A portion of Highway 198 in Three Rivers to be renamed for Colonel Charles Young (1864-1922)

Colonel Charles YoungSequoia National Park to host Colonel Charles Young Memorial Highway Dedication

In August 2018, California lawmakers passed Assembly Concurrent Resolution 142, establishing the Colonel Charles Young Memorial Highway in Three Rivers, near the entrance to Sequoia National Park. The bill was authored by Republican Assemblymembers Devon Mathis and Jim Patterson.

The portion of highway to be designated is the three miles from Salt Creek Road to the Sequoia National Park entrance. The naming of the highway pays tribute to the memory of Colonel Charles Young, a distinguished American who dedicated his life to the service of the United States, including at Sequoia National Park.

Signs are reportedly in the process of being installed. They were paid for by donations from “nonstate sources.”

Colonel Charles Young was born into slavery on March 12, 1864, in Mays Lick, Kentucky, to Gabriel Young and Arminta Bruen. After his father, Gabriel Young, escaped from slavery and enlisted in the Fifth Regiment of Colored Artillery, his service earned Gabriel and his wife their freedom.
Charles Young attended an all-white high school in Ripley, Kentucky, and graduated at the top of his class. In 1883, Charles Young took an examination for appointment as a cadet at the United States Military Academy at West Point, and was admitted the next year.
Young graduated from West Point in 1889 with a commission as a second lieutenant, the third African American to do so at the time.
In 1903, Young, by then a captain, was appointed acting superintendent of Sequoia and General Grant National Parks, becoming the first black superintendent of a national park. This was pre-National Park Service when national parks were overseen by military officers appointed by the War Department.
Young is responsible for creating the first road into the Giant Forest, finishing what the Kaweah Colony had started from the North Fork to the present-day Crystal Cave Road. In one summer, Young and the Buffalo Soldiers he commanded completed the route.
Young was laid to rest at Arlington Cemetery.
For an in-depth biography on Charles Young, read this series — Charles Young: The Road to Sequoia — by Jay O’Connell, first published in The Kaweah Commonwealth newspaper in 1996, then updated and republished in 2018.


On Veterans Day 2019, the Colonel Charles Young Foundation and Sequoia Parks Conservancy will host a commemoration of the legacy of Colonel Charles Young and a dedication event in honor of the naming of the Colonel Charles Young Memorial Highway.

On Monday, November 11, a public event will highlight the history and importance of Colonel Young. This is a fee-free day for national parks, so the cost to enter Sequoia and Kings Canyon will be free that day.

“This is an important celebration for the National Park Service and the State of California,” said Superintendent Woody Smeck. “It recognizes the significant contributions made by the Buffalo Soldiers and then Captain Charles Young to early park protection and administration.”

The dedication event will take place from 10 a.m to 2 p.m. at Ash Mountain (one mile inside the entrance to Sequoia) across from the Foothills Visitor Center. There will be interactive activities and demonstrations about the Buffalo Soldiers’ history and demonstrations.

Presenters for the dedication program (from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.) will include Woody Smeck, superintendent of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks; Dr. Joy Kinard, superintendent of Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument in Wilberforce, Ohio (dedicated April 2, 2013, as the nation’s 401st National Park Service site); Assemblyman Devon Mathis; former NPS Director Jon Jarvis; Park Ranger Shelton Johnson from Yosemite National Park; and relatives of Colonel Young.

A highway isn’t the only tribute around these parts to Colonel Charles Young. There is also a giant sequoia that was named in his honor along the Crescent Meadow / Moro Rock Road in Sequoia National Park.



6 thoughts on “A portion of Highway 198 in Three Rivers to be renamed for Colonel Charles Young (1864-1922)

  • October 31, 2019 at 2:36 pm

    This is very heartwarming. Thank you so much for sharing this news and encouraging attendance at the dedication event. I must admit that am stunned that Three Rivers wasn’t notified by the state and/or county in August 2018 or earlier, however! I wonder what we in the community can do to increase our knowledge of and engagement with activities that affect us.

    • October 31, 2019 at 3:12 pm

      Hmmmm… I wonder. 😉

  • November 3, 2019 at 4:50 pm

    I wonder why part of the Generals Highway wasn’t named for Colonel Young. It just seems to make more sense to name a federal road for a man who was in federal service, and his job was in the park not Three Rivers. It’s great that they’re naming the highway for him. I just think it would have been better to go a bit east to honor him.

    • November 4, 2019 at 6:02 pm

      Would the fact that he actually lived and owned land in Three Rivers help you feel better about honoring him here? I understand that he purchased property from Marion Griffes in 1904, and lived here until redeployment in 1905. I agree that the naming is a great thing, and I feel complete delight that we get to honor him in this and other ways. 🙂

    • November 4, 2019 at 8:54 pm

      Col. Young served in the U.S. military and in foreign service in many locations. His time at Sequoia made a huge difference to the park but was a short part of his overall career.


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