Category Archives: Profiles & Biographies

Shorty’s Grubstake

Shorty Harris in Ballarat

Shorty Harris in Ballarat

Once I asked Shorty Harris how he obtained his grubstakes. “Grubstakes,” he answered, “like gold, are where you find them. Once I was broke in Pioche, Nev., and couldn’t find a grubstake anywhere. Somebody told me that a woman on a ranch a few miles out wanted a man for a few days’ work. I hoofed it out under a broiling sun, but when I got there, the lady said she had no job. I reckon she saw my disappointment and when her cat came up and began to mew, she told me the cat had an even dozen kittens and she would give me a dollar if I would take ’em down the road and kill ’em.

“‘It’s a deal,’ I said. She got ’em in a sack and I started back to town. I intended to lug ’em a few miles away and turn ’em loose, because I haven’t got the heart to kill anything.

“A dozen kittens makes quite a load and I had to sit down pretty often to rest. A fellow in a two-horse wagon came along and offered me a ride. I picked up the sack and climbed in.

“‘Cats, eh?’ the fellow said. ‘They ought to bring a good price. I was in Colorado once. Rats and mice were taking the town. I had a cat.  She would have a litter every three months. I had no trouble selling them cats for ten dollars apiece. Beat a gold mine.’

“There were plenty rats in Pioche and that sack of kittens went like hotcakes. One fellow didn’t have any money and offered me a goat. I knew a fellow who wanted a goat. He lived on the same lot as I did. Name was Pete Swain.

“Pete was all lit up when I offered him the goat for fifty dollars. He peeled the money off his roll and took the goat into his shack. A few days later Pete came to his door and called me over and shoved a fifty dollar note into my hands. ‘I just wanted you to see what that goat’s doing,’ he said.

“I looked inside. The goat was pulling the cork out of a bottle of liquor with his teeth.

“‘That goat’s drunk as a boiled owl,’ Pete said. ‘If I ever needed any proof that there’s something in this idea of the transmigration of souls, that goat gives it. He’s Jimmy, my old sidekick, who, I figgered was dead and buried.’

“‘Now listen,’ I said. ‘Do you mean to tell me you actually believe that goat is your old pal, whom you drank with and played with and saw buried with your own eyes, right up there on the hill?’

“‘Exactly,’ Pete shouted, and he peeled off another fifty and gave it to me. So, you see, a grubstake, like gold, is where you find it.”

Shorty Harris

from:
Loafing Along Death Valley Trails
A Personal Narrative of People and Places
Author: William Caruthers

Dorsey, the Dog Mail Carrier

During the great silver boom in the Calicos, a small community grew up around the Bismarck mine in the next canyon east of Calico camp. Together with the miners of the Garfield, Odessa, Occidental and other mines, there were perhaps 40 persons in the area, which was known as East Calico.

While Calico was less than a mile away, by airline, the direct trail was steep and rugged and the road roundabout. The government did not consider the population sufficient for a post office, and the miners didn’t care to hike into Calico for their mail. So they contributed to a fund to pay a boy named Dave Nichols to bring the mail over, by burro, from the mother camp. But Dave found a better job and no one else wanted to be mail man.

Calico ghost town photo

Calico 1884

About that time a man named Stacy, brother of the Stacy who was postmaster at Calico (their first names have variously been given as James, William, Everett and Alwin) opened a store at Bismark. The Stacys had a dog named Dorsey, a big Scotch collie who had come to them for shelter one stormy night. The Bismarck Stacy took the collie’ with him to East Calico.

The true story of Dorsey the Dog Mail Carrier

Dorsey, the Dog Mail Carrier

But Dorsey’s affections were divided, and after a few days at Bismarck, he ran away back to Calico. Postmaster Stacy attached a note to his neck, switched him and sent him back to Bismarck. After a few such runaways, Postmaster Stacy conceived the notion of tying a sack with newspapers in it on Dorsey’s back when he sent him home. Dorsey delivered them successfully, and soon little saddlepacks labeled “U. S. Mail” were made and attached to the dog’s back and a regular mail service set up between the two camps on a thrice-weekly schedule.

Dorsey soon became one of Calico’s most famous characters, but success did not go to his head.

Though he was not a civil service employee and his mail route entirely unofficial, he was faithful in the completion of his appointed rounds. Though the miners enjoyed attempting to lead him astray or tamper with the mail, he managed to elude them, then resume his course.

