Willie Boy; The true story is a spot light on life in the Desert Southwest.




After I wrote the story about Willie Boy and his pursuit it drew a series of criticisms from a couple of family members of the posse. After I called my uncle and other family members who actually lived with the tribes and in the communities where the story took place, I did some more research, and putting their memories together with what history has to say, came up with a unique Inland Empire view with some personal thoughts of my own thrown in to the mix.

The Wild West is the most uniquely American cultural phenomenon. You will find no such other history in any country in the world. The isolation of the area and survival-of-the-fittest conditions of the life of the cowboy, the sometimes bloody blending of cultures and the topography, the near-anarchy lawlessness and countless other elements lend the American West an aura of romance and mystique. Stories of doomed desperados lure us to the screen, or book, like magnets but any shades of gray in them loose our attention. It is nearly impossible to reconstruct truthfully and accurately episodes in the cultural history of the American West once they pass into the realm of lore and legend.

Only a few western personalities such as the Earp's seem to have found their way accurately into historical docudrama's

Such is the case of Willie Boy. The San Bernardino and Riverside counties' bad boy whose pursuit by three posses in the autumn of 1909 came to be regarded as the "West's last famous manhunt."

Lets begin with what we know of Willie Boy. Willie, a 28-year-old of the Chemehuevi tribe and Carlotta, the 16-year-old daughter of William Mike, another Chemehuevi, had run away while living at the Twentynine Palms reservation. But the lovers were caught, brought back and to avoid further contact between his daughter and Willie Boy, William Mike moved his family to Banning where they harvested fruit at the Gilman Ranch. But that didn't stop Willie from seeing Carlotta.

On September 26, 1909, under the cover of night, while on one of these escapades, Willie fatally shot William Mike when he discovered the two lovers making love in here room. Taking Carlotta with him, the two headed towards the Morongo Pass.

The next morning, a white posse having been notified my horse back rider during the night of the crime and two Indian trackers, John Hyde, a Yaqui and Segundo Chino, a Chemehuevi, set out to find the lovers and bring Willie Boy back to justice. But instead of the lovers, some days later the posse found Carlotta's dead body.

 Willie Boy was blamed for her death and immediately was labeled a double murderer. there are many who believe that a deputy shot Carlotta's when he came upon them hiding along the White river near the Santa Fe Tracks. My family members are unsure as to who shot her but my uncle Harod (98) says that it might have been one of the Indian trackers.

In the confusion, Willie Boy was able to escape. Being an excellent long distance runner he consequently was able to get considerably ahead of the first posse A second posse, assembled after Carlotta's dead body was found and taken back to Banning, closed in on Willie Boy near a ravine beneath Ruby Mountain.

Dismounting to check the tracks, the posse members realized that they had walked into the fugitive's ambush. One of Willie Boy's shots hit Charlie Reche. Once night descended, the posse carried back to town the wounded man. While leaving the steep and rocky path, the posse heard another shot echo into the silence.

Later a third posse rode to the ambush location where they found Willie Boy's body. He had shot himself with the last shot the second posse had heard echo as they were descending. (here again history is distorted by time and memories and out right hatred of the Indians at the time) and The members of this last posse piled wood on top of Willie Boy's body and set it on fire.

Today only a bronze plaque at the death location with the all-too-inadequate inscription "Willie Boy 1881 -1909; THE WEST'S LAST FAMOUS MANHUNT" hints of the drama and tragedy that had taken place there.

Willie Boy became the last villain of the West. His murderous deeds were reported elaborately in the press. According to these reports Willie Boy had gotten drunk, stolen a riffle, had shot William Mike in his sleep and then had abducted Carlotta's. The Indian trackers had found all sorts of written signs left by Carlotta's telling the posse that Willie Boy was abusing her, beating her and had even raped her. The last sign she wrote told them that Willie Boy was about to kill her.

Much of this account does not hold together under scrutiny. In 1994 James A. Sandos, a history professor at the University of Redlands and Larry E. Burgess, also a historian with a Ph. D. from Claremont Graduate School who is also the director of the Smiley Public Library in Redlands, published the book "The Hunt for Willie Boy; Indian-Hating & Popular Culture," which examines the story from what some call an ethno-historical perspective.

Whatever the authors' methodology (elaborated on in the book) the conclusions at which they arrive differ considerably from what had been reported in the press. Willie Boy had not been drunk and William Mike's death had occurred during a fight over the gun. More than likely Carlotta had gone with Willie Boy willingly, as the two of them had fled together once already. A bullet from the posse, intended for Willie Boy, killed Carlotta. Most ridiculous of course, are the signs Carlotta had supposedly written since "California Indians did not have a written language." This might be true. My uncle Leroy Lee Arnize of the Thomas MT Indian Tribes, never did learn how to write, but my dad said no way. They all went to school in Anza and then down to Hemet.

Gary Hall, the ghostpainter

Willie Boy story

Huh.... so many tales, let me add another, told by my grandfather. In the 60's two young men stayed the night at our ranch, they where following the long ago route of one of their grandfather. my grandpa had never believed Willie Boy killed himself, and had made several trips to Utah and Arizona in attempt to find proof.
I well remember the young men, one tall the other short, one speaking for the other, who seemed to know little English. I hid in the stairway, scratching out a rough drawing of them sitting at our breakfast table, but it was the words which I remembered as they said Billie was still alive on a reservation in Arizona.
another trip led grandpa to a man, in his 80's who explained the route taken after the old women met him with a cousin who'd died in 29 palms from a snake bite. he had slipped into the victor valley ranch and retrieved his three saddle horses after helping the women place the body.
one of the main things I recall was the metal clips from bib overalls at the grave site, Willie boy had none!
There was more to the story, but this is enough for now.

