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Mount Shasta as a Visual Resource

At Sisson's with Bierstadt, Hill, Keith, and Muir: 1860s-1870s

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Sisson's Tavern by Thomas Hill courtesy Garzoli Gallery, San Raphael, California.
Sisson's Inn by Thomas Hill.
Courtesy Garzoli Gallery, San Raphael, California.

The name of Sisson appears in the biographical accounts of many early California artists, including those of such well known personalities as Albert Bierstadt, Thomas Hill, William Keith, and John Muir. Sisson, or Sisson's as it was often called, refers both to John Hinckley Sisson and to the place where he lived.

Sisson and his wife, Lydia Marie, owned and operated a hotel and tavern which eventually became world renowned. For Mount Shasta travelers of the 1860s and 1870s, it was the center of activity. As innkeeper, provisoner, mountain guide, and expert fisherman, Sisson came in contact with some of the most interesting people of his time.

Portrait of Lydia Marie Sisson in later years courtesy of the Sisson Museum
Lydia Marie Sisson
Portrait of John Hinckley Sisson courtesy of the Sisson Museum
John Hinckley Sisson
Courtesy Sisson Museum.

Born in 1826 in Connecticut, he graduated from Hamilton College and did post-graduate work at Knox College; both colleges were in New York State104. His knowledge and understanding of scientific and cultural priorities later enabled him to be the appropriate host and guide for the stream of distinguished guests who came to work and vacation at fabled Mount Shasta.

Albert Bierstadt (1830-1902)

Portrait of Albert Bierstadt courtesy of Carol Gerten-Jackson at A Virtual Art Museum. Among the guests of Sisson, in 1863, were Albert Bierstadt and his traveling companion, the writer Fitz Hugh Ludlow. Bierstadt, a major figure in American painting at that time (and still highly regarded today), was famous for his grandiose and colorful landscapes of the Hudson River Valley, the Rocky Mountains, and California's Yosemite Valley. Ludlow's account of the journey to Mount Shasta, and of their sojourn at Sisson's, was published by the Atlantic Monthly Magazine in the following year, under the title, 'On Horseback into Oregon'105. Most of what follows is taken from that lengthy and entertaining account.

After our return from the Yo-Semite Valley, Bierstadt and myself remained in San Francisco, or its delightful neighborhood, making short excursions around and across the bay, for more than a fortnight. But this lotus-eating life soon palled. We burned to see the giant Shasta, and grew thirsty for the eternal snows of the Cascade Peaks still farther north...

At the town of Shasta (near Redding) we left the main wagon-road, finding that it passed a long way from the most important point of our itinerary, the base of Shasta Peak. By striking across the country six miles to the small settlement of Buckeye, we intersected a route little traveled, but far more picturesque, and leading directly to the great object of our longings. On the way to Buckeye we again encountered the Sacramento, here dwindled to a narrow mountain-stream with bold precipitous banks and a rock bottom, a smooth and deep, but rapid current, and full of trout and salmon. We crossed it on a rope ferry, and climbed the steeps on the other side, but did not leave it. Thence forward to Shasta Peak we were never out of its neighbor hood.

Bierstadt's heavy suitcase of oil paints caused the two much trouble and the extra weight was hard on their horses too. Ludlow remarked that:

...the man who first called chrome and white-lead 'light' colors must have been indulging the subtle irony of a diseased mind.

At Dog Creek, half way to Mount Shasta, the two camped by the

largest and most prosperous Indian tribe that we had seen on our trip... The quivers of this Dog-Creek tribe were the most beautiful preparations of whole mink, otter, and sable skins, which I have seen in Indian hands anywhere on the continent. One of the men had a great cap made out of an entire grizzly cub skin, the claws very nicely preserved and dangling behind, while the head curved forward on top like the crest of an old Greek helmet.

Soda Springs ("took a draught of the most delicious mineral water I ever drank") and Castle Rock ("no instance more truly deserving the name") greatly impressed the men, but it was Mount Shasta itself which gave them most cause for reflection- "certainly no peak which we met in all our large experience of the mountains of this continent ever compared with Shasta in producing the effect of vast height."

