Photo by Mathew Brady. Public domain from Library of Congress, digital ID cwpbh.03677.

Joaquin Miller was born Cincinnatus Hiner Miller (September 8, 1837 – February 17, 1913) in Liberty, Indiana. As a young man, he changed his name to Joaquin after the legendary California bandit, Joaquin Murietta. At some time later in his life his middle name, Hiner, took on the spelling and pronunciation of the famous German Romantic poet’s, Heinrich Heine.

Most notably a poet and author, Miller was a colorful figure well known in California literary and social circles, including California's first poet laureate, Ina Coolbrith.

During his lifetime he worked at a number of other professions, including cook at a gold mining camp, surveyor, attorney, school teacher, pony express rider, judge, politician, newspaper editor, conservationist and owner of a pony express service.

In 1886, Joaquin Miller relocated to a 75 acres estate "The Hights" in the Oakland Hills. He planted it with pines, cypress, acacia, and eucalyptus. In 1919, "The Hights" became Joaquin Miller Park, a California State Landmark. Today the Park encompasses 512 acres which includes a public recreation center, a nature preserve and his memorial.

If you go to Joaquin Miller Park, you can find a number of really neat things built by Joaquin Miller: the Joaquin Miller Abbey where he lived, a Tower to General John C. Frémont, a Pyramid to Moses, the Browning Monument, and a funeral pyre where Miller wanted to be cremated upon his death. Additionally, there's a statue of him there by Berkeley artist Kisa Beeck.

Attitude toward The O

Miller penned the following about Oakland:

Thou rose-land! Oakland! thou, mine own!
Thou sun-land! leaf-land! land of seas
Wide crescented in walls of stone!
Thy tawny, sunlit lion steeps
Leap forward, as the lion leaps!

And tho, the lion’s whelp, begot
Of Argonauts, in fearful strength
And supple beauty yieldeth naught!
Thine arm is as a river’s length.
Thy reach is foremost! Thou shalt be
The thronèd queen of this vast west sea!

Yet here sits peace; and rest sits here;
These wide-boughed oaks, they house wise men:
The student and the sage austere,
The men of wondrous thought and ken.
Here men of God in holy guise
Invoke the peace of paradise.

Be this my home till some fair star
Stoops Earthward and shall beckon me;
For surely Godland lies not far
From these Greek heights and this great sea.
My friend, my lover, trend this way;
Not far along lies Arcady.
1

Casting of the Ashes of Joaquin Miller into the Fire

Links and References

  1. Calderwood, George and GT Loofborough. Oakland: Athens of the Pacific. Oakland: 1897