We have already seen that Fremont, the discoverer of Lake Tahoe, first called it Lake Bonpland, after Humboldt's scientific co-traveler. That name, however, never came in general use. When the great westward emigration began it seemed naturally to be called by its Indian name, Tahoe.

In Innocents Abroad Mark Twain thus petulantly and humorously expresses his dislike of the name, Tahoe, and sarcastically defines its meaning.

    "Sorrow and misfortune overtake the legislature that still from year to year permits Tahoe to retain its unmusical cognomen! Tahoe! It suggests no crystal waters, no picturesque shores, no sublimity. Tahoe for a sea in the clouds; a sea that has character, and asserts it in solemn calms, at times, at times in savage storms; a sea, whose royal seclusion is guarded by a cordon of sentinel peaks that lift their frosty fronts nine thousand feet above the level world; a sea whose every aspect is impressive, whose belongings are all beautiful, whose lonely majesty types the Deity!

    "Tahoe means grasshoppers. It means grasshopper soup. It is Indian, and suggestive of Indians. They say it is Pi-ute - possibly it is Digger. I am satisfied it was named by the Diggers - those degraded savages who roast their dead relatives, then mix the human grease and ashes of bones with tar, and 'gaum' it thick all over their heads and foreheads and ears, and go caterwauling about the hills and call itmourning. These are the gentry that named the Lake.

    "People say that Tahoe means 'Silver Lake' - 'Limpid Water' - 'Falling Leaf.' Bosh! It means grasshopper soup, the favorite dish of the Digger tribe - and of the Pi-utes as well. It isn't worth while, in these practical times, for people to talk about Indian poetry - there never was any in them - except in the Fenimore Cooper Indians. But they are an extinct tribe that never existed. I know the Noble Red Man. I have camped with the Indians; I have been on the warpath with them, taken part in the chase with them - for grasshoppers; helped them steal cattle; I have roamed with them, scalped them, had them for breakfast. I would gladly eat the whole race if I had a chance.

    "But I am growing unreliable."

With all due deference to the wisdom - as well as the humor - of Mark Twain as applied to Lake Tahoe, I emphatically disagree with him as to the Indians of the Tahoe region, and also as to the name of the Lake. Tahoe is quite as good-sounding a name as Como, Lucerne, Katrine or Lomond. A name, so long as it is euphonious, is pleasing or not, more because of its associations than anything else. The genuine Indian, as he was prior to the coming of the white man, was uncorrupted, uncivilized, unvitiated, undemoralized, undiseased in body, mind and soul, a nature-observer, nature-lover and nature-worshiper. He was full of poetic conceptions and fired with a vivid imagination that created stories to account for the existence of unusual, peculiar or exceptional natural objects, that, in brilliancy of conception, daring invention, striking ingenuity and vigor of detail surpass, or at least equal, the best imaginative work of Kipling or Mark Twain himself. It seems to me that his - the Indian's - name for this Lake - Tahoe - is both euphonious and full of poetic and scientific suggestion. It is poetic in that it expresses in a word the unequaled height and purity of so large a body of water, and scientific in that it is truthful and accurate.

But Fremont, the discoverer, evidently did not ask or seek to know its Indian name. As stated elsewhere he erroneously conceived it to be the headquarters of one of the forks of the American river, flowing into the Sacramento, and he so depicts it on his map, giving to it the two names "Mountain Lake" or "Lake Bonpland." But neither of these names was acceptable and they practically dropped out of sight.

When the first actual determination of Tahoe's outlet through the Truckee River was made is not definitely known, but its approximate location was well enough established in 1853 to enable the official map-maker of the new State of California to depict it with reasonable accuracy, and, for some reason, to name it Lake Bigler, after John Bigler, the third Governor of California.

