Site 1 John Muir Park

John Muir  Park

“Father took with him only my sister Sarah (thirteen years of age), myself (eleven), and brother David (nine), leaving my eldest sister, Margaret, and the three youngest of the family, Daniel, Mary, and Anna, with mother, to join us after a farm had been found in the wilderness and a comfortable house made to receive them.”  John Muir

It was 1849 and John Muir was 11 years old when his father Daniel made the move to America.  At first, Daniel planned to settle in Canada but other Scots told him about Wisconsin where ground was easier to break and where wheat was being raised in abundance.  He also heard about the proposed Portage Canal which would make shipping their farm products easier.

 

After stopping at Kingston, Daniel travelled by oxen to pick out 80 acres of land.  Then he brought the children to  neighbor Alexander Gray’s house while he returned to the land he chose and, in less than a day, with the help of neighbors, built a burr oak shanty with white oak floors.  You can still visit the Kingston House, built in 1846.  It’s about ten miles from the land Daniel chose in Marquette County.  The next photo shows a drawing that John Muir did of the shanty.

 

 

“To this charming hut in the sunny woods overlooking a flowery glacier meadow and a lake rimmed with white water-lilies, we were hauled by an ox-team across trackless carex swamps and low rolling hills sparsely dotted with round-headed oaks.”   John Muir

 

The Muirs went to work hiring workmen to build a two story house which sat on a hill across the lake from today's County Park boat landing.  The workmen called it a palace.  The rest of the family came here in November of that same year.  This photo was taken in 1863 and shows Sarah Galloway, John Muir’s sister, John, and Sarah’s two children.  Sarah and her husband David owned Fountain Lake at this time and the Muirs were living at Hickory Hill, their second Marquette County Home.  George, Sarah and David’s son would drown in the Fox River when he was 19 and is buried at the Wee White Kirk in Marquette County. 

When the Muirs moved here in 1849, there were already many families living here, scattered throughout Marquette County.  There was a working County Board that was taking steps to build roads, set up elections, and care for the indigent, among other things.  The link below will show you some of the places around the county where settlers were building homes, post offices were opening and other activity was happening during the years that John Muir was living here, between 1849 and 1863. 

“Oh that glorious Wisconsin wilderness! Everything new and pure in the very prime of the spring when Nature’s pulses were beating highest and mysteriously keeping time with our own!” 

This painting was done by Wisconsin artist Janet Flynn.  It supports the conservation work of Wisconsin’s Endangered Resources Program and captures the landscape view of the boyhood home of John Muir. 

John fell in love with the land here.  The fireflies, the bluebirds, the waterlilies and the feisty little kingbird, all became dear to the man who was to become known by some as the Father of the National Parks.   He taught himself to swim in the kettle lake and ploughed up the prairie to plant melons and wheat and pumpkins and Indian corn.   

John tried to buy this land three times to preserve the beauty he loved.  He held it close to his heart for his whole life.

Janet Flynn's painting depicts the birds Muir wrote about seeing at his childhood home.  You can still see all of them in Marquette County except two...the Prairie Chicken and the Passenger Pigeon.

Spend a day here.  Read the Montello granite monument to Muir placed in 1957 when this land became a county park honoring John Muir.  Marquette County citizens worked together to develop the park and the Audley Cuff and Charles Robicheau families donated the initial acreage for the county park.  The words on the Montello granite marker were written by University of Wisconsin Professor Wakelin MacNeel called Ranger Mac when he broadcast a popular radio show at the time.   

 

    Look for the lilac bushes next to the granite marker.   Settlers often planted lilacs near their houses.  Sarah Muir did that at Fountain Lake.  The lilacs here by the marker were next to the Ennis house, neighbors across the lake to the Muirs.   As you drive around Marquette County, you may notice these signs .   In 2010 the Montello Historic Preservation Society held a whole year of John Muir events.  Thyme Shares Master Gardeners planted lilacs in honor of the Muir family at all the  Town Halls, Village Halls and Montello City Hall, just like Sarah Muir had planted at the Muir Home.

Come back in spring when the lilacs are blooming close to the granite marker.   The bushes still grow throughout rural Marquette County and often mark the place where a farm home once stood.     

Study the information on the kiosk placed by the Marquette County Chapter of the Ice Age Trail.  It is at the north trail head of the Ice Age Trail loop.  

  On your way down to the boat landing, read the sign placed by the Madison Chapter of the Sierra Club. 

In 1988, on the 150th anniversary of John Muir’s birth, the John Muir Chapter of the Sierra Club erected a sign in Muir Park that is still there. It reads,  John Muir, the father of American’s National Parks, lived on the northeast side of this lake from 1849 to 1855.  Although he travelled all over the world, Muir never forgot this land, and tried several times to buy and preserve parts of it, remarking “…even if I should never see it again, the beauty of its lilies and orchids is so pressed into my mind I shall always enjoy looking back at them in imagination, even across seas and continents, and perhaps after I am dead."

The easy walking loop around the lake is part of the National Scenic Ice Age Trail and takes you through changing landscapes.  You can link to a guide about the trail at the end of this page.  

There is also a family fun guide you can use to learn about several different stops around Ennis Lake.  Have fun!!!

 

Kids!   Look for the following items as you walk on the Ice Age Trail.

Beavers live in John Muir park now!  When you cross the bridge at the south trail head, you will see their dam towards the lake.  You can see their lodge, or house, from the boat landing pier.  There is a link to take you to more information about these wonderful animals.  We are trying to live with the beavers at John Muir Park by putting a baffle under the dam to let the water flow.  Sometimes, beaver dams back up the water too much and it can cause damage to vegetation and to the land.  We want to try to coexist with these beavers, so Marquette County Land and Water Conservation installed a beaver baffle with the help of students at High Marq Environmental School in Montello.  The photo below shows students helping to install the baffle under the beaver dam.  The beavers had their dam fixed within a day after it was partially dismantled to install the baffle.

View the video again that is available earlier on this page and look for the beaver dam and lodge from the air!

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