Capt. Charlie Maximo, recently elected Chief of the band
[By Glen Villa Jr., Last Revised July 31, 2011]

Capt. Charlie Maximo is Charlie Maximo.  Terrell described Charlie Maximo as a “recently elected Chief of the band” and that the Powell’s disputed Charlie Maximo as a chief due to their family were the chieftain family of the Ione area.

Capt. Charlie Maximo was born to Henry Maximo and Maria Maximo sometime between 1855 and 1861.  Charlie Maximo’s birthdate is listed as May 19, 1861 on the 1928 BIA Application for enrollment.  The date is merely the date he signed the paperwork and the year is all Charlie Maximo most likely was only able to tell people his age at the time.

Between the years 1852 and 1879, it is uncertain where Maximo family resided.  By 1879, the Mokelumne had moved to the Megerle Ranch near Clements.  When Henry Maximo was interviewed in 1885 for the article on his biography that appeared in the Sacramento Union, he was living at Camanche.  Chief Maximo (Henry) was estimated to be 115 years old when he died in 1886.   His survivors included his second wife, Maria Maximo and their son Charley Maximo, born May 19, 1861.  When ethnographers began studying Indians in the early 1900’s, they found Mokelumne descendants living in the Buena Vista-Ione region of the foothills.

In 1900, Charlie Maximo is living in Township 2 of Amador County.  According to the 1900 Census, Charlie Maximo is listed as “Chief” under relationship.  Charlie Maximo was 50 years old at the time and indicated a birth year of 1850.  

In 1905-1906, CE Kelsey identifies Capt. Charley Maximo & wife living in Ione of Amador County without land.  

In 1910, Charlie Maximo was living with his wife Marie in Township 2, Ione, of Amador County.  Charlie Maximo was 55 years old and Marie was 60.  Charlie and Marie married in 1909, the third marriage for both of them.  Charlie Maximo was born in Lockeford as were both of his parents.  Charlie Maximo was a laborer of odd jobs.  

Charlie Maximo was described as being a big man, standing over 6 feet tall.  Charlie Maximo was instrumental in keeping the culture and ceremonies alive by constructing a roundhouse next to his residence.  It is at Charlie Maximo’s that the ceremonial activities occurred in Ione from the 1910’s into the 1940’s.  The annual ceremonial gatherings at Charlie Maximo’s occurred into the early 1940’s then ceased. 

In 1923, Alfred Kroeber described the following: “Capt. Charlie Maximo from Lockeford.  Present wife is Mirandy or Amanda former wife of Jesus Oliver.” (see Kroeber's Northern Miwok:  Notebook (208) 1923.)

On October 1-4, 1924, Charlie Maximo 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.

In 1930, Charlie Maximo was residing in Township 2, Ione, of Amador County.  Living with Charlie (76) was his sister Mary Martinez (80), niece Lavina Homer (20), Edna Homer (17) and stepson Ceasar Brown (43).  Charlie Maximo was a laborer of odd jobs. 

In 1936, Burt Aginsky collected ethnographic information from Charley Maximo, which was later published as Cultural Element Distributions: XXIV Central Sierra by the UC Press in 1943. 

Charlie Maximo died on March 26, 1943 and was buried in the Buena Vista Indian Cemetery.  Charlie Maximo was listed as 97 years old at the time of death. 

When Charlie Maximo died, his body was taken to Aza McCauley’s house.  Bernice Villa was in charge of watching the children which she watched them in Charlie Maximo’s house.  Aza tore Charlie Maximo’s house down after his death.  Aza also tore down the roundhouse.  All the dance regalia was thrown in Charlie Maximo’s well and the well was filled in.
Articles Concerning Charley Maximo

California Indian Herald
April, 1923
The Ione Auxilary met on Sunday, March 18, at Capt. Charley’s and there was a fairly good attendance, with a few visitors from Auburn and Tuolumne.  Mr. Ainsworth, the former president was appointed to the chair and asked several interesting questions as to the work of the board.  Dr. George Wharton James was present and gave answers which seemed to be satisfactory to Mr. Ainsworth and certainly were so to the Indians present.  Dr. James heartily thanked Mr. Ainsowrth for his great interest in the work and his watchfulness for the good of his people.  Chief Fuller also spoke for the good of the cause and the members went home feeling that a good meeting had been held. 

