Review of The Hunt for Willie Boy: Indian Hating and Popular Culture

by James A. Sandos and Larry E. Burgess
Review: Linda S. Parker – San Diego State University

Willie Boy - Desparado

Willie Boy – Desparado

The authors have written an enlightening historical ethnography of the Willie Boy episode. By illuminating the frontier myth and Indian-hating inherent in the dominant story of Willie Boy, and using Chemehuevi ethnographic literature and oral traditions, Sandos and Burgess have separated myth from fact. This permitted them to develop a new white version based on historical documents. Importantly, they also present a Chemehuevi version of Willie Boy’s tale. Additionally they present Willie Boy’s own story relating to the episode.

In examining the development of the Willie Boy tale, including the stories told in Harry Lawton’s book Willie Boy: A Desert Manhunt and Abraham Polonsky’s film Tell Them Willie Boy Is Here, Sandos and Burgess show how Indian hating “shaped” the talc into a “triumph” of civilization over savagery. The authors persuasively argue that Willie Boy was not drunk when he killed William Mike. The story of alcohol involvement was accepted because it fit the stereotype of Indians who turned to liquor to solve their problems. Sandos and Burgess also suggest that one of the Indian trackers accidently killed Carlota.

After determining that Willie Boy was a mixed blood Chemehuevi and raised in that culture, the authors were able to use Chemehuevi cultural data and oral tradition to explain certain elements of Willie Boy’s story. Knowledge of Chemehuevi culture and its impact on Willie Boy make his ability to outrun the posse understandable. Sandos and Burgess indicate that bride capture, an important component of the standard story, was not practiced by the Chemehuevi. They indicate that this practice and the alleged kidnapping of Carlota was an Anglo creation. Instead she accompanied Willie Boy as a free agent who loved him and was willing to break with her culture and family by violating the tribal kinship taboo prohibiting their marriage. Although both Lawton’s book and Polonsky’ film tell about the taboo and an earlier alleged abduction of Carlota, neither are seen as significant. Sandos and Burgess explain why.

Willie Boy's girl friend

Isoleta/Carlota/Lolita

Based on circumstantial evidence, Sandos and Burgess determine that Willie Boy was a Ghost Dancer. If one accepts their conclusion, which this reviewer found somewhat tenuous, then the authors’ reasoning that Willie Boy’s Ghost Dance beliefs influenced his behavior and the actions of William Mike is also plausible. In discussing the murder of William Mike, the authors suggest that one of the reasons Mike opposed the marriage of his daughter to Willie Boy was that Mike, a shaman, rejected the Ghost Dance. Acontest over spiritual power was involved. Sandos and Burgess also maintain that Willie Boy’s suicide is understandable given the influence of the Ghost Dance. Countering the myth surrounding the events occurring at Ruby Mountain, the authors convincingly argue that Willie Boy had no reason to surrender and that he that he could have easily escaped. They speculate that Willie Boy learned of Carlota’s death at Ruby Mountain and that he committed suicide that night in order to be with her. According to Ghost Dance teachings, the best time to join the dead was shortly before dawn.

Although the author’s historical analysis is critical to explaining Willie Boy’s story, the major contribution of The Hunt For Willie Boy is its integration of Chemehuevi culture and oral tradition.

Willie Boy’s body

Linda S. Parker, Department of American Indian Studies. San Diego State University.

The Hunt for Willie Boy: Indian Hating and Popular Culture. James A.
Sandos and Larry E. Burgess. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1994.
Maps, photos, figures, and references. xviii + 182 pp. $21.95.

University of Nebraska – Lincoln
DigitalCommons@University of Nebraska – Lincoln
Great Plains Research: A Journal of Natural and Social Sciences Great Plains Studies, Center for

8-1-1994

 

