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

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.

It sounds like the indians were smokin that pipe a bit too much!

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 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.

I heard Willie boy escaped the posse and actually died near Las Vegas in the 20's, I really hope that's the truth, as the injusticies done to him still continue to be done to others today to further careers on the bodies of innocents.

It's easy 100 years later to judge the career building of others but let's face afew facts:
He did kill Mike
He did run off with Mike's daughter to escape justice.
He did shoot at a posse and kill their horses and one member of the posse.
He possibly killed the girl
If he did kill himself it adds to the saleability of his story.
So I doubt he was an innocent. He obviously did not care who he hurt as long as he took what he wanted.

If we can't tell the story of others without being judged then let's just stop teaching history because every teacher of history (including my son) makes a career that way.
as for injustices those so often in the telling or the eye of the beholder. Do the victims feel an injustice was done to the perpetrator or to their loved ones?

Willie Boy returned just hours after Carlota had been shot and spotted the posse in the Pipes. Unaware that Carlota was dead, he tried to protect her by leading the posse away, north into Ruby Mountain.

There, he pinned them down in an ambush from a rock pile. Firing away, Willie Boy killed three horses and wounded another. Two bullets lodged in one deputy's hip and thigh.

In an exchange of shouting between gunfire, the lawmen accused Willie Boy of brutally murdering Carlota because she had slowed his flight.

Then there was nothing but silence.

When the moon rose, the five posse members hoisted the wounded deputy into the saddle of the surviving horse and started back to Banning for a doctor. But before they got very far, they heard one last shot in the night.

Distraught over Carlota's death and wanting to join her in the afterlife, Willie Boy had taken off his shoe, put the rifle barrel against his chest and squeezed the trigger with his toe. The weary lawmen, hearing the shot, suspected he had killed himself but didn't go back to find out.
The press refused to believe Willie Boy was dead or to let a good story die. Hoping to raise circulation with white fears of a reckless Indian still on the loose, reporters trumped up rumors of a presidential assassination plot.
The timing was perfect. President William Howard Taft was scheduled to arrive in San Bernardino and Riverside counties as part of a national trip to buoy his presidential image.

Taft's visit--along with the fact that his nickname was Billie Boy, an eerie echo of the young Indian's--spurred men to form a larger posse to find either Willie Boy or his body
On Oct. 15, eight days after Willie Boy's death and three days after Taft's train rolled out of Riverside without incident, the posse found Willie Boy's badly decomposed body at the ambush site on Ruby Mountain. They burned his body on the rocks where it lay.

Sorry guys, the Sheriff at the time of this incident was Frank P. Wilson, Riverside County's fourth Sheriff, who served from 1907-1923.

Reference the comment about Sheriff Wilson, it can be verified by going to www.riversidesheriff.org and clicking on the "History" section under Departmental Information. 

I drove to Willie Boy's gravesite in January 2009 and didn't encounter any barriers on either route in or out. Info on my visit can be read here: http://ronslog.typepad.com/ronslog/2009/01/willie-boy.html.

How do you know that Willie Boy returned a few hours after her body was found?  Where had he gone.  The posse had tracked them to the Pipes the night before her body was found.  He did not return to the area for 7 days when he ambushed Reche's posse.  Did he expect Carlota to survive that long with only a few provisions and a canteen of water, which was empty when they found her body?

His body was not that badly decomposed.  That is one of the reason's I don't think that Willie Boy was killed.  However, I have other reason's as to why I think he was.  I have decided that we will never know for sure. 

My uncle Leroy Arnize and my Great uncle Henry Arnize were well aware of whar was happening in the Willie Boy Chase. It was one of the really big news events of the day that was followed by the press people on site, but even more so since my Uncle Henry was also a volunteer but was not picked for the possee because of his Indian ties. The entire family changed there name from Arnesto to Arnize and through several marriages became realtives of ours. Both of them told me that Willie Boy was killed by the Possee. Not just the Sherriff. So thats where I come from. theghostpainter

Of course, Willie Boy is not buried there, because he escaped and lived elsewhere for many years. But the site from the New Dixie Mine Road [have never found the "mine"] is through wilderness area and one has to pass a barrier to get there now. I am wondering about the road in the ravine below it, which heads off to the left, which is seemingly where the posse was - how do you get in to that road? I came in that way many years ago, but I can't recall how I got there.

