This is the story of the first arrest made by the famous Mendocino County lawman Jeremiah “Doc” Standley. The arrest took place in November, 1866, but to fully understand the tale we must go back to 1855. In that year a man named Johnson Heacock put down roots in the lower end of Leggett Valley. He had come to California after killing a man, allegedly in self defense, on the east coast. Guilty or not he felt himself on the run from the authorities and the isolation of Leggett Valley, where the nearest white settler might be as far as fifty miles away, proved a draw rather than a drawback.
Heacock formed a friendly alliance with the Yuki people who had lived for generations in the fertile valley located on a branch of the Eel River. Apparently familiar with farming practices, Heacock cultivated a fine garden in his first season in Leggett Valley. He traded vegetables and grains to the Yuki for deer skins and dried venison. When the skins were plentiful he packed a mule and traveled to the outside world to sell his goods. He brought back provisions, such as clothing, to further trade for more deer skins and meat. In no time the trips to the outside became a monthly affair. Heacock expanded his pack train to a dozen or more animals by 1860. In return he fetched cattle, hogs, and a goodly number of horses.
Early on Heacock used local timber to construct a house. He took an interest in an older Yuki he called Ishoma, who had three daughters and two sons. One of these sons was known as Mamalcoosh to Heacock. Mamalcoosh was a young man who lead a small group of Yukis in clandestine fights with white settlers outside the area, returning to the relative safety of Leggett Valley afterward. This most likely occurred at the time that white militias were massacring indigenous people in northern Mendocino County about 1859-60.
In the meantime Heacock had expanded his home and added several outbuildings. He took on one of Ishoma's daughters as a cook, anglicizing her name to Lillie. He also asked Ishoma if he could marry Lillie. When Ishoma accepted, Heacock threw a large feast to commemorate the occasion, butchering a hefty four-year-old beef, cooking it at a Yuki gathering spot where he also served up large portions of corn, potatoes, and his garden vegetables to his new in-laws and many of their friends.
The only other white person present at this celebration was an Englishman in his late twenties named Jerry Bailey. He had gone to sea long enough to get to the west coast of the United States. In Siskiyou County he'd help drive a herd of beeves to Yreka. When he drew his wages he took up the only regular habit he'd learned at sea, drinking. The booze preceded fisticuffs and Jerry pummeled an opponent near to death. A friendly acquaintance pushed Jerry on his horse and guided him twenty or more miles away from town, suggesting that a return to Yreka would not be a healthy choice. By the time Jerry sobered up he found himself riding south, then west. He crossed one hilly range after another, surviving on hardtack, coffee, and a slab of bacon in his saddlebags.
Ten days into his retreat from Yreka, Bailey made camp in a valley surrounded by timber. His horse had plenty to graze from in an adjacent meadow. After one night of good sleep, Bailey awoke to the boots of Johnson Heacock kicking at him, demanding to know why Jerry was trespassing.
Bailey proved a quick thinker an avid conversationalist with a quick wit. Perhaps seeking white companionship Heacock invited him to his home. Though Bailey was opposed to mixed marriages between whites and Indians he accepted Heacock's hospitality and partook of Lillie's cooking.
Bailey became a trusted ranch hand as well as an entertaining acquaintance at the Heacock place for several years. By the time Bailey entered the picture three Yuki women resided with Heacock. Lillie had run off soon after her marriage and would not return without her sister, known as Ellen, and a friend Heacock called Katy Coltash. After negotiations with Ishoma and Katy's parents, all three Yuki young women returned to Heacock's place. Lillie had the run of the house and essentially instructed Ellen and Katy in daily chores. Each woman learned to ride the horses Heacock bought and brought home and by the mid-1860s there were eight children running about the place, Heacock had fathered them all but Lillie, Ellen, and Katy had each given birth.
With Bailey acting as ranch foreman and performing more and more of the work, Heacock's trips to the outside took on greater duration. He spent a particularly lengthy amount of time in one place, courting a thirty year old unmarried woman named Agnes Stokes. Agnes, for her part, was looking for a smart man with good business sense. Johnson Heacock seemed just the fellow.
