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Notable Oregonians: Joaquin Miller - Poet, Writer

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Joaquin Miller

Joaquin Miller, 1837-1913

Joaquin Miller was born Cincinnatus Hiner Miller on September 8, 1837. His parents were Quakers and his father was a magistrate in Indiana. In 1852, the family moved to Oregon, traveling with two heavily laden wagons, eight oxen yoked to each, a carriage, and two horses. The three thousand mile trip took over seven months. They settled near Eugene, Oregon where they established a home and farm.

 

Miller and a friend set off to California in search of gold in 1855 and subsequently worked in a number of mining camps. He reported that he was severely wounded in a battle between the settlers near Mt. Shasta and the Modoc Indians when an arrow pierced his face and exited the back of his neck. He later survived other battles with northern California Indian groups, and had several altercations with the law over matters relating to the ownership of livestock and gun play.

 

Miller attended Columbia College in in Eugene City from 1857 to 1858. He taught school, studied law, and was admitted to the bar in 1861. From 1861 to 1862 Miller rode pony express from Walla Walla to Idaho mines but he soon returned to Eugene City to become a newspaper editor. In his newspaper, The Eugene City Democratic Register, he pleaded for an end to the Civil War, adopting the Quaker creed of his father. The editorials were suppressed as pro-Southern in sympathy and Miller sold out, moving briefly to Port Orford on Oregon's southern coast. In 1864 he drove a herd of cattle across the Cascade Mountains to Canyon City where he planted the region's first orchard and served as Grant County Judge until 1870.

 

Miller's work Songs of the Sierras was published in Great Britain during a visit in 1870-1871. He returned to the United States to great acclaim for his writing and lived in San Francisco for a time before traveling in Europe and Asia from 1873 to 1880. He resided in New York and Washington D.C. until moving to Oakland, California where he lived from 1885 to 1897. Oakland remained his home intermittently until his death in 1913. Miller's colorful life included stints serving as a newspaper correspondent during the Klondike Gold Rush in 1897-1898 as well as the Boxer War in China in 1899.

 

Among his other works of poetry and prose were My Life Among the Modocs, Unwritten History, In Classic Shades, and A Royal Highway of the World.

 

(Sources: Central California Poetry Journal | Dictionary of Oregon History) Revised 1/2013

 

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