The Legend of Willie Boy

by T. C. WEIR – Desert Magazine, 1980

The Willie Boy Story

Chemehuevi Ethnography & Ethnohistory

The American Desert

BY JOHN C. VAN DYKE

John C. Van Dyke

I went alone into the desert with only a fox terrier and a buckskin pony, for company. There was no one on the edge who knew about the interior and those that talked as though they knew did not care to go with me. I was promised plenty of trouble. Predecessors had been “caught up with” again and again. Their bodies, dried like Egyptian mummies, had been found in the sands long after by Indians. The heat and the drought were unbearable, there were sand storms, sulphurcous whirlwinds, poisonous springs, white gypsum wastes, bewildering mirages, desert wolves, rattlesnakes, tarantulas, hydrophobia skunks. I would never come out alive. But I went in, tempted Providence, off and on, for two and a half years, and still live to tell the tale. After all, the dangers were not great. I had had, as a boy, considerable experience in Indian life and was not afraid of the open. And I had no fear of being alone or getting lost. My sense of direction was as keen as that of a homing pigeon, and when I was equipped with food and had located a water hole it really made no difference to me whether I was lost or found. I always knew my general direction, and with the ever-constant sun and stars I could not lose the points of the compass There are two ways of outfitting for a trip into the unknown. The one usually followed is to pack every article of plunder that might be thought desirable. ‘chat generally results in wearing out the most enduring pack train. I preferred the other way, the Indian way, of carrying very little, going light-shod, and retaining ease of movement. So, for myself, I wore nothing but a cotton shirt and trousers, a flat straw hat, and, on my feet, moccasins. I made my own moccasins, Sioux style, with a pointed toe, of strong mule-deer hide. A pair of blankets, a small hatchet, a short-handled shovel, some rawhide picket ropes, several tin cups, a small frying pan, a rifle for large game, and a .22-caliber single-barrel pistol for birds—
The MENTOR Vol. 12 No. 6 Serial #257 JULY, 1924

Scenes in America Deserta

by Peter Reyner Banhamorld:

Las Vegas, Nv.

Las Vegas, Nv.

“Las Vegas is a symbol, above all else, of the impermanence of man in the desert, and not least because one is never not aware of the desert’s all pervading presence; wherever man has not built nor paved over, the desert grimly endures – even on some of the pedestrian islands down the center of the Strip! The presence of such an enclave of graceless pleasures in such an environment is so improbable that only science fiction can manage it; the place is like the compound of an alien race, or a human base camp on a hostile planet. To catch this image you need to see Las Vegas from the air by night, or better still, late in the afternoon, as I first saw it, when there is just purple sunset light enough in the bottom of the basin to pick out the crests of the surrounding mountains, but dark enough for every little lamp to register. Then – and only then – the vision is not tawdry, but is of a magic garden of blossoming lights, welling up at its center into fantastic fountains of everchanging color. And you turned to the captain of your spaceship and said, ‘Look Sir, there must be intelligent life down there,’ because it was marvelous beyond words. And doomed – it is already beginning to fade, as energy becomes more expensive and the architecture less inventive. It won’t blow away in the night, but you begin to wish it might, because it will never make noble ruins . . . .”

Peter Reyner Banham. 1982. Scenes in America Deserta. Salt Lake City: Gibbs M. Smith. Pages 42-43.

Victor Valley Volcano

The Wheeler map made in the 1880s shows a volcano between what is Victorville and Barstow.

The questions is; Is the “Volcano” either Stoddard Mountain or Bell Mountain?

Wheeler map 1880s Mojave Desert

Volcano location on 1880s map.

Stoddard Mountain and Bell Mountain (USGS map.

This USGS map shows the location of both Stoddard Mountain (yellow dot) and Bell Mountain (blue dot).

Both maps are superimposed and reconciled to critical match points.

The USGS map layer is replaced with the 1880s map layer and the layer with the location dots is turned on.

So it looks as if the “Volcano” is nowadays known as Stoddard Mountain.

Maybe next time; Is Stoddard Mountain a real volcano?

The High Desert Illusion

Does this …
… Blow your mind?

profile of elevations in the cajon pass - chard walker
— Cajon Junction (el. 2950′) at I-15 and Hwy. 138 is actually at about a 300′ higher elevation than Victorville (el. 2650′). The slope from the summit to Victorville is gradual, not as noticeable, and provides us with the illusion that we are further up than we actually are.

 

Michael White (Miguel Blanco) & Rancho Muscupiabe

The Old Spanish Trail had become increasingly used as a pack mule trail between New Mexico and California, and with this traffic came the opportunity for those to take advantage of the distance and desperate nature of the land.

Map of some of the land grants and ranchos in southern California

The rich ranchos of southern California.

