Alex John & wife and three ch. Billy, Mary & Lucy
[By Glen Villa Jr., Last Revised July 31, 2011]

Alex John was better known as Alec John. Alec John was born May 18, 1861, son of Hunter John and Jennie, full blooded Indians from El Dorado County. He was married to a woman named Emma. According to the 1928 BIA application for enrollment, Emma died in 1916. Hunter John died in 1898 and Jennie died in 1901. Hunter John was the son of Whispering John.

The wife of Alec John at this time was Sally John. Sally was born May 18, 1855 in Ione. Sally married Billy Fred, a full-blooded Miwok, son of Charley and Jennie. According to the 1928 BIA application for enrollment, Billy Fred died in 1888. Sally's Indian name was We-luck-me. Sally’s family claimed to have lived at a village located at Ione near the present day California Youth Authority institution, Preston School of Industry. Remains of a ceremonial roundhouse can still be seen at the site. A map in 1865 marks this area as an Indian Village. Sally and Billy had three children; Lucy, born May 18, 1892; and Mary.

Sally John had at least two sons from an Indian named Miller, Oscar Miller born in 1875 and Toby Miller born in 1880. Oscar Miller died between 1906 and 1910, while Toby Miller died on July 27, 1911. Sally also had children with Billy Fred, Mary Fred born May 18, 1881 and Lucy Fred born May 18, 1892. Sally also had a son with an Indian named Moman, Comus Moman born August 17, 1892.

In 1905-1906, CE Kelsey identifies Oscar Miller, 2 children and mother living in Ione of Amador County without land.

In the Summer of 1906, Samuel Barrett purchased a start of a basket, 6 baskets, 1 soaproot brush, a portable mortar and a pestle, 1-9931, 1-9932, 1-9933, 1-9934, 1-9935, 1-9936, 1-9937, 1-9938, 1-9939 and 1-9940, respectively. Notes taken by Barrett when purchasing the artifacts from Sally Moman, indicate Sally was born in Ione as well as her mother. Barrett’s notes provide no information on Sally’s father. Sally was residing near the Grant House in Ione at the time.

In 1910, Alex John was widowed and residing by himself in Township 2, Ione. Alec John was 38 years old at the time. According to 1910 Census, Alec John was born in Nashville, El Dorado County as were his parents. Alex John was a laborer of odd jobs.

Also in 1910, Sally John was living with her son-in-law, Millard Taylor in Township 2, Ione. Sally was 60 years old and widowed at the time. According to the 1910 Census Sally was born in Lockeford, as were both of her parents. However, according to her children who were also residing with Sally at the time, Sally was born in Ione. Sallie had been married twice.

Alex John died on March 20, 1931. Alex was identified as about 74 years of age and his wife at the time of death was Sally John. Alex John was buried in the Jackson Valley Indian Cemetery

Sally John died on September 16, 1933 in Jackson from apoplexy. Sally was listed as 86 years old at the time of death. Sally was buried in the Jackson Valley Indian Cemetery. Sally had no known children named Billy and Sally’s daughter Mary Fred is already on the Terrell Census as Mrs. Charles Kellogg. Sally’s daughter, Lucy Fred, however is found nowhere else on the Terrell Census, therefore the child Lucy must be Lucy Fred.

It is possible the “three ch. Billy, Mary & Lucy” could refer to a family group, which would correspond to Lucy Fred and her spouse at the time Billy Villa. Lucy did not have any children by Billy Villa at this time, however she already had a daughter named Marguerite or Margaret Taylor, which when spoken in the Miwok language would sound like Mary. It is most likely the “three ch. Billy, Mary & Lucy” corresponds to the family group of Lucy Fred and Billy Villa and the daughter Margaret Taylor.

Billy Villa, William Marciano Villa, was of Mexican descent from El Paso, Texas. Billy was born November 2, 1892. Billy Villa died on May 1, 1981 at the age of 88 and was buried in the Jackson Valley Indian Cemetery. Billy Villa learned the traditional Miwok medicinal practices and funeral rites from Frank Powell. Billy was also one of the male dancers in Ione. Billy Villa worked on the initial construction of the Chaw Se State Park and performed the traditional blessing of the construction of the Roundhouse. Billy Villa also provided many of the linguistic information now available on signs throughout the park.

Lucy Fred Villa was born May 18, 1892 and died on August 29, 1966 at the age of 74 and was buried in the Jackson Valley Indian Cemetery.

