|The Miller Cabin in Meridian Hill Park|
Miller would later be well known in international literary circles, and had built the cabin here in 1893 when he had moved to Washington with political ambitions that ultimately failed. In fact, much of his background and life experiences that he wrote about were apparently wild fabrications.
|A Young Miller|
Miller’s creative writing began with his assumed name; his real name was Cincinnatus Heiner (or Hiner) Miller, who had been born on September 8, 1837, a date that also frequently changed during his lifetime. The name "Joaquin" was adapted later from the legendary California bandit, Joaquin Murietta.
As a young man, he moved to northern California during the Gold Rush, and apparently had a variety of adventures, including a year living in a Native American village and being wounded in a battle with Native Americans. A number of his works, Life Among the Modocs, An Elk Hunt, and The Battle of Castle Crags, draw on these alleged experiences.
About 1857, Miller supposedly married an Indian woman named Paquita and lived in the McCloud River area of northern California; the couple had two children. Miller then married Theresa Dyer (alias Minnie Myrtle) in 1862, and had three children with her. The couple divorced in 1869. Miller married for the third time in 1879 to Abigail Leland in New York City.
He was jailed briefly in New York for stealing a horse, and various accounts give other incidents of his repeating this crime in California and Oregon. Despite that fact, Miller found his way to Canyon City, Oregon by 1864 where he was elected the third Judge of Grant County; his log cabin built there is still standing as well.
After losing his bid for a seat on the Oregon Supreme Court, he left the Pacific Northwest and spent some years traveling, living in and visiting England, New York, San Francisco, Brazil, and Washington, DC, where he built his cabin on Meridian Hill in 1883. Disappointed at not being appointed as Ambassador to Japan, about ten years later Miller settled in the Oakland Hills of California. He gave his Washington cabin to a friend, who soon gave it to the Sierra Club. In 1912, one year before Miller's death, the National Park Service became its reluctant new owner.
The California State Association had sought to move it to Rock Creek Park, but the NPS had refused the request. It was only after Senator John D. Works of California intervened successfully that the cabin was disassembled, moved, and rebuilt at its current location.
|An older Miller|
Fellow author Ambrose Bierce, however, once called Miller "the greatest-hearted man I ever knew" but is also is quoted as saying that he was "the greatest liar this country ever produced. He cannot, or will not, tell the truth."
Miller's poem Columbus was once one of the most widely known American poems, memorized and recited by most school children of the era. It reads:
“Why, say, ‘Sail on! sail on! and on!’”
After Miller's death, his family maintained ties to the cabin. In 1931, Public Buildings and Public Parks leased it to Pherne Miller, his niece, who conducted art classes and sold candy and soft drinks there until the mid 1950's.
|Dedication at the new Rock Creek Site|
The readings continue to this day, every Tuesday in June and July (at 7:30 p.m.), with both well-established authors and first-time readers, and local and foreign poets from around the globe.