California Joe (Moses Embree Milner)Moses Embree Milner was a well-built man, more than 6 feet in height. Not only did he constantly smoke a pipe, he chewed tobacco at the same time. In 1849, at the age of 20, he went to California like everyone else… for gold. Then he moved up to Oregon, and then to Montana where he acquired the name California Joe.

He then started doing some scouting for the military. In 1868, George Custer made him chief of scouts for the Seventh Cavalry. But that job didn’t last long because California Joe went out the night of his appointment and got so drunk that he had to be hogtied and returned to camp lashed to a mule. The next day Custer fired him as chief, but kept him on as a regular scout.

In 1874 he accompanied Custer on his excursion into the Black Hills of the Dakotas where gold was discovered. Although the discovery was to be kept a secret, it was supposedly California Joe who let the word out. It was probably during a drinking spree the night of his arrival back to civilization.

A year later California Joe accompanied Walter P. Jenney’s expedition into the Black Hills to confirm the discovery of gold, and open it for settlement. California Joe was able to stake out a homestead on the future site of Rapid city, South Dakota.

While in Nebraska, California Joe got into an argument with Tom Newcomb, and on October 29, 1876 Tom found California Joe looking the other way and shot him in the back. Because there was no law in the area Tom Newcomb was never tried, but two years later a couple of California Joe’s friends shot Tom in the back.

Filed under: Old West Myth & Fact

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