Ludlow wrote

At Sisson's or exploring with him in the neighborhood of Shasta, we passed one of the most delightful weeks in our diary of travel through any land. His house was a low, two-story building, which had run like a verbena in all directions over a grassy level, putting out a fresh arm at every new suggestion of domestic convenience, until it had become at once the most amorphous and the most comfortable dwelling in the California wilds.

The food and hospitality were generous

Cream flowed in upon us like a river; potatoes were stewed in it; it was the base of chicken sauce: the syrupy baked pears, whose secret Mrs. Sisson had inherited from some dim religious ancestor in the New-England past, were drowned in it: and we took a glass of it with magical shiny rusk for nine-o'clock supper, just to oil our joints before we relaxed them in innocent repose.

Our rooms were ample, our beds luxurious, our surroundings the grandest within Nature's bestowal. Our capital host and hostess became our personal friends; and all that they did for us was so heartily kind and so cheerily comfortable...

Ludlow admired his host-

Sisson was, without exception, the best rifle-shot I ever saw. I have seen him bring down a hawk soaring as high as I could see it. Before a target, at any distance usual for such experiments, his aim was practically unerring. He possessed, in addition, two other prime qualities of a first class woodsman, keen sight for game in covert, and soft-footedness in stealing on it, to a degree so unequalled in my acquaintance that I feel justified in calling him, not only the best shot, but the best hunter I ever knew. We spent three days in exploring, sketching, and deer stalking with him, during all of which time he was never once taken by surprise, but invariably cracked it over before ourselves, or another old huntsman with us, had time to say, 'where is it?'

As for art, Bierstadt was busy-

Bierstadt's colorbox the fuller by a score of Shasta studies taken under every possible variety of position, sky, and time of day." Bierstadt often 'sketched' in oils and that was the reason he took the pains to lug his colorbox with him. Working on medium sized pieces of paper, these sketches were done quickly and without great detail. Later, back in his studio, he could rely on the sketch to guide a more carefully done painting. The one extant painting of Mount Shasta by Bierstadt is probably the one referred to by Ludlow when he wrote- "To repay us for this struggle (the day's hike), we had found one lake lying in a precipitous gorge, only twice before visited by whitemen; while Bierstadt, always the most indefatigable explorer of every party we were in together, climbed with his color-box to still another lake, of which he was the first discoverer, and whose lineaments he preserved in one of the best studies of our trip."Ludlow concludes the episode by saying "After a day's rest at Sisson's, we bade the capital fellow and his excellent wife a good-bye which had more regret in it than we ever felt before for comrades of a single week's standing, and resumed our northward journey, . . . . . . The day was fine, the air more bracing than we had found since leaving Yo-Semite. Our week of comparative rest at Sisson's had brought our horses into splendid condition for the road; both we and they were boiling over with animal spirits; and it was still early in the afternoon when we rode the fortieth mile of our way into Yreka, on the full gallop.106

Mount Shasta and Black Butte from Castle Lake. Courtesy of Diane and Blaine Fogg.
Mount Shasta and Castle Lake by Albert Bierstadt.
Oil on paper.
Courtesy Blaine and Diane Fogg.

One should keep in mind the enormous popularity of Bierstadt in his own time; art patrons in New York and Europe paid fortunes for his paintings, and banners sailed across the skies in New York announcing the openings of Bierstadt exhibitions. Bierstadt's arrival in California is sometimes credited with having started a whole trend of landscape painting in California. While there were many factors which influenced large numbers of California painters away from portraiture and indoor scenes, it is nonetheless true that the large sums of money and critical acclaim which Bierstadt received for his landscapes caused many young California painters to get out and sketch and paint the outdoors.

