duane rossi
Duane Rossi

Squawbuck Joe
by Duane Rossi
squawbuck joe


The following excerpt is from Duane Rossi's book Squawbuck Joe. I encourage all of my Owens Valley History readers to purchase Duane's book (click on the Squawbuck Joe link above). Duane has written a wonderful piece of Owens Valley History which deserves reading by everyone. You will recognize many of the names so familiar with Owens Valley and be enchanted by a family who not only made Manzanar their home but by the Native American Paiutes who lived by and became their trusted friends, long before Manzanar became a symbol of United States government mishandling of Japanese American citizens. This is a MUST READ about a pioneer family who called Owens Valley their home.
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Owens Lake
(Excerpt from Squawbuck Joe)

The road was good, but the grade was steep, as Joe and Katy [Baker] Dunmovin. Minnie [Stewart]watched through her telescope as they slowly made their way up the grade. When Al [Stewart] came in for lunch she told him, "Well, they made it to the top. Those are sure good teams they have. Soon they're going to stop for lunch."

After the noon stop, Katy noticed the cattle starting to go out ahead. She called to Joe and said there must be water ahead, the cattle are picking up the pace.

"Yes," he said, "there's a large lake. We'll be seeing it before long and it's called Owens Lake."

"Is there a town there?"

"Yes, two towns, Olancha and Cartago. Mr. Stewart advised me to get another dog, I'll see if I can buy one there."

Just before they got to Owens Lake Joe and Katy met two cowboys bringing cattle out of the foothills. They were the Carrascos who lived in Olancha and ran cattle in the summer in Monache Meadows in the mountains to the west. They had two dogs herding the cattle and Joe asked if he could buy one. The Carrascos told him [he] could have one of those, but, if he would stop by their ranch, they had a litter of pups that had been weaned and they'd be glad to sell him one.

Katy and Joe found the Carrasco Ranch and bought two pups, then continued their trek north. They came to a creek flowing out of a large canyon to the west. They made camp for the night under the large cottonwood trees growing along the bank of the creek. The next morning, while they were loading the wagons, they saw men using ox teams to pull Jeffrey Pine trees down to the lake. Joe asked what they were doing and was told that they had large kilns where they turned the trees into charcoal and sold it to mines to run their smelters. The drovers wanted to catch up on the news, but they were in a hurry to get a load of charcoal on the Bessie Brady to be shipped across the Owens Lake to the smelters at Swansea and Keeler. So, they said goodbye, wished them good luck, and cracked their whips and the oxen slowly started down to the lake.

They were making good time and Joe and Katy enjoyed the Owens Lake to their right and the most beautiful and highest mountains they had ever seen on their left. They passed by the north end of the lake and met a man with a loaded wagon. It was John Lubkin who had a ranch two miles up a small canyon to the west. He told them they would soon be coming to a lake by the name of Diaz Lake and, then, they would come to a town with a large pine tree growing by the creek. They call the town Lone Pine.

As Katy and Joe rode into the small town, they were amazed at the activity. Wagons pulled by both mules and oxen were traveling east, west, north, and south. Blacksmiths were busy shoeing horses and mules. Merchants were selling and trading on every corner. By the creek, a man had seven tied mules packed with large barrels. He had two young boys filling the barrels with water. Joe walked over and introduced himself. The man's name was Olivas. Joe asked him where he was taking the water and he replied, "I'm taking it to the mines."

"How much do you charge for water?"

"It depends, If I haul it to the top of the mountain, it's a lot. If I haul it to the base of the mountain, it's not so much."

Joe walked back to the wagons. "Did you hear that Katy? The water is free for the taking and he makes a living just hauling it to the mines. I'm starting to like this country more and more."

Katy looked at the peak there to the west. "They say its 14,996 feet high and call it Mount Whitney. What are those funny looking hills? They look like a pile of rocks."

"Those are the Alabama Hills. They were named by Southern Sympathizers that have gold mines up there."

Joe and Katy met two cowboys riding into town. Joe asked if they knew of a place that he could hold his stock for the night.

"Sure. We're the Elder brothers. Our ranch is just on the edge of town. We have a 40 acre field that you are welcome to use. It'll [be] on the right hand side, straight ahead."

