John Muir
National Historic Site
California
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The battle for conservation will go on endlessly. It is the universal warfare between right and wrong.

—John Muir, 1896

Muir's Conservation Legacy Lives On

"Why should man value himself as more than a small part of the one great unit of creation?" John Muir asked. His remarkable vision—that all creation is one community made up of equal companions—still inspires people to love nature and to work to save wildlands and wildlife. Muir is often called the father of national parks and forest reservations, forerunners of national forests. Muir urged people to experience wild nature so they would be inspired to defend it and save it.

The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.

—John Muir, 1890

1836
Nature by Ralph Waldo Emerson published.

1838
John Muir born April 21, Dunbar, Scotland.

1845
Potato crop fails; famine in Europe.

1849
Family emigrates to Wisconsin farm.

1854
Walden by Henry David Thoreau published.

1860
Leaves home; inventions win state fair prize; meets mentor Jeanne Carr.

1861
Enters University of Wisconsin; Civil War begins.

1862
Postpones studies to teach school; Thoreau dies.

1864
To Canada; botanizes and works in a sawmill; Man and Nature by George Perkins Marsh published; federal land in Yosemite ceded to California for public use; Civil War ends.

1866
To Indiana; works in carriage factory.

1867
Factory accident damages eye; 1,000-mile walk from Kentucky to Gulf of Mexico; writes first journal en route.

1868
To California; first sight of Yosemite.

1871
Finds living glacier in Yosemite; meets Ralph Waldo Emerson.

1872
Begins writing for Overland Monthly magazine; Yellowstone National Park established.

1874-76
Begins study of trees; advocates federal control of forests.

1888
Health poor; climbs Mount Rainier; wife urges return to conservation writing.

1889
Campaigns for a Yosemite National Park.

1890
Writes Century magazine articles; Yosemite National Park established (without Yosemite Valley); explores what is now Muir Glacier in Glacier Bay, Alaska; US census cites end of frontier.

1892
Helps found Sierra Club; elected its first president; forest reserves established in three western states.

1893-94
To Europe; first book, The Mountains of California, published.

1896
Tours forests with National Forestry Commission; honorary degree from Harvard.

1898
Honorary degree from University of Wisconsin.

1899
Travels with Harriman Alaska Expedition.

1901
Our National Parks published.

1903-04
Camps in Yosemite with President Theodore Roosevelt; makes world tour; first federal wildlife reserve established.

1905
California cedes Yosemite Valley back to the federal government.

1906
Explores Arizona and Petrified Forest.

1908
Muir Woods National Monument established; begins fight against damming Yosemite National Park's Hetch Hetchy Valley.

1909
Stickeen published.

1911
My First Summer in the Sierra published; travels to South America and Africa; honorary degree from Yale.

1912
The Yosemite published.

1913
The Story of My Boyhood and Youth published; Hetch Hetchy battle lost; honorary degree from University of California.

1914
Dies December 24, age 76.

2000
Creation of Sequoia National Monument continues Muir's conservation agenda.

Climb the mountains and get their good tidings.

—John Muir, 1901

At the University of Wisconsin, Muir read Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau on nature. He studied Louis Agassiz's new geology and Asa Gray's plant science. Later, he used these tools to achieve success in conservation. Muir arrived in California in 1868. He lived in the Yosemite area of the southern Sierra Range off and on for several years, and studied its botany and geology. In 1871, in an article in the New York Tribune, Muir argued that glaciers had carved Yosemite Valley. California's state geologist ridiculed his views, which were substantially correct. After five years as an active fruit rancher, Muir began his most important campaign to preserve the American wilderness. Muir enraged critics with the charge that lumbermen and sheepherders, with their "hoofed locusts," were ruining Yosemite's wildness. He attacked the prevailing notion that nature existed only to provide commodities for humans. With Century magazine editor Robert Underwood Johnson, Muir pushed for the creation of Yosemite National Park. His magazine and newspaper articles helped change Americans' attitude toward wilderness and wildness (see timeline). After Muir's death, his journals and other writings provided material for many more books.