California horses were beautiful creatures, and the mules were taller and stronger than those in New Mexico and they were easy to steal.  The rolling hills and plains presented clear paths to the  Cajon where numerous hidden canyons and washes were available to slip into and prepare for the furious run across the desert. Horses would be stolen in herds from many different ranchos at once. Hundreds of horses, even thousands could be commandeered and driven by just a few experienced thieves.

Chief Walkara, ‘Hawk of the Mountains’ and the greatest horse thief in all of history along with his band of renegade Chaguanosos , and notables such as Jim Beckwourth and Pegleg Smith would work together in this illegal trade. During one raid they were said to have coordinated the theft of 3,000-5,000 horses, driving them to Fort Bridger to trade for more horses to run to New Mexico to trade again. Horses would fall from exhaustion every mile and the local bands of Paiute would feast on the remains.

Devore, ca. at mouth of Cajon Pass

From the piedmont between Devil and Cable canyons, Miguel Blanco could keep an eye out for horse thieves entering the Cajon.

 

In 1843 Michael White was granted one league of land at the mouth of the Cajon Pass called Rancho Muscupiabe. At a point overlooking the trails leading into and away from the canyon he was expected to thwart the raiders and horse thieves that were plaguing the Southern California ranchos. In theory it was a good plan but in practice it did not work so well.

Map of Muscupiabe Rancho, Michael White, Miguel Blanco

Muscupiabe Rancho

 

 

 

Crowder Canyon/Coyote Canyon along Old Spanish Trail/John Brown Toll Road

Hundreds and sometime even thousands of stolen horses from the ranchos would burst through Coyote Canyon beginning their ‘journey of death’ across the Mojave.

He built his home of logs and earth and constructed corrals for his stock. However, the location between Cable and Devil Canyon only served as a closer and more convenient target for the Indian thieves. His family was with him, but after six weeks until it became too dangerous. He left after nine months without any livestock, in debt and bitter.

Crowder Canyon map in Cajon Pass

Crowder (Coyote) Canyon – Initially named ‘Coyote’ canyon for Chief Coyote, a horse thief who was killed by Miguel Blanco within the narrow canyon walls.

As the late 1840s and 1850s rolled by wagon roads were being developed in the canyon minimizing the effectiveness of the maze of box canyons being used to cover the escape of desperadoes on horseback.

Victor Valley Crossings

Fr. Francisco Hermenegildo Tomás Garcés, (April 12, 1738 – July 18, 1781) was a Spanish priest who crossed the Mojave Desert in 1776. This map shows his route across the Victor Valley. Following the Mojave River after crossing at Oro Grande he walked through what is now downtown Victorville bypassing the rocky narrows and connecting back with the river near today’s Mojave Narrows Regional Park. Following the river to where the West fork and Deep Creek join to form the Mojave. He visited with the Indians then made his way up Sawpit Canyon and over the mountain ridge descending into the verdant sycamore grove that is known today as Glen Helen.

This map shows the route of Fr. Garces in 1776 during his crossing west. His diary it describes him being taken to an Indian village in the mountains.

50 years after Fr. Garcés made his way across the Mojave from the Colorado River, in 1826, Jedediah Smith retraced the trail of Garcés along the river then up and over the mountains. In 1827, one year after his first crossing, Smith had lost most of his men in a massacre at the Colorado River. Desperate for the safety of civilization, Smith, after crossing the Mojave River in Oro Grande, made his way directly to the Cajon Pass bypassing the San Bernardino Mountains.

The direct route over the summit and down the pass eliminates the steep climb and descent over the San Bernardino Mountains.

The Killer on the Colorado

Indian Queho hated white men.  It has been said he killed up to 35 of them.  I believe there were only about 17 murders he has been tied to. These were all brutal, violent killings.   Queho killed using shovels, clubs, knives, his bare fists.  He killed for revenge, money, and even just to kill in frenzied anger.  He probably could have expressed his bigotry well with maybe half of the number he killed. His deep hatred of white men could have been expressed with half of that; only 4 or 5 murders — or maybe even just 2 or 3 targeted, fatal beatings.

 

The Indian hunters figured they ran him to death, but he just knew how to hide well.  They never took him alive.  Queho’s mummy was discovered in a cave by prospectors searching for gold on the high walls of Black Canyon on the Colorado River. He died painfully by a snake bite to his leg.