Joe thanked them for their generosity, found the field without a problem, and turned their stock loose for the night. There were large shade trees where they could spend the night. As they were unharnessing the teams Katy said, "Joe, I noticed the sign as we came through town advertising the Spanish Garden Cafe. I could sure use a meal I didn't have to cook myself."

"Okay, Katy, let's clean up and ride into town and have dinner."

When the couple walked into the Spanish Garden, they were greeted by Mrs. Gamboa. She introduced the Bakers to her family, as they were all working there. Joe and Katy had a wonderful dinner and a pleasant evening. They rode back to the Elder field and retired for the night, ready or an early start in the morning.

A couple of hours after starting out, Joe and Katy came to an area with a few Paiute encampments and a large apple orchard and Joe said, "This is Manzanar."

"That's a strange name," Katy commented.

"Yes. It's Spanish for where the apples are."

They were pulling onto the land that would become their new home when Katy looked up at the Inyo Mountain range and asked, "What is that strange formation?"

"That's Winneduma. The natives have a lot of legends and stores about it. How do you like your new home?"

"I love it, but after that trip, anyplace would look like heaven." ]


paiute teepee
Paiute Teepee
[Photo courtesy of the Braun Research Center Autry National Center

paiute mother
Young Paiute girl with baby
[A. A. Forbes photo]


(Excerpt from Squawbuck Joe)

Jess Summers was coming from Bodie to buy cattle. The Baker crew was holding cattle in the corral. Jess rode up with ten men.
"Why the big crew Jess?"

"Have you heard the news Baker?"

"No, what's going on?"

"There's an uprising brewing. Chief Bowers came over from Deep Springs with the warning that he can't control the young men and there's been trouble up north."

"I've not heard a thing, but Little Bean and Jimmy have not been to work for three days."

"That's your warning. They say Joaquin Jim from the other side of the Sierra has the local tribes ready to fight. Baker, I brought extra gold and I will buy everything you have in the corral."

"Is it that bad?"

"Yes, and it'll get worse. They're coming in from every side.

Joe Baker made a deal on the herd and Jess paid him in gold.

"Jess, don't say anything to the boys. I'll deal with them later."
They helped the Summers crew get the herd started north and wished them luck. The boys wanted to know why he had sold all the cattle. He told them the price of cattle is very high. He said they still had the old cows on the river and they would buy young ones when the time was right.

Joe Baker sat up late that night thinking about what to do. He put his gold, important papers, some clothes, and blankets in pack bags. He put the horses in the corral. In case he decided to go, he would have to travel fast. In the morning he sent the boys to the river to check on the old cows. The Magees rode in and told him they had met Jess Summers and they were having trouble with the Indians at Big Pine Creek. They helped them get through and on their way. "Baker, you have to get the boy out of the valley. Warriors are coming in from all sides. Chief Shondow and Butcher Knife are raiding the mills along the river. Chief Old Hungry is attacking the miners in the Cosos. Take Walter and leave tonight."

"I have to take them both. They've been together since birth."

"Baker, we know how you feel, but the Indians killed Mrs. McGuire and her little son at Haiwee Meadows. They set the house on fire when they ran out. They shot them full of arrows. There are white men shooting every Indian they see and Little Joe would be safer here. You must go. The warriors are coming in from Nevada and they have guns."

"Where are they getting guns?"

"There are merchants in Aurora doing a thriving business selling guns and ammunition to them. Their names are Wingate and Cohn. I think they are going to hang them."

When the Magees left, Joe Baker thanked them for the information. He was still troubled about leaving Little Joe He had raised him like a son. The boys rode in and unsaddled. Little Bean walked down from the camp, he did not look at Joe Baker or Walter, he walked up to Little Joe. "The chief wants you in camp. Little Joe looked puzzled, but followed Little Bean up the hill.

This was all Joe Baker needed, he told Walter to go pack up everything he wanted to take. Don't look around and don't hurry. Put your things in the pack bags in the barn. We're leaving."

"What about Joe?"

"We'll talk about it later. Now get moving, but move slow and try not to look suspicious."