There is only one instance of possible misuse of his office on record. One Christmas Herman Mellen was living in a cave near Bismarck and his mother sent him a box of candy and sweets. Stacy had tied this box under Dorsey’s neck, and when he arrived at Bismarck the bottom was out and the contents missing. Whether temptation had proven too strong, the goodies had been hijacked or whether the package had broken open, allowing the contents to spill out was never determined.

The famous dog mail carrier continued his route for two years, until a dip in the boom caused the mines of East Calico to close and mail service became unnecessary. When the Stacys left Calico, they gave Dorsey to John S. Doe, wealthy San Francisco man interested in Calico mines, and Dorsey spent the rest of his life in comfort and ease in the Bay City.

Calico Ghost Town

Calico Mining History

Calico Print- Established 1882 by Vincent & Overshiner
Published at Calico Silver Camp
San Bernardino County, California
EDITED BY HAROLD AND LUCILE WEIGHT
Copyright by THE CALICO PRESS

 

The Walters Family

The Walters family is an important part of Hesperia history.  Starting with George Francis Walters, who moved his family from Illinois to California because his wife, Harriet C Finigan Walters had asthma.

Hesperia Hotel

The family first settled in the Riverside area where he went to work for the Santa Fe Railroad. According to Bolton Minister, son of George O Walters Minister, George was offered a transfer to Hesperia to manage the Hesperia Hotel.

The Walters family consisted of George and his wife Harriet, and their children, in birth order, Georgia Henry had to Walters Minister-Henry, Verial  W.  Walters Ormond and Roy Edward Walters.

According to Mr. Minister, both the daughters went to work in the hotel. They were later joined by Laura McClanahan who in 1921 transferred from the Goodsprings Hotel,   in Goodsprings,  Nevada.

Roy & Laura Walters

Verial  was postmistress, until she moved away when she got married, and then her position was given to her brother Roy.

Roy ended up marrying Laura McClanahan and having a daughter, Geraldine Henrietta Walters.  Geraldine married first, Yeager  and second Schwartz.

According to Mr. Minister,  George Francis Walters built the Walters house in the Walters general store according to Geraldine, her grandmother Harriet was the midwife in the delivery of 32 Hesperia babies.

When George passed away the store was handled over to Roy, who operated it for many years.

I do not know where George and area Walters or Barry. However, I do know that Roy and Laura are buried at the cemetery in Victorville.

With the passing of time, their store had deteriorated and will eventually disappear from Hesperia. As eventually, the Walters name will.

Hesperia California
Pre 1950

Then and Now

by Mary Ann Creason Dolan Rhode

Lost Mines. The Breyfogle and Others

The most famous lost mine in the Death Valley area is the Lost Breyfogle. There are many versions of the legend, but all agree that somewhere in the bowels of those rugged mountains is a colossal mass of gold, which Jacob Breyfogle found and lost.

Mesquite Flats Sand Dunes - Death Valley

Mesquite Flats Sand Dunes – Death Valley

Jacob Breyfogle was a prospector who roamed the country around Pioche and Austin, Nevada, with infrequent excursions into the Death Valley area. He traveled alone.

Indian George, Hungry Bill, and Panamint Tom saw Breyfogle several times in the country around Stovepipe Wells, but they could never trace him to his claim. When followed, George said, Breyfogle would step off the trail and completely disappear. Once George told me about trailing him into the Funeral Range. He pointed to the bare mountain. “Him there, me see. Pretty quick—” He paused, puckered his lips. “Whoop—no see.”

Breyfogle left a crude map of his course. All lost mines must have a map. Conspicuous on this map are the Death Valley Buttes which are landmarks. Because he was seen so much here, it was assumed that his operations were in the low foothills. I have seen a rough copy of this map made from the original in possession of “Wildrose” Frank Kennedy’s squaw, Lizzie.

Breyfogle presumably coming from his mine, was accosted near Stovepipe Wells by Panamint Tom, Hungry Bill, and a young buck related to them, known as Johnny. Hungry Bill, from habit, begged for food. Breyfogle refused, explaining that he had but a morsel and several hard days’ journey before him. On his burro he had a small sack of ore. When Breyfogle left, Hungry Bill said, “Him no good.”