Thomas Hill (1829-1908)

Mount Shasta by Thomas Hill
Mount Shasta from Castle Lake, ca. 1888.
Oil on board, 14 x 21 in.
From: Janice T. Driesbach. Direct from Nature: The Oil Sketches of Thomas Hill. Yosemite: Yosemite Association, 1997.
Painting courtesy The Gilcrese Museum, Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Thomas Hill 1880 from the California Historical Society Thomas Hill was one of the greatest of California landscape painters. Yet few biographies written about Hill make much mention of his extensive time at Mount Shasta. The sheer number of paintings he did of it, from a wide array of different and difficult to reach perspectives, indicate his close association with the region. His landscape paintings include those of Black Butte, Castle lake, Castle Crags, the McCloud River, the Pitt River, the Sacramento River near Castella, Sisson's tavern, and the summit and glaciers of Mount Shasta. Fond of animal life, he would in these same paintings show the quail, rabbits, eagles, mountain lions, and bears. Some of his Mount Shasta region paintings were scenes of tourists fishing from river shore or from boat, or of Indians spearing the fish in the rapids. It is likely that of the early artists at Mount Shasta, it was Thomas Hill who did the greatest number paintings of the area.

Hill was known as a fine artist during his own lifetime. Leland Stanford, who owned a fine Mount Shasta painting by Hill, was one of his strongest patrons. And John Muir selected eleven of Hill's Mount Shasta oil paintings to be used as illustrations for Picturesque California, one of the most important nature and travel books of its time. Hill's talent for painting was remarkable, his paintings sold well, and his reputation as one of the West's best painters still holds true today.

Castle Crags by Thomas Hill courtesy Garzoli Gallery.
Castle Crags by Thomas Hill. Signed and dated T. Hill 1878.
Oil on canvas. 72 1/2" by 45 1/4".
Courtesy Garzoli Gallery

Hill occasionally would paint portraits of those he knew. Hill's talent as a portrait painter is well evident in a picture he made of B.B. Redding, a S.F. railroad man for whom the railroad named the town of Redding (although the town tried several times to rename itself after P.B. Reading, who was the original 1843 pioneer, land grant holder, discoverer of gold, and civic leader of the area) Nonetheless, B.B. Redding was admired by Hill. A 1910 catalogue of paintings for the estate of Thomas Hill had this to say:

B.B. Redding by Thomas Hill courtesy .
B.B. Redding by Thomas Hill.
Source Unknown.

Originally a portrait-painter, since 1865 he painted but few portraits, and those are special favors. Where shall we find an artist who can turn from masterly presentations of Nature in a great portrait like this (of Redding). It is a speaking likeness of Mr. B.B. Redding, father of Mr. Geo. and Mr. Jos. D. Redding, and formerly Land Agent of the Central Pacific Railroad. ... it was not a commission, but was painted by Mr. Hill to satisfy an inward desire to paint a portrait of one who was his friend and also a strikingly fine man.108

Hill's good friend J. H. Sisson, the most important man in the Mount Shasta area, seems also to be one of those whom Hill portrayed in oils. Though the painting is unsigned, it has been in the Sisson family all along. A daughter of the Sissons, Belle H. Sisson-Maguire, wrote a letter which mentions this portrait painting:

Don't you remember the old sign board which stood outside the picket fence near the old pine tree by the croquet ground? Well, that sign was painted by a distinguished artist who happened to be stopping at the house at the time. I don't remember his name. It might have been Wm. Keith, or Thomas Hill, as they were both warm friends of Father through his friendliness and also through his interest in such things. I should not at all be surprised if he never charged them anything for staying there. You know, Thomas Hill, who was a celebrated artist, known abroad as well as in this country for his paintings of Yosemite and the Yellowstone. I remember when Mr. Hill returned from his trip to the Yellowstone and his showing Father all the wonderful big, big, canvases in their bright colors and of Father's admiration. It was shortly after this that Mr. Hill sent the portrait of Father. I always understood that he intended to paint one of Mother too.109

John Sisson by Thomas Hill.
John H. Sisson by Thomas Hill.
Courtesy Sisson Museum, Mount Shasta City, California, where this painting now resides.

