MATHER MOUNTAIN PARTY OF 1915 AND THE FOUNDING OF THE NATIONAL PARK SERVICE
by Horace Marden Albright, Marian Albright Schenck, and William C. Tweed
Sequoia Natural History Association, 2014
70 pages, paper, $9.99
The story of the National Park Service, which was created in 1916, is a story of Sequoia National Park and the Mineral King area. That’s because the sales pitch to plant this idea in the visions of several influential men took place there.
To celebrate the centennial of the National Park Service in 2016 and commemorate the backcountry trip that took place 100 years ago this July that helped get the necessary legislation approved by Congress, Sequoia Natural History Association recently updated and re-released a book the organization first published in 1990. Now available for sale at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks visitor centers and online at www.sequoiahistory.org is The Mather Mountain Party of 1915 and the Founding of the National Park Service. The book tells the tale of Stephen Mather’s two-week pack trip from the west side to the east side of the Sierra with the goal of gaining support to create a government agency that would protect America’s lands that were being designated, beginning with Yellowstone in 1872, as national parks.
In 1915, Stephen Mather and Horace Albright, both University of California alum, gathered a group of movers and shakers on the Berkeley campus to envision the oversight and administration of the country's existing and future national parks. Mather and Albright had a goal to develop legislation that would enable individual parks to be brought together under a single national agency that would be responsible for their management, infrastructure, promotion, and protection.
Soon after this meeting, Mather invited a group of 15 influential men to join him for a two-week trip through the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California. The "Mather Mountain Party" included prominent publishers like Gilbert Grosvenor of the National Geographic Society, politicians, businessmen, and railroad builders. The trip via horseback through the High Sierra culminated in a climb on foot to the summit of Mount Whitney, then the highest mountain in all of the United States. The result was legislation in 1916 that established the National Park Service. Mather became the first director of the NPS; Albright was the second director.
The original book was titled The Mather Mountain Party of 1915: A Full Account of the Adventures of Stephen T. Mather and His Friends in the High Sierra of California. It was compiled from the diary of Stephen Mather by Horace Marden Albright, who accompanied Mather on the pack trip, and his daughter, Marian Albright Schenck.
William C. Tweed of Three Rivers, retired National Park Service administrator, is also an author of the newly expanded Mather Mountain Party publication, contributing a couple extra chapters to what was, in the first publication, solely a chronological account of the journey. The cover art was redrawn and colorized by Jana Botkin, a Three Rivers artist.
Just as the Grapes of Wrath should be required reading for all residents of the Central Valley, those who love, admire, and spend time in Sequoia National Park should read The Mather Mountain Party of 1915 to learn of the incredible role Sequoia National Park and surrounding environs played in the creation of the National Park Service. But anyone who knows these local mountains also understands that it would be impossible for these men not to be inspired to protect and preserve this region and other such places of significance across the country.
Following in the Mather Mountain Party’s footsteps
The book’s retail price is $9.99. And if that small investment leads the reader to be so inspired, Sequoia Natural History Association is currently taking reservations for an additional Mather Mountain Party experience. A 20-day wilderness trip is being offered this centennial summer to commemorate the landmark 1915 excursion.
For $5,999, the participant may choose to be one of six riders on horseback or to hike the route. Provided will be three meals a day, all permits, an experienced equestrian guide, a park historian, horses, stock handlers, and support. Like Stephen Mather and his handpicked cohorts, this wilderness trip will include fishing and swimming in high-country lakes and waterways, wildlife-watching and stargazing, campfire camaraderie, and a gourmet mountain menu. The views of the extraordinary Sierra Nevada backcountry will be thrown in for free.
And just like the Mather Mountain Party, a highlight of the trip, which will take place from July 27 to August 15, will be reaching the summit of Mount Whitney that at an elevation of 14,500 feet is, these days, the highest mountain in the contiguous United States.
For more information about this adventure, go to www.mathermountainparty.com. To register, call (559) 565-4251.