Stockton Record
January 30, 1932
Out-o-Doors Section
Jackson Valley Indians Retain Ancient Tribal Customs and Ceremonials Capt. Charley Maximo, chief of the Miwok Indians of Jackson Valley, is seen in two moods in the pictures on this page, all of which were taken by Harry Sanford.  Charley’s rancheria near Ione is shown at the top of the page.  The round-house of which he is custodian is at the right in this picture.  In upper right is an interior of the round-house or ceremonial hall, known in the Miwok language as “han ik.” In the immediate foreground of this view is the space between the four pillars where the dancers execute their steps around a small fire.  Vent is shown at top.  The house in lower row is Charley Maximo’s dwelling.  Next is seen the war drum, made of inch boards placed over a pit dug in the ground.  It is played by an Indian who dances upon the surface, producing a surprising effect with this instrument.  The sound, not unlike that of a kettle drum, vibrates through the rafters of the round-house like peals of thunder.  Next picture is of Indian craftsmanship, a basket and mortars and pestles.  In a lower right is a close-up of the entrance to the round-house. 

Stockton Record
January 30, 1932
Out-o-Doors Section
Chief Charley Custodian of Council Hall
Young Miwoks Taught Ancestral Songs, Dances and Legendry
By Harry Sanford
Editor’s Note-Sanford, writer of this article, is a student at the College of the Pacific.  Although an English major, he is deeply interested in Indian lore.  With Dr. J. P. Harrington, archeologist of the Smithsonian Institution, he has worked in the American Southwest.  Sanford is interested in securing a collection of Indian material for the San Joaquin Pioneer Historical Museum. 

The Indians living in the vicinity of Ione still cling to a semblance of the old tribal form of government, which was in vogue before the days of white men and the influence of missionary schools among the native americans. 

Capt. Charley Maximo, the present chief of the Jackson Valley tribelet of Miwoks, is yet able to call his clansmen together, in his big council lodge, to hold sacred religious rituals and to practice the old ceremonial songs and dances, once so popular among his people.  In spite of school training, which is taking the young people away from their old ways of living, and the constant association with modern points of view, many of the young men of this tribe meet regularly with their elders, in the big council lodge, to learn the ceremonial songs and dances, that they may be able to hand them down to future generations. 

Round-House Custodian
Captain Charley maintains his position as chieftain in much the same manner as did his forefathers in times gone by.  He is custodian of the council lodge, or round-house, as it is called by the Indians since it is actually round in structure.  The round-house, which is on his rancheria, in fact, quite close to his own abode, is one-half dugout and one-half brush and timber framework covered with earth until the whole thing resembles almost any small mound, except for the smoke vent in the roof.  It contains one large room, all underground, with a capacity of some 200 people.  The edge is about five feet high, and in the center the roof is about 12 feet high.  Large oak pillars are placed in the middle to support the roof.  On these posts rest buckeye rafters quite close together.  Over them is a covering of brush with a goodly amount of dirt covering it all.  The inside space is surprisingly roomy, and is easily ventilated by opening the door to drive the bad air and smoke out through the opening in the roof, which is about six feet square, and is directly over the fire in the center of the room. 

Put to Many Uses
It is in this place that the young members of the tribe congregate to be taught the ancient traditions of their people; it is here that they practice the tribal ceremonial songs and dances, under the leadership of the old men; here the old and the young gather to join in religious rites of great seriousness and gravity.  Matters of great political importance are discussed around the fire in this same structure.  In fact, the round-house serves the Indians as a church, amusement hall and courthouse as the occasion may demand. 

According to Chief Maximo, this structure was erected a few years ago, under his supervision, as an exact replica, only much smaller, of the old council lodges and sweathouses so common among the tribes of the Miwoks in years gone by.  he claims to distinctly remember two such round-houses at an Indian rancheria near the present site of Lockeford, and a very large one at Buena Vista, over which the Indians had a serious quarrel, causing much trouble in the tribe. 

Worked Near Lockeford
Chief Maximo, or Big Charley, as he is called, originally came from a rancheria named, in Miwok, Tu-de-lah (Little Hill), on the banks of the Mokelumne river a short distance northeast of Lockeford.  Here he spent part of his boyhood days herding sheep for Winfield Montgomery.  In mentioning his former employer, Big Charley ejaculated, “Ha-a, good fell’, that man!”

