Category Archives: Book Reviews

Some Thoughts

To the uninitiated there is something rather uncertain about the reasons why a person will take time to view a location or an artifact. Ask the visitor why they make the trek or handle an object. The  response may take the form of a smile, and perhaps the timeworn cliché ” because it was there.”  That smile in phrase only does  partial justice in explaining personal gratification.

Why should we visit sites where history of any magnitude happened?  Perhaps it is because a fresh vista creates a more objective insight in pursuit of historical knowledge. Personal enjoyment and related benefits require one to approach a subject with a receptive and determined mindset.

In stories about stagecoaches and freight wagons  we may be entertained or learn about animals, load, dust, storm, good, evil, driver, passenger, comedy, sadness and so forth –  a whole range of emotions. a writer may have captured our imagination in words, but obtaining a complete and satisfying grasp of the event is a personal quest.

Often our inquisitiveness may provide answers only by standing on the spot, embracing the environment, and getting the feeling of how it may have been back when. Imagine sound, smell of man, equipment noise in animals doing the work. Anticipate the next riser dip the road and how it must have affected progress. Consider the impact on those traveling in good, bad, or indifferent weather.  Envision people, dress, available tools, and reasons for passing this way. Think of small but important details, such as animal harness, conveyancing station construction.  Perhaps the preceding thoughts may help create for you a new perspective and enjoyment of history.

from:
Indian Wells Valley Stage and Freight Stops 
1874 – 1906
Comments and Directions by Lou Pracchia
Historical Society of the Upper Mojave Desert

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 This permitted them to develop a new white version based on historical documents.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

A Story of Four Boys

Devil's Canyon, San Bernardino National Forest, Old Spanish Trail

Devil’s Canyon

One day a wagon train rolled in off the desert to San Bernardino. On this wagon train there were four sick and hungry Paiute Indian boys.

Each one of these boys was placed with separate families in San Bernardino, and each one of the boys, living in a good Mormon home, got better.

One boy went rabbit hunting with his foster brother. There they ran into the Thomas brothers who were also out hunting. One brother got into an argument with the Indian boy. They get louder and louder then the Thomas boy raised and aimed his pistol at the Indian and the Indian immediately raised his rifle and shot Thomas. He fell over dead.

Obviously, it was self-defense and no matter how they looked at it at trial it came out self defense. The Indian was acquitted and went free.

Sawpit Canyon. Old Spanish Trail

Sawpit Canyon

Life went on and things seemed as if things were forgotten and when it came time for the Indian boys to go home, an escort was provided for them. The escort was made up of one of the Thomas’ and several of his friends.

The party left San Bernardino and rather than going up the Cajon Pass, they took the old trail up Devil’s Canyon to the ridge then dropped down into Sawpit Canyon. The area was heavily forested and the young Paiute that had killed the Thomas boy figured out what was going on and slipped into the woods escaping.

Summit Valley, Las Flores Ranch

Summit Valley

The remaining three boys were brought down into what is now the Las Flores Ranch area and summarily murdered. Then they were decapitated and their heads placed on the top of long poles.

Not much was ever mentioned of the incident afterwards most, likely because the boys killed were Indian.

A few years later a caretaker on the property found two of the skulls. He took them and nailed one to each of the gate posts at the entry to the ranch. Being the braggart that he was, he would tell the story of the Indian skulls nailed to the gate and if an Indian wanted to know what that story was, they were welcome to come and an he would happily show them.

(retold from History of Victor Valley – Lyman)

Keeler to Mojave by Stage

Book Review: 101 moments in Eastern Sierra History
by Dave Babb

“In the 1890s, Mr. W.K. Miller established a six horse stage line between Keeler, on the northeast shore of Owens Lake, and Mojave.

The stage left Keeler and Mojave every other day at noon. In those days the trip took nearly 24 hours of continuous dusty travel through cactus and sand, and around hummocks.

The coach was that typical Concorde carriage of the day, square and rather high. It had a door on each side, and multiple layers of leather straps served as springs.

Inside,  two seats face each other and eight people could be seated. A ninth could write on top with the driver and kids could sit on their parents laps. The fare was $10 per person.

The first leg of the trap, from Keeler to Olancha, was the roughest part of all — taking up to six hours. After a change of horses, which took about five minutes,  Haiwee could be reached in another three hours.

They changed horses eight times during the trip, and had to average about 5 mph to make a few Mojave by noon.  Some 60 horses were kept in reserve to keep the stage rolling in on time.

Passengers carried their own food and water, and comfort stops were made upon request — behind the nearest bush at the back of the stage.”

Dave Babb first came to the eastern Sierra in 1952, at the age of 13 for a two-week camping and hiking trip along the John Muir Trail.   after completing his education receiving BS and MS degrees in wildlife biology he returned to Bishop with his wife and their three children.

He has authored or co-authored nearly two dozen publications on the history and natural resources of the Inyo-Mono region and written more than 170 articles on Eastern Sierra wildlife.

This is a great little book to own, entertaining and informative.
You may be able to find it here.

101 moments in Eastern Sierra History
by Dave Babb
Published by Community Printing
ISBN 10: 0912494395 ISBN 13: 9780912494395