This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V24", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
In your paper of October 7th, you published some account of John Muir, the Naturalist. Although this very agreeable and instructive writer has contributed many articles, during the last ten years, to the Overland Monthly and to Harper's and Scribner's magazines, which have attracted much notice and favorable comment, I have never seen any published account of his history. I passed two or three days in his company in the Yosemite Valley, in the summer of 1875, and from him I learned the following facts regarding his history:
He formerly was the superintendent of a factory in Wisconsin. An accident to his eyes incapacitated him for a long time for the performance of his duties, and he finally abandoned his profession or trade. He was originally a millwright. Being an enthusiastic botanist, he started from his home to collect plants, and walked to Florida. When his stock of plants became burdensome, he sent them home by rail whenever an opportunity was afforded.
When crossing the mountains of Western North Carolina, he passed over some grounds familiar to me, and became acquainted with some of my friends there. While in Florida he suffered long and severely with fever. He finally "gravitated" to San Francisco by way of Cuba and Panama.
In California a new world of plants was revealed to him. Ascending to the top of the Sierras, he was so much fascinated by the flora of the mountains, that he determined to spend many years there, solitary and alone, to study the habits of the trees and plants and their distribution. He is a close observer of the distribution of trees and plants, regulated by their altitude and corresponding conditions of climate ; his barometer being his constant and frequently consulted companion. He told me that he had studied this subject so thoroughly, that, when travelling among the* mountains, he could, even at night, tell approximately his altitude above the sea, by feeling the plants near him and ascertaining the prevailing species and genera. The geological structure of the mountains, and the sculpturing accomplished by the ancient glaciers, upon a scale so grand as almost to surpass comprehension, also excited his earnest attention, and inspired him to the conclusion to devote many years of his life to their study. He frequently returned to the Yosemite Valley from his long and weary travels, to recruit his strength, and to obtain stores for new expeditions. His stock consists only of dried beef, flour and tea, which he carries on his back, as he always travels on foot.
He never carries fire-arms, either for protection or to kill game. It is a source of great delight to him to watch wild animals and observe their habits. He frequently passes many weeks without seeing a living person, not even a hunter or an Indian. He has discovered more than fifty living glaciers among the Sierras, small remnants only of the vast sheets of ice that formerly swept over the slopes of those granite mountains, cutting out deep gorges, in the case of the Yosemite nearly a mile deep. These glacial remnants are now confined to the shady recesses of the mountains, their lowest limit not being less than ten thousand feet high. He has driven stakes in these glaciers and recorded their position, and he makes occasional visits to them, to observe their progress. Their movements are usually very slow, in many cases not more than an inch per day, regulated in a great measure by the steepness of the channel in which they slide. He sometimes passes the winter in the Yosemite Valley, and even there he is practically imprisoned during several months, on account of snow, which accumulates to such a depth as to make travelling impossible.
He invited me to make an excursion with him for a couple of weeks and visit some of his glaciers, but I was accompanying a large party, and was reluctant to leave them. He appears to have little fear of wild animals, though he occasionally sees a grizzly bear.
[This extremely interesting sketch was originally written by the well-known Mineralogist, Mr. Willcox, for the Delaware Co. (Pa.) Republican, and will be new to most of our readers. - Ed. G. M].