,and none for sale.I am particularly anxious to obtain this tribute to one of America's greatest constructive men,one who not only did things,but who Imagined things. Who but a man of great heart and live imagination would ever have conceived the idea of the Alaskan Expedition? That was truly an Homeric idea as smoothly carried into execution as were all of that wonderful man's plans.I want to tell you how thoroughly I am enjoying your autobiographical chapters,now appearing in the Atlantic.Much innthis last chapter reminds me of my boyhood days in Southern Ohio,where I lived on a small farm,do|ng my share of the haying,milking,tending poultry, making rail fences and later wire fences,hoeing potatoes,and all the multitudinous chores incident to such a life.How I enjoyed it - even the work! I have seen instances of reasoning on the part of farm animals just as convincing as the case of your ox which crushed the pumpkins with his brow. And on the part of the "wee beasties",I have records,in the note books I kept f ormyown pleasure during the later years in Ohio,showing that birds and the>smaller animals possess what seems very like what we call reason in human beings.I know that they possess deeper feelings than most humans.There was the case,for example,of the two little indigo buntings found dead by the grassy lane on my father's place,one mangled by some thoughtless boy's deadly "sling-shot",the other lying with his head on his mate's body,and with not a mark of violence upon him.It made us weep,who discovered them.If that was not a clear case of broken-heart,or death from intensity of grief,I cannot think of any other reasonable explanation.I have copied a few extracts from one of my note books for a friend in the East,and made a few carbon copies,one of which I enclose, thinking you might be interested by such glimpses of Ohio Valley life as I have transcribed.One thing you mention in your last Atlantic chapter,which I have found mention of in very few of our nature books,the omission of which has always appeared strange to me,is the description of the "lightning-bugs".Your word picture brought to memory the rich meadow on my father's place,over which floated every summer evening a myriad throng of these strange and wonderful insects.Who has ever been able to analyze the chemistry of their fitful fire? Such explanations as I have found,fail utterly to satisfy me as to this nervous phosphoresence.I am sending you under another cover a little calendar,the head on which was painted by Romaine,my daughter.She has never had an art lesson in her life,but does well I think.With the Season's best greetings and affectionate regards,Faithfully yoursCharles N. Elliot05335

[letterhead]P. S. Since writing my letter to you, I've read one my daughter wrote her grandmother, back in Cincinnati, Ohio, and feel that you will be interested to see how well the child writes. Here is the message:"Selecting the Christmas tree is a family affair with us. Tho' we live within walking distance of the business section of Portland, three minutes & a pair of strong legs will take us into 'the forest primeval'. We didn't select one of the antiquarian trees for our Xmas tree, however. I wish, dear Grandma, that you could see these wonderful old forest monarchs. They seem to pierce the sky when they crown a hill-top. And they stand so majestically, like warriors that neither sun, nor storm nor snow can conquer. They point one's thoughts ever to the higher, nobler things, and yet they shelter the fragile, tender flowers and ferns at their feet--never too absorbed with seeking Heaven to forget their duty to their earth-born companions. A wonderful example."Just rec'd a delightful, long letter from Dr. Clara Barrus, whose Craftsman article descriptive of her days with you has given me keen pleasure. She sends me the first draft MS. of an article on John Burroughs--as yet unpublished--entitled "Back to [Pepactor?]" wonderfully interesting and full of that elusive personal quality which makes her writings about her friends so valuable.C. N. E.05335

"CHARLES N. ELLIOTARCHITECT325 FAILING BUILDINGPORTLAND.ORISONCopied verbatim from one of the note books which I used to keep for my own pleasure,when I lived,years ago,in the beautifui valley of the Little Miami in South estern Ohio.Sat.April 23,1897:-Past week has bean a very changeable one.Last three days have been oppressively warm.TheVfoliage of trees & ufedergrowth a rapidly putting forth after the 1 ting delay caused by the cold weather. Change very sudden and very great-from guite cold weather to sultry days.Today bright,warm,sunshiny and breezy.Large masses of up-piled cloud scenery in sky - fleecy and with great apparent depth.Noted a peculiar Insect out in rear of houseabout size of bumble-bee,which it resembled except for a dried-up,skeletonized look as of the shadow or ghost of a bee,It hummed on invisible gauze wings over last year's iron-weed blooms - a shadow bee,gathering mythical honey from the ghosts of the gorgeous purple flowers that were.The swallows nevebeen about for three days now.Last Wednesday evening,coming up the hill from the train,I heard and recognized the ""chitter-chitter"" of swallows overhead,and sure enough,far up above the tree-tops I discovered three of these aotive flyers.Have seen the same (t) three birds every evening since,also In the mornings - but no others yet.Out across-lots to Spooner's woods to the S.W.of our house to seek for ""fawn-lily seed pods for John Burroughs as I promised him a year ago I would do.Found several,but all too green yet.Many of,the pods h have been either broken off the stem oreaten into by some.insect near the base of pods.Noticed ttiat nearly every pod,instead of being.supported upright in the air by its stem,drooped over until pod ls&S&6 ground,generally hidden from sight under the leaves,thus?-C§jl cb6rtr&) evidently the plant's method of sowing its seed - the pAd covered entire the seed dropped and covered by leaf-mold.A beautiful slope covered with deep rich grass - the new leaves shooting up thru last yearVs remains,making a thick cushion carpet,into which the foot SINLS to the ankle - over this arches the low scraggy apple trees,AND their just opening,blossoms make the air heavy with perfume. Cedars mingle their dark foloage with the tender green of newborn leaves on the budding deoiduQus treei. The low-sinking aun casts a mellow xxgkt and refining light over and tktyiu the trees,deepening the darkness of the evergreens and making lighter the pale green of the new leaves.Cardinals flash their brilliant soarlet across the sun-shot and shadowy vistas,some uttering their oall and others whistling an evensong. Suddenly,over the scene,comes floating the golden song of the wood-thrush,its liquid leiaurely notes falling in perfect accord with the scene and hour upon my 'raptured ear. I follow the notes - a siren strain - down the soft,sweet-smelling slope,across a narrow meadow where hundreds of violets mingle their rich blues AND purples with the greens of the sward,over to the„oroek bank.Still the sweet strains continue, AND I locate definitely the spot where the music originates,but cannot,even with ray glass,make out the singer,who sits high up in the huge hickory tree near Hendricks house.A farmjwagon finally frightens him AND he flies down to the creek bed,a few hundred feet AWAY.Following, I find him at last running along the sandy bank,dodging under the grasses and sedges,picking up a supper and offering musical thanks therefor alternately.(OVER) [05335]"


Portland, Ore.

Date Original

1912 Dec 30


Original letter dimensions: 28 x 21.5 cm.

Resource Identifier


File Identifier

Reel 20, Image 1549

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

The Huntington Library, Muir Family Papers, HM 57349-57497. Please contact this institution directly to obtain copies of the images or permission to publish or use them beyond educational purposes.


3 pages


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



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