The Last Days of Al Williams

by Phillip I. Earl –   Apple Tree correspondent

Death Valley is perhaps the West’s  most aptly named topographical feature and over years it has taken the lives  of countless thousands of travelers, prospectors,  treasure hunters and others who ventured into its tortured arid wilderness.

The circumstances of these deaths  are roughly similar:  horses died,  they ran out of water, got lost, became delirious with the heat etc.,   but at least one of the valley’s victims left behind a more accurate account of his last hours on earth.

Al Williams’ body  was found the morning of August 3, 1911 at Sharpe’s Camp,  a sometime [ng]  a few miles southeast of Darwin, California. A Nevada prospector who had traversed Death Valley many times in the [l,]  Williams apparently lost his horse then lost himself on this trip.  He had set out from [o]  Springs on May 18 and nothing more was heard of him until his body was found,  though his friends had searched for him earlier in the summer, sick and unable to leave his camp, Williams apparently waited day by day for someone to come and rescue him. As he waited, he recorded his condition and his thoughts in the following diary which was found on his body:

Thursday, May 18
Left Coso Springs.

Wednesday, May 24
Nothing to eat since Thursday.

Friday, May 26 —
week in sick, cannot walk 50 feet. Tried to get dove; no go.

Saturday, May 27
Hungry, hungry and so weak.  Headache, sick. Will probably die soon.

Sunday, May 28
Very weak today. Nearly froze last night. Very hungry.

Monday, May 29
Cold:  almost froze. Am much weaker; do not think I have will last two days more. Pain in my side.

Tuesday, May 30
Colder than ever last night. Did not sleep a minute. Very weak. Hello the headache. Very dizzy.

Wednesday, May 31
Am nearly all in;  can scarcely breathe. Water getting low.

Thursday, June 1
Worse today,  Sick; no sleep; too cold. Water is playing out fast it will not be long til the end.

Friday, June 2
Am about the same.  No sleep; cold nights. This is a living hell. Very weak.

Saturday, June 3
No sleep;  cold night. Am worse than ever.  will hold out as long as I can.

Sunday, June 4
Vomit yellow, bitter stuff when I drink water. Second time now. Cold; no sleep; very weak.

Monday, June 5
Vomit when I drink. Very weak; legs sore; cold all night; no sleep. Cannot last much longer.

Tuesday, June 6
Vomited again. Getting weaker.

Wednesday, June 7
Don’t  see how I can live much longer. I stagger like a madman. Feel drunk and dizzy.

Thursday, June 8
Worse;  am nearly blind;  very sick and dizzy. No sleep; gnats are eating me up.

Friday, June 9
Don’t  believe I can get another canteen of water.  Sick and dizzy: cannot see much. Think it will be all off soon.

In the back of the diary under the date of June 9, 1911, Williams wrote the following: “Have stood it 23 days without anything to eat. If I can get one more canteen of water I am satisfied it will be the last one. This is surely hell on earth.  And so sick and dizzy I can scarcely see this in the gnats are eating me up.”  Too weak to write and almost blind for the last three days of his life,  Williams merely made his cross in the diary to show that he was still alive.

The men who found the body at first considered bringing it out to a nearby ranch and notifying the Inyo County coroner, but its condition was such that they decided against such a course. A shallow grave was dug on a high bench about 50 feet from the dry spring and Williams was laid away.

One of the men wrote a short account of his death from the diary and placed it in a tobacco can which was then stuffed into a crude monument built over the grave.

Williams diary itself was brought back to Darwin and given to the editor of the Inyo County Independent  who subsequently might venture out  unprepared or who might go out on a rescue mission and give up too soon, thus condemning another of their fellows to the awful sacrifice which the desert seems to periodically demand.

The Story of John Brown

John Brown (1817 – 1899)

One of the more unusual pioneers of the early nineteenth century was John Brown, born in Worcester, Massachusetts on December 22, 1817. He started west as a teenager making his way to St. Louis and getting a job rafting down the Mississippi River to New Orleans. He took a job sailing along the Gulf Coast and was shipwrecked off the coast of Galveston. We can not follow him too clearly during this period but he fought with Sam Houston in the Battle of San Jacinto in 1836. He spent two years at Fort Leavenworth and then became a trapper for some fourteen years in the Rocky Mountains. He was able to tell of his encounters with bears and with Indians in a most exciting way.