Incited by Hungry Bill and possible loot, the Indians followed Breyfogle for three or four days across the range. Hungry Bill stopped en route, sent the younger Indians ahead. At Stump Springs east of Shoshone, Breyfogle was eating his dinner when the Indians sneaked out of the brush and scalped him, took what they wished of his possessions and left him for dead.

Ash Meadows Charlie, a chief of the Indians in that area confided to Herman Jones that he had witnessed this assault. This happened on the Yundt Ranch, or as it is better known, the Manse Ranch. Yundt and Aaron Winters accidentally came upon Breyfogle unconscious on the ground. The scalp wound was fly-blown. They had a mule team and light wagon and hurried to San Bernardino with the wounded man. The ore, a chocolate quartz, was thrown into the wagon.

Resting Springs Ranch - Old Spanish Trail, Mormon Road

Resting Springs

“I saw some of it at Phi Lee’s home, the Resting Spring Ranch,” Shorty Harris said. “It was the richest ore I ever saw. Fifty pounds yielded nearly $6000.”

Breyfogle recovered, but thereafter was regarded as slightly “off.” He returned to Austin, Nevada, and the story followed.

Wildrose (Frank) Kennedy, an experienced mining man obtained a copy of Breyfogle’s map and combed the country around the buttes in an effort to locate the mine. Kennedy had the aid of the Indians and was able to obtain, through his squaw Lizzie, such information as Indians had about the going and coming of the elusive Breyfogle.

“Some believe the ore came from around Daylight Springs,” Shorty said, “but old Lizzie’s map had no mark to indicate Daylight Springs. But it does show the buttes and the only buttes in Death Valley are those above Stovepipe Wells.

“Kennedy interested Henry E. Findley, an old time Colorado sheriff and Clarence Nyman, for years a prospector for Coleman and Smith (the Pacific Borax Company). They induced Mat Cullen, a rich Salt Lake mining man, to leave his business and come out. They made three trips into the valley, looking for that gold. It’s there somewhere.”

Francis Marion "Borax" Smith

Francis Marion “Borax” Smith

At Austin, Breyfogle was outfitted several times to relocate the property, but when he reached the lower elevation of the valley, he seemed to suffer some aberration which would end the trip. His last grubstaker was not so considerate. He told Breyfogle that if he didn’t find the mine promptly he’d make a sieve of him and was about to do it when a companion named Atchison intervened and saved his life. Shortly afterward, Breyfogle died from the old wound.

Indian George, repeating a story told him by Panamint Tom, once told me that Tom had traced Breyfogle to the mine and after Breyfogle’s death went back and secured some of the ore. Tom guarded his secret. He covered the opening with stone and leaving, walked backwards, obliterating his tracks with a greasewood brush. Later when Tom returned prepared to get the gold he found that a cloudburst had filled the canyon with boulders, gravel and silt, removing every landmark and Breyfogle’s mine was lost again.

“Some day maybe,” George said, “big rain come and wash um out.”

Among the freighters of the early days was John Delameter who believed the Breyfogle was in the lower Panamint. Delameter operated a 20 mule team freighting service between Daggett and points in both Death Valley and Panamint Valley. He told me that he found Breyfogle down in the road about twenty-eight miles south of Ballarat with a wound in his leg. Breyfogle had come into the Panamint from Pioche, Nevada, and said he had been attacked by Indians, his horses stolen, while working on his claim which he located merely with a gesture toward the mountains.

Subsequently Delameter made several vain efforts to locate the property, but like most lost mines it continues to be lost. But for years it was good bait for a grubstake and served both the convincing liar and the honest prospector.

Nearly all old timers had a version of the Lost Breyfogle differing in details but all agreeing on the chocolate quartz and its richness.

That Breyfogle really lost a valuable mine there can be little doubt, but since he is authentically traced from the northern end of Death Valley to the southern, and since the chocolate quartz is found in many places of that area, one who cares to look for it must cover a large territory.