Elsewhere Sisson' daughter says, in referring to the same portrait:

Thomas Hill, a nationally famous landscape painter painted a fine bust of Father and presented it to him handsomely framed in Gold.110
Incidentally, Hill was not the only artist to paint Sisson. Mrs. Maguire writes that Hiram Bloomer, another well known S.F. artist, also did so.111

Mount Shasta, 1882 by Thomas Hill. Courtesy Butterfields.
Mount Shasta, 1882 by Thomas Hill.
Oil on canvas. 13 by 21 1/4 in.
From: Butterfield and Butterfield. American and California Paintings and Sculpture.
December 9, 1999. Sale 7076-D Lot 5339.
Courtesy Butterfields.

During the 1870s and 1880s large numbers of viewers in San Francisco saw exhibitions which included paintings of Mount Shasta by artists like Thomas Hill and William Keith. Sisson, and his hotel, was thus justly repaid in free public relations for his sincere hospitality to the artists.

William Keith (1838-1911)

Portrait of William Keith as a young man courtesy of the Bancroft Library. William Keith was the pre-eminent landscape painter in California during the latter half of the 19th century. Called the 'Dean of California Painters' and 'California's Old Master', Keith was a man who knew and loved the outdoors. He was a prolific painter who created thousands of pictures during his lifetime, and almost everyone of those paintings evidenced a fresh and spontaneous realism which brought him much fame. He more than satisfied a casual remark of his early years- "I'd be satisfied if I could reach the power and success of Tom Hill".112

Keith was born in Scotland and came to the U.S. at the age of twelve. By the age of eighteen he was apprenticed to an engraver in New York. A few years later he came to California and was employed by printing firms in San Francisco as an engraver and illustrator. His first wife was an art teacher who encouraged his ambitions to be a painter, and Keith's first exhibition, which was of watercolors (though he became predominantly an oil painter), took place in 1866.

The Sacramento River Canyon with Mount Shasta in the Distance by William Keith. Courtesy Turtle Bay Exploration Park, Redding, California.
Canyon View by William Keith.
Courtesy Turtle Bay Exploration Park, Redding, California.

'Sisson's Berry Valley, August 1878.' Pencil sketch by William Keith. Courtesy Oakland Museum. Few novelties in the way of local art production have been presented lately. We notice, however, at Snow & Roos's a picture of Mount Shasta, by William Keith, which is the most striking and faithful painting of that difficult subject we have seen in oil. It is very conscientiously elaborated from close studies in color, made by Mr. Keith in his Oregon trip... The great mountain rises in pyramidal majesty in the background, its snow crowned peak split as Prof. Whitney describes it, and lifted above the clouds that circle far below.113 In 1869 Keith and his wife traveled to Dusseldorf for two years of advanced training; the German city had earlier been a mecca for American painters of the era. The style of painting taught there was formulistic and inflexible, but the technical proficiency in painting which Keith acquired was a necessary step in his development. While in Dusseldorf Keith painted a view of Mount Shasta, presumably from sketches he had brought along114. On his return to the States, Keith set up a studio in Boston, and after a year came back to California.

Keith met John Muir at Yosemite in 1872, and the deep friendship which instantly developed between the two Scotsman lasted a lifetime. Muir instilled in Keith an even greater passion for painting the great scenes of California's wild places. Through years of traveling and hiking with Muir, Keith learned to understand Nature itself first hand. Muir's high standards helped keep Keith alert and true to his art. The art of 'roughing it', hiking to high and dangerous vista, listening to the quiet, and being enveloped by the night sky were all part of Keith's friendship with Muir. When Muir died in 1914 his personal art collection contained about a dozen of Keith's oil paintings, including one Mount Shasta, and one of Muir Butte (today known as Black Butte).115 Keith was a charter member of the Sierra Club, and it was Muir's weekly visits to Keith's S.F. studio which lead to the founding of the organization.

William Keith in his studio with a painting of Mount Shasta to his right. Courtesy Bancroft Library, U.C. Berkeley.
Photo of Keith in his studio with Mount Shasta on the Floor
Courtesy the Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.