In 1842 it is believed that he helped physically to build Fort Pueblo. It is here that he made the acquaintance of such frontiersmen as James Waters, Tim Goodale, Dick Owens, Calvin Briggs, John Burroughs and Old Bill Williams. He trapped from Colorado to the Yellowstone and met Kit Carson, James Bridger, the Bents and the Sublettes.

James Beckwourth: 1809 – 1868

Jim Beckworth, a former slave from Virginia whose father had freed him, was a noted trapper who spent several years as a member of the Crow Indian tribe, found himself a Mexican bride, Louisa Sandoval, in Taos and brought her and their small daughter, Matilda, to Fort Pueblo in October 1842. He set up as a trader with only limited success and when spring came, he set out for California, leaving his wife and daughter at the Fort. It was here that Louisa met John Brown and they decided to live together as a family. There were no clergy nearer than Taos. The marriage was certainly successful since they remained together for the rest of their long lives and had several children. Before John Brown settled down to a more quiet married life, he had had an experience with Nicolasa, apparently a fascinating young Mexican girl, and killed a Frenchman in a duel which took place in the early 1840s on a ranch of Jose Weis on the Greenhorn. It was the same Nicolasa, who incited Rube Herring to kill Henry Beer at Fort Lupton on July 4, 1843. Herring took Nicolasa to Fort Pueblo and lived with her there until James Waters stole her away from him. Not long after Waters killed Edward Tharp in a fight over the same girl. (When most of these men went to California a few years later, Nicolasa was left behind.)

From 1843 to 1845 John Brown made Fort Pueblo his headquarters. Can we speculate that he had a few successful trapping expeditions? At any rate he moved to the Greenhorn in 1845 and opened a store. He must have found some money in order to invest in a store. It was his policy to trade chiefly with whites and not with Indians although there were times when he sold whiskey to the Indians under the counter, since it was illegal to sell alcohol to Indians. The record of his accounts has been preserved in the Huntington library in California. He noted the sales made and the names of the buyers. His first accounts appeared in April 1845. Brown
stocked only what he called essentials, but did not at first include such items as coffee, sugar and flour. He did carry whiskey and tobacco. Brown bought his goods mostly in Pueblo. With demand he soon added flour, sugar, coffee, pants, shoes, etc. Among his customers was William Bent who sent E. Garry (Edmund Guerrier) to sell goods and to buy a steer from Brown in November 1846. William’s brother, George Bent, bought 1½ fanegas of corn. Other customers whose names appeared in his account book were Cosper (who worked for Alexander Barclay), James Grieves, William Adamson, one of Barclay’s foremen, Joseph Bridger and Rube
Herring. No Indian names appear except those Indian wives of whites.

It is revealing to note that the specie which Brown handled included doubloons, sovereigns, gelders, and Mexican pesos and gold pieces as well as American dollars.

Louisa was active in the store. Entries often appear in her handwriting. She also made candles and soap when a pig was slaughtered. The store was prosperous and Brown expanded his business into other projects such as farming. He built irrigation ditches and grew corn,
watermelons, wheat and hired Mexicans to herd cattle and horses. The Mexicans he hired became his customers. He built for them adobe houses and then added a grist mill between December 1846 and February 1847. The Mexicans were well treated. They were free employees, not like the peons on a Mexican hacienda who were paid only in supplies which kept them constantly in debt to the ranchero. Brown hired 3 men in 1845, 24 men in 1846, 8 men in 1847, and 2 men in 1848. Most stayed only a few months.

Not only did Brown mill his own flour, he accepted grain from others to be milled. He sold flour for 5 cents a pound or $8 per fanega. (One fanega was equal to 1.6 bushels.) Farmers from Hardscrabble and from Pueblo brought their wheat and corn to be ground at $1 per fanega. Barclay and Doyle rented yokes and harnesses from Brown.

Although it was illegal to sell whiskey to Indians, Brown did sell them whiskey, much watered down by four to nine times, and he even added drugs to keep the Indians quiet when they were drunk. We should not criticize Brown too severely for this practice since all traders did
sell to the Indians illegally in spite of the attempts of such men as Fitzpatrick to put a stop to it. The Indians would get into brawls with one another. It has been estimated that in 1841 there were 120 Indians killed in drunken brawls and in 1842 up to 500.

