What did John Muir have to say about Stockton?

John Muir. Public domain image.

On second thought, I buried the lede in Saturday’s story on the John Muir papers.

It’s really not a story about the papers themselves, but rather, how a small college like Pacific managed to win them away from the prestigious Bancroft Library at Berkeley.

Talk about a March Madness upset.

Read the story here.

What’s remarkable is the fact that Muir himself had very little connection with the city that now houses an estimated 75 percent of his papers.

Muir’s 7,000 letters and a few of his journals are searchable by keyword. Stockton is mentioned more than 20 times in the letters, mostly because Muir had friends here who he corresponded with.

But I could only find three substantive references to Stockton.

In 1877, Muir wrote of a raft trip down the San Joaquin River, past Stockton and through the “tule region” into the Bay near Martinez. But he gives the city little mention. (For all of these letters, click on “text” to see the transcribed copies.)

Seven years later, in a wonderfully sweet missive to his daughter, Wanda, Muir takes note of the many mosquitoes which he and his wife encountered on the way to Yosemite.

“There are many mosquitoes in Stockton & they stung Mamma and wouldn’t let her sleep,” he wrote.

Finally, in 1905, Edward Hughes of 1230 N. Center St. in Stockton wrote to Muir and alluded to an earlier visit.

“The newspaper people didn’t learn of your visit to Stockton until some three days after you were here,” Hughes wrote.

“Then they came down on me with a rush to learn particulars,” he wrote. “I enjoyed poking fun at them about their lack of enterprise as witnessed by the fact that a man of your size could spend a day here without their being the wiser for it until it was too old for a news item. However, they made one of it.”

Touche. But at least we found out about Steve Martin.

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  • Blog Author

    Alex Breitler

    A native of Benicia, he lives in Stockton with his wife, Ann, who forces him to go backpacking in the Sierra Nevada or Trinity Alps at every opportunity. He has been writing mostly about natural resources since 2003, first in Redding and now in ... Read Full
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