Keith came to Mount Shasta many times and he ranks with Thomas Hill in the number of paintings any one artist had done of the region; they both did a lot of them, and over a long period of time. Some of the titles of Keith's paintings indicate his familiarity with the mountain and the region - Mt. Shasta, its Broadside grandeur; Mt. Shasta, All in Snow, Rugged Forest Foreground; Sisson's; Mt. Shasta from Sissons; Castle Crags; Mt. Shasta from Castle Lake; Canyon View; and so on. And there are even Keith paintings of nearby Klamath Lake in Oregon: Klamath Lake with Pelicans and Mount McLoughlin, Klamath Lake, and Pelican Bay. The largest of these paintings was a 9 foot by 5 foot painting of Mount Shasta which hung at the Jonathan Club in Los Angeles for many years.

Mount Shasta by William Keith. Courtesy Butterfield and Butterfield.
Mount Shasta by William Keith.
Oil on board laid down. 20 1/2 by 25 1/2 inches.
From: Butterfield and Butterfield. American and California Paintings and Sculpture.
December 13, 2000. Sale 7209D Lot 3194.
Courtesy Butterfield and Butterfield.

California's far North was evidently a favorite destination for Keith. Documents show that Keith was in the Shasta area in 1868, 1878, 1888, 1895, 1907, and 1908; most likely he was there even more times than the records suggest.

In one of William Keith's early sketch books, above a drawing of Mount Shasta, the following words were written: 'Clothed in White --- Mystic --- Wonderful'.107 Those few words perhaps express what all the Mount Shasta painters were trying to evoke with their canvases: the awe they felt at certain moments when the shear size and purity of the vision erased all petty cares and concerns of the mind, and left them with only a sublime experience of great peace.

Keith's devoted biographer, the Catholic monk Brother Cornelius, tells a story about Keith at Castle Crags:

...one day Carlos Hittell was sketching with Keith at Castle Crags when they saw a group of people at a distance coming towards them. 'Oh, what do these people want? remarked Keith with disgust; I don't like to be watched by strangers when I'm painting.' 'Well' said Carlos, 'you have no reason to be bashful about your work. It's different with me; and yet I don't bother if people do look in on me.' 'Carlos, I think it's just as impolite for a person to look in at a painter painting as it is for a man to read another man's private letters.' responded Keith, and he himself backed against a big tree so that the strangers could not watch him paint.116

Keith liked the view from Castle Crags. A clipping from the San Francisco Chronicle of August 8, 1895, is titled- Keith's Lofty Themes The Artist has returned to his old love the mountains, Shasta and Castle Crags. Keith stayed for three or four weeks. Along with a pen and ink drawing of the Crags, the article quotes Keith as saying "I much prefer that point of view (from near Castle Crags Tavern) to that from Sissons. The grandeur of Shasta is much better appreciated there to my mind than near its base."117

Mount Shasta by William Keith. Courtesy of the Montagne Collection.
Mount Shasta by William Keith
From: Stephen Vincent, editor. O'California. San Francisco: Bedford Arts, Publishers, 1990.
Courtesy Stanford University Art Museum.

The Shasta region had its share of cultured summer residents during the final decades of the 19th century. An historical survey of "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous in San Franciscos's Gilded Age" places the resorts of Castle Grags in high regard-

The prevailing belief in the benefits of walking for exercise and for the enjoyment of nature gave major impetus to the summer exodus to Europe's famous health spas. Even families with private country cottages of palatial dimensions frequented the luxury establishments in Wiesbaden and Carlsbad, as well as the rustic lodges at Yosemite or Castle Crag.118

* The society notables of the Crags area included Leland Stanford, who owned a summer home at lower Soda Springs (-the nearby post office in the town of Castella was for a while ( beginning in 1890) officially named Leland119). Henry Crocker's mansion was also in the area (perhaps the same building as the Stanfords but at a different time).120 By 1906 Phoebe Hearst, who had known Keith and bought his paintings, was entertaining many of California's most accomplished individuals at the Wyntoon Castle on the McCloud River. And Keith was twice a guest of railroad magnate Edward Harriman* and his son Averill Harriman, at the Harriman Lodge on Klamath Lake.

