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Home | Photo Albums | Muir's Heritage

John MuirJohn Muir was born in Dunbar, Scotland, in 1838 and immigrated to the United States with his family in 1849. His formal schooling ended when he left Scotland. While helping his father clear land for two farms in Wisconsin, he continued his education by studying books loaned to him by neighbors. He was accepted into the University of Wisconsin in recognition of his mechanical inventions as well as his knowledge. He studied chemistry, botany, and geology, continuing his life-long love of the world around him. He left school before graduating and worked for various actories until he was nearly blinded in an accident. The temporary loss of his sight convinced him to devote the rest of his life to studying God’s creation.

John Muir hikingMuir’s first exploration was a walk from Indianapolis to Florida - about 1000 miles. He came to California via Panama in 1869 and immediately set out for Yosemite. He studied the plants and trees and gloried in the beauty he saw around him, becoming intensely interested in the role that glaciers played in forming the valleys and peaks of the Sierra Nevada. Muir made several trips to Alaska to study large living glaciers and was the first person to map the interior of Glacier Bay.

He began writing for national magazines, extolling the beauty he saw around him and criticizing the wasteful destruction of that beauty by human activities. Many of the leading experts in geology, botany, and philosophy sought him out, including Ralph Waldo Emerson. President Theodore Roosevelt asked to spend a few nights camping with him. He was one of the first people to proclaim the interdependence of all creation, saying the closer we looked at anything, the more we would discover that it was “hitched to everything in the universe”. His passionate writings and ceaseless advocacy resulted in the establishment of the National Park System as well as several individual parks. He also founded of the Sierra Club, serving as its first president until his death.

John and Louie’s eldest daughter Wanda married Tom Hanna, and their son John is the father of Muir-Hanna owner Bill Hanna and the grandfather of winemaker Michael Hanna.In 1880, John Muir married Louisiana (Louie) Strentzel, whose family settled in La Grange in Tuolumne County in 1850, moving to a farm in Martinez in 1853. After the birth of their first daughter Wanda in 1882, Muir spent most of his time farming. The family raised many crops, including wine and table grapes. His health declined while away from his beloved mountains, so in 1890 he turned the farming over to family members and resumed exploring, studying nature, and writing. His journeys included realizing a lifelong dream to study in exotic wilderness areas of South America and Africa.

John Muir on a rockJohn Muir spent the last few years of his life fighting the plan to dam Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite National Park. He died in 1914 shortly after the US Congress authorized the dam. His legacy is recognized nationwide and in California his name is on more places, roads, and buildings than that of any other person.

In 2005, California recognized Muir's importance in the history of conservation and the state by placing his image and that of Yosemite's Half Dome on the Commemorative Quarter released by the US Mint.

Photos courtesy of the Hanna Family & The Sierra Club Photo Archives. All rights reserved.

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