Margaret Taylor died on June 9, 1994 and was buried in the Jackson Valley Indian Cemetery. Margaret attended the First Annual California Indian Festival in San Francisco in October of 1924. This was a fund raiser sponsored by the Indian Board of Cooperation to raise funds for the California Indian Land Claims.

Sally then married Charley Moman, also known as Comus and Curley, and they had a son named Comus. Comus married Martha West and they had three children; Elmer, born May 10, 1913; Violett, born September 22, 1912 and Carl, born May 1, 1915.

Sally also had two sons named Oscar and Toby Miller. Toby married a Washo woman named Lizzie. Sally also had a grandson named Gus Miller whose mother was a Powell.

Lucy married Millard Taylor and they had a daughter named Angelina Margaret, born March 27, 1909. Lucy then married William Marciano Villa, a Mexican from San Antonio, Texas. Lucy and William had three sons and one daughter.

On October 1-4, 1924, Alec John and wife Sally John and other Indians from Ione attended the first California Indian Festival in San Francisco.  The event was organized by Frederick Collette and the Indian Board of Cooperation.

On the 1930 Census, Elmer Moman was residing in Township 2, Ione, of Amador County. Elmer was residing in the household with his uncle and aunt William and Lucy Villa, respectively.

In 1932, Mrs. Margaret T. Del Rio was listed in the South Ione Precinct of the Index to Registration Affidavits Amador County. Margaret was Democratic affiliation.

In 1934, Mrs. Margaret T. Del Rio was listed in the South Ione Precinct of the Index to Registration Affidavits Amador County. Margaret was a housewife and Democratic affiliation.

Sally John and Alec John lived near the Grant House. Sally had a big grinding rock inside the house she used to grind her acorns. When Sally’s son Comus Moman died, they burnt the house down and moved to the 40 acres in Jackson Valley. Sally John’s great grandmother was captured by Sutter and taken to Sutter’s Fort. Lucy Villa used to have a picture of this woman hanging on her wall. Sally John had a little Indian basket that she kept her sewing stuff in it.

Alec John used to be bothered by owls. The owls would follow him from the house to the outhouse and hoot around him. When Alec John died, Frank Powell doctored him and sucked an owl claw out of his throat in an attempt to save his life.

Quarter Ended September 30, 1923
Jackson Valley School
Margaret Taylor, 14, 4th grade, attended 12 days, absent 6 days School was in session 19 days, September 3 – September 28.

August 11, 1924
Check No 3935
Department of Interior paid Jackson Valley School District $6.30 for Quarter ending June 30, 1924 for Margaret Taylor and Frank Villa, who resided 1 mile from school.

NARA RG 75 Sacramento Area Office Coded Records 1910-1958
Code 054.1 Box #20
Sacramento Indian Agency Fiscal Year 1933
Moman Violet, 9-22-1912, Miwok, grandparents Alec & Sally John, Amador Co
Moman Elmer, 5-10-1913, Miwok, grandparents Alec & Sally John, Amador Co
Moman Carl, 5-1-1915, Miwok, grandparents Alec & Sally John, Amador Co

Articles Concerning Alec John 

Amador Dispatch
March 27, 1931
Aged Indian Came To End Of Life Trail
Alex John, one of the best known Indian characters in this section, passed away at the reservation at Buena Vista on last Friday, March 20th, following an illness of several weeks duration. His funeral took place on March 23rd, interment being held at the Indian burying grounds at the reservation.

Alex John was a native of this county being born at Pigeon Creek, near Oleta, about 74 years ago. Among the natives of this section he was looked upon as a leader, or “Big Indian” as they termed it. It was through him that the funeral rites were conducted and other ceremonies of ritualistic nature were performed. He survived by a widow, who had been afflicted with blindness for several years, and other immediate relatives.

NOVEMBER 8, 1907
Hunting Licenses.
Joseph Giannini, George Lucot, R. P. Walker, Baldassera Barghello, Renol Bellederian, Wm. Ninnis, Wm. Trelease, Alvinia Summers, Robert T. White, Jabez Ninnis, Frank Summers, Fred Culbett, D. Carbine, Clarence F. Kelton, Frank Hammack, Arthur B. Zumalt, John Richards, George Richards, Aleck John.

Amador Dispatch
August 10, 1956
Miwok Tribe Ceremonial Dance is Fair Feature
Among the unusual demonstrations to be seen at the Amador County Fair, August 24, 25 and 26th at Plymouth, will be Indian basket making.  Mrs. Marie Potts, of Sacramento, will demonstrate basket making of Miwok design and pattern using materials prepared in the authentic manner.  Mrs. Potts was formerly a resident of Amador County and is well known for her exhibitions of a nearly vanished art.  The demonstrations will be a part of the Miwok feature booth display which will be supervised by John Porter of Ione.

