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The Demise of Mamalcoosh

Last time we recounted the killing of a Yuki warrior named Shemia by his fellow Yuki, Mamalcoosh. The piece also discussed how their names were anglicized to “Indian Charley” and “Billy Malmaquist,” respectively. The only historical document that provides their actual names was written by Jeremiah M. “Doc” Standley. 

Standley's story concerns his 1867 travels to Usal, as a twenty-two-year-old fledgling deputy, to affect the arrest of a man named Jerry Bailey. The accused had stabbed Mamalcoosh several times on the beach south of the mouth of Ten Mile River.

Despite his status as an Indian, Mamalcoosh had an advantage most native people did not. One of his sisters had married E.J. Whipple, former Ten Mile Station manager of the Mendocino Reservation and owner of the biggest ranch in that neck of the coast. Whipple's multiple petitions to the county sheriff led that elected official to send young Doc Standley to the edge of the “Lost Coast” to arrest a white man, Bailey, for stabbing an Indian, Mamalcoosh. 

Standley accomplished his mission and in so doing learned a great deal of backstory about Yuki-white relations in Leggett Valley dating to at least the mid 1850s. That backstory connected Mamalcoosh and Shemia and their ultimate fates in the 1880s.

The Yuki of Leggett Valley traded amicably with a white settler named Johnson Heacock in the 1850s. So amicably he was allowed to marry the daughter of a tribal leader named Ishoma ( another of Mamalcoosh's sisters) as well as employ her two closest friends about his household. By the mid 1860s, Heacock had fathered nine children by his wife and her two friends, one of whom Mamalcoosh considered his love interest. 

In 1867, Heacock brought a white bride, Agnes Stokes, to live with him, essentially kicking out the Indian women and their children. The Yuki tried to strike an economic bargain with Heacock, something akin to a 19th century divorce with alimony and child support. The Yuki asked for half of Heacock's monetary gains. Multiple times Heacock refused the deal. Eventually, a group of young warriors, including Mamalcoosh and Shemia, were sent to make the request a final time. Heacock rejected the offer again. The Yuki warriors tortured Heacock, tying him down and starting fires under his hands and feet, until he gave up the secret location of his gold coins, which amounted to about $20,000. Heacock threatened to go to the white authorities and the Yuki killed him. Mamalcoosh performed the deed with a sharpened broad ax brought down through Heacock's neck with a single blow. 

Jerry Bailey had been Heacock's long time employee, though he had left by the time of the killing, disappointed by his employer's treatment of the Yuki women. Nevertheless, in a more or less drunken state, Bailey quite coincidentally encountered Mamalcoosh on the Ten Mile beach months later and stabbed him with his knife. Mamalcoosh, obviously, survived the wounds.

The $20,000 in gold coins that the Yuki warriors collected from Heacock's estate was divided into two equal portions, according to what Mamalcoosh told Doc Standley. Half was given to the three Yuki women Heacock treated as his wives and their children. The other half was sent on to the Modoc, of northeastern California, who were engaged in a defensive war against white settlers. Many years later, Mamalcoosh discovered that Shemia had kept for himself a sizable quantity of the gold coins intended for the Yuki women and children. This injustice caused the two Yuki men to become bitter enemies. It was this deceit, Mamalcoosh said, that precipitated his killing of Shemia in February, 1885.

Though the evidence against Mamalcoosh at his July trial was relatively circumstantial, a jury voted for conviction in rather rapid fashion. Reporting on the trial indicated that no substantial defense was offered. The jury did stay out for fifty-six hours trying to decide whether to sentence the defendant to death or to life imprisonment. Early on the jury split, ten for imprisonment and two for the death penalty. After fifty-five of those hours, Judge McGarvey had the jury room locked. He told the men they would not get out for any reason until they reached a verdict on the punishment. One hour passed before the sentence came down: life imprisonment.

Mamalcoosh's brother, known to Standley as Mack (another Yuki name lost to history), worked for the lawman on his ranch. At the time, federal statutes required the forcible removal of Indians to reservations like the problematic one in Round Valley. California law allowed Indian adults to work under indenture for a white citizen. The white person did not have to pay any salary to the Indian beyond basic room and board, but in return the indentured Indian laborer did not have to be removed to a reservation. Doc Standley, like several other well-meaning whites in Mendocino County including Helen and A.O. Carpenter, used the indenture law to save Indians they knew from the reservation system. 

Following the conviction and sentencing, Mack asked Doc Standley (by then Sheriff of Mendocino County) to accompany his brother to a safe installation at Folsom Prison. After the long ride with the prisoner and an overnight stay in state prison, Doc spent the following morning in deep discussion with a despondent Mamalcoosh in a small private room. There, the Yuki warrior told the lawman the details of the Heacock killing and his reasons for doing away with Shemia.

When they parted, Mamalcoosh expressed to Standley that he had been told Indians did not last much more than three years as a prisoner before they die. As Doc rose to leave, so, too, Mamalcoosh stood and gave the sheriff a hearty handshake. The Yuki added that it was time for a final confession. “Tell my brother that it is true, I killed Johnson Heacock and murdered Shemia in cold blood.”

Doc Standley concluded his account by saying that Mamalcoosh correctly predicted his demise, that he died at Folsom three years later. As poetic as that might be, it serves only to prove that Standley's memory was likely a wish fulfillment written from enough years distance that he had forgotten the Yuki's real date of death. Doc probably wrote this final aspect of the story several years later, in the 1890s or perhaps the early part of the twentieth century (He himself died in the summer of 1908.).

Mamalcoosh's death did not go unnoticed. He actually lasted less than eleven months in Folsom Prison before succumbing there in June, 1886. The Dispatch Democrat, of Ukiah, did not know his true Yuki name, but it reported, “Malmaquist was a perfect specimen of physical manhood and was a terror. He is the only Indian that could make [S]quealing Charley and Poker Bill take water.”

Lest readers think Indian names were the only ones written differently in the 1800s, the newspaper account of the killing at Leggett Valley in 1867 lists the victim as Johnson Hickox. Doc Standley had first hand contact with Jerry Bailey, who worked for the man for several years. Standley consistently refers to the early Leggett Valley settler as Heacock, never Hickox.

Ultimately, Jerry Bailey, along with a group of white men who traveled to the scene and witnessed Heacock's head displayed on the tip of a spear, all came to the conclusion that Heacock had gotten what he deserved. Other than Bailey's drunken attack on Mamalcoosh, none of the other white witnesses to the death and destruction at Heacock's place pursued any retribution against the Yuki. 

The full length version of “Doc Standley's First Arrest” can be found in the AVA archives from March 21st and 28th as well as April 4th and 11, 2018.

It can also be read at

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