Muir and Today's National Park System
Muir's love for wild nature aided the creation of several national parks. Our National Parks (1901), a collection of articles he wrote for the Atlantic Monthly about Yellowstone, Yosemite, Sequoia, and General Grant (now part of Kings Canyon) national parks, is still in print.

Muir's Serendipitous Trip to California
After walking 1,000 miles from Kentucky to the Gulf of Mexico, Muir sailed to Cuba, bound for South America. Short of money and ill with fever, he sailed instead to New York and from there, in steerage, to Panama and California.

I never saw a discontented tree. They grip the ground as though they liked it . . .

—John Muir, 1890

Muir & Family in Martinez

John Muir married into the fruit-ranching Strentzel family in 1880 at age 42. Martinez would be his home until he flied in 1914. He and wife Louie raised their two daughters here. Hard-working and astute, Muir took over the fruit business and earned enough in five years to support the family for his lifetime. Louie then urged her overworked husband to revisit the wilds and resume his conservation writing and advocacy. Their daughters inherited the house from Louie in 1905. Muir bought it in 1912.

1760s
Karkin Indians of Ohlone group are still living in the area.

1769
Spanish expeditions enter San Francisco Bay.

1770-1834
Mission life in California at its peak.

1820
Mission records show no Ohlones left in area.

1821
Mexico wins independence from Spain.

1823
Don Ygnacio Martinez gets 17,700-acre Rancho El Pinole land grant in Contra Costa County.

1848
United States takes California in war with Mexico; gold discovered at Sutter's Mill in California.

1849
Col. William Smith acquires 120 acres from Martinez family and founds city of Martinez.

1849
Don Ygnacio's son Vicente Martinez builds two-story adobe home (now a part of John Muir National Historic Site).

1853
Dr. and Mrs. John T. Strentzel buy land in Alhambra Valley.

1869
Dr. Strentzel extends markets by devising carbonized-bran method of shipping fruit; transcontinental railroad completed.

1877
Central Pacific Railroad reaches Martinez, provides long-distance shipping for Alhambra Valley produce.

1879
Engaged to Strentzel daughter Louisa "Louie" Wanda.

1880
Muir marries April 14, age 42; Martinez population 875.

1881
Daughter Annie Wanda Muir born.

1882
Father-in-law Dr. Strentzel builds the Italianate house on the hill.

1882-87
Fruit ranching at Martinez.

1884
Telephone service brought to house.

1886
Daughter Helen Muir born.

1890
Father-in-law Dr. Strentzel dies.

1890s
Muir adds brick water tower to rear of house; paints house smoky gray with red trim.

1897
Mother-in-law Louisiana Strentzel dies.

1905
Wife Louie dies; house passes to daughters.

1906
Earthquake strikes; Muir repairs chimneys, and reconfigures first floor.

1912
Muir buys house from daughters.

1914
House electrified; Muir dies December 24, age 76.

1915
Helen and Annie Wanda sell house.

Heaven knows that John the Baptist was not more eager to get all his sinners into the Jordan than I to baptise all of mine in the beauty of God's mountains.

—John Muir, 1871

Few people associate raising a family and fruit ranching with "John of the Mountains" Muir, but he thrived at both. As a young man he achieved success as an inventor and machine shop designer and operator. Muir's Strentzel in-laws had pioneered the fruit business, but Muir made it pay handsomely. He grew up on a Wisconsin farm and knew the value of hard work. Passionate about efficiency and savvy about business. he closely followed his father-in-law's horticultural experiments and innovations, influential throughout California. (Dr. Strentzel showed 91 varieties of seven fruits at one county fair.) The family eventually owned 2,600 agricultural acres in Martinez. Muir focused solely on fruit ranching from 1882 through 1887, when Louie, concerned about his health, convinced him to turn the operation over to others and resume his conservation work and travels. After Dr. Strentzel died in 1890, the Muir family moved to the big house. Here in his second floor "scribble den" Muir wrote most of his published writings and all of his books—which place him among the world's classic nature writers. From here Muir also traveled to Alaska to study glaciers and around the world to study trees and other plants. Everywhere he went, Muir advocated saving wildness.