Many of Keith's Mount Shasta paintings were done before the mid 1880s. By the late 1880s, Keith embraced the European Barbizon style, named for the village of Barbizon, in the suburbs of Paris. This school of painting placed less emphasis on realism and clarity in favor of a softer focus and a mingling of tones. In practical terms, his paintings became darker and somewhat ambiguous. To the average person today, these darker paintings are often so similar to each other that they lack interest. Even many of Keith's friends had wished that he would return to his older style, but he would not think of it. To him the realism of his earlier style, no matter what the subject, was always the same, and the Barbizon manner of painting now let him feel a marvelous involvement with the act of painting itself. In so doing, Keith was one of the few early California painters who really understood the Barbizon style; it was an understanding which enabled him to continue to sell to the Barbizon-hungry art buying public, and he remained a very wealthy man to the very end. By was of contrast, Thomas Hill, the major rival of Keith in California, did not adapt to the new ways of painting and died in near obscurity.

Today, Keith's paintings of the Mount Shasta area are to be found in the collections of many California museums, including the Monterey Peninsula Museum of Art, The Crocker Art Gallery in Sacramento, the Stanford Art Museum, and the Hearst Gallery at Saint Mary's College. The Hearst Gallery at Saint Mary's is an expansion of the original Keith Gallery which opened at Saint Mary's in 1934, and has for more than fifty years exhibited on a rotating basis much of its extensive collection of William Keith's art.

*Incidentally, many less than ethical businessmen, like Harriman- whose business behavior was publically denounced by president Theodore Roosevelt- were interested in art and nature. John Muir, who accompanied Keith on at least one trip to Harriman's lodge on Klamath lake, had this to say about the notorius Harriman:

Why, Mr. Harriman has a heart, people may not know it, but he loves the flowers and the trees. He loves nature and human nature. I have been with him among the glaciers of Alaska; on the waters of Pelican Bay (Klamath Lake)...and I have seen him in the privacy of his own family. He is just a plain, great hearted man, endowed with a wonderful brain that unceasingly drives him...to the great responsibility which he never consciously sought.121

And another less than sterling personality with a love of the forest was Phoebe Hearst's son, William Randolf Hearst. He would never allow any trees to be cut or any animals to be killed on the Wyntoon property he inherited in McCloud, at the base of Shasta.122 At one point the Hearsts were prepared to purchase a large timberline portion of Mount Shasta to save it from logging, though for some reason the purchase was never completed.123

John Muir (1838-1914)

Self-portrait of John Muir. From: Drawing in letter of February 23, 1887. In: William Frederick Bade. Life and Letters of John Muir, Vol. 2. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1924. Courtesy of the Mount Shasta Collection. A little known aspect of John Muir is the fact that he was a fine artist. His many drawings of the Mount Shasta region (about fifteen of them) from the 1874-1875 period attest to this fact.124 He captures views of both scientific and artistic interest- the creek drainage patterns, the banner clouds on the mountain top, the heavy storm as see from atop the mountain- and at times these views convey a strong sense of the sublime, which is of course the hallmark of the best artists. Other views which he drew of the Yosemite Valley are extremely detailed and picturesque.

His art is an 'art of information', that is, it was an art drawn more to record some landmark or to note some scientific idea observed, such as the creek drainage patterns on Mount Shasta. But at the same time the art has been influenced by the splendor of the scene, and it is this extra 'something' which is evident in Muir's drawings. Many of the early explorer artists of the West experienced this phenomenon, their art became extraordinary, just from the power of the grand vista before their eyes. Muir was yet another in this long line of talented and inspired scientist- artists. Muir spent much of his life in the outdoors, and these wonderfull drawings of his give a glimpse into his inner vision as much as do his writings.