One of the intriguing facts of the life of John Brown was his experience as a psychic. He had a Spirit Guide who came to him in his waking moments and gave him significant messages. On one occasion the Spirit Guide appeared to Brown and saved him and his friends Estes and Stone from a grizzly. Once when Brown was camped at the foot of Pikes Peak the Guide showed
Brown an emigrant family named Washburn arriving at Pueblo along with a Mr. Waters who had a grey mare brought from the East for Tim Goodale. His friends made fun of Brown, but took him seriously enough to send Goodale to Pueblo to learn whether the vision was accurate. Goodale returned with the report that every fact was correct.

On another occasion while living in an Indian lodge with Briggs and Burroughs, the Guide told Brown that he would throw a stone and break his mule’s leg. In spite of his serious attempts to control himself, he threw a stone which broke the leg of the mule. Brown was literate and wrote a book about his spiritualist experiences called the “Mediumistic experience of John Brown, the
medium of the Rockies.” The book was published in San Francisco and is very rare today.[1]
In Pueblo on February 2, 1848 in an argument over Candelaria, the wife of James Waters, Edward Tharp was killed by Waters. Waters hid out on the Fountain while his friends brought him food. He soon went to Greenhorn, where he stayed and hired a team to go to Pueblo to get his things and bring them to Greenhorn, where he stayed, grinding corn and herding cattle for
John Brown. With no lawmen in the area at that time, the only crime which was recognized for punishment was that of murder. The accepted punishment was banishment.

On June 6, 1848 John Brown had a sale of all his goods and closed his store. California called! Brown started south with his wife Louisa and their son John, Jr., who had been born the previous October in Greenhorn. Those who went with them included Archibald Metcalf, James Waters and Blackhawk leading 60 horses and mules packed with deerskins which they had traded from the Utes. They were joined by Lucien Maxwell, his servant Indian George, and Charles Town. Some Apaches attacked them and they raced to escape. Some friends (?) urged Louisa to throw down the child and escape. She clutched him tightly around the neck and
jumped her horse over a ravine and escaped back to Greenhorn. She held the boy’s neck so firmly that ever afterwards he could not hold his head upright. All the horses and mules with the deerskins were lost to the Apaches. After this loss some of the travelers were determined to get to Taos. Lucien Maxwell and his party decided to avoid the popular Raton Pass and take
the next pass to the east of Raton, Manco Burro Pass. At the top they were resting when the Apaches attacked. In quite a lengthy battle Indian George and Charles Town were killed. But Lucien Maxwell was one of those who managed to struggle down the south side of the pass
where they were rescued by Dick Wootton who had come to look for them. Fortunately for the Browns, they did not travel with the group at that time.

Greenhorn was not completely abandoned. Kit Carson and Jesse Nelson and ten others left Taos on June 25, 1848 and went through Greenhorn where they found only Bill New, Calvin Jones and some Mexicans. But when they crossed the St. Charles they found a few farmers including John Brown and his family, Charles White, James Waters, and Rube Herring cultivating the lowlands and living in some old houses that had been abandoned.

In June 1849 a large procession left the Arkansas for California. John Brown and his family, now including three children, joined John Burroughs and Calvin Briggs and their Shoshoni wives, Lancaster Lupton with his Cheyenne wife and four children, Rube Herring without Nicolasa, Charles White, Alexis Godey, James Waters with Candelaria. They reached Salt Lake City on July
4 and arrived at Sutter’s Fort on September 1, 1849. Almost all of them decided to move south. Actually, John Brown was not comfortable in the climate of the Bay area and they all went to San Bernardino where they spent the rest of their lives as friends and became very wealthy. It was in 1851 that they boarded a schooner at San Francisco and sailed south to San Pedro where they landed in April 1852. Brown hired Sheldon Stoddard to take his goods to San Bernardino where he arrived on May 1.[2]

Brown bought a cabin from Marshall Hunt on the west side of the Mormon stockade. San Bernardino County was created on April 26, 1853. John Brown, Col. Isaac Williams, David Seeley and H. G. Sherwood were named county commissioners to supervise the first election. In 1854 Brown rented the vast Yucaipa Valley which was part of the San Bernardino Rancho of the
Mormons. Brown occupied a large two-story house built of adobe in 1842 by Diego Sepulveda. He raised cattle and grain. In 1857 James Waters bought the Yucaipa Ranch lands and also Brown’s cattle. Brown moved to town in San Bernardino and built a two-story house at Sixth and D Streets. He became the Justice of Peace and Rube Herring became the first County Assessor and School Superintendent.

