“…a garden opposite the Half Dome”

The good old pioneer, Lamon, was the first of all the early Yosemite settlers who cordially and unreservedly adopted the Valley as his home.

He was born in the Shenandoah Valley…emigrated to Illinois…afterwards went to Texas and settled on the Brazos, where he raised melons and hunted alligators for a living. “Right interestin’ business,” he said; “especially the alligator part of it.” From the Brazos he went to the Comanche Indian country between Gonzales and Austin, twenty miles from his nearest neighbor..When the formidable Comanche Indians were on the war-path he left his cabin after dark and slept in the woods. From Texas he crossed the plains to California and worked In the Calaveras and Mariposa gold-fields.

He first heard Yosemite spoken of as a very beautiful mountain valley and after making two excursions in the summers of 1857 and 1858 to see the wonderful place, he made up his mind to quit roving and make a permanent home in it. In April, 1859, he moved into it, located a garden opposite the Half Dome, set out a lot of apple, pear and peach trees, planted potatoes, etc., that he had packed in on a “contrary old mule,”…For the first year or two lack of provisions compelled him to move out on the approach of winter, but in 1862 after he had succeeded in raising some fruit and vegetables he began to winter in the Valley…When the avalanches began to slip, he wondered where all the wild roaring and booming came from, the flying snow preventing them from being seen. But, upon the whole, he wondered most at the brightness, gentleness, and sunniness of the weather, and hopefully employed the calm days in tearing ground for an orchard and vegetable garden.

He was a fine, erect, whole-souled man, between six and seven feet high, with a broad, open face, bland and guileless as his pet oxen. No stranger to hunger and weariness, he knew well how to appreciate suffering of a like kind in others, and many there be, myself among the number, who can testify to his simple, unostentatious kindness that found expression in a thousand small deeds. After gaining sufficient means to enjoy a long afternoon of life in comparative affluence and ease, he died in the autumn of 1876. He sleeps in a beautiful spot near Galen Clark and a monument hewn from a block of Yosemite granite marks his grave.

John Muir, The Yosemite ch.14

JC Lamon
Lamon cabin 1861
Yos Falls 1900
Lamon monument
Images all courtesy of the NPS

See also Order of The Good Earth, The Yosemite Cemetary

10 thoughts on ““…a garden opposite the Half Dome”

  1. Yes, a beautiful spot even with the over-development and bears showing that familiarity does breed contempt. Well, that was the last time I saw it, but I was glad to head off to Hetch Hetchy. (although the bears were there too were too familiar). Now with Hanta virus, maybe not so nice.

    • The Valley bears–well yeah, they are pests for sure. But real smart pests! The backcountry bears on the other hand–they’re still wild and very cool. I’ve had some great encounters with a few of ’em–just steer clear of mama bear with cubs and you’re fine.

      BTW, I’ll never know for sure unless I get an antibody test, which is unlikely, but I think there’s a decent chance that I got Hanta a few years back. But in Colorado, not in the Sierra. But it’s there. In fact, I also stayed in the cabin of the first person to die of Hanta in California–it was at one of the UC Research Stations, in Mammoth Lakes. I was the very next occupant, but it had been completely gutted and mouse-proofed after the incident–I wasn’t worried. There was a 3 foot diameter lodgepole pine that went right through the middle of the cabin. Bats buzzed your face after the lights went out. It was awesome.

    • Okay, I’ll bite…What kind of mouse-proofing allows for the passage of a lodgepole pine and bats? Some strange osmotic barrier?

      By the way, I want to express my appreciation for the historical posts, such as this one, or Manly, or Lewis & Clark. Much to admire about their pioneer spirit, and their love of the land shines through in their words.

    • LOL, touche! Do you have to be so, you know, logical and all Harold? 🙂

      As for the bats I have no idea whether they were remnants or immigrants. As for the tree, I remember there being no gap between the tree and the floor, and some expandable contraption where it went through the roof. But never did a drop of water come through, and there were never any mouse droppings; whatever they did, it worked.

      Thanks for the good word on the historical posts…if I just wrote on what I love, it would be all historical explorations, Sierra Nevada, botany, and baseball, all the time.

    • Well, you could have been exposed: it is quite likely that, as with many if not all zoonotic viruses, everyone exposed doesn’t necessarily develop symptoms. That is certainly true for most people exposed to West Nile and likely even for some exposed to Ebola.

