The Pacific Northwest Quarterly
In October 1875, when he was at the acme of his success as a pioneer Olympia businessman, William Winlock Miller offered some fatherly advice to an elder sister's son who had recently emigrated from Illinois:
If your object in corning hither was to get employment as a clerk it was injudicious-we only want men here who have muscle and are willing to labor. But now that you are here I would make the best of it. ... Avoid saloons and all places of vice. Don't drink, chew, or swear. Start at the foot of the ladder. Practice economy. Every young man's success depends upon himself.
Miller's mildly chiding counsel was part caveat and part instruction, part encouragement and part injunction. He aimed it at his nephew's misconceived expectations of western opportunity-the idea that the West offered sizable rewards, even fortunes, for modest effort. Miller may have wanted to warn his young relative- after all, it was 1875 and Washington Territory's economy was suffering under the weight of a devastating national depression-but his advice reached beyond an admonition. It was a didactic litany that could have been lifted from any one of a dozen popular primers on the self-made man.
The Pacific Northwest Quarterly © 1992 University of Washington
Locate the Document
Lang, W. L. (1992). “Ambition Has Always Been My God”: William Winlock Miller and Opportunity in Washington Territory. The Pacific Northwest Quarterly, 83(3), 101–109.