Abraham Lincoln’s declaration on June 30, 1864 for Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Big Tree Grove to “be set aside for public use, resort and recreation for all time” was the beginning of an idea that America could preserve its majestic spaces. Many years later, this notion led to the creation of America’s National and State Parks. Yosemite Valley did not stay a California State Park for long. In 1906, California returned ownership of Yosemite to the federal government and it became Yosemite National Park.
The Mormon Batallion was the first group of white men to discover Yosemite Valley. In 1851 they went searching for Native American tribal leaders responsible for burning and pillaging local trading posts. Within a few years, the beauty of the Valley attracted the attention of businessmen interested in attracting tourists to the area. In later years as loggers arrived in the Valley, the drive to preserve its pristine beauty and sensitive native habitat began.
In the summer of 1869, John Muir walked into Yosemite Valley, first as a shepherd and then taking various odd jobs to sustain his life in the mountains. The mountains called to him and Yosemite became one of his most cherished places on earth. Muir was a naturalist, botanist, author of ten books and hundreds of articles. As a result of skilful observations, he presented scientific evidence to prove that glaciers carved Yosemite Valley. Muir is considered the father of America’s National Parks and founder of the American conservation movement. He also established and was first president of the Sierra Club to advocate for Yosemite’s protection. Later in life, Muir traveled extensively around the world, addressing the issues of forest and wilderness conservation.
Muir believed that, “wildness is a necessity; and that mountain parks and reservations are useful not only as fountains of timber and irrigating rivers, but as fountains of life.”
The California Historic Landmark No. 790 is mounted on the entrance wall of the auditorium building at the Yosemite National Park Visitor Center.
The wonders of the Yosemite Valley’s granite cliffs lie in eastern Mariposa County. The small settlements in the western foothills of the county sprang up during the Gold Rush. The people in these early mining towns made many decisions affecting statewide mining law.