James Mason Hutchings


James Mason Hutchings

James Mason Hutchings was born in England on February 10, 1820. He emigrated 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. On July 5th, 1855 James Hutchings set out on what would be one of the most historic trips of the region, leading the second tourist party into Yosemite. (The first tourist party, in 1854, was lead by Robert C. Lamon, but no account of the trip is known to be written.) He 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. It was said upon "...upon the return of Hutchings' party, the descriptions staggered the skeptics and silenced the croakers. From this time forward can be considered the commencement of the visits of tourists." He was a tireless promoter, of himself and Yosemite. After Yosemite Valley was dedicated as State Park in 1864, Hutchings, through his interpretation of existing preemption laws, believed 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. Hutchings prominence in Yosemite Valley allowed him to connect with figures of great importance to the history of Yosemite, including John Muir, Galen Clark and James McCauley.

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-flowery, 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.

References

* Mrs. H. J. Taylor [http://www.yosemite.ca.us/library/yosemite_indians_and_other_sketches/james_hutchings.html "James Mason Hutchings" in "Yosemite Indians and Other Sketches"] (1936)
* James M. Hutchings [http://www.yosemite.ca.us/library/california_for_waterfalls.html "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, editor, [http://www.yosemite.ca.us/library/hutchings_california_magazine/ "Hutchings' Illustrated California Magazine"] (1856-1861)
* James M. Hutchings [http://www.yosemite.ca.us/library/the_great_yo-semite_valley/ "The Great Yo-Semite Valley,"] "Hutchings' California Magazine," (October 1859). First account of Yosemite Valley with illustrations
* James M. Hutchings [http://www.yosemite.ca.us/library/scenes_of_wonder_and_curiosity/ "Scenes of Wonder and Curiosity in California"] (1862). First travel guide for Yosemite Valley.
* James M. Hutchings [http://www.yosemite.ca.us/library/in_the_heart_of_the_sierras/ "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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