Joaquin Miller, the pen name of author Cincinnatus Heine Miller, nicknamed the “Poet of the Sierras,” spent much of his youth in Oregon and Northern California.
He worked a dozen jobs, lived with Native Americans, married and abandoned his family. He was more acclaimed in England during a visit in 1870 than he was in America. Returning in April 1872, he wrote a piece titled “A Ride Through Oregon.”
He describes crossing the Siskiyou Mountains and seeing a large sign over the toll road spelled “T-o-l-e road.” The stage driver explained, “That means we are in Oregon.”
Miller describes Oregon pioneers as being from “Pike or Posey County … Here you pass a house ... in a little pen, mossy with age ... A man stands in the door with his hands in his pockets, patches on his knees, and with three or four blue-haired children clinging to his legs. He wears a broad, slouch hat, long hair, and looks as though he had just got out of bed ... The next house you pass will be a model of architecture and rural ornamentation, with people polite and progressive. And so it goes, Oregon is wonderfully mixed. The best and the worst of men ....”
Sources: “Joaquin Miller.” Viewed at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joaquin_Miller; Miller. Joaquin. “A Ride Through Oregon.” Viewed at http://quod.lib.umich.edu/m/moajrnl/ahj1472.1-08.004/299:2?rgn=full+text;view=image.
As It Was is a co-production of Jefferson Public Radio and the Southern Oregon Historical Society. As It Was stories are broadcast weekdays on Jefferson Public Radio and are available online at asitwas.org.