However, even John Muir, hardy outdoorsman that he was, would occasionally have to stay inside. Thus it was in 1874 that he could give us a glimpse of some of the indoor living at Sisson's. He writes, on Nov. 8, 1874, (to his friend Alice McChesney):

My Dear Highland Lassie Alice: It is a stormy day here at the foot of the big snowy Shasta and so I am in Sisson's house where it is cozy and warm. There are four lassies here - one is bonnie, one is bonnier, and one is far bonniest, but I don't know them yet and I am a little lonesome and wish Alice McChesney were here. I can never help thinking you were a little unkind in sending me off to the mountains without a kiss and you must make that up when I get back.125

Aside from bonnie lassies, Muir also thought about art. In the same year he wrote "I wish I could make the public be kind to Keith and his paint."126; and a year later, in the Overland Monthly magazine, he began to make good his wish, by writing about one of Keith's Sierra paintings:

...but paint, pictures, art and artist are alike forgotten, when we gaze into this glorious landscape. These are living Alps, blue shadows on the snow, rocks, meadows, groves and the crystal river, radiating beautifully, that absorbs and caresses us away. Keith is patiently following the leadings of his own genius - painting better than he knows, observing a devout truthfulness to nature, yet removing veils of detail, and laying bare the very hearts and souls of the landscapes; and the truth of this is attested more and more fully by every picture he paints.127

It was perhaps Keith who first introduced Muir to Mount Shasta, for Keith was at the mountain by 1868, years before Muir's first visit in 1874.

The two met in 1872 in Yosemite valley, and became lifelong friends; both were Scotsmen, both were born in the same year, and both were of deep talent. For more than a decade they took frequent trips together throughout the Sierras. In July of 1888, they passed through the Mount Shasta region in preparation for Muir's Picturesque California.128 This book, originally printed as a two volume book and later reprinted as a series of weekly magazines, was expressly produced to show the landscape of California as seen by the educated eyes of California's best artists. Hundreds of paintings and sketches, done by scores of artists, were used as illustrations. The text was written by eminent travel authorities. When the book was published, it was not Keith but Muir's other friend, Thomas Hill, whose art of Mount Shasta was published. Nonetheless Keith contributed to the project paintings of many parts of California. The book still stands today as one of the best references on the early art of California.129

Mount Shasta was one of Muir's most cherished locales. His famous quote of Mount Shasta, however, must be understood in context. He was only talking about the last four days, not his whole life, when he said:

When I first caught sight of it [Mount Shasta] I was fifty miles away and afoot, alone and weary. Yet all my blood turned to wine, and I have not been weary since.130

In a letter of 1877 he wrote:

The professor Gray I was with on Shasta is the writer of the school botanies, the most distinguished botanist in America, and Sir Joseph Hooker is the leading botanist of England. We had a fine rare time together in the Shasta forests, discussing the botanical characters of the grandest coniferous trees in the world, camping out and enjoying ourselves in pure freedom.131

Muir summed up his basic message of his Shasta chapters in Picturesque California by stating:

The Shasta region is still a fresh unspoiled wilderness, accessible and available for travelers of every kind and degree. Would it not then be a fine thing to set it apart like the Yellowstone and Yosemite as a National Park for the welfare and benefit of all mankind, preserving its fountains and forests and all its glad life in primeval beauty? Very little of the region can ever be more valuable for any other use -- certainly not for gold or grain. No private right or interest need suffer, and thousands yet unborn would come from far and near and bless the country for its wise and benevolent forethought. -1894132

*The "grandest coniferous trees in the world" of Mount Shasta have long since been cut down. Some of the giant stumps found up on the lava flow above McBride Springs and great stumps at other locales around the mountain attest to the former glory and drawing power of the trees for visitors of the 1870s. Though he tried but was unsuccessful in stopping the harmful logging at Shasta, Muir fought and won a hard battle to stop the logging of the valley floor of Yosemite. One wonders what the Yosemite experience would be like without its fine trees, and conversely, what the Shasta experience would be like had its great trees remained.


[104] Lundquist. p. 35. The Siskiyou Historical Society published this collection of local history essays specifically devoted to the Sisson-Mount Shasta area.

