|Because John Muir at one time taught at the Lake Harriet School, Oregon claims this famous naturalist as one of its early inhabitants. Born in Dunbar, Scotland, April 12, 1838, Muir with his father, sister, and two brothers immigrated to Green Lake county, Wisconsin, in 1849, when he was eleven years old.
Starting school in Scotland at the age of three, John received a good formal education there. Here, however, his life was a very strenuous one of hard work and little play under a severe father. This did not keep him, though, from rising early in the mornings to read and work on his inventions, his hobby. Most of his inventions consisted of wooden clocks made to perform some task for him, such as getting him out of bed in the morning, feeding his cows and horses at a given hour, and lighting his fires in the morning.
It was through his inventions that John Muir first came to Madison at the suggestion of a neighbor to display them at the state fair. He was so struck with the beauty of the city and the university that he returned to work his way through four years of school. It was at this time that he taught in a country school to help out with his finances.
In the winter of 1861-62 he taught in a small log schoolhouse that stood almost on the same spot as the Lake Harriet School. The late John A. Dreher, at that time a boy of fifteen attending the Oregon village school, remembered him well as Mr. Muir was invited to talk to the school and, later the boys visited Mr. Muir’s school. Even at that early date Mr. Muir had an ungroomed look with hair reaching to his shoulders, an unkempt bearing, and poor clothes.
Muir went on to become a naturalist, explorer, writer, and America’s foremost advocate of wilderness preservation. He founded the Sierra Club – one of the country’s most influential environmental organizations – and lobbied successfully for the creation of the United States’ national park system, the first of its kind anywhere and a model for others worldwide. He finally claimed California for his home, where he died in 1914 at the age of seventy-six.
Well Known Men of the Community. IN Souvenir of Oregon Centennial, Supplement to the OREGON OBSERVER, June 26, 1941, p. 31.