From: Chapter XXII
Lost Mines. The Breyfogle and Others
Loafing Along Death Valley Trails by William Caruthers

 

The “Battle” of Wingate Pass

from; Death Valley Historic Resource Study
A History of Mining – Volume I
Linda W. Greene

Probably the most publicized event in the Wingate Pass area concerns one of Death Valley Scotty‘s most infamous hoaxes, referred to as the “Battle” of Wingate Pass. Conceived as a last-ditch effort to discourage further investigations by a mining engineer who was insisting on actually seeing Scotty’s bonanza gold mine before recommending that his employers invest any money in it, the attack turned out to have almost fatal consequences for one of Scotty’s brothers, put Scott himself in and out of jail several times during the ensuing months, and ultimately, six years after the incident, resulted in his confessing in a Los Angeles courtroom to long-term and full-scale fraud and deceit. (The most concise version of this tale appears in Hank Johnston, Death Valley Scotty: “Fastest Con in the West” and serves as the basis for the following account.)

photo of the con man, Death Valley Scotty

Death Valley Scotty

The escapade had its beginnings in February 1906 when a New England mining promoter, A.Y. Pearl, whom Scott had met in New York, interested some bankers and businessmen in investing in Scott’s supposedly rich mining properties in Death Valley. Before committing any money, however, the Easterners insisted that Daniel E. Owen, a respected Boston mining engineer who happened to be in Nevada at this time, personally inspect the property and give his opinion of its worth.

Arrangements were accordingly made with all the parties involved, and by February 1906 Owen, Pearl, and Scott were in Daggett preparing for the journey into Death Valley. Other members of the expedition were: Albert M. Johnson, president of the National Life Insurance Company of Chicago (soon to become Scotty’s long-term benefactor), who had recently arrived from the East and, intrigued by the stories of Scotty’s untold wealth, asked to accompany the party; Bill and Warner Scott, brothers of Death Valley Scotty; Bill Keys, a half-breed Cherokee Indian who had prospected with Scott in the Death Valley region for several years, who had found the Desert Hound Mine in the southern Black Mountains, and who several years later, after the “ambush” incident, moved to a ranch in what is now Joshua Tree National Monument [park]; A.W. DeLyle St. Clair, a Los Angeles miner; and Jack Brody, a local desert character.

The entire trip, if carried out as planned, had the potential of proving extremely embarrassing for Scott, who, after all, did not have a mine to show in order to consummate this lucrative transaction. Desperate for a solution, he turned to his friend Billy Keys and persuaded him to let him show Owen the Desert Hound instead. Although not as large as Scott had reported his bonanza to be, at least the Hound was there on the ground for Owen to see. Papers of agreement were drawn up to the effect that Scott and Keys would split the proceeds from the mine sale.

Later, fearful that Owen would reject this mine as being too small a producer to warrant investment by his employers, Scott devised a scheme that he hoped might succeed in scaring Owen away from the area and dampening his enthusiasm for penetrating into the Death Valley region as far as the mine. A shootout would be staged and hopefully be authentic enough to disrupt Owen’s intended mission.

Starting out on 23 February 1906 with two wagons fully loaded with provisions, extra animal feed and fresh water, and a string of extra mules and horses, plus a liberal supply of whiskey, the party journeyed on to camp the next evening at Granite Wells. On Sunday, 25 February, the caravan pushed on twenty-six miles toward Lone Willow Spring, site of their next camp. In the morning Scott directed his brother Bill to stay at the spring with the extra animals and told Bill Keys and Jack Brody to proceed on ahead and look for any danger. After giving these two a reasonable head start, the rest of the party began the trek toward Wingate Pass and, surmounting that obstacle, proceeded on down the wash into the south end of Death Valley. Toward dusk that evening, as the party was trying to decide where to camp, shots were heard and a lone rider appeared from the north. He turned out to be an ex-deputy sheriff from Goldfield, Nevada, who excitedly reported that he had just been fired on from ambush and his pack train stampeded.

Receiving Scott’s assurances that he could fight off any outlaws, the party warily resumed its journey. A little further up the road beyond Dry Lake, near the site of the earlier shooting, Scotty suddenly drew his rifle and fired two shots. Startled, the mules pulling Warner Scott and Daniel Owen in the lead wagon began to buck, the force tipping Owen over backwards; a sudden shot from behind a stone breastwork on a cliff to the south hit Warner in the groin. It was at this point that Scotty made the fatal blunder that, in the recalling, forced Owen to doubt the authenticity of the ambush. Upon realizing that his brother had been seriously wounded, Scotty, nonplussed, galloped away toward the “ambushers” yelling at them to stop shooting.

