Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
James Mason Hutchings
James Mason Hutchings was born in England on February 10, 1820. He emmigrated to the U.S. in 1848, then went to California in 1849 during the Gold Rush. He became wealthy as a miner, lost it all in a bank failure, then became wealthy again from publishing. In 1855 he lead the first tourist party into Yosemite, then became one of the first settlers in Yosemite Valley. Hutchings published an illustrated magazine, Hutchings' California Magazine that told the world about Yosemite and the Sierra. He was a tireless promoter, of himself and Yosemite. After Yosemite Valley was dedicated as Yosemite National Park in 1864, through a mis-interpretation of preemption laws, though he was entitled to 160 acres (647,000 m²) of land in the valley. He sued, unsuccessfully, to have 160 acres (647,000 m²) in from Yosemite Valley deeded to himself. He did, however, get a generous payment from the state to help compensate for loss of land use. Hutchings remarried twice and was an innkeeper for the Calaveras Big Tree Grove Hotel, north of Yosemite. James Hutchings, while visiting Yosemite on October 31, 1902, was killed when his horse reared and threw him from his buggy.
In the Heart of the Sierras
Hutchings poured all he had in his book In the Heart of the Sierras. The book is a potpourri of almost all things Yosemite. In this comprehensive work, he includes natural and human history, ample illustrations, many personal stories, mining tails, travel tips, and several, ponderous descriptions of various routes to Yosemite. In fairness, getting to Yosemite was much more difficult than it is now. Much of the material was drawn from earlier articles and illustrations published in his magazine and elsewhere. In the Heart of the Sierras. was written in the overly-flowerly, stilted prose popular in the 1800s, but it's still fun to read for not only as a "looking glass" into 19th century Yosemite, but for its sense of discovery and adventure that's lacking in modern Yosemite books.
- Mrs. H. J. Taylor "James Mason Hutchings" in Yosemite Indians and Other Sketches (1936)
- James M. Hutchings "California for Waterfalls!," San Francisco Daily California Chronicle (August 18, 1855) Contains an account of the first or second tourist party to Yosemite Valley
- James M. Hutchings "The Great Yo-Semite Valley," Hutchings' California Magazine, (October 1859). First account of Yosemite Valley with illustrations
- James M. Hutchings Scenes of Wonder and Curiosity in California (1862). First travel guide for Yosemite Valley.
- James M. Hutchings In the Heart of the Sierras (1888)
- Hank Johnston Yosemite's Yesterdays, v. 2, chapter 2 (1991) has a biography of James Hutchings
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