[105] Ludlow. pp. 75-85. The travels of Ludlow and Bierstadt were published as a series of articles over a period of many months. A revised version was later printed by Ludlow as a single book.

[106] Ludlow. Quoted from 'On Horseback into Oregon', Atlantic Monthly, Vol. XIV, July, 1864. pp. 75- 86.This was a continuing series of accounts by Ludlow of their trip to the West. The next installment was titled 'On the Columbia River'.

[107] Collection of Keith Memorabilia, Oakland Museum. [Quote actually from Sketchbook of William Keith, 1878.]

[108] Hill, Robert R. Catalog of the Paintings and Sketches of the Late Thomas Hill. S.F. Thomas Hill Paintings. 1910 There is also a photograph, in Robertson's 'West of Eden', of the interior of the Thomas Hill studio in Yosemite: the Redding portrait can be seen on the wall.

[109] Letter by Belle Sisson McQuire to her sister Ivy, dated Dec. 4, 1946. Copy of the letter courtesy Dorthy Park.

[110] Rough draft notes of Belle Sisson McQuire. Copy of these notes courtesy Dorthy Park.

[111] Ibid.

[112] Samuels p. 260.

[113] 'Local Art Items' in the Evening Bulletin, Nov. 16, 1868.

[114] Brother Cornelius. Volume 2. p. 28.

[115] Ibid. p. 147. The exact number of Keith paintings owned by Muir is difficult to determine. There may have been more. In any event it is also known that Muir owned art from other artists, including at least one by Cleveland Rockwell.

[116] Brother Cornelius. Vol. 1, p.237.

[117] San Francisco Chronicle, August 8, 1895. Mentioned in Brother Cornelius, Vol. 1, p.388.

[118] Ogden. p.16

[119] Salley. p.120. This is a history of the Post Offices in California. The author states that Stanford had a summer home at the Lower Soda Springs. That is not necessarily correct. It is known for certain that Mrs Stanford would have her private railroad car brought to Castle Crags, for her use in the summers. This may be the extent of the Stanford residences in the area, according to Carol Osborne, director of the Stanford Art Museum.

[120] A conversation with personnel at the Castle Crags State Park disclosed the former existence of the Crocker home in that region.

[121] Quoted in Kimes, p. 155.

[122] Murry. p. 13. Hearst's lifelong friend, W.W. Murry, offers this curious insight into the famous William Randolf Hearst: "Mr. Hearst was a great lover of trees and anything that grew in this region to such an extent that he acquired many acres of timberland in Shasta and Siskiyou counties, the bulk lying adjacent to the McCloud River and in Squaw Valley. During Mr. Hearst's lifetime, he prohibited the cutting of trees and even brush. He didn't want to kill any living thing. This applied even to hunting. These holdings are now known as the Hearst Wyntoon Tree Farm and are being managed as such." note- this was written in 1958.

[123] Personal communication with Mrs. Tupper. She was a friend and neighbor of Ed Stuhl, who worked for the Hearsts.

[124] These drawings are in the Muir Collection of the Holt-Atherton Center for Western Studies. Reels 24 and 32. The Shasta drawings are found in two forms, one, the original drawings as entered into his journals. Generally they are full page drawings. Two, he copied a few of the Shasta scenes onto other paper, possibly he was going to use them for publication. The Center's index to his Shasta drawings does not list the more numerous journal drawings.

[125] Quoted in Bade. p. 33.

[126] Quoted in Bade. p. 38.

[127] Quoted in Bade.

[128] Brother Cornelius. p. 167.

[129] Muir. Picturesque California and the Region West of the Rocky Mountains, from Alaska to Mexico. The earliest edition of this book was actually a series of parts issued over many years. It appears Muir had not even written some of his chapters until 1889, and some parts were not published until 1890. Many different editions of the entire set have been produced and they usually only give the date of 1888, which is very misleading. see Kimes, p. 44 for a detailed look at the publishing history of this massive book project.

[130] Quoted in Osborne. p.3.

[131] Quoted in Bade. p.83.

[132] Muir. Picturesque California, p. 232.

 

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