Statistics--Roads and Accommodations--Chapel and Sunday School--Big Farms and Great Resources--A Variety of Products--Long Hoped for Results
Records of the numbers of visitors to the Yosemite down to and inclusive of 1875, show that in 1852 Rose and Shurban were murdered by the savages, while their companion, Tudor, though wounded, escaped. The next year, 1853, eight men from the North Fork of the Merced, visited the valley, returning unharmed. Owing to murders of Starkey, Sevil and Smith, in the winter of 1853-'4, as it was believed, by the Yosemites, no visitors entered the valley during the summer of 1854. In 1855 Messrs. Hutchings, Ayers, Stair and Milliard, visited it without being disturbed by the sight of any of the original proprietors, either Indians or grizzlies. Mr. Hutchings, on his return to San Francisco, began to draw the attention of the public to the Yosemite, through his magazine and otherwise. Notwithstanding the ample means afforded by his magazine, and his facilities as a writer, Mr. Hutchings found it difficult to bring the valley into prominent and profitable notice, and few Californians could be induced to make it a visit. A peculiarity of those days was a doubt of the marvelous, and a fear of being " sold." Any statements of travelers or of the press, that appeared exaggerated, were received by the public with extreme caution. Not more than twenty-five or thirty entered during that year, though Mr. Hutchings' efforts were seconded by reports of other visitors.
The following season, 1856, it was visited by ladies from Mariposa and San Francisco, who safely enjoyed the pleasures and inconveniences of the trip; aroused and excited to the venture, no doubt, by their traditional curiosity. The fact being published that ladies could safely enter the valley, lessened the dread of Indians and grizzlies, and after a few brave reports had been published, this fear seemed to die away completely.
From this time on to 1864, a few entered every season; but during these times California had a wonder and interest in its population and their enterprises, greater than in any of its remarkable scenery. Everything was at high pressure, and the affairs of business and the war for the Union were all that could excite the common interest. In 1864, there were only 147 visitors, including men, women and children. The action of Congress this year, in setting the Yosemite and big trees apart from the public domain as national parks, attracted attention to them. The publicity given to the valley by this act, was world-wide, and since 1864 the number visiting it has steadily increased.
According to the Mariposa Gazette, an authentic record shows that in the season of 1865 the number was 276, in 1866, 382, in 1867, 435, in 1868, 627, and increasing rapidly; in 1875 the number for that year had reached about 3,000. The figures are deemed reliable, as they were obtained from the records of toll-roads and hotels. They are believed to be very nearly correct.
The Gazette "estimates the proportion of eastern and European in the total number to be at least nine-tenths," and says: "It is safe to place the Atlantic and European visitors for the next ten years at 2,000 per annum."
I have no doubt the number has been greater even than was estimated, for improved facilities for entering the valley have since been established. Seven principal routes have been opened, and a post-office, telegraph and express offices located. A large hotel has been built by the State, the trails have been purchased and made free, and the management is now said by travelers to be quite good. There is no reason why still further improvements should not be made. A branch railroad from the San Joaquin Valley could enter the Yosemite by way of the South Fork, or by the Valley of the Merced river. Mineral ores and valuable lumber outside and below the valley and grant, would pay the cost of construction, and no defacement of the grand old park or its additions would be required, nor should be allowed.
With cars entering the valley, thousands of tourists of moderate wealth would visit it; and then on foot, from the hotels, be able to see most of the sublime scenery of the mountains.
If horses or carriages should be desired, for the more distant points of interest, they may readily be obtained in the valley at reasonable rates. At present, the expense of travel by stage, carriage and horseback, is considerable, and many visiting California, do not feel able to incur the extra expense of a visit to the Yosemite.
Visitors intending to see both the big trees and the Yosemite Valley, should visit the trees first, as otherwise the forest monarchs will have lost a large share of their interest and novelty
The hotel charges are not much higher than elsewhere in the State, and the fare is as good as the average in cities. If extras are required, payment will be expected as in all localities. There is more water falling in the spring months, but the water-falls are but fractions of the interest that att ches to the region. Yosemite is always grandly beautiful; even in winter it has attractions for the robust, but invalids had better visit it only after the snow has disappeared from the lower levels, generally, from about the first of May to the middle of June.
From that date on to about the first of November, the valley will be found a most delightful summer resort, with abundant fruits and vegetables of perfect growth and richest flavor.