Establishing camp quickly, an attempt was made to close Warner’s wounds. In the morning the party headed the wagons quickly back toward Bill Scott and Lone Willow Spring, and eventually toward Daggett, leaving their provisions behind by the side of the road. Keys and Brody never did rejoin the group. Reaching Daggett on 1 March, the group put Warner on a train for Los Angeles; Scotty hurriedly took off for Seattle where he was about to star in a play, “Scotty, King of the Desert Mine.” Johnson left immediately for Chicago and, due to some fast legal work by his lawyer, was not involved in any of the ensuing litigations.

Bill Keys Desert Queen Ranch

Bill Keys

The incident struck the fancy of Los Angeles newspapermen, who, however, were hard put to locate the principals involved or determine the true facts of the case. Pearl circulated a good story of fighting off four outlaws, but Owen, disaffirming this tale, and evidently convinced that Scott had meant to kill him, reported the true facts to the San Bernardino County sheriff and later to the press. Two weeks later warrants were issued for the arrest of Walter Scott, Bill Keys, and Jack Brody on charges of assault with a deadly weapon. In an attempt to determine the identify of the party’s attackers, the San Bernardino County sheriff, John Ralphs, and an undersheriff entered the Death Valley country to find Keys and Brody. Although these two managed to elude the law this time, the provisions that had been hurriedly left at the scene of the attack by the Scott party were found at Scotty’s Camp Holdout; other incriminating evidence took the form of a statement by Jack Hartigan, the Nevada lawman who had also been shot at, that he had backtracked and seen Keys running from the scene after Scott’s plea to stop shooting.

Publicity given to Scotty and the incident was becoming unfavorable, many people now deciding it was time to show Scotty up for the fraud and liar he was believed to be Scotty, working in his play out of town while loudly condemning these attacks on his character and reputation, continued to propogate the story of a bona fide attack by outlaws who were after his life and his valuable claims. Sarcastic poems and invective cartoons began to appear in the Los Angeles Evening News his primary accuser, which had earlier asked in an editorial, “What is the truth about this desert freak? He has ceased to be a joke. People are getting shot and action must be taken. . . . ” [235]

In the midst of all this attendant publicity that for a while brought full houses to his play, Scotty was arrested around 24 March by order of the San Bernardino sheriff; he was released later that night on a writ of habeas corpus, his bail of $500 having been raised by Walter Campbell of the Grand Opera House. Seemingly true to the profile presented in the News commenting that “He [Scott] occupies the cheapest room in the Hotel Portland, drinks nickel beer, and leaves no tips!,” [236] after release from jail this time Scotty asked the crowd in attendance “to have a drink. Every body had visions of wine and popping of corks, but Scotty announced it was a case of steam beer or nothing.” [237]

Scotty was arrested again two days later and again released on bail, and then on 7 April 1906 Scott pleaded not guilty to two counts of assault with a deadly weapon. Out again on $2,000 bail, more bad luck was awaiting him in the form of a $152,000 damage suit filed by his brother Warner, now out of the hospital, in Los Angeles Superior Court against Walter and Bill Scott, Bill Keys, A.Y. Pearl, and a “John Doe.” Three days later Keys was arrested at Ballarat, and, also pleading not guilty to the two charges against him, was summarily slapped in jail. Luckily for Scotty, Keys kept silent on the whole matter.

On 13 April, for the fourth time in under three weeks, Scotty was arrested; this time A.Y. Pearl and Bill Scott were also taken into custody. All ended up in the San Bernardino County jail. Out again through habeas corpus proceedings the next day, Scott rejoined his acting troupe. Then, on 27 April, only four days before the preliminary hearing on the case was to start, all charges were dismissed by the San Bernardino County Justice at the request of the District Attorney. To the disappointment of many of Scott’s detractors, but true to the luck that seemed to always rescue him from tight places, a jurisdictional problem had arisen over the fact that the scene of the shooting was actually in Inyo County, which alone had jurisdiction to prosecute the case. Because Inyo County authorities seemed loathe to proceed, all prisoners were released from custody and the final act of the long, drawn-out affair seemed over.

One newspaper article published soon after Scotty’s death (besides stating erroneously that one of the “outlaws” in the fracas had been Bill Scott) charged that Scotty himself moved the surveyor’s post marking the Inyo-San Bernardino County line. [238] This seems to be borne out by Scotty’s own version of the whole affair, which of course pursues the theory that outlaws were trying to get title to his “claims” by permanently removing him from the scene. After several supposed attempts on his life (this most recent encounter not the only one that had taken place in Wingate Pass) from which he always recovered.

