“A good white man”

Continued from previous posts, Early Polygamists &  The Ratio

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Recently OlManRiver discovered an incredible document entitled:

The Arrest of Jerry Bailey at Usal, Mendocino County, California, 1866, written by Jeremiah “doc” Standley, an early pioneer. *

While Bailey’s arrest is interesting, I am going to focus more on the story of the murder victim, Johnson Heacock.

According to Standley,  

“Heacock had apparently migrated from somewhere on the Atlantic slope as an escapee from justice, having killed a man in self-defense. Innocent or guilty, he was on the run from the law and chose to leave and head “out west” for the isolated… Leggett Valley… inhabited by a tribe of half-civilized Indians and a few white pioneer settlers.”

Once in Mendocino, he met and formed beneficial trading relationships with the local indigenous people.  According to Standley, the Natives came to trust Heacock and when he asked for the hand of a local Indian maiden, her father Ishoma was “… delighted that his daughter, Lillie, was to become the wife of a good white man like Mr. Heacock…” 

Lillie’s father’s response underscores the risks young, unattached Indian women faced during the settlement period, when many “bad whites” kidnapped and raped Native women and girls with impunity.  I would imagine that Ishoma believed, like many throughout history have, that a marriage alliance between a daughter and a potential enemy would go far in preserving peace and protecting his family.

And it worked, at least for a while, though there are indications that Lillie was lonely  and probably frightened of her new husband and lifestyle.   

According to Standley, Heacock had acclimated well to the isolated region and quickly adapted to, and adopted many of , the Native customs, including polygamy.  “… all three women lived in the Heacock house for many years and among them produced eight children.”

Unfortunately for Heacock’s family, Heacock knew the region wouldn’t stay isolated forever.  He suspected that an influx of white settlers would change the local culture and that  “…his Indian wives and half-breed children wouldn’t fit into this society, perhaps making him an outcast…”

To be continued…

*this is a  privately published document currently being held by the Mendocino Historical Society

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One Response to “A good white man”

  1. olmanriver says:

    I do want to credit Diane Hawk, one of our local historians, with openly sharing the narrative which she had retrieved from Ukiah. Thanks Diane!

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