What ever happened to Willie Boy.....


The true story of Willie Boy, as I heard from the Indians in my family

Willie boy's Grave Marker in White WaterWhen I was a kid my Uncle Leroy, part Paiute Indian, Part Mexican, part white, told us the story of Willie Boy.

Supposedly an uncle of his and how he led the Sheriff and his pose From Palm Canyon south of Palm Springs, up through White Water and up into the Ruby Mt area....Today you can see thousands of High Powered Wind Mills scattered through the same area.

Who was Willie Boy and is his legend true? Even a movie, "Tell them Willie boy is here" was made in 1969 with Robert Blake playing Willie Boy, and Robert Redford playing the Sheriff, and was based on a book, which I own, called 'A Desert Manhunt'

As to the legend being true, most assuredly.  Did the movie "Tell them Willie boy is here" get it right?  Aside from "Tombstone" being very close to being historically correct, this movie is very close to the actual facts, places, and characters involved in the manhunt.

Willie Boy was a Paiute Indian, uncle to my uncle Leroy Arnize, (Arnesto in Spanish) who in 1909 ran off with his lover after killing her father in self defense.  He found him bent over, beating his girlfriend, named Lola, and when he tried to interfere and stop him, Lola's father went after Willie Boy.  So he had to kill him.  The tribal elders tried to defend Willie but White Man's law took precedent over Indain Law and Sheriff Cooper was dispatched from Riverside to track him down and charge Willie Boy with murder.

Willie and Lola are hunted for several days and were almost caught in White Water when Willie's Horse spooked as a Train went by.  But White Water was dry and they were able to escape under the track trestle and make it into the Hills to the north of White Wate.  Willie Boy had a clear shot of the posse as they advanced up the river bed, so he started taking pot shots at them, trying to kill their horses, hoping to slow them down.  But Willie Boy ends up accidentally shooting one of the bounty hunters as he walks in front of his horse just as Willie shot.  The Sheriff had another Murder charge on his hands..

They manage to evade the bounty hunters for several days until it's obvious that the posse was catching up to them.  So Lola shoots herself in order to slow down the posse's advance, but Sheriff Cooper thinks that Willie Boy has killed her, but doesn't understand why.  The posse is growing restless and most of them take off on their own to hunt Willie down.  But Sheriff Cooper goes off alone to try and kill Willie Boy, before the main posse catches up to him.

As soon as Cooper catches up, he comes under fire from Willie Boy who is dug into a small cave at the top of Ruby Mountain.  Cooper is almost shot several times as he tries to climb up the hill.  In truth, the Sheriff finally manages to make his way up behind Willie and tries to talk him to surrendering.  But Willie Boy wont surrender.  Willie swings around to try to shoot the Sheriff, but Sheriff Cooper Beats him with his shot gun.  When the Sheriff checks Willie Boy's body the Sheriff  discovers that Willie was out of bullets.  The Sherrif pulled Willie Boy's gun out of his pants and discovers that it too is empty. To Cooper it is evident that Willie Boy Forced the Sheriff to kill him, in other words, perhaps the first "suicide by cop".

The Sheriff is actually crestfallen.  He carefully gathers Willie Boy's body, carries him down the slope of Ruby Mt to his horse and the waiting posse..  There are several Tribal leaders with the posse and the Sheriff gives them the body of Willie Boy, who then take Willie's body away and later burn it.

The Bounty hunters are not happy with Sheriff Cooper. They wanted Willie Boy's  body to collect their money they felt they had coming to them.  One of the posse members is reported to have said that the 'People have got see something so they will be sure this murder is dead'.  Sheriff Cooper is reported to have responded.  "Sorry, I dont have any souvenirs for them"

Willy Boy's grave monument is erected at the exact same location where he was shot, died and buried by the tribal leaders and has never been disturbed in any way.  So the next time you are out by White Water, remember, that Willie boy was really out there, causing all sorts of trouble and creating a undying legend.


I don't understand your article.  You refer to the Sheriff as Cooper.  Are you talking about the movie?  There was no Cooper in the manhunt.  My grandfather was Ben de Crevecoeur.  I have never heard from anyone (including a relative of Willie Boy's) that Old Mike was beating Isoleta and that Willie (or rather Billie Boy, which was his real name) had stopped him.  As for the white man's law taking precedent, Old Mike's wife called Ben the next morning. Ben was Constable and a United States special officer at Banning. He was assisted by an old friend, Joe Toutain, Ben’s brother Waldemar and his half-brother John Jost when needed. Ben advised Sheriff Frank Wilson via telegram of the murder of Old Mike and the kidnapping of Isoleta. John ran the Blue Front Livery Stable so Ben arranged for a wagon. Ben, Waldemar, Joe Toutain and John Jost went to the Gilman Ranch. Jim and Martha Gilman gave the men coffee and told them that Willie Boy had taken a Winchester .30-30 rifle and 15-20 cartridges. Because nothing else was taken, it was assumed that Willie Boy and Isoleta were on foot and would probably head for one of the reservations. 