All modern conveniences and many luxuries of enlightened people are now to be found, gathered in full view of the great fall and its supporting scenery. The hotels, telegraph, express and post offices are there, and a Union Chapel dedicated at a grand gathering of the National Sunday School Union, held during the summer of 1879, is regularly used for religious services. Those who may wish to commune with Nature's God alone while in the Yosemite, will be in the very innermost sanctuary of all that is Divine in material creation for the valley is a holy Temple, and if their hearts are attuned to the harmony surrounding them, "the testimony of the Rocks" will bring conviction to their souls.
The unique character of Mirror Lake will leave its indelible impressions upon the tourist's mind, and residents of the Yosemite will gladly inform him of the varying proper time in the morning when its calm stillness will enable one to witness its greatest charm, the " Double Sunrise." That phenomena may be ascribed to the lake's sheltered closeness to the perpendicular wall of the Half Dome (nearly 5,000 feet high), and the window-like spaces between the peaks East and South, looked through by the sun in his upward, westward flight.
As a matter of fact, differing according to the seasons of the year, "sunrise on the lake" may be seen in its reflections two or more times in the same morning, and, if the visitor be at the lake when the breeze first comes up on its daily appearance from the plains, shattering the lake mirror into fragments, innumerable suns will appear to dazzle and bewilder the beholder.
The wonderful scenery and resources of California are becoming known and appreciated. A large addition has been made to, and surrounding the Yosemite and Big Tree Parks, which in time may become one; and another very large National Park has been established in Tulare County, to be known as the Sequoia Park, which includes most of the Big Trees of that entire region; but it is not so generally known in the Eastern States that there are such vast landed estates, such princely realms of unbroken virgin soil awaiting the developments of industry. Official reports of the California State Board of Equalization show that there are 122 farms of 20,000 acres each and over. Of these there are 67 averaging 70,000 acres each, and several exceed 100,000 acres.
These figures are published as official, and were well calculated to make the small farmers of the east open their eyes; they will yet open the eyes of the land owners themselves to the importance of bringing their estates under successful and remunerative cultivation. This will have to be done in order that these acres may be made to pay a just taxation. Thousands of acres that are of little use to the owners or the public--of no value to the state--can, by the judicious introduction of water, be made to pay well for the investment. Irrigating ditches or canals from the Merced, one on the north side and the other on the south, a short distance above Snelling, in Merced county, were located by the writer, and soon after completion, the arid and dusty land was transformed into blooming gardens and fertile vineyards. These were the first irrigating ditches of any considerable magnitude, constructed in Mariposa or Merced counties, though irrigation was common enough in other parts of the state. The advance that has since been made in California agriculture is wonderful. New methods adapted to the peculiarities of soil and climate have been introduced, and new machinery invented and applied that cheapen the cost of production and lessen manual labor to a surprising degree: for instance, machinery that threshes and cleans ready for the market, over 5,000 bushels of wheat to the machine per day. Capital is still being largely invested in railroads, and in reclaiming the Tule (Bull Rush) lands.
These lands are among the richest in the world. They grow cotton, tobacco, rice and other southern staples, equal to the best of the Southern States, with much less danger from malaria. The valleys of the San Joaquin and Sacramento, which are simply local divisions of the same great valley, produce according to altitude, moisture and location, all the cereals, fruits and vegetables of a temperate clime, as well as those of semi-tropical character; even the poorest hill-side lands grow the richest wine and raisin grapes. The yield is so astonishing, as to appear incredible.
The raisins grown and cured in California are said to be equal to the best Malaga; while the oranges, lemons, olives, figs, almonds, filberts and English walnuts, command the highest prices in the market. Peaches, pears, grapes and honey, are already large items in her trade; and her wheat crops now reach a bulk that is simply enormous.
The grade of horses, cattle, swine, sheep and wool, are being brought to a high degree of perfection; for the climate is most salubrious and invigorating. Her gifts of nature are most bountiful and perfect. No wonder, then, that the Californian is enthusiastic when speaking of his sublime scenery, salubrious climate and surprising products.
But I must no longer dwell upon my theme, nor tell of the fruitful Fresno lands, redeemed from savage barbarity. Those scenes of beauteous enchantment I leave to those who may remain to enjoy them. And yet-- El Capitan, I turn to gaze upon thy lofty brow,With reverent yearnings to thy Maker bow. But now farewell, Yosemite; If thou appearest not again in sight, Thou'lt come, I know, in life's extremity; While passing into realms of light.