The only thing separating Agnes and Johnson Heacock from marriage, those eight children and three Yuki women living at his ranch.
As best we know Heacock's thinking, it went something like this: Soon there would be an abundance of white settlers in the area. His Indian brides and mixed children would not fit into this new society. He obviously saw himself as superior to the Yuki and he did not want to be considered an outcast by white settlers. In his mind he had erred long enough. He proposed to Agnes on his next trip to the Stokes' house. The engagement period would last only one month.
Returning to his ranch, Heacock apprised Jerry Bailey of his plans. Bailey was dismayed at the idea and told Heacock that, at best, he should leave Leggett Valley. If he had to wed Agnes, they should take up residence at a distance from the Yukis. Instead, Heacock stayed in Leggett Valley and sent Lillie, Ellen, and Katy as well as their children back to the Yuki.
Complicating the matter: the fact that Ishoma's son, Mamalcoosh had been in love with Katy Coltash before she went to the white man's ranch. Heacock went ahead with the marriage to Agnes and brought her back to the Leggett Valley house repaired, repainted and refurbished by Jerry Bailey.
The mood at the Yuki encampment three miles away turned to indignation. Mamalcoosh found Jerry Bailey and related his own consternation, saying that twice in his life Heacock's actions had seriously wounded his heart, years before when Katy Coltash had been taken away and now that the white man had deserted the Yuki women and children.
Mamalcoosh disappeared into the woods. Wailing from the Yuki camp continued for two days and nights, disconcerting and frightening Agnes. On her third morning at Heacock's house she awakened to the cries of five small children crying outside her window. A bit farther away she spotted three older Yuki youths playing. Agnes had heard a rumor that Johnson Heacock had an Indian wife and children, but she had passed the notion off as gossip. At the sight of these children in her yard she suspected the truth in the rumor.
When Heacock roused himself from their bed, Agnes pushed him to the window, then demanded an explanation. He insisted that he thought she knew his history and understood the situation. One look at her face must have told him how much she did not understand.
He asked her not to judge him harshly for his indiscretions of the past, then recounted much of his life in Leggett Valley up to that point, including the trades and bargains he had made with the Yuki as well as his life with Lillie, Ellen, and Katy Coltash.
His frankness impressed Agnes enough that she went about preparing breakfast as usual. Heacock strode outdoors and sent the children back to their mothers. He also sent word to Lillie, Ellen, and Katy that if they would take care of the children he would come to the Yuki village within a few days to fix everything. As a token of his good faith he sent a pack load of provisions to the Yuki.
After a silent breakfast Heacock called Agnes into his reading room and promised her that his relations with the Yuki were a thing of the past. He professed that she was the only one in possession of his undying love and devotion and that from this point forward all his energies would be given over to pleasing her.
Agnes apparently forgave Heacock and made some sort of promise of her own to make their future a pleasant one. She also seemed to have asked Heacock to bring as many of his children back to the house so that she could help care for them.
Jerry Bailey thought it time to part company with Heacock, which he did on good terms. Bailey headed over the hills and west down Ten Mile River to the ranch of E.J. Whipple at the mouth of that stream. Whipple was familiar with Bailey from visits to Heacock's place and the nearby Yuki village, for he, too, was related to Ishoma and others among the Yuki, by a common law marriage.
Whipple had managed the northern part of the Mendocino Reservation in the late 1850s and early 60s. Now that the coastal reservation was being decommissioned he planned to expand his own personal holdings along Ten Mile. He needed ranch hands like Jerry Bailey to break horses and mules as well as tend to other chores and duties on the place.
About a month after Jerry Bailey took employment at Ten Mile two men rode into Whipple's ranch at dusk with a chilling tale of a grisly discovery made at Leggett Valley. They recounted sighting a white man, his body pierced and hanging atop a fifteen foot spear or pole stuck in the ground.