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