Challenge of the Big Trees
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Published Sources

PUBLISHED WORKS dealing directly with the history of Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks are surprisingly few, a situation that inspired this book. Nevertheless, a number of useful volumes shed light on some portion of the history of the region. The following are volumes the authors found useful.

As a general history, Francis P. Farquhar's History of the Sierra Nevada (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1966) still stands alone. This wonderful book brings together, in a way never attempted elsewhere, the broad history of California's great mountain range. Students of the southern Sierran national parks should pay special attention to the chapters on the California Geological Survey, Kings Canyon, and Mt. Whitney. Farquhar's history drew heavily on more than forty years of research, much of which was published over many decades in the Sierra Club Bulletin. Any serious student of the Sierra history should consult these articles as well.

The only general history of Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks to appear previously is the slim volume by Douglas Hillman Strong, Trees—or Timber? The Story of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks (Three Rivers: Sequoia Natural History Association, 1968). Strong's main areas of research, which are summarized in much more detail in his unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, were the founding and early enlargement of Sequoia National Park. In these areas he is likely to remain the ultimate source. Strong made no attempt to explore the Kings Canyon National Park campaign in 1939-40 or later management of either park.

Tulare County and the Tulare Lake country have inspired many books, most of which are outside our focus. Standing alone in quality and significance, however, is William L. Preston, Vanishing Landscapes, Land and Life in the Tulare Lake Basin (Berkeley, Los Angeles, and London: University of California Press, 1981). In Vanishing Landscapes Preston did for the southern San Joaquin Valley what this book hopes to accomplish for the southern Sierra.

The California Geological Survey is unique among the early western scientific endeavors in the amount and quality of the literature it generated. Two books authored by participants in the survey remain in print, and together they still present a concise and extremely readable summary of the survey's efforts and adventures. The two classics are William H. Brewer, Up and Down California in 1860-1864, first published in 1930, and Clarence King's Mountaineering in the Sierra Nevada, originally issued in 1872 by James R. Osgood and Company of Boston.

The logging of the Big Trees also generated a number of books, two of which stand out. Hank Johnston's They Felled the Redwoods (Los Angeles: Trans-Anglo Books, 1966) tells the story of the destruction of the sequoia forests surrounding General Grant Grove, while Floyd Otter's The Men of Mammoth Forest (Ann Arbor, Michigan: Edwards Brothers, 1963) does equal justice to the Tule River country immediately south of the parks. Both are recommended. Another view of late-nineteenth-century Sierran logging can be found in William C. Tweed, Kaweah Remembered, The Story of the Kaweah Colony and the Founding of Sequoia National Park (Three Rivers: Sequoia Natural History Association, 1986).

The story of Mineral King Valley and its mining rush and later development battles has been explored in a number of publications. The best summary of the mining rush remains Samuel Thomas Porter's privately published The Silver Rush at Mineral King, California, 1873-1882, but unfortunately, this volume is now quite rare. A recent book that adds considerably to Porter and to the story of the area's middle years is Louise Jackson, Beulah, A Biography of the Mineral King Valley of California (Tucson: Westernlore Press, 1988). Henry McLauren Brown, Mineral King Country, Visalia to Mount Whitney (Fresno and Springville: Pioneer Publishing Company, 1988) consists largely of reprinted items from Mineral King's twentieth-century history. The most complete attempt to date to summarize the Mineral King ski development controversy can be found in John L. Harper, Mineral King, Public Concern with Government Policy (Arcata, California: Pacifica Publishing Company, 1982). Harper's account is quite useful, but it must be understood that he was a protagonist in the controversy and that his account is biased in favor of preservation.

John Muir has received more historical attention than any other comparable figure in American history. Many biographies exist including the recent and very useful Rediscovering America, John Muir in His Time and Ours by Frederick Turner (San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1985). Another way to approach Muir is through his own writings, many of which remain surprisingly readable. Students of Sequoia and Kings Canyon should seek out Muir's Our National Parks, first published in 1901 (Houghton, Mifflin and Company, Boston) for an interesting account of his first visit to the Giant Forest, and Frederic Grunsky (editor), South of Yosemite, Selected Writings by John Muir (Garden City, New York. Natural History Press, 1968). Grunsky contains a good variety of Muir's otherwise scattered writings on the Sequoia-Kings region.