Willie Boy story

This story was told to me by an old desert man, who has since passed away. But he claimed that Willie Boy died in a VA hospital in Az. He did talk to Willie Boy and this is the story he told. During the escape, Willie Boy was to meet a person with fresh horses on the North Side of the San Bernardino National Forest (Johnson Valley), (there is a placard there today). As the story goes, the posse shot the man with the horses, which was not Willie Boy. To cover up their mistake, they burned the body and called him Willie Boy. There was no mention of the other part of the story.

Re: Willie Boy story

I am trying to find evidence for this version of the story. If you have any info you can share, please contact me at caroline.schwartz@email.ucr.edu

Re: Willie Boy true story

I'm very tired of the endless White bashing, which is likely the TRUE motivation of these researchers. They bring up some good points, but their main goal is to demonize White Americans.

White man bashing

if you lived in an Indian tribe and your family was slaughtered, wiped out, or 'relocated' you'd probably think the white-man were demons too..

I'm as white as the next guy, but you cannot deny what our wonderful ancestors have done.

Re: Willie Boy; The true story is a spot light on life in ...

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

Re: Willie Boy: real site?

I remain confused by the site of the final shoot-out/fraudulently reported suicide. It is always [or generally] referred to as being at Ruby Mountain, but the fact of the matter is that the monument is 4 miles away from Ruby Mountain - one could search around Ruby Mountain until the cows come home and never come near the current site of the monument. Do you have thoughts about whether the site of the monument is really the shoot-out site? If it is, why all the references to Ruby Mountain, which it assuredly is not?

In the ravine below the monument site there is a road coming in from the left - where does that come out? I traveled in that way many, many years ago, but I cannot recall where I met up with it.

Re: Willie Boy; The true story is a spot light on life in ...

Gary, the "Clampants" at Tombstone??? You mean the "Clantons"; the Clampetts were the Beverly Hillbillies!

I think there is no question, relatives liking it or not, that Willie Boy escaped and died many years later, and the cops [already feeling guilty for having killed Carlota] made up a story that the unfortunate person they found and burned up was Willie Boy. The body was in too good a shape for having been dead in the desert elements for so many days, and its face would have been photographed and printed everywhere if it had been Willie Boy.

Ghostpainter's picture

Willie Boy story

Thanks for the correction...I never noticed i put the incorrect name in...

My Uncle Henry Smith who was 2/3 indian and Lived on Thomas Mt Indian reservation as a kid told me about the different Willie Boy stories....As he said, some stories are best left to legend than trying to figure out which is the true story.

theghostpainter

Ghostpainter's picture

Willie Boy

There are so many different stories about Willie Boy and the chase of the Posses that it does make for some interesting reading and story telling by Family members. It seems they all have different opinions as to what really happened, who shot who, who lived where, etc etc.

 Perhaps this is one of those stories where the real and true facts will be left to the families, and the realitives of those who were either there or followed the story as it came to them.

Like many things, the truth is often blurred by the facts. To this day, the family of the Clampants and others involved in the shootings at Tombstone are trying to clear there family names. They even tried using the producers and hsitorians who work for the discovery channel to show that the Earps fired first which resulted in so much bloodshed. But to there dismay History once more proved them wrong.

Gary Hall

Several more errors in your story.

Carlota and WillieBoy could not have been found making love in her room.  They were camped under the olive trees at the Gilman Ranch where Old Mike had brought his family to pick fruit.  After the two were brought back the first time, she went to stay with Jim Pine at Twentynine Palms. 

A deputy shot Carlota?  Where did that come from.  Either Willie Boy or one of the trackers, has always been the assumption.

No where has it ever been written that Carlota wrote that she was being beaten and raped.  The only written message was that she was dying, was found and translated by John Hyde, one of the Indian trackers.  And no, the Chemehueve had no written language. 

And I am so sick of hearing about the hatred that the whites had for the Indians.  Joe Toutain considered Willie Boy a good friend.  Ben de Crevecoeur reported in a magazine article written in the '40's that he admired Willie Boy's speed and agility.  Ben was the first white child born in the area and learned to hunt and track along with his brother Waldemar.  Ben had been a life-long friend of Segundo Chino.  Old Mike had been very respected by the white community.  I believe that, coupled with the fact that his death occurred outside of the reservation the death had to be addressed.  Charlie Reche's grandson told me that he did not believe that Willie Boy was trying to shot him, only his horse

Burgess and Santos' book had several errors.  They took an hypothesis and only put in arguments that supported that theory.  Not very scientific.

Thank you,

Zoe de Crevecoeur-Erickson 

 

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <i> <strong> <font> <object> <center> <span> <style> <span style> <cite> <embed> <div> <h2> <h3> <h4> <h5> <h6> <map> <area> <a> <hr> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd> <img> <br> <br /> <table> <tr> <td> <u> <del> <ins> <sub> <sup> <blockquote> <pre> <strike> <caption> <p> <param>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

More information about formatting options

To prevent automated spam submissions leave this field empty.