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Literature

Joaquin Miller

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While goldmining in the 1850s, Joaquin Miller spent a few years in the Mount Shasta area. His subsequent writings offer a vibrant portrayal of our early mining camps, the interactions between the whites and Native Americans, the beauty of the mountain, and the rich game to be found locally. Of course, just how much fact he mixed with fiction is open to question. Referring to Miller's Life Amongst the Modocs, Wells' 1881 History of Siskiyou County complains that Miller

has taken all the leading events of Northern California, most of which happened long before he appeared there, made himself the central figure, distorted the facts, and given them to the world as a truthful account of the dealings of the white men with the Indians.
Whether literally true, true only in spirit, or even a mix of imagination and observation, his work is often inspiring and always worth reading.

Miller's Life Amongst the Modocs: Unwritten History would, as Miesse points out, perhaps be better named "Life Amongst the Wintu," or "Life Amongst the Shasta." Still, the work includes two chapters that concern the mountain: Chapter 1, "Shadows of Shasta," and Chapter 19, "The Indians' Account of the Creation."

While most of Miller's local writings remain centered on the local Native Americans, Miller was also quite capable of discussing the wealth of local game. In "An Elk Hunt in the Sierras" he describes an 1855 elk hunt on Mount Shasta. In "Game Regions of the Upper Sacramento" he offers a most enthusiastic look at the grizzly bear, elk, mountain lion, black bear, and trout. Perhaps Miller's most interesting tale of all is his "A Bear on Fire," for I doubt few could put it down after reading the first couple sentences:

It is now more than a quarter of a century since I saw the woods of Mount Shasta in flames, and beasts of all sorts, even serpents, crowded together; but I can never forget, never!

 

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