Yet another way to approach Muir is through the organization he founded, the Sierra Club. A good start is Michael P. Cohen, The History of the Sierra Club, 1892-1970 (San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1988). The early recreational explorations of the Sierra Club are still best read in the early editions of the Sierra Club Bulletin. Few other organizational journals hold interest as effectively as these wonderfully written and illustrated volumes. Look especially for articles prior to 1915 by Bolton Coit Brown, Joseph N. LeConte, and Marion Randall Parsons. Also by LeConte is the very pleasant volume A Summer of Travel in the High Sierra (Ashland, Oregon: Lewis Osborne, 1972), which recounts LeConte's 1890 visit to Kings Canyon and Mount Whitney.

Only a very few items address directly National Park Service activities in the two parks. In this department Robert Shankland's Steve Mather of the National Parks (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1954) still reads well. The important story of Colonel John R. White and Sequoia National Park is now available through the efforts of Rick Hydrick, "The Genesis of National Park Management: John Roberts White and Sequoia National Park, 1920-1947," in the April 1984 issue of the Journal of Forest History. Another journal article that still stands alone as the only exploration of its field is William C. Tweed, "Sequoia National Park Concessions: 1898-1926," in the spring 1972 issue of the Pacific Historian. Another first attempt at Park Service history is the same author's Guide and History to the High Sierra Trail (Three Rivers: Sequoia Natural History Association, 1982).

Finally, simply because they don't seem to fit anywhere else in this bibliographic essay, we must mention two efforts which address two of the region's most colorful and eccentric figures, William C. Tweed's Shorty Lovelace, Kings Canyon Fur Trapper (Three Rivers: Sequoia Natural History Association, 1980), and Gene Rose, High Odyssey (Fresno: Panorama West Publishing, 1987), which tells the story of Orland Bartholomew and the first ski trip from Mt. Whitney to Yosemite in 1928-29.

Archival Resources

WORKING WITH THE ARCHIVES on these two parks is a daunting task, but rich information can be found by one who is willing to search. Three sources of material are available in government holdings. First, early records (up to 1936 and especially before 1915) are found in Washington, D.C., at the National Archives and Records Center. However, all correspondence between park superintendents and national officials prior to 1908 has been microfilmed from this source and is now available at the Ash Mountain Headquarters Library, Sequoia National Park.

In 1937 the National Park Service was reorganized with Sequoia and General Grant national parks henceforth reporting to a regional director in San Francisco instead of the director in Washington, D.C. The regional branch of the National Records Center at San Bruno, California, received the records and correspondence generated by the regional office and the parks since this change. However, former Sequoia archivist Betty Knight and the authors have recalled some thirty-one boxes of the most pertinent material and these are now also at Ash Mountain.

The third and most important holdings are those that have never left the Ash Mountain Headquarters. However, their distribution and organization demand explanation. The greatest repository is the museum-archives collection which contains, in addition to the recalled San Bruno Center boxes, all the annual and monthly superintendent's reports, and some twenty file drawers of other historical correspondence. Many old maps, reports, old subject files, and nearly 12,000 historic photos loom like a lost treasure in this basement collection. Upstairs are the "Central Files." These are the current working files for the parks, dating primarily from the 1970s and later, although much historical data can be found in the forty to forty-five file drawers.

Within the headquarters area are a number of other scattered nuggets in addition to these two huge collections. The resources management division contains nearly every report and study on the parks' resources ever compiled. The chief ranger's office contains assorted reports as well. The parks' maintenance office has many maps, plans, and reports on park roads and buildings, while the Sierra District ranger's office holds some thirty boxes and file drawers of studies and correspondence on the backcountry. Finally, the research scientist's office holds substantial research collections, principally on ecology and wildlife management issues. In addition to these archives, the Ash Mountain library contains pertinent rare and recent books and papers, a ten-drawer subject file, the aforementioned microfilm, and a microfiche collection of maps, plans, and studies done on the parks over the last forty years.

Despite the vastness and relative richness of these collections, there are other nongovernment data that a researcher should check. Principal among these are the Francis Farquhar Collection and the Sierra Club Archives, both housed at the Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley. The Sierra Club collection in particular is huge (thirty-six boxes on Sequoia and Kings Canyon alone) but is only partially described. Colonel John White's papers are currently housed at the University of Oregon Library in Eugene. Each of the above sources is a worthwhile addition to the hundreds of thousands of document pages located at Sequoia National Park.


Challenge of the Big Trees
©1990, Sequoia Natural History Association
dilsaver-tweed/bibliography.htm — 12-Jul-2004