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 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.

please see my comments on this sight

best regards,

ron house

hidesert playhouse

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.

Please see my comments on this sight

Ron House

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

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.

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.


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.

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.

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.


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