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    John Muir

    National Historic Site California

Frequently Asked Questions

WHEN WAS JOHN MUIR BORN?
He was born April 21, 1838.

WHERE WAS JOHN MUIR BORN?
Muir was born in Dunbar, Scotland. Dunbar is about 28 miles east of Edinburgh.

WHO WAS JOHN MUIR?
John Muir was a writer, a lecturer, a geologist, a botanist, a glaciologist, an explorer, a school teacher, an inventor, a fruit rancher, a husband, and a father.

John Muir was perhaps this country's most famous and influential naturalist. If it weren't for John Muir and his writings, we probably would not have Yosemite National Park as we know it today. He was also involved in the creation of the Grand Canyon, Kings Canyon, Petrified Forest, and Mt. Rainier National Parks. Additionally, his writings about Alaska led to further preservation of the landscape over time. Because of his influential writings and role in the creation of multiple parks, he is often called "The Father of Our National Park System."

John Muir also co-founded the Sierra Club with William Colby in 1892 and was its first president until his death in 1914.

Wanda Muir Hanna, eldest daughter of John Muir, explained her father to one of his biographers (Linnie Marsh Wolfe), "If you had known him, you would have seen only one side of him, and he had many sides. No two people -- even his closest friends ever had quite the same idea of him." (Son of the Wilderness, Preface, pg. vii).

WHAT DID JOHN MUIR WRITE?
He wrote and had published over 300 magazine articles and 12 books. These books and articles bubble over with his love of adventure, nature, wildness and the interconnectivity of it all. At the time of his death he was working on a book about his travels in Alaska. He had plans and enough material in his notebooks for ten more books.

WHAT ARE THE NAMES OF THESE BOOKS AND WHEN WERE THEY PUBLISHED?

Picturesque California

1888

Mountains of California

1894

Our National Parks

1901

Stickeen

1909

E.H. Harriman

1911

My First Summer In The Sierra

1911

The Yosemite

1912

The Story of my Boyhood and Youth

1913

Travels In Alaska

1915

A 1000 Mile Walk To The Gulf

1916

Cruise Of The Corwin

1917

Steep Trails

1918

WHY DID JOHN MUIR CHOOSE TO LIVE IN MARTINEZ?
He married Louisa (Louie) Strentzel in 1880. Her family owned and operated a large 2600-acre ranch here in the Alhambra Valley. John Muir went into partnership with his father-in-law, Dr. John Strentzel, and for ten years directed most of his energy into managing this large fruit ranch.

WHAT WAS THE POPULATION OF MARTINEZ, CA. IN JOHN MUIR'S TIME?
Martinez in 1888 - 875 people
1890 - About 1000 (statistics destroyed in fire)
1900 - 1,380
1910 - 2,115 (Martinez City Hall and Martinez City Museum)

WAS JOHN MUIR A WEALTHY MAN?
When he was young he was not wealthy. He took odd jobs to support himself as he rambled about the United States and Canada. He worked in sawmills, on farms, in a broom factory, in a carriage factory, and as a sheepherder.

After his marriage and 10 year partnership in the fruit ranch, John had accumulated a sizeable wealth for his time and felt he had made enough to take care of his family. He then retired from active ranching and turned to writing and working for the preservation cause. Eventually, his writings and lectures brought in additional money.

DID JOHN MUIR HAVE ANY CHILDREN?
Yes, John and Louie had two daughters. Wanda, born March 25, 1881, died July 29, 1942 (61 years of age) and Helen, born January 23, 1886, died June 7, 1964 (78 years of age).

ARE THERE ANY DESCENDANTS OF JOHN MUIR?
Yes, there were ten grandchildren - two are still living.

Wanda married Thomas Hanna; they had six children:
John Hanna -
Ross Hanna -
Richard Hanna - deceased
Strentzel Hanna - deceased
Robert Hanna - deceased
Jean Hanna de Lipkau Clark (only granddaughter) - deceased

Helen married Buel Funk; they had four sons:
Walter Muir - deceased
Stanley
Muir - deceased
John Muir - deceased
Muir Funk - deceased

Helen and three of her sons changed their name from Funk to Muir in 1940. Muir Funk did not because his first name was Muir and also because he was involved in competition for a job at the time. (Information in a letter from Walter Muir).

WHAT IS THE SQUARE FOOTAGE OF THE MUIR
HOUSE?
10,010 square feet according to the architect's drawing. This includes all the porches, attic, and the basement.

IS ALL THE FURNITURE IN THE HOUSE ORIGINAL?

Much of the furniture exhibited in the house is similar to furniture owned by the Muirs. Many of the original furniture pieces are still owned by family members. The architectural elements in the house are original, including the fireplaces, staircases, and stove. Authentic Muir objects are located throughout the house in exhibit cases and in the furnished rooms. One original furniture piece of interest is Muir's desk in his study. We invite you to read labels throughout the house to discover more about the mixture of original and period pieces that recreate Muir's home.

DID THEODORE ROOSEVELT EVER VISIT HERE?
No he did not, according to Helen Muir in a letter she wrote to friend Hattie in 1958.

WHAT FAMOUS PEOPLE VISITED JOHN MUIR IN THE HOUSE?
William Keith - premier California artist
John Swett - Superintendent of California Schools, Father of California
Public Schools
Charles Keeler - Berkeley poet and noted ornithologist
Robert Underwood Johnson - editor of Century magazine
William Colby - Sierra Club co-founder
John Burroughs - famous American naturalist

WAS JOHN MUIR A DRAFT DODGER DURING THE CIVIL WAR?
No, we do feel that he was because he often wrote home to see if he had been drafted. However, he would not volunteer. "War is the farthest reaching and most infernal of all civilized calamities."

WAS JOHN MUIR REALLY A LOUSY FATHER AND HUSBAND?
John Muir did cause controversy because he did not lead the same sort of life as most people in the area. However, from diaries and letters it appears the family had a very loving and understanding relationship. Louie Muir often urged her husband to go to the mountains for his health and was very supportive of his fight for preservation. When his girls were young he took them on nature walks around the ranch, and as they grew older they accompanied him on Sierra Club outings and trips to the southwest.

HOW OLD WAS JOHN MUIR WHEN HE DIED AND WHERE IS HE BURIED?
John Muir was 76 years old when he died in a Los Angeles hospital on December 24th, 1914. He had been visiting his daughter Helen and her family in Daggett when his cold developed into pneumonia. His funeral was held in the Muir House. He is buried beside Mrs. Muir in a small family cemetery about one mile south of the home. Louie Muir died August 9, 1905.

TO WHICH CLAN DID JOHN MUIR BELONG?
The Muir family belonged to the Gordon Clan.

HOW LONG HAS THE SITE BEEN A NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE?
Since August 31, 1964.

WHAT IS HETCH HETCHY?
Hetch Hetchy is a valley along the Tuolumne River located northeast of Yosemite Valley. Although smaller, its beauty was ruggedly spectacular and similar to Yosemite. In the early 1900s, calls were made to dam the valley in order to provide water and hydraulic power for the growing city of San Francisco. John Muir tried to save the Hetch Hetchy Valley by leading the opposition against the dam. However, the need proved more persuasive than preservation and in 1913, after three political battles, the Northern California politicians won. The O'Shaughnessy Dam spanning the Hetch Hetchy Valley was completed in 1923.


 

Did You Know?

Did You Know?

"...a place of beginnings abounding in first lessons on life, mountain building, eternal, invincible, unbreakable order; with sermons in stones, storms, trees, flowers, and animals brimful with humanity." OUR NATIONAL PARKS, John Muir