Ben did not shot Willie either.  Willie shot himself just as the ambushed posse left.  Charlie Reche, who had been wounded in the ambush believed that Willie had not intended to shoot him since he had been shooting as the horses and he also believed that Willie shot himself because he would not have faired well after shooting a white law man.  

Thank you.
Zoe de Crevecoeur-Erickson

I have the young lady's name to be Carolato, Isoleta and Lola...spelling may not be exact. Which is true....so many different stories it is hard to know what to believe...I also read she was beaten before being shot...Those bruises could have come from the hard trip across the mountain especially if she fell alot. The on thing I can say is that this was a great tragedy for all concerned.

Right on, Zoe... over the years I have read your grandfather's interview, as well as studied the report Indian Agent Claire True submitted to Washington DC of the incident, and Riverside Sheriff Fred Wilson's report. I also interviewed Maynard Swarthout, the son of Al Swarthout, who knew of of the hunt for Willie-boy and the cause of it. I get tired of folks trying to change the facts and make a fairy tale out of it, and to romance it. Facts are more exciting then legends.

A lot of the information i use for my stories is from my extremely large family and their recollections of events and other sources i locate....The story of WILLIE BOY or Billy boy comes from my talks with my dad and most recently my uncle Le Roy who says his dad was in the chase as an indain scout....Families memories fade with time, and my uncle is 82.

 I welcome your correction as it adds to the story....perhaps you have a different view altogether....i would enjoy reading it and comparing....thanks for your contibution to the IE.  theghostpainter

Do you know the GPS coordinates for the plaque ??? Is it somewhere that one might be able to hike to ??





Coordinates; GPS: N 34 degrees 17.497 W 116 degrees 32.194

To reach the gravesite take I-10 to SR-62 to Yucca Valley, left on Old Woman Springs Road through Flamingo Heights. Just past the sign marking the town of Landers turn left on New Dixie Mine Road (State Route 247). This dirt road takes you approximately 6.5 miles to a fence which marks the wilderness area prohibiting motorized traffic. It is a 2.5 mile relatively level walk to the gravesite.

You can also follow the basin of White Water Creek from the 10 freeway back into the Hills on a 15 mile very hot, dusty trail but there are no signs or markers telling you where you are. It is the same route the Posse took back to Banning.

Remember that the plaque is not a gravesite - it is merely the speculative site of where WB was during the shoot-out, although I have my doubts even about that. The story has always been that WB was on top of Ruby Mountain shooting down at his pursuers, but the site of the marker is two mountains, and 5 crow-flying miles, away from Ruby Mountain. There really is no properly informed disagreement that WB did not kill himself [Indians are not into suicide], but instead escaped to 29 Palms, got provisions, and went on to Nevada, where he died many years later. The "body" seen in the various pix is far too stout to be that of the athletic runner that WB was. If it had been him, they would have shown the face, as with all "brave" trophy hunters' pictures! The heft of the body is not explained by it having been in the desert for weeks, because coyotes would have devoured it, and the belt would not have expanded with a bloating belly. The pursuing cops did not want to concede that they could not catch one young brave, so they manufactured the story of his killing himself - there is nothing new about police, or long ago just as now, manufacturing "facts."

If you head North from Yucca Valley on Highway 247 you will cross The Pipes Canyon Road...it was somewhere in this canyon that Carlota was killed. If you have a "Southern California Atlas & Gazetteer" you can see just north of The Pipes and off to the West of 247 the words, "Ruby Mountain." The plaque is out there....I have seen it, but I can;t remember the dirt roads we took to find it. (I was a guest of Jim Sandos who wrote the book, "The Hunt for Willie Boy," and he knew where it was.

Because the plaque's site constitues a "Native" burial site, they have blocked the road a few miles before the plaque site; so you have to get out and walk in. There must be locals who can point you to the site.

This comment has been moved here: Willie Boy

I have been there many times... We have cabin in johnson valley.13 mile motorcycle ride from our place you can hike to it no problem... sorry no gps location...


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