Later, when he had grown to be a man, Captain Maximo relates, he took a trip to Yan-wi-te (Jackson Valley), where he found the country and its surroundings much to his liking.  Quoting his own words, he says, “I find pretty country up here, with oak trees all around.  I like it.  A good-looking girl live here, so I stay.” It was here that he married and settled down in a neighboring tribe of Miwoks, and in time proved himself worthy enough to become chief of his adopted people. 

Big Brother To All
Now, Big Charley lives alone except for his sister as a housekeeper.  She is apparently much his senior, and is very shy of strangers, especially when a camera is in evidence.  He, following the duty of a chieftain, sets the dates, and notifies all of his people of the meetings in the round-house; he meets various members of his tribe to discuss and to settle, if possible, their troubles and disputes.  In his keeping are intrusted all the costumes, gorgeously worked headdresses and other articles used I the dance ceremonies.  He seems to be no less than a smiling, good-nature big brother to all of his clansmen. 

When he is not engaged in his duties as he leader of his people, Big Charley cuts wood.  Although he is quite an old man, he is hale and hearty-big oak logs hold no fears for him as long as wood brings a few dollars a cord.  Evidently, the present depression in the world’s financial affairs has not materially affected his means of livelihood, nor his outlook on life in general.  He greets all visitors, whether Indian or white, with a friendly smile, and offers a handshake or his tobacco pouch quite readily; and is always glad to show anyone about his little rancheria or take him through the round-house.  

After a visit with Big Charley, one brings home a feeling of sincere friendship and respect for this big man, and Indians in general. 

Amador Dispatch
March 26, 1943
Aged Indian Died At Buena Vista
J. J. Daneri went to Buena Vista this morning to claim the remains of Charlie Maximo, aged Indian, who passed away at his home at the Indian settlement.  Mr. Maximo was aged 97 years and the infirmities of advanced age are credited with being the cause of death. 

He was a native of Lockford but had been a resident of the Jackson Valley during more than fifty years past.  He was well known throughout that community and had the respect of all.  His father was born at the present site of the town of Lodi before the establishment of that city.  A sister survives his death. 

The funeral will be held on next Sunday afternoon, Indian rites being conducted at the reservation at Buena Vista where interment will occur at the Indian burial grounds. 

Amador Ledger
April 1, 1943
Charlie Maximo, Aged Ione Indian, Is Laid to Rest
Indian funeral rites were held at the reservation near Buena Vista Sunday, March 28th, for the late Charlie Maximo aged Indian of that district, whose death occurred last Thursday night.  Maximo was aged ninety-seven years at the time of his passing. 

Charlie Maximo was a native of Lockeford.  He came to Amador county about fifty years ago and made his home in JacksonValley.  He was well known in that district.  A sister is the sole survivor.  Interment was made in the Indian burial grounds near Buena Vista. 

IoneValley Echo
Old Chief Charlie Famed Indian Medicine Man Dies
Chief Charlie Maximo, mystical medicine man of the Jackson Valley Digger Indian Tribe, will no longer perform his famed Indian magic on the subjects of his reservation, for Chief Charlie is dead. 

He died last Friday, March 26, at the reported age of 98. 

Chief Charlie was a native of California, coming to Amador County seventy years ago, in the capacity of a medicine man.  He has resided at the Jackson Valley Reservation for many, many years. 

On Sunday, March 28, he was given a full tribunal funeral ceremony at the Buena Vista Indian Cemetery. 

To many oldtimers his death marks the passing of another of Amador County’s colorful figures of the days of gold and romance. 

Yes, Chief Charlie is dead. 

Photographs of Charlie Maximo

Charley Maximo at the First California Indian Festival in San Francisco, October 1-4, 1924

Stockton Record (January 30, 1932)

Charlie Maximo (Stockton Record, January 30, 1932)

Charlie Maximo (Stockton Record, January 30, 1932)
Charlie Maximo (Stockton Record, January 30, 1932)
Charlie Maximo (Stockton Record, January 30, 1932)
Charlie Maximo (Stockton Record, January 30, 1932)
Charlie Maximo's house (Stockton Record, January 30, 1932)
Footdrum in Roundhouse at Charlie Maximo's (Stockton Record, January 30, 1932)
View at Charlie Maximo's (Stockton Record, January 30, 1932)
Artifacts at Charlie Maximo's (Stockton Record, January 30, 1932)
Entrance to Roundhouse at Charlie Maximo's (Stockton Record, January 30, 1932)
Interior of Roundhouse at Charlie Maximo's (Stockton Record, January 30, 1932)