Our gang, including my brother Warner, who was working for me and spying for the other crowd, came into Death Valley through San Bernardino County. The two ‘frictions’ met in Wingate Pass. They thought we was the Apache gang. Somebody began to shoot.

I said to Johnson, ‘Get back where the bullets are thickest.’ That was in the ammunition wagon.

I knew something was wrong. When I hollered, ‘Quit shooting!’ things quieted down. The other gang disappeared. We look around and find Warner has been shot in the leg. The same bullet has gone around and lodged in his shoulder. Johnson took eighteen stitches in it. We hauled Warner a hundred miles to a doctor. Had him in a buckboard. Made it in ten hours.

At this time I had a show troop. While it’s playing in San Francisco, I am arrested. I get out on a two-thousand-dollar bond.

Later I was re-arrested, and this time the bond is five thousand, but between the two arrests, I’ve had time to get things fixed. You remember, the fight took place in San Bernardino County, and i don’t want to be tried there.

I decide I’ll move the county boundary monument. When I was a boy, I’d been roustabout for the crew. that surveyed that part of the country, so I know it like a book. I go back and move the pile of rock six miles over into San Bernardino County. That puts the shooting into Inyo County.

The trial starts in San Bernardino. I say, ‘If you investigate, I think you’ll find this affair occurred in Inyo and that this court has no jurisdiction.’ The trial stopped. They investigated. Sure enough, they found the boundary marker. According to the way the line ran, the battle occurred over the line in Inyo County.

Inyo County wasn’t interested. The case was dismissed. [239]

map of Location of Wingate Pass with county boundary lines.

Location of Wingate Pass with county boundary lines.

The true nature of the whole affair was later revealed by Bill Keys who admitted before his death that he and a companion (possibly the teamster Jack Brody, although according to Keys it was an Indian named Bob Belt) had faked the ambush at Scotty’s behest. The shooting of Warner had been accidental, his partner being too drunk to aim his gun properly.[240]

Warner Scott dropped his damage suit against his brother on condition that he assume the medical bill of over $1,000 owed to a Dr. C.W. Lawton of Los Angeles. Scott agreed and then promptly left the city. Lawton obtained a judgement against Scotty, but the latter proceeded to ignore it, having no tangible assets anyway.

During the next few years, Scott still had some associations with Wingate Pass, a notice being found that in 1908 he interested Al D. Meyers of Goldfield and a couple of associates in a strike made there. Notwithstanding Scott’s earlier famous experience, the men outfitted in Barstow and accompanied him to inspect the property. There is no evidence that they encountered any difficulties, though nothing further was heard of the outcome of the proposition. Bill Keys was also mining for lead ore in Wingate Pass in 1908, in partnership with Death Valley Slim. [241]

Six years after the Wingate Pass incident, however, on 20 June 1912, the past caught up with Walter Scott, and in a rather spectacular trial in a Los Angeles courtroom, Scotty was forced to acknowledge a multitude of sins. In order to secure his release from jail where he had been confined for contempt of court for not paying the doctor’s bill for his brother Warner’s medical care, Scotty was forced to confess to the shams involved in the ambush in Wingate Pass, in the big rolls of money he always carried (which he confessed were “upholstered with $1 bills”), and in the reports concerning the vast amounts of money he was reputed to have received from the Death Valley Scotty Gold Mining and Development Company. He had, he continued, never located a mine or owned one, and was completely at the mercy of mining promoters and schemers who profited from the advertising his various stunts provided for them. Exposed as a fraud and a cheat, Scott was returned to jail pending further investigation by the District Attorney’s office–a long-awaited and seemingly conclusive finale to the strange affair known as the “Battle” of Wingate Pass. [242]

235. Los Angeles Evening News, 19 March 1906, quoted in Johnston, Death Valley Scotty, p. 68.
236. Los Angeles Evening News, no date, quoted in Johnston, Death Valley Scotty, p. 70.
237. Inyo Independent, 30 March 1906.
238. Ibid., 12 February 1954.
239. Eleanor Jordan Houston, Death Valley Scotty Told Me (Louisville: The Franklin Press, 1954), pp. 72-73.
240. Johnston, Death Valley Scotty, pp. 76-77; L. Burr Belden, “The Battle of Wingate Pass,” Westways (November 1956), p. 8.
241. Rhyolite Herald, 10 June, 30 September 1908.
242. Inyo Register, 20 June 1912.

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

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.