In 1857 when there was unrest in Utah and President Buchanan sent the army against the Mormons, Brigham Young recalled all the settlers from San Bernardino. Brown and the non-Church faction now took over. With the Civil War coming on, Brown supported the Union.
In 1861 the army established a string of five outposts along the Mojave Desert trails. Brown and Henry M. Willis and George L. Tucker obtained a 20-year charter from the California legislature to build and operate a toll road through Cajon Pass. Brown also built a ferry
across the Colorado River at Fort Navajo and put Chief Sic-a-hoot in charge. The chief had trouble with money and the ferry was soon abandoned.

Brown had a contract for delivering mail to the mining camps at Holcomb and Bear Valley during 1873-74. In the 1880s Brown spent much of his time writing the treatise about his psychic experiences. His Spirit Guide had appeared to him often when he was in Colorado but
failed to come to him in the later part of his life. Nevertheless he wished to preserve the memories of those times in the mountains. His book, which was published in San Francisco during his lifetime was entitled, “The Mediumistic Experiences of John Brown, the Medium of the Rockies.”

As one of the older residents of his area Brown became one of the founders of the San Bernardino Society of California Pioneers. He and James Waters were among the first vice presidents of the organization and John Brown, Jr. was the first secretary. Brown died on April
20, 1899. His funeral was held by the Spiritualist Society. His body was in a huge white casket with young women in flowing white robes surrounding it as an honor guard.

The obituary appeared in the San Bernardino Daily Sun in April 1899. He was survived by six daughters and four sons: Mrs. Sylvia Davenport, Mrs. Mary Denber, Mrs. Matilda White, Mrs. Laura Wozencraft, Mrs. Louisa Waters and Mrs. Emma Royalty. The sons were John Jr., Joseph, James and Newton.

John Brown was a man of at least three careers. As a teenager he went west and joined the fur trappers at the height of the fur trade era. As this trade shrank he turned to the management of his store to sell goods chiefly to settlers and traders, branching out to agriculture and milling. At a time when the Indians were still a menace, he decided to move to California. Here he became a wealthy rancher and was a civil servant helping to organize the County of San Bernardino, still the largest county in the United States. He was a good business man and well liked by his fellows. It is interesting to note that several of the settlers in the Pueblo area became prominent and wealthy in California.

References
1. Editor’s note: A search for the book, published in 1897 by the Office of the philosophical
Journal, found only 20 copies listed in library or university holdings. The nearest repository
for a copy is the Denver Public Library, which will not release the book for inter-library loan
because of its fragile condition. The book is available for examination by request at the
library.
2. Editor’s note: Brown recorded in his book that when he arrived at San Bernardino he
found his old friend Isaac Slover already living there. Slover’s story can be read in The
Pueblo Lore, November 2001, pp. 6-10.

Bibliography
Belden, L. Burr. “John Brown.” In Hafe, LeRoy R., ed. The Mountain Men and the Fur Trade of the Far West. Glendale, Calif., Arthur Clarke Co., 1965-1972.
Hafen, LeRoy R. “Colorado mountain men.” In Colorado Magazine, 30:26.
Hammond, George P. The Adventures of Alexander Barclay, Mountain Man. Denver, Old West
Publishing Co., ca1976.
Lecompte, Janet. “The Hardscrabble settlement.” In Colorado Magazine, 31:94.
Lecompte, Janet. Pueblo, Hardscrabble, Greenhorn, the upper Arkansas, 1832-1856.
Norman, University of Oklahoma Press, ca1978.
Shaw, Dorothy Price. “The Cragin collection.” In Colorado Magazine, 25:176.

The Story of John Brown
(1817 – 1899)
By Edward Broadhead
(Reprinted from The Pueblo Lore, January 1985)

Wrightwood Historical Society
Wrightwood Roots Friday,March 4, 2005 A.D.
Edited by George Tilitson