Walker and Fagersteen, and their dark room wagon.

YoSemite or Bust.
...S. C. Walker (center) and Gustavus Fagersteen (right)... unknown date.

Chronicles of Early Ascents of Half Dome:
Selah Clarence Walker—Chronology

Not much has been published on Selah Walker, the first photographer to reach the summit of Half Dome with his camera, in 1877. Here is a collection of dates and facts about his life, gathered from various California newspapers, U.S. Census data, San Francisco directories, and other sources.


November 14, 1877 — Marriage:

Mariposa Gazette, November 17, 1877, p. 2

In the M. E. Church South, Mariposa, Nov. 14th, 1877, by the Rev. John Wood, Mr. Selah Clarence Walker of Yo Semite Valley, to Mrs. Lillian West of Garrote [now: Groveland], Tuolumne County.

Selah was about 26, and Lillian about 17 or 18. This was already her second marriage, and "Mrs" in the article was not a typo.


June 5, 1880 - Census Data:

Lillian and two children are enumerated in Groveland, Tuolumne County, and Selah is probably in Yosemite, and not listed. Lillian is described as "Lilian Walker", married, age 20, born in California, her parents both from Rhode Island, occupation: keeping house. Two children in the same household are Selah Walker, age 1, and Clarence Walker, age 6 months (born in November). Both children are born in California. Their father is from Rhode Island, and their mother from California.


October 27, 1897 - Death

Evening News, San Jose, October 27, 1897, p. 4:


San Francisco, October 27.—Selah Walker, one of the best known photographers in this city was found dead in bed having commited suicide. He had swallowed cy[a]nide of potash. The cause of the deed was despondency and business reverses.

San Francisco Call, October 28, 1897, p. 5:

Because of Failing Eyesight S. C. Walker Killed Himself

Fearing that his eyesight would become impaired and imperil his ability to earn a livelihood Selah C. Walker, photo-printer in the Elite Photograph Gallery as 838 Market street, took his life yesterday morning by swallowing a capsule of cyanide of potassium.

Walker had been for fifteen years foreman in that establishment and was a faithful and trustworthy employee. He was divorced from his wife some years ago and he worried over that fact. Recently his sight began to fail and he feared his defective vision might interfere with the excellence of his workmanship, and the realization of this added to his despondency.

Before taking his life he left several letters to debtors of his requesting them to settle their accounts with his sister, Mrs. L. C. Stratton, 604 Hayes street. His mother is an inmate of the Old Ladies' Home in this city. The suicide addressed a letter to San Francisco Lodge of Odd Fellows, of which he was a member, asking that body to see that he was cremated.

The deceased was a native of Rhode Island, and was about 50 years old.

San Francisco Call, October 28, 1897, p. 11:

WALKER—In this city, October 27, 1897, Selah Clarence Walker, a native of Rhode Island, aged 45 years.

San Francisco Chronicle, October 28, 1897, p. 5:

Took Cyanide of Potassium
While Despondent S. C. Walker Commits Suicide

(Walker lived in a small room above the photograph gallery, and there his body was found yesterday morning...)

Check the full text of this article.

Sacramento Daily Union, October 28, 1897:

Swallowed Cyanide of Potassium

San Francisco, Oct. 27.—The body of Selah C. Walker, a photo printer, aged 50 years, was found in a room upon the top floor of the building at 838 Market street this morning. He had committed suicide by swallowing cyanide of potassium upon retiring last night. He was formerly a well-known shoe dealer[!], but of late has been in reduced circumstances.

Selah's sister, (Mrs.) Lettie C. Stratton, was a long-time San Francisco resident. I could not identify their mother's name. In 1897, the mother was "an inmate" of the Old Ladies' Home in the City.

Chronicles of Early Ascents of Half Dome