YOSEMITE – The National Park Service (NPS) is pushing back against Congressman Tom McClintock’s efforts to rename a peak in Yosemite National Park in honor of an ardent preservationist and wife of early California explorer John C. Frémont.
Last week, the House Natural Resources Committee approved H.R. 1192, authored by McClintock, which would rename Mammoth Peak, designating it as “Mount Jessie Benton Frémont,” to be informally known as “Mt. Jessie.”
The designation is meant to honor Frémont’s contributions toward the approval of the Yosemite Grant, in conjunction with the 150th anniversary of the establishment of the grant.
However, the NPS opposes the bill, stating, “There should be a compelling justification for the recognition and a strong, direct association between the landscape feature and the person being commemorated.”
McClintock calls the NPS argument “nonsense,” and says that it is well established that Jessie Benton Frémont was one of the earliest and most influential advocates for establishing Yosemite National Park, in which Mammoth Peak is located.
“Other persons who had lesser or comparable roles in the establishment of Yosemite are all commemorated – Horace Greeley, Carlton Watkins, Thomas Starr King and U.S. Senators John Conness and Edward Baker,” says McClintock. “The precedent for naming features within the park for those who were instrumental in establishing the park is well established. In fact, the Park Service opposition to this bill is a radical departure from that precedent.
“Furthermore, the current name “Mammoth” has absolutely no historic significance. That name was conferred on the peak because it was big. That’s it.”
McClintock also points out that there is a “Mammoth Mountain,” a major ski resort just a few hours’ drive outside Yosemite, and the names are confusing and repetitive.
The bill now moves on to the floor of the House.
Text from H.R. 1192:
Congress finds that Jessie Benton Frémont—
(1) was the daughter of United States Senator Thomas Hart Benton of Missouri, a leading proponent of the concept of Manifest Destiny that advocated for the Nation to expand its borders westward;
(2) became fluent in French and Spanish, was a gifted writer, and was at ease in any political discussion;
(3) married John C. Frémont, who was assigned to explore the West;
(4) transformed John C. Frémont’s descriptions from his treks into prose that was used by pioneers to guide their route West;
(5) traveled to California in 1849 to join her husband at their Mariposa ranch, where gold had been discovered;
(6) became involved in John C. Frémont’s 1856 campaign for Presidency, which proposed the abolition of slavery, a notion that Jessie Benton Frémont also supported;
(7) moved to Bear Valley, California, with her husband John C. Frémont in 1858 and thereafter realized the need to preserve the land that would become Yosemite National Park for future generations;
(8) entertained men such as Horace Greeley, Thomas Starr King, and United States Senator Edward Baker of Oregon, and urged them to begin a process that ultimately led to the establishment of Yosemite National Park;
(9) influenced President Abraham Lincoln to sign the Act entitled “An Act authorizing a Grant to the State of California of the ‘Yo-Semite Valley’ and of the Land embracing the ‘Mariposa Big Tree Grove'”, approved June 30, 1864 (commonly known as the Yosemite Grant), the first instance of land being set aside specifically for its preservation and public use by a national government; and
(10) set the foundation for the creation of national parks and California State parks through her advocacy for and influence on the Yosemite Grant.