Charles Edwin Anson Markham was born in Oregon City, Oregon Territory, where he spent his earliest years. His parents’ separation ended his time there. His mother moved with him, in 1856, to a farm in Suisun, in central California. Markham would recall his days as a shepherd boy in poems, including “On the Suisun Hills.” His mother proved unsupportive of Markham’s interest in literature and education, however, provoking him to run away from home for two months in 1867. Afterward, she relented and allowed him to attend Vacaville College. Later he studied at California State Normal School, San Jose, and was graduated in 1872. He taught in Los Berros, California, and later in Oakland, California, where he became headmaster of the University Observation School.
During this period, Markham gave up the Methodist faith of his upbringing and embraced the teachings of Thomas Lake Harris, a socialist and spiritualist-poet who had moved to Santa Rosa in 1875. While embarking on his teaching career, Markham was beginning work on his poetry, which he started publishing in 1880. His works soon appeared in such major national magazines as Harper’s and Scribner’s. During this period, he also cultivated friendships with literary figures including Hamlin Garland and Ambrose Bierce.
Early in January, 1899, one of Markham’s poems that appeared in the San Francisco Examiner attracted widespread notice and subsequently was...
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