News and Stories: San Francisco and Ports o'Call
Born Cincinnatus Heine Miller, September 8, 1837; Died February 17, 1913
Miller and another youth headed to California during the early Gold Rush. He 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 Indian Tribe when an arrow pierced his face and exited the back of his neck. The arrow passed close to the base of his brain. Although he recovered from the wound, he suffered both physical and mental effects of the injury for at least a year. He 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 left Northern California and traveled to San Francisco. From there he claimed that he travelled to Nicaragua by ship, and then returned to Oregon. But it turned out the trip to Nicaragua was a fabrication. In Oregon, Miller attended college briefly, taught school, studied law, and was admitted to the bar. The lure of gold in Idaho was more than he could resist. He again headed for the gold fields.
Miller returned to Oregon again at the beginning of the Civil War with enough gold to build a new home and purchase a newspaper. In his newspaper, The Eugene City Democratic Register Miller pleaded for an end to the Civil War, adopting the Quaker creed of his father. He was eventually elected to the position of Judge in a Southern Oregon community.
In 1868, Miller's first book of poetry "Specimens" was published by William D. Carter in Portland. The first book and Miller's second, "Joaquin et al," were both ignored by American critics, even the "Bards of San Francisco Bay" to whom Miller dedicated the second volume.
Discouraged, Miller went to England, but the English publishers of 1870 were unimpressed and Miller was forced to print 100 copies of his Pacific Poems at his own expense. Success was immediate and staggering. The London literate lionized the painstakingly crude frontiersman with the delicate writing touch. Miller captured entire drawing rooms of British intelligentsia, dazzling them with his velvet coat, hip boots and the bear rug he threw on the floor to comfort him as he spouted his own writings.
His first book, Songs of the Sierras was published in 1871.
Miller also published his second book, Life Amongst the Modocs, in Europe. It was a success in Paris.
Joaquin Miller returned from Europe 1883, and settled in Oakland where he planted a 75-acre forest watered by distant springs. This garden, known as the Hights, became a place of pilgrimage for travellers who craved a few hours in the presence of his ersatz 49er persona. To this place also came the literary figures of his day, including Ambrose Bierce, George Sterling, Ina Coolbrith, Charles Warren Stoddard, Lillie Langtry, and Yone Noguichi, the Japanese poet and father of sculptor Isao Noguichi.
In 1895, he visited Hawaii and wrote a feature article entitled "Hawaii and the Hawaiins printed in The San Francisco Call, which included a history of the islands beginning with settling by South Sea Islanders and the brutality of Captain Cook and other adventurers in Hawaii.
September 11, 1908, San Francisco Call
MINER WILL LEAVE FORTUNE TO POET
Joaquin Miller Receives Good News From Man He Befriended Years Ago
Old Prospector Has "Struck It Rich" and Remembers Favor of His Benefactor
OAKLAND, Sept. 10. Gratitude to Joaquin Miller for saving his life and nursing him through a long spell of sickness many years ago has caused John Herren, an old prospector who has "struck it rich" at Rawhide, Nevada, to make a will leaving everything he possesses to his old friend and benefactor. More than 35 years ago the "Poet of the Sierras," while carrying the mail between Florence and Mlllerburg. Idaho, brought the miner into the latter place after he had become unconscious while lost in the deep snow.
Since then the prospector has become old seeking the claim which was going to make him wealthy, but he never forgot the kindness of Joaquin Miller, who furnished him with provisions and nursed him back to health. It has been his ambition to repay the kindness, and since he has become wealthy at Rawhide he has made his will In favor of his oldtime protector.
MILLER RECEIVES LETTER
Miller, who is at work in his cottage at "The Heights," received the following letter from Herren, whom he had much difficulty in recalling in mind. In fact he is not certain yet as to his identity. The letter Is as follows:
Joaquin Miller, The Heights. Cal.
My Old and Very Dear Friend: I came into town, such as it is, today, to get lawyer to write this letter to you to notify you that I have made my will in your favor. l am leaving you all my mines and my two pet Jackasses that have been my freight trains by day and my pillows by night, and across the most desolate regions that God ever made. As you are a poet, perhaps you know what he made them for.
You may have forgotten me. but I never will forget you, for long ago, away up in the high, rough Salmon River mountains of Idaho, at Florence and Millersburg; you did me favors l can never forget. You freely gare me half your meager stock of food, saving my life when I had neither food nor money, and you nursed me when I was down with snow blindness and mountain fever. And I shall never forget when you faced death to bring In our letters across the hundred miles of freezing snows, and how you brought me a cheery letter from my little girls down in the Willamette Valley. But, alas! They are now all dead and gone, and I am a wanderer on the face of the earth, and the most barren, cheerless part of it. Surely it were better to sit down and raise babes on the knee and stay there than wander west as I have done, smashing the heart into macadamized pavement stuff.