To those interested in Willie Boy - I would encourage my friends here to take a broader view of the acts of 25 september 1909. eThe whole Willie Boy incident is treated by white people as some sort of detective case instead of a culture clash. No one mentions the fact that Swift Fox or Willie Boy was an Indians. He danced the "Ghost Dance" dance with Wokova a Paiute. who had a vision of the meeting of the alive and dead Indians coming together. The return of the Buffalo. Swift Fox/ Willie Boy believed in the after life. Nothing is mention of the desperate plight of the Indians. The genocide of the Indians like "Wounded Knee". The total disregard of our native brothers but the US government.

The Indians Lost the War but in their losing they find Pride. The whites Won the War but in their winning they find Shame.

Geronimo was held as prisoner of War of 22 years at Fort Still Ok. Not one confederate was ever held as a prisoner of war. Why one law for the Indians another for the whites.

This will be further studied beginning at the HiDesert Playhouse on September 18 till October 3 in the Production of Swift Fox the Conflicting stories of Willie Boy. Please join us there will be a discussion every night after the performance.

yours sincerely,

Ron House

Please see my comments on this sight

Ron House

please see my comments on this sight

best regards,

ron house hidesert playhouse

please see my comments on this sight

best regards,

ron house

hidesert playhouse

I join Ron in suggesting that those interested in this subject attend the fine production Ron is putting on in Joshua Tree. I attended a public reading of the script, largely [exclusively?] written by Ron, based on Burgess/Sandoz as well as the racist versions, and the play will be incredible, and informative. [Indeed, everything Ron produces/directs/scripts is superb.]

Also, on September 26, there will be a symposium on the subject at the Gilman Ranch, which is where Willie Boy and Mike Boniface were working when this all commenced.

"He did run off with Mike's daughter to escape justice."
Actually, he probably ran off with her because he loved her, which was his plan before Mike intervened.
"He did shoot at a posse and kill their horses and one member of the posse."
Uh, they were shooting at him! I'd shoot back too.
"He possibly killed the girl."
He did no such thing. The reactionary Indian tracker Hyde killed her and then tried to pin it on Willie Boy.
"If he did kill himself...."
Not a chance. Utterly inconsistent with his culture. He moved on to Nevada and lived for decades.
"So I doubt he was an innocent. He obviously did not care who he hurt as long as he took what he wanted."
Ditto the racist, reactionary posse.

I wish I was able to be there and I am sure that my now deceased uncles would have liked to see there version presented....

I just wrote about the story and I think I have found more information and truths about Willie Boy than I ever thought.

His story is truly respresentitive of the plight of the indains carried down from the Spannish Missionaries. If more people knew the truth about how the Spannish treated the indains, the white mans current modern day love affair with the missions would change.

At least I hope it would change. I know that there are always those out there that think they are superior to any other race. That lack of understanding and ignorance is a shame.


He killed 2 people, even indians understood that. None of them diserved that, even white people, understand that.So under either culture, he was, and is a killer so get over it. A killer is a killer...................

Do you have any more info about the symposium at Gilman Ranch (cost, time, who's organizing it)? There's nothing about it on the Gilman Ranch website.

Only Mike Boniface was killed in the incident. It was the "yellow press" reporters who sensationalized Willie into being a drunken serial murder and into Carlota being shot in the breast by Willie Boy after a savage drunken rage rape and beating. The possie member was not killed, just wounded badly and survied much to everyone's suprise and relief. Carlota was shot from behind from a distance of approx 100 feet. She was wearing Willy Boy's jacket and it is generally concluded that she was mistakenly shot by John Hyde, who thought she was Willy Boy from that distance of viewing.

The play being put on in Joshua Tree, Hi-Desert Cultural Center, on a thoughtful and powerful script written by Ron House, "Swift Fox," is a tour de force that should be seen by all. It closes October 4, 2009.

It was yesterday [9/26/09]. There is a DVD of the presentations [two scholars; two descendants of people involved; heated and lively discussion] available; those interested should contact Gilman Ranch for details.

Shot by Hyde, and then covered up by the rest of law enforcement on scene, with blame shifted to Willie Boy, to enable Ben to obtain a permanent appointment [he got it] and to enable Wilson's re-election [he was]. Law enforcement practices have not changed much in the past 100 years.


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