Find out why the birth of the Republican Party is directly linked to the so-called "discovery" of Lake Tahoe in 1844 -- and how Abraham Lincoln's Republican rival, John Frémont, became the first white man ever to set eyes on Tahoe Blue.
Chapter 3 (Excerpt)
John Frémont: The Man Who “Discovered” Lake Tahoe
Driving down South Lake Tahoe Boulevard today, hidden amid a clutter of fast food
joints and strip malls, you’ll find a cartoonish mural depicting the explorer John Charles
Frémont, “The Man Who Discovered Lake Tahoe.” Squinting up at the painted concrete,
how many Tahoe tourists realize that Frémont was also the Republican Party’s first-ever
candidate for president? Or that he issued an Emancipation Proclamation (in Missouri)
long before Lincoln? Or that he was America’s first true mountaineer—not to mention our
first real whitewater rafter? No, to see all that you’d have to look deep beneath the
surface of American history itself—and chip off some of the whitewash on the Lake
Tahoe History Museum’s mural.
Part hero, part huckster, Frémont’s name could have been remembered in the same
breath as Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses S. Grant. Instead his once-stellar reputation as
America’s “Pathfinder” collapsed amid allegations of corruption, incompetence, and even
cannibalism, leaving him little more than a footnote in American history. Yet therein hides
the key to many a lost Tahoe legend: for just as Frémont’s failures crash-landed his own
career, they also drew a sharp political fault line straight across the heart of Lake Tahoe
itself—and reshaped the nation in the wake of the Civil War.