Bade, William Frederic
Waitsfield, Vermont Jan. 23, ‘23 My dear Dr. Badé, A recent letter from Miss Anna Sawyer brought me the message from you, and I feel that I owe you an apology. I did receive a letter from you and I felt that I had really nothing of value to offer, and in a letter to Anna I asked her if she would not explain to you in person. She replied that she would. I am much interested in your undertaking and should be glad to be of any possible assistance. I believe that there has never been, in the annals of natural history a master hand who was in such perfect accord with creation as John Muir – himself just one of his “fellow mortals.” Burroughs, with whom he is most often compared seems like the curious observer rather than the nature-lover. One can’t conceive of John Muirs taking a gun and shooting the hermit thrush emerging from a garden near his cabin, to see if its mate would come to the spot – or that the inside of its beak was yellow. And even W. H. Hudson whose writings I read with pleasure killed upon occasion. Perhaps they are the “scientists,” and Muir the “naturalist.” Whether as a result of early teachings or because I have lived in intimacy with the things to which Mr. Muir was so closely attached, I cherish both affection and admiration for his most unusual personality. A most treasured possession is a copy of “Stickeen” – sent me here – inscribed “To Gertrude Hutchings Mills, with many dear memories of “little Corey” in the lang syne Yosemite days.” But my communicating links with those “lang syne days” are to few scattered lists –a small childs memories – of a patient, gentle man holding my sister or myself upon his knee while he showed us the composite parts of flowers calling attention to their beauty and individuality of shape and coloring; or of our trotting after him in the meadows looking for friendly blossoms and inspecting them for insect visitors our attention called to the marvels on every hand. I can recall a series of bird pictures in color, on cards which we had for years, which Mr. Muir had given us that we should “know our neighbors”. I can still feel the desolation and fascination of the stormy petrel – “so far away from home with nothing but water to sit on.” I have a dim recollection of the small saw mill which my father had milt near the foot of the Yosemite falls – Camp Yosemite is located near the spot, I believe – where Mr. Muir was for awhile the “sawyer” – of our proffered assistance in running it declined, with caution to keep away from the saw, and of our peeping down through cracks in the flooring into the great green water-storage tanks beneath. A number of years later I remember Mr. Fiske’s relating the incident of his meeting Mr. Muir who twitted Mrs. Fiske upon his never having taken a picture of his cabin. Mr. Fiske had not known of its existence but he guessed just about where it must be, made a secret search formed it and sent Mr. Muir the photo of “the Lost Cabin” – with great satisfaction to himself. Perhaps you will better understand why, after those first years of Mr. Muir’s stay in the Valley, there was a long interval during which none of our family had intercourse with him if I explain that my father had a violent, unreasoning dislike for him – unwarranted and most regrettable. After I was grown I saw Mr. Muir several times in Yosemite neighborhoods. Once while I was teaching at Wawona he and Mrs. Muir passed on their way to the Valley. I had a pleasant visit with them that evening, during which he asked if I had a copy of the Mountains of California". Since I hadn’t he said that he would have the publisher send me one, which he promptly did. I have the copy here. Later while on a camping trip with a party from Wawona we met him in company with Mr. Lukens of Pasadena, on the Tioga road just above Lake Tenaya – just “speaking each other in passing.” I did not see him afterward but frequently heard of him through Mr. Keith who greatly enjoyed visiting “Johnny Muir” and telling anecdotes of the visits. I remember him saying that when he went to see Johnnie he was careful to provide himself with a lunch as he’d be apt to find only crackers and sardines in the cupboard – perhaps not that. At another time he told of his enjoyment of little Helen Muir who “liked Keith because he let her be his mamma”; that one day, having fallen down the stairs with violence but scrambled right side up at the bottom she had asked her alarmed parents – “Well, what would Keith say.” After Yosemite became “government property” we made our home with my grand-mother at her home on Pine street between Franklin and Gough in San Francisco. The building was a characteristic frame finished on the interior in yellow pink, and in 1880 (I think) it was destroyed by fire with all that it contained – letter papers, library, family portraits painted by my grandmother’s father Cephas Thompson - furniture, etc. We had left just the clothes we were wearing. Such things as we had left stored in the Valley had been ransacked. I have a few copies of “Hutchings California Magazine” which my father published in San Francisco before settling in Yosemite. Those were given to me since my marriage by an original subscriber – John Ritaline – then a store-keeper at the mining camp of Nelson’s Point near Quincy in Plumas Co. After my father’s death in 1902 his wife – Emily Edmunds H. – sent me a box of his books (nothing of especial value) his aneroid (which had been used by Whitney during his survey in that part of the Sierras) his field glasses, and the huge old manzanita arm-chair which he had made when we moved into our winter home in the old log cabin, and which has afforded a comfortable resting-place for many distinguished guests. These things I have here. If items was in her possession correspondence of any value Mrs. Hutchings must have taken it with her to England. I have been unable to find her there at her address sent from London, and doubt if she is still living. Mother lost everything she possessed in the San Francisco fire, but had nothing of historic intent. The name of “Lady Yelverton” was a familiar one in our household. She lived with us at the hotel in the valley through one summer – I think it must have been the summer of 1870 – and she seems to have been an intelligent, lovable woman. Everyone spoke of her affectionately. I remember my mother’s telling of her having taken a great fancy to my dark-eyed, black-haired sprite of a sister “Flory” who she wished to adopt – the “Zanita” of her fantastic novel of that name – whose wild, infant-tales of bear-killing, horse-breaking experiences entertained her greatly. She essayed making Flory a dress – not very successfully, since she had never used a needle in her life. Lady Yelverton was at that time travelling, in an effort to forget the troubles following an unfortunate marriage. That fall when my father "went below – which meant to San Francisco – to get our winter stock of provision, she went with him under his escort, planning to sail shortly for India. While in San Francisco my father one evening invited her to go with him to the theatre – which she did. Theaters were few so he selected the best without knowledge of the performance which, but a strange coincidence happened to be one of Wilkie Collins novels – “The Woman in White.” I believe but am not sure – and was the story Lady Yelverton’s life. My father was wholly ignorant of it, but she recognized each detail, and when it came to the culmination of the tragedy – her husband’s attempting to kill her by smothering her – she slid into the seat unconscious. With promptly offered assistance she was “carried out,” and later told her unsuspecting escort of the astounding facts. This sounds extremely melodramatic, but I have heard my father and others relate the incident many times, and feel quite sure that it is true. I believe that Lady Yelverton returned to England – completing her trip around the world – living there in quiet a number of years, my family hearing from her occasionally through messages brought by friends and by letter. Miss Sawyer’s letter said that you like some information concerning my father and mother’s lives, and I will write a brief outline of each shortly, and send you. If there is anything otherwise I am glad to be of any possible assistance. Regretting the scantiness of materials in my possession, I am Most sincerely - Gertrude H. Mills
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Mills, Gertrude H., "Reminiscence of John Muir by Mills, Gertrude H." (1923). Reminiscences about John Muir. 26.