Citizens are still living both in Nevada and California who well remember when the Lake held this name, and the majority of people undoubtedly used it until 1862. Officially, also, it was known as Lake Bigler in 1862, for in the Nevada Statutes there is recorded an Act approved December 19, 1862, authorizing certain parties to construct a railroad "to be known as the Lake Bigler and Virginia Railroad Co., to commence at a point on the Kingsbury-McDonald road known as the Kingsbury and McDonald Toll House, thence along the southern and eastern shores of Lake Bigler, and in most direct practical route, to the divide between Virginia City and Washoe Valley on east side Washoe Lake, over and through the most practical pass to Virginia City," and a further right to construct branch road from Virginia to Carson City, Nevada.

In 1861, however, while Downey was Governor of California (he having been elected Lieut. Governor, and taking the office on the resignation of Governor Latham in January 1860), an attempt was made to change the name from Bigler to the fanciful one of Tula Tulia, but fortunately it failed and the old name remained in general use.

But in 1862 another effort was made in an entirely different direction and this time with success. It was brought about through the work of William Henry Knight, still living in Los Angeles, who has kindly furnished the following account:

    In the year 1859 I was the youngest member of an overland company which crossed the plains and mountains from St. Joseph, Mo., to California. Our train was in three divisions and consisted of about twenty persons, and forty horses and mules.

    One morning in the middle of August we left our camp at the eastern base of the double summit of the Sierra Nevadas and began our ascent. Mounted on my faithful steed, Old Pete, I pushed on in advance of the caravan, in order to get the first view of the already famous mountain lake, then known as Lake Bigler. The road wound through the defile and around the southern border of the Lake on the margin of which we camped for two days.

    As I approached the summit I turned from the main road and followed a trail to the right which led to the top of a bare rock overlooking the valley beyond and furnishing an unobstructed view.

    Thus my first view of that beautiful sheet of water was from a projecting cliff 1000 feet above its surface, and it embraced not only the entire outline of the Lake with its charming bays and rocky headlands but also the magnificent forests of giant pines and firs in which it was embosomed, and the dozen or more lofty mountain peaks thrusting their white summits into the sky at altitudes varying from 8000 to 11,000 feet above sea level.

    The view was, indeed, the most wonderful combination of towering mountains, widespreading valley, gleaming lakes, umbrageous forests, rugged buttresses of granite, flashing streams, tumbling waterfalls, and overarching sky of deepest cerulean hue - all blended into one perfect mosaic of the beautiful, the picturesque, and the majestic, that mortal eye ever rested upon.

    No imagination can conceive the beauty, sublimity and inspiration of that scene, especially to one who had for weary months been traversing dusty, treeless and barren plains. The contrast was overwhelming. Tears filled my eyes as I gazed upon the fairy scene. I recall the entrancing picture to-day, in all its splendid detail, so vividly was it photographed upon my brain.

    Since that hour I have crossed the continent ten times, over various railway routes, visited most of the States of the Union, and seven foreign countries, heard the testimony of others whose travels have been world-wide, and I doubt if another scene of equal enchantment exists on the face of the globe.

    In 1861, two years after my visit to Tahoe, I gathered the data for compiling the first general map of the Pacific States, which embraced the region from British Columbia to Mexico, and from the Rocky Mountains to the coast. It was ready for the engraver in February, 1862. I had instructed the draughtsman, V. Wackenreuder, afterward connected with the State Geological Survey, to omit the name of Lake Bigler, which was on contemporary maps.

    I invited John S. Hittell, editor of the Alta California, a leading San Francisco daily, and Dr. Henry DeGroot, writer on the Evening Bulletin and correspondent of the able Sacramento Union, to come round to Bancroft's publishing house and inspect the map.

    Dr. DeGroot had just returned from a visit to the Comstock silver mines in the Washoe district of Western Nevada. He suddenly turned to me and said: "Why, Knight, you have left off the name of Lake Bigler." I remarked that many people had expressed dissatisfaction with that name, bestowed in honor of a Governor of California who had not distinguished himself by any signal achievement, and I thought that now would be a good time to select an appropriate name and fix it forever on that beautiful sheet of water.

