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Catalog No. —
OrHi 95226
Date —
Era —
1846-1880 (Treaties, Civil War, and Immigration), 1881-1920 (Industrialization and Progressive Reform)
Themes —
Credits —
Oregon Historical Society
Regions —
Northeast Willamette Basin
Author —
Thomas Leander Moorhouse

Joaquin Miller, Poet Laureate of Oregon

Joaquin Miller was an Oregon writer and poet who first found fame in Britain by portraying himself as a flamboyant western frontiersman, telling colorfully exaggerated stories, wearing buckskin clothing and a Mexican sombrero, and, later in life, sporting a flowing white beard. Amateur Pendleton photographer Thomas Leander “Lee” Moorhouse took this photograph in about 1907, perhaps when Miller was visiting eastern Oregon.

In 1852, Cincinnatus Hiner Miller (1837-1913) moved with his parents to the Willamette Valley. He lived in various parts of the state and at one time was the editor of the Eugene Democratic Register. Later on, he and his second wife, poet Minnie Myrtle, lived in a cabin in Canyon City, Grant County, which has since been preserved as a tourist attraction and museum.

In 1870, Miller left his wife and Oregon, moving to San Francisco and then Great Britain in an effort to find fame as a poet and writer. He changed his name to Joaquin in honor of a legendary California outlaw, Joaquin Murieta, and found success with the 1871 publication of his book, Songs of the Sierras. In early 1880s, Miller returned to the United States and lived for a while in a cabin he built in Washington D.C. before moving to Oakland, California.

A tireless self-promoter, Miller told stories about gold mining and Indian fighting that probably had little connection to his actual life history. Accused of being a liar, Miller reportedly responded “I am not a liar. I simply exaggerate the truth.” Some critics have asserted that Miller’s literary work was unoriginal and mediocre.

Further Reading:
Lewis, Nathaniel. “Authentic Reproduction: The Picturesque Joaquin Miller.” Arizona Quarterly 57:2, 2001): 1-31.

Gafe, Steven L. “Lee Moorehouse: Photographer of the Inland Empire.” Oregon Historical Quarterly 98, 1997-1998: 426-77.

Written by Kathy Tucker, © Oregon Historical Society, 2002.