I have had generally poor luck since the years when I knew your kindheartedness, but now at last I have struck some good claims, which will yield a fortune, or several of them. I am leaving them all to yon, knowing that you will use their output for the benefit of the poor and of mankind. I feel that first frost will soon be blooming the yellow sage and bring on the. autumn tints for me, and that the sand In my glass will soon run out. But as I climb the last divide I will think kindly of you as one of the true benefactors of mankind, and then my lawyer will notify you that I have gone over the hill, and you can do the rest. Meantime I hope you will enjoy good health for many years to come. Very truly yours.
The poet answered this letter by hoping that the miner would enjoy good health for many years to come, but that he thought more of the jackasses than of any other property his old friend might leave, as it would be a pleasure to have them wandering around his front yard.
LAWYER WRITES LETTER
Shortly afterward a letter came from Herren's lawyer, H. Berry of Yellowhorse, Nev. The lawyer announced further instructions which Herren had asked him to send to Mr. Miller regarding the disposition of the funds for some of his debts after his death. The lawyer wrote that Herren was known in Nevada as "Showcase." because he always carried samples of ore which would be an ornament to any showcase in the world.
"I can barely remember Herren," said Joaquin Miller today. "He certainly overestimates the favors I did him, I think, and if he has struck it rich, as he says, and leaves the property to me, I will use it in the best way I know. I would rather have the jackasses, however," he continued, with a smile, "as they will make a pretty picture here.
"All I know of the matter is that I have received two letters," one from Herren and one from Berry, the lawyer. Whether or not they are written in earnest I do not know."
May 15, 1909, Mariposa Gazette, Mariposa, California
"Joaquin" is Not Poet's Name.
Oakland Joaquin Miller, poet of the Sierras, announced in Judge Murphey's court a few days ago that 'Joaquin" was an assumed name and that all of his business was transacted under the name of C. H. Miller. The poet, who was a witness in a criminal case, was accordingly entered on the books by Clerk Wuthe as "C. H. Miller, alias Joaquin."
February 16, 1911, San Francisco Call
POET OF THE SIERRA NEARS VALE OF DEATH
Joaquin Miller Lies Critically Ill With Blood Poisoning in an Oakland Hospital
Doctors Hold Out Little Hope and Daughter Is Summoned From the East
Oakland, February 15. Joaquin Miller, famous the world round as a writer and poet, and familiarly known as the "Poet of the Sierras," lies critlcaly ill at Fabiola hospital. It is feared he will not re cover. He is suffering from a blood poisoning technically known as intestinal toxaemia, and is under the rare of Dr. A. L. Cunningham and Dr. Hester M. Sutherland, resident physician at the hospital. He is 70 years old.
Miller has been ill for about 10 days at his picturesque home on the hills overlooking Fruitvale. His condition, owing to his robust constitution, was not thought serious, and he was looked after by James D. Fountain and his wife, who live in one of the cottages on the Miller grounds; the Japanese artist, Kano and his wife, the sculpttor, better known as Gertrude Boyle, and by the poet's only grandson. A. L. McCormick, who has been making his home upon the heights since the death of his mother.
When the poet's condition became more serious and be lapsed into unconsciousness he was removed in an ambulance to Fablola, and his brother, George Melvin Miller, of Eugene, Ore., notified. Doctor Sutherland, realizing the seriousness of Miller's illness, called in Doctor Cunningham, who lias taken charge of the case. According to Cu ningham general paresis has set in, and there is little, if any, hope for the poet's recovery. He is unconscious part of the time, and when conscious is unable to recognize persons at his bedside.
Doctor Cunningham today said: "The illness is a dangerous one, and combined with his great age I can not see much hope. Paresis, which has set in, is affecting the mind, but he Is suffering no physical pain." The poet's brother arrived from Oregon today and went immediately to the hospital. The daughter, Juanlta, who lives in New York, lias been notified by telegraph, and is expected in a few days. The grandson Is a frequent visitor to the sick room. Owing to the serious illness of the poet none but relatives and intimate friends are allowed to see him.
August 2, 1912, San Francisco Call
Political Chaos Rules Joaquin Miller's Home
OAKLAND, August 1. Rent into factions is the family of Joaquin Miller, poet of the Sierras. Where all the liberal arts and sciences have failed to make an impression on family unity, politics has breached the walls.
Joaquin Miller has registered as a life long democrat of the school of Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson. Mrs. Miller is a Taft republican. Their daughter, Miss Juanita Miller, is a republican of the moose variety.
The hopeless divergence of opinion was revealed when a special registration deputy climbed the winding way to the Miller aerie. He says the Millers hardly speak to each other about the national outlook.