In the late 1700s and early 1800s, Spanish began exploring the edge of the Sierras. Soon afterwards, trappers, sheepherders, miners, and loggers poured into the Sierras seeking to exploit whatever the mountains had to offer. By the end of the 19th century, San Joaquin Valley communities increasingly looked to the Sierras for water and recreation. In the struggle between all these competing interests, two national parks were born that became what we know today as Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.
Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks
In May, 1903, Sequoia National Park was already thirteen years old but still under-developed and hard to visit. When the new military superintendent for the summer of 1903 arrived in Sequoia National Park he had already faced many challenges. Charles Young was the first African-American to graduate from the white high school in Ripley, Ohio. He became the third African-American to graduate and earn a commission from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1889, and became the highest-ranking black officer during World War I. Young also served as the first black military attaché in American history. As Acting Superintendent, he became the first African-American park superintendent in the National Park System and made highly significant contributions to the protection and development of Sequoia and General Grant National Parks. Young's avocation and his command of the 9th Calvary Regiment of African American "Buffalo Soldiers" were the driving force in completing the first road into Sequoia National Park. He also negotiated with landowners for the government purchase of privately-owned lands within the parks' boundaries. On the day the road opened, modern tourism began in Sequoia National Park in 1903.
Last updated: March 31, 2012