      The epidemiology of hanta-viruses is missing something: it is far too sporadic given the ubiquity of its rodent reservoirs and their poop and pee. When I lived in Alberta, every spring was a bit traumatic. When the snow finally melted one of the first chores was to hike out to the tent trailer on our remote quarter section, crank it up, and clean out the Peromyscus maniculatus poop and pee. We sometimes wore rubber gloves, and always tried to hold our breathe, but if the virus was there (and a dozen or so cases have been reported in AB) and we were susceptible, we should have gotten it.

      I once had an email exchange with an epidemiologist who works on Hanta. He said that the studies of people who spent years trapping reservoir rodents showed a very small percentage of anti-bodies to Sin Nombre etc. Perhaps the viruses sweep through rodent populations and the critical point is being in the wrong place at the wrong time (yet note that those with antibodies had not expressed the disease).

    • Yes, that is the exact scenario for contracting Hanta virus: the springtime cabin clean out with a half-year’s worth of accumulated mouse droppings, and without using water and bleach. Many have gotten it exactly that way. The cabin I mentioned where the girl died in CA, was amazingly enough, shag carpeted. There’s no way you can see mouse droppings in that. The first person in there, to clean it out in May for the upcoming season, should have been one of Reserve staff or whoever does the cleaning. In vacuuming the carpet, and doing other cleaning, they’re the ones who thus should have gotten Hanta, not the poor woman who was signed up to use the cabin first. This implies that they didn’t do a very good job of cleaning the cabin–maybe they didn’t even sweep the carpet at all, who knows. I should have asked more questions when I was there–I was too trusting about it.

      I also once stayed in a USFS research cabin at another site in the Sierra Nevada. There were several people staying there, and one afternoon I walked in on somebody dry sweeping the floor–compete dust storm, full of mouse droppings. I couldn’t believe it–this was after the NM Hanta outbreak and after that first CA Hanta death. I told him to stop, immediately covered my mouth and left the cabin. He didn’t even know anything about Hanta virus. I tried to relay the seriousness of the situation to the PI but as seems common in these kinds of incidents, nobody expressed much concern about it.

      I most definitely had symptoms from the Colorado incident. I was sick like I’ve never been, could barely breathe, had no energy at all. It was unlike any illness I’ve ever had–extremely pernicious. I was in a cabin that had mice in it, in midwinter. And there were dead mice in the main research building. I was alone for days at a time and it was brutally cold–it hit -28F (-33C) one night–and I had to keep the fire stoked by getting wood from outside. After about 3 days, right when I’d finally decided I really needed to go to the hospital (30 miles away in Boulder), I started getting better and so never did go.

      What’s disconcerting is that in all three incidents, the owner and maintainer of the cabins was either a major university, or the federal government. I’m never again staying in any of their facilities, and that includes the University of California, the University of Colorado, and the US Forest Service. Irresponsible and dangerous management by all three, especially the latter two.

    • Jim –
      Darn, I was rather hoping for a mouse repellent, something I could use about the house. Every fall, at least one field mouse manages to sneak in and chew up the spare toilet paper under the sink.

      Or a bat-door — not that I could use that, but it would be awesome.

    • I’ve heard of some excellent mouse repellants Harold. What the heck were those things called….oh yeah, cats I think it was.

      I wouldn’t worry about the mice unless you see ’em wearing a helmet.

  2. We were told that Irish Spring soap bars were an effective mouse repellant. Possibly they help, but not absolutely. Peromyscus are fairly easy to trap, though. A bucket of water, two sticks and some peanut butter is all you need. One stick on the outside as a ladder, one across the bucket: smear the peanut butter on the cross bucket stick and you can listen to mice drowning all night. It is very quick, maybe 60 seconds, but populations of mice are very large and it is like trying to empty an ocean with a bucket. Besides, you might be drawing in infect rodents from other areas as seems to happen when people try to eliminate rabies reservoirs. Eventually we decided to just live with the mice and keep our food secure.

    I should note that my comments are going into moderation and some are never appearing. Another WordPress mystery.

    PS – as I recall, the Park Superintendent of Glacier NP died of Hanta Virus a few years ago. If that didn’t get the feds to wake-up, probably nothing will, but I guess the Park Service and USDA probably don’t communicate very well.

    • Yep more WP weirdness with no apparent explanation. I’ve not seen anything show up in the spam or trash folders but always do a quick save of your comment before posting just in case.

      I had not heard about the Glacier NP superintendent dying–thanks. I’m going to have to check that out.

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