Visiting the Muir Home

The house and grounds are open daily, 10 am to 5 pm. The park is closed Thanksgiving Day, December 25, and January 1. Allow 1½ hours to tour the house and grounds, and view the film. The visitor center and first floor of the house are wheelchair-accessible. We strive to make our facilities, services, and programs accessible to all; call or check our website. Find information about safety, and on walks and hikes on Mount Wanda (open year-round, sunrise to sunset), at the visitor center. For firearms regulations check the park website.

Source: NPS Brochure (2013)


Establishment

John Muir National Historic Site — August 31, 1964


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Brochures ◆ Site Bulletins ◆ Trading Cards expand section

Documents

Accessibility Self-Evaluation and Transition Plan Overview, John Muir National Monument, California (June 2016)

Cultural Landscape Report for John Muir National Historic Site, Volume 1: Site History, Existing Conditions, and Analysis (Jeffrey Killion and Mark Davison, 2005)

Cultural Landscape Report for John Muir National Historic Site, Volume 2: Treatment (Jeffrey Killion, 2005)

Feasibility Report: John Muir Home and Vicente Martinez Adobe, Martinez, California (John Hussey, Ronald N. Mortimore, Charles S. Pope, Lewis Koue and John Wosky, March 1963)

Foundation Document Overview, John Muir National Historic Site, California (January 2015)

Genetic Analysis and History of the Mount Wanda Olive Orchard at John Muir National Historic Site Final Report (April 1, 2021)

Geologic Map of John Muir National Historic Site, California (April 2021)

Geologic Resources Inventory Report: John Muir National Historic Site NPS Natural Resource Report NPS/NRSS/GRD/NRR-2021/2333 (Katie KellerLynn, November 2021)

Historic Furnishing Report: Strentzel-Muir House John Muir National Historic Site (Mary Grassick, 2006)

Historic Structure Report: Martinez Adobe, John Muir National Historic Site, California (Steve M. Burke, Diane L. Rhodes, Kevin L. Baumgard, Mark L. Tabor and Charles R. Svoboda, August 1992)

Mt. Wanda Historical Ecology Investigation: A Reconnaissance Study Investigating Historical Landscape Data for the John Muir National Historic Site (Sean Baumgarten, Erin Beller and Robin Grossinger, San Francisco Estuary Institute Aquatic Sciences Center, March 2015)

Museum Management Plan East Bay Parks (John Muir NHS, Eugene O'Neill NHS, Port of Chicago Naval Magazine NMem and Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front NHP) (David Blackburn, Kent Bush, Dave Casebolt, Carola DeRooy, Lucy Lawliss, Diane Nicholson and Paul Rogers, May 2007)

National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form

John Muir House (and Martinez Adobe) (Charles W. Snell, November 26, 1962)

Natural Resource Condition Assessment, John Muir National Historic Site NPS Natural Resource Report NPS/JOMU/NRR-2014/897 (David M. Stoms, Frank W. Davis and Patrick A. Jantz, December 2014)

John Muir Writings

My First Summer in the Sierra (John Muir, 1911)

The Mountains of California (John Muir, 1894)

The Story of My Boyhood and Youth (John Muir, 1913)

The Writings of John Muir

The Yosemite (John Muir, 1912)

Stability of Alhambra Creek at the John Muir National Historic Site NPS Technical Report NPS/NRWRD/NRTR-2002/297 (Richard Inglis, April 2002)

Watershed Condition Assessment for Sub-drainage Zone No. 1167, John Muir National Historic Site, Martinez, California NPS Technical Report NPS/NRWRD/NRTR-2000/262 (Richard Inglis, February 2000)



Handbooks ◆ Books expand section

Videos

John Muir National Historic Site, travel video Part 1 of 2

John Muir National Historic Site, travel video Part 2 of 2



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Last Updated: 16-Dec-2021