People

The local American Indians have passed down stories saying that the inhabitants of the Yosemite area were created in the area and have lived there since the beginning of time. Today, seven tribes continue the legacy of the area’s first residents.

When the Europeans reached in the 1800s, violence displaced the native population and white settlers moved in their place. With them, hosted writers, artists and photographers traveled to the area and spread the fame of what they called “the Incomparable Valley” through their works.

Years later, park pioneers such as Galen Clark promoted the need to protect Yosemite. Scientists supported him and later the park established its first line of guides. Women like Bridget Degnan, Jennie Foster Curry, and Clare Marie Hodges have also helped Yosemite become what it is today.

Some of the most notable people to contribute in the making of Yosemite National Park are:

  • Buffalo Soldiers – Buffalo soldiers were the first park rangers and backcountry rangers. Formed after the Civil War, they earned their name from the Cheyenne Indians who saw a resemblance between their dark, curly hair and matted cushion between a buffalo’s horns. 500 soldiers served in Yosemite National Park and Sequoia National Park, performing a range of duties including evicting poachers and extinguishing fires.
  • John Muir – Born in Scotland, John Muir immigrated to Wisconsin at the age of 11. After visiting Yosemite in 1868, he was so impressed that he returned the following year and eventually settled in the area. He first worked as a ranch hand and later in a mill owned by James Mason Hutchings. Writing about the glaciers of the area at first, Muir made a name for himself as a prolific writer.
  • James and Elvira Hutchings – Offering accommodation to Yosemite’s earliest travelers, James and Elvira have been associated with Yosemite long before setting up their hotel. James Hutchings was a carpenter, gold miner, and journalist who first visited Yosemite in 1855 and generated publicity around the area via the Hutchings’ California Magazine. His wife Elvira was a painter who divided her time between intellectual matters and tending to their hotel.
  • Galen Clark – Canadian born, Galen Clark became passionate about Yosemite and wrote newspaper articles about the giant sequoia trees of the area. He remained in the post of a guardian for 24 years.
  • Ansel Adams – Born in San Francisco, Ansel Adams used his camera lens to show the world the beauty of Yosemite’s rocks, trees and rivers. His most famous picture to date is the Monolith, the Face of Half Dome.
  • Maria Therese Yelverton – Therese Yelverton chose to create Yosemite’s reputation through emotional prose. It is her writings that proved to be invaluable for everyone willing to study the origins of the park.
  • Albert and Emily Snow – Running the La Casa Nevada, or the Snow House, the New England couple provided accommodation to most of the visitors of the area.
  • John and Bridget Degnan – Journeying from California, the Degnans were in charge of the first bakery in the area and then expanded their operations into a small grocery.