Tag Archives: conifers

John Muir on Roane County

{Robert Bailey – Roane County Historian}

John Muir, (1838-1914), was a well-known conservationist and naturalist. In 1892 he founded the Sierra Club and served as president until his death. Muir helped to establish the Sequoia and Yosemite National Parks. In 1867, he began what was called “the thousand-mile walk to the Gulf” collecting plants and passed through Roane County. The following is from his journal about his trek through Roane County:

“September 12 [1867]. Awoke drenched with mountain mist, which made a grand show, as it moved away before the hot sun. Passed Montgomery [which was the county seat of Morgan County at that time], a shabby village at the head of the east slope of the Cumberland Mountains. Obtained breakfast in a clean house and began the descent of the mountains. Obtained fine views of a wide, open country, and distant flanking ridges and spurs. Crossed a wide cool stream [which would have been the Emory River], a branch of the Clinch River. There is nothing more eloquent in Nature than a mountain stream, and this is the first I ever saw. Its banks are luxuriantly peopled with rare and lovely flowers and overarching trees, making one of Nature’s coolest and most hospitable places. Every tree, every flower, every ripple and eddy of this lovely stream seemed solemnly to feel the presence of the great Creator. Lingered in this sanctuary a long time thanking the Lord with all my heart for his goodness in allowing me to enter and enjoy it. Discovered two ferns, Dicksonia and a small matted polypod on trees, common farther South. Also a species of magnolia with very large leaves and scarlet conical fruit. Near this stream, I spent some joyous time in a grand rock-dwelling full of mosses, birds, and flowers. Most heavenly place I ever entered. The long narrow valleys of the mountainside, all well watered and nobly adorned with oaks, magnolias, laurels, azaleas, asters, ferns, Hypnum mosses, Madotheca, etc. Also towering clumps of beautiful hemlocks. The hemlock, judging from the common species of Canada, I regarded as the least noble of the conifers. But those of the eastern valleys of the Cumberland Mountains are as perfect in form and regal in port as the pines themselves. The latter abundant. Obtained fine glimpses from open places as I descended to the great valley between these mountains and the Unaka Mountains on the state line. Forded the Clinch, a beautiful clear stream, that knows many of the dearest mountain retreats that ever heard the music of running water. Reached Kingston before dark. Sent back my plant collections by express to my brother in Wisconsin. September 15 [1867]. Walked all day across small parallel valleys that flute the surface of the one wide valley. These flutings appear to have been formed by lateral pressure, are fertile, and contain some fine forms, though the seal of war is on all things. The roads never seem to proceed with any fixed purpose, but wonder as if lost. In seeking the way to Philadelphia [this was in Monroe County, near the Roane County line. It became a part of Loudon County in 1870], I was told by a buxom Tennessee ‘gal’ that over the hills was much the nearer way, that she always went that way, and that surely I could travel it.

Originally written for the Roane County Newsletter to the Community, August 2018.