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As It Was: Catlin’s Paintings Lure James Mason Hutchings to America

James Mason Hutchings, born in Towcester, England, in 1820, was a son of a carpenter and expected to become one, too.  But at age 23, George Catlin’s paintings of North American Indians excited Hutchings and he left for New York.

Soon, he joined the hoard of men headed for the mines in Northern California, where he found gold, but lost most of his money in a bank failure.  Next, he spent two years exploring Northern California and the Applegate and Rogue River valleys.

Hutchings’ travel diary includes surveys and censuses, including a count of women, children, and prostitutes.  He traveled from Cole’s Station to Hilt and the Sterlingville Mine, which he recorded as void of single women and prostitutes.

In California in 1855, he became a booster of Yosemite and publisher of Hutchings California Magazine, which featured Yosemite in the first edition in July 1856.

Hutchings opened a hotel in Yosemite, and hired a Scottish sheepherder, John Muir, to build a sawmill. 

Hutchings would become known as the “Father of Yosemite,” and Muir became famous as a naturalist, writer, conservationist, and founder of the Sierra Club.


Source: Fattig, Paul.  “The Road to Sterlingville,” Sunday Mail Tribune, 3 Nov. 2013 [Medford, Ore.]; Fattig, Paul “Hutchings, the “Father of Yosemite, ‘ set out to record the West,”  Ibid.

Maryann Mason has taught history and English in the U.S. Midwest and Northwest, and Bolivia. She has written history spots for local public radio, interviewed mystery writers for RVTV Noir, and edited personal and family histories.  Her poetry has appeared in Sweet Annie & Sweet Pea Review (1999), Rain Magazine (2007), and The Third Reader, an online Journal of Literary Fiction and Poetry. In 2008 she published her first chapbook, Ravelings.  She organized a History Day for Southern Oregon.