    The suggestion met with favor, and several names were proposed - Washington, Lincoln, then war President, Fremont, an early explorer, and other historic names. I asked Dr. DeGroot if he knew what the native Indians called the Lake.

    He drew a memorandum from his pocket and read over a list of Indian names local to that region, and exclaimed: "Here it is; they call it 'Tahoe,' meaning 'big water,' or 'high water,' or 'water in a high place.' The word rhymes with Washoe."

    I did not quite like the name at first mention, but its significance was so striking that I asked if they - Hittell and DeGroot - would favor its adoption and back it up with the support of their newspapers, and they agreed to do so.

    They advocated the adoption of the new name in their respective journals, the country papers almost unanimously fell into line, I inserted it on the map which bore my name - William Henry Knight - as compiler, and which was published by the Bancroft house in 1862.

    I immediately wrote to the Land Office at Washington, reported what I had done, and the sentiment that prevailed in California, and requested the Federal official to substitute the name of Tahoe for Bigler on the next annual map to be issued by his office, and in all the printed matter of the Department of the Interior thereafter. This was done.

    But a curious thing happened. Nevada was under a territorial government appointed by the Democratic administration of President Buchanan. The Territorial Legislature was in session when the subject was agitated by the California newspapers. A young statesman of that body, thirsting for fame, rose to his feet and in vociferous tones and with frenzied gestures, denounced this high-handed action of California in changing the name of that Lake without consulting the sister commonwealth of Nevada, as, according to the map, half of that noble sheet of water was in Nevada, and such action would require joint jurisdiction. But his impassioned words were wasted on the desert air of the Sagebrush State. He could not muster enough votes to enact his indignation into a law, and the calm surface of Lake Tahoe was unruffled by the tempestuous commotion raging in legislative halls at Carson City.

    It was thus that the beautiful, euphonious, and significant name of "Tahoe" was first placed on my own map, and subsequently appeared on all other maps of the State, because it was universally accepted as a fitting substitute for the former name of "Bigler." A traveled writer refers to the Lake and the name selected in these terms:

    "Thus it was that we went to Lake Tahoe, the beautiful 'Big Water' of the Washoe Indians - Tahoe with the indigo shade of its waters emphasized by its snow-capped setting. The very first glance lifts one's soul above the petty cares of the lower valleys, and one feels the significance of the Indian title - 'Big Water' - not referring to size alone, but to the greatness of influence, just as the all-pervading Power is the 'Big Spirit.'"

One would naturally think that there had been changes enough. But no! In spite of the fact that the Federal government had accepted the change to Tahoe, and that the popular usage had signified the general approval of the name, the Hon. W.A. King, of Nevada County, during the Governorship of Haight, in California, introduced into the assembly a bill declaring that Lake Bigler should be "the official name of the said lake and the only name to be regarded as legal in official documents, deeds, conveyances, leases and other instruments of writing to be placed on state or county records, or used in reports made by state, county or municipal officers."

Historian Hittell thus comments on this: "The bill, which appears to have been well modulated to the taste and feelings of the legislature, went through with great success. It passed the Assembly on February 1, the Senate on February 7; and on February 10 it was approved by the Governor. It remains a monument, if not to Bigler, at least to the legislature that passed it; while the name of the Lake will doubtless continue to be Tahoe and its sometime former designation of Bigler be forgotten."

Now if Mark Twain really objected to the name Tahoe why did he not join the Biglerites and insist upon the preservation of that name?

On the Centennial Map of 1876 it was named "Lake Bigler or Lake Tahoe," showing that some one evidently was aware that, officially, it was still Lake Bigler.

And so, in fact, it is to this date, as far as official action can make it so, and it is interesting to conjecture what the results might be were some malicious person, or some "legal-minded stickler for rigid adherence to the law," to bring suit against those whose deeds, titles, leases, or other documents declare it to be Lake Tahoe.