Timeline

Y/M/D Description Association Composition Place Locale Food Event
Y/M/D Description Association Composition Place Locale Food Event
1841/10/19 Jessie Benton elopes with John Fremont, they marry on 19 October 1841 Bride Marriage of Jessie Benton and John Fredmont
1843/03/00 John Fremont's report on his expedition along the Oregon Trail to the Rocky Mountains in Wyoming, makes him a national celebrity and sets off a wave of emigrants Ghost Writer Fremont's First Expedition
1859/00/00 Richard Henry Dana and Jessie Fremont visit Clark's Station in Wawona, describing Galen Clark as a gracious host Visitor Two Years Before the Mast Galen Clark Homestead Historic Site Yosemite National Park
1860/00/00 John C and Jessie Fremont buy a farm on Blackpoint Home Fort Mason Historic District San Francisco
1864/06/30 Abraham Lincoln signs the Yosemite Grant Act granting 'to the State of California the "cleft" or "gorge" in the granite peak of the Sierra Nevada Mountains' and 'tracts embracing what is known as the Mariposa Big Tree Grove' Champion Yosemite Valley
1864/06/30 Abraham Lincoln signs the Yosemite Grant Act granting 'to the State of California the "cleft" or "gorge" in the granite peak of the Sierra Nevada Mountains' and 'tracts embracing what is known as the Mariposa Big Tree Grove' Champion Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias Yosemite National Park

History

Mr Speaker, I rise today, during Women's History Month, to acknowledge and honor the life and legacy of Jessie Benton Fremont, a California resident, who helped inspire and lead efforts to preserve and protect what is now a very significant part of Yosemite National Park.

Jessie Benton Fremont was born May 31, 1824, near Lexington, Virginia to United States Senator Thomas Hart Benton and his wife, Elizabeth. Her father, a Senator from Missouri, was very influential in the development of her independent and visionary nature. While in Washington, Mrs. Fremont met her husband, United States Army Lieutenant John Charles Fremont. John Fremont became a great explorer of the Western United States after he was assigned to lead expeditions reaching from the Midwest to California.

In the late 1850's, the Fremonts and their children settled in Bear Valley, near Mariposa, California. While living there, Mrs Fremont fell in love with Yosemite Valley. Like all who view the valley for the first time, she was awestruck by the grand rock formations, Giant Sequoia trees, waterfalls, and impressive scenery. She shared her love for Yosemite Valley with those who visited her home. She took visitors on tours and hosted afternoon teas and Sunday dinners at her Bear Valley and Black Point homes for well-known authors, editors, photographers, and military and political leaders. Some of her guests included Horace Greeley, Thomas Starr King, Carleton Watkins, Richard Henry Dana Jr and United States Senator Edward Baker of Oregon.

During these social gatherings, Mrs Fremont shared her concern for the need to preserve Yosemite Valley and the Giant Sequoias. Many of her friends and acquaintances joined her effort to lobby Congress and President Abraham Lincoln to protect Yosemite Valley and what would later become known as the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias.

Mrs Fremont's passionate leadership in preserving Yosemite Valley was an instrumental first step in a long chain of activism that resulted in designating the land as a National Park. In 1864, Mrs Fremont and her associates encouraged their friend, Israel Ward Raymond, to send United States Senator John Conness of California photographs and a letter asking Congress to pass a bill to protect Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias. Their successful effort culminated on June 30, 1864, when President Abraham Lincoln signed an Act of Congress that granted Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove to the State of California. This was the first time the national government set aside scenic lands for future generations.

The Yosemite Grant gave the State of California 36,111 acres of Yosemite Valley and 2,500 acres that contained the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias. The establishment of this grant was significant in preserving Yosemite for activists like John Muir, who first visited Yosemite in 1868 and subsequently led a 20-year campaign to establish the area outside the existing park as Yosemite National Park.

Jessie Benton Fremont passed away December 27, 1902. Less than four years later, Yosemite National Park was established as it is today. One hundred and ten years after her death, Yosemite National Park remains the crown jewel of California's Sierra Nevada Mountains. Both the Park and the Mariposa Grove are visited by upwards of 4 million tourists per year, who come to enjoy the awe-inspiring vistas, waterfalls, glaciers, meadows, rock faces, and Giant Sequoia trees.

Mr Speaker, please join me in posthumously honoring Jessie Benton Fremont for her unwavering leadership and activism to preserve the beauty and grandeur of Yosemite Valley for generations to come. Her legacy serves as an example of excellence, and her accomplishments and contributions to Yosemite National Park will never be forgotten. - Honorable Jeff Denham of California, US House of Representatives, 20 March 2012

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