Miwok Indians will also be represented through ceremonial dances during the RCA Rodeo scheduled for the afternoon of Sunday, August 26th, and during the varity show.  “The book of Amador, Chapter 1”, the closing event of the fair.

Bill Franklin, formerly of Ione will present a group of Miwok dancers in these events, the first of such dances to be seen in Amador County in over 40 years.

Dancers in the troup are Bill Willa and Guy Wallace of Ione, Bill Franklin and Albert Clifford, formerly of Ione and now living in the vicinity of Sacramento; Maxine Brown, Romona, Marge, Clarice and Susie Franklin and Marie Potts of Sacramento.

Sacramento Union
December 19, 1970
Miwok Medicine
In times past the old men of our people passed their wisdom down to certain selected youth.  The medicine man always has been selected and trained in this way from childhood on.

I can remember how I decided this was what I wanted.  One time when I was very small a group of us was hunting cows.  One of the girls running along the trail was bitten by a rattlesnake.  We didn’t miss her until we got back to camp.

When we went back after her we found her sitting beside the trail, her leg already swollen.  The rattler was coiled under a bush a few feet away.  When we got her back the medicine man looked at her but she was too far gone.  She died the next day.

I was about 8 years old when I told the old men of my desire to be a medicine man.  They were pleased and set about to train me.

First they took me to the spirit dance.  I must watch the dancers as they circled the fire and chanted.  Then I must understand the dance and be able to explain its meaning.

After that they started my training in earnest.  They took me into the fields and forests to show me the different herbs and how they grew, where to pick them and how to prepare and use them.

We went at different seasons.  Our people gathered some plants for their juices in spring.  Others we gathered in fall for seeds and roots, to grind into powder.  Others after they became dormant in winter.

Our trips were short at first.  I went out with Frank Powell, our medicine man.  He showed me some of the milder herbs and how to use them.  He taught me all I learned about Indian medicines.

He taught me how to take care of the plants and wildlife, to take only what was to be used and always to leave some of the plants and seeds so we could go back and gather again.  We killed only the game and caught only the fish we needed immediately.

One time my stepfather was cutting wood.  The ax slipped and cut him.  I scraped dust from the root of the milkweed (chiwata) and applied it to the wound.  He got well right away.

Another time it was my son who got hurt.  He was using a screwdriver to drive a cotter key.  It slipped and cut him to the bone.  A doctor slashed it open, scraped the bone and sewed it back.  The wound healed but two or three months later it swelled again.  I made a wormwood poultice and applied it to the wound.  It healed and stayed healted.

We used ashes for poultices, as well as salt.  Once I had a wart on my hand that I couldn’t get rid of.  A friend tried cutting it off, but it just bled and came back.

I tried coking it with a horsehair.  That didn’t work either.  Finally my wife asked why not try an old Indian method: burn out the root and then make a poultice of ashes.  It worked.  The wart came off and never came back.

We used ashes or salt for carbuncles, too.  The old Indian method was to take ashes or salt, wrap it in a piece of cloth and twist it into a small bag.  The we dipped the bag in melted bear grease or tallow to soak it up good, then lit the wick end.

Next we took a piece of bark, laid it next to the carbuncle, then laid the lighted bag on top of that and covered it with an airtight cover – a glass or in the old days an animal horn cut in half.  This created heat and suction that usually drew the poison right out.

We then covered the open wound with a poultice made from the root of a certain plant.  We left it on a week or so until the wound was healed.

When the medicine man dies, according to our custom, his medicines are buried with him.  This was the way it was with Frank Powell.

Sometimes a medicine man had no medicine left.  So he was buried without it.

I myself have only a few medicines left, for I have not practiced in many years.

But those that I have I hope can be buried with me when I go.

Additional quotes scattered throughout the article:

The medicine man among my people is no more.  I am the only one left and I no longer practice.

Yet I still remember, and I want to tell you about it.  Unless I do, when I go these things will go with me.  There is no other to take my place.

These have been sacred things to our people.  And there is good in them, much that has never been told before.  I do not want to have it lost.

(photograph caption) Billy Villa, last of the Miwok medicine men, lives in Ione and practices his medicine no more.  But he still has some medicines saved for a special purpose, as he tells about it in his story.


Alec John in San Francisco for the first California Indian Festival October 1-4, 1924

Sally John in the San Francisco Examiner for the first California Indian Festival October 1-4, 1924