When Little Joe walked into the camp, he saw the young braves gathered around a man he had never seen before. The man's face was painted with white streaks on both cheeks and he was waving a tomahawk and talking very loudly to the young braves. Little Joe walked over to his mother and Haiwee who were busy gathering up and getting ready to move their camp. "Mother, what is going on?"

"We're moving further up into the hills to a new camp."

"Who is that man with the war paint and what is he doing here?"

"That's Joaquin Jim. He's from the other side of the great mountains. He said the white men have killed most of his tribe and ran the ones they didn't kill high in the mountains to live like animals. He said the whites will do the same thing to us.

"But, Mother, we have lived in peace with the white people for years."

"That's what the elders are saying, Son, but they're being shouted down by the young braves. Haiwee and I are moving higher into the mountains." war dance

Hummingbird embraced her son, picked up what few belongings she could carry, and headed up the mountain. Little Joe didn't realize it, but, it was the last time he would ever see his mother and Haiwee.

As soon as it got dark Joe Baker and Walter saddled their horses and packed up, they turned the milk cows, horses, mules and chickens loose. Joe Baker walked over to Katy's grave by the creek and bid farewell to her and the Owens Valley. When they got on their horses they could see a big fire and hear a war dance going on up at the camp. They called the dogs and left.

The war dance lasted all night. Just before daylight. the braves were ready to fight. They picked up their weapons and told Little Joe to get his bow and come with them. They headed for the Baker farm. Little Joe held back and hid in the brush. He went back to the camp but, the women were taking down the camp and were moving it up into the hills. Little Joe saw the flames from the fire down at the ranch, but he didn't hear any gun shots. The dogs were not barking and he hoped the Bakers had left the ranch.

When the warriors returned, they were hostile, they wanted blood. They knew someone had warned the Bakers. When they got to the camp, Little Joe was sitting there and they yelled at him, "You warned them, you coward."

"Joe yelled back at them, "How could I warn them? I didn't know myself until this morning."

"You didn't come with us, you are a coward. You sit in camp, same as squaws."

"Kill him. Don't waste arrows. Use rocks, stone him to death."

They stripped off Little Joe's clothes and tied him to a tree. They gathered rocks to kill him." The chief stepped in, "Stop! What do you say Little Joe?"

"I say I will not fight my brother. I have a scar on my arm, cut by you. You said do not fight my brother."

The chief stood there in silence, then said. "I did say these words."

The sub chief stepped in, "We listen to our chief. He had only one brother. He should kill the others. He sits in camp like a squaw."

The chief turned to Roadrunner, "Run to the new camp and bring back squaw dresses." They made Joe put on a dress. The chief told him, "You now are Squawbuck Joe. Ifwe ever see you doing men's work or wearing men's clothes, we will kill you." They threw the dresses that Roadrunner had brought. "Take your dresses, Squaw." They threw sticks at him and spit on him.
burning house
Joe went down to the farm. Everything was burned and still smoking. He hid by the creek, hoping his brother would come back. He rummaged through the burn at night, he found a knife, two blankets and a canteen. He picked up some rope and made a pack he could carry on his back. He had to find something to eat. When night fell, he went to the river and hid in the tules. He pulled up tule roots and ate them. Joe could hear gun fire everyday and wanted to get away that night. He left the river and went into the Inyos. At the first camp, he found some pine nuts and salt. He knew where the traps were and set six of them, baited with pine nuts. When he checked the traps he had four squirrels. He skinned them and was so hungry he that ate the hearts and livers raw. The meat was salted and hung up to dry.

The sun came up hot the next day. By afternoon the meat was dry. It was the first meal he had in several days. Three more squirrels and a rabbits were added to his catch the next day. Now he would talk to Winneduma. He took a rabbit foot for an offering to the Great Spirit, as he prayed an Eagle landed on top of Winnedumah. He saw that it was a sign from the spirits.

"Brother Eagle, (Quing-ah) please show me the way to my brother," prayed Little Joe.

The Eagle lifted his wings and rose in the sky, he circled, getting higher and higher until he disappeared in the clouds. A tear streamed down Joe's cheek; he knew he would never see his brother again.


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