Moses Embree Milner, a.k.a. California Joe, had quite an illustrious career as an adventurer, gold seeker, gunman and chief of scouts for George Armstrong Custer, who
made him famous.
In 1875, California Joe joined the Newton-Jenney expedition to confirm Custer’s reports of gold in the Black Hills of the Dakotas (he also illegally prospected for the precious dust). While there, he staked out a home site where Rapid City, South Dakota, is today.
In May 1876 he, Capt. Jack Crawford and five others ambushed a party of Lakota, reportedly killing 15 out of a party of 23 warriors. Later that year, after Custer’s defeat, he guided Gen. George Crook and Col. Ranald Mackenzie.
California Joe was shot in the back and died instantly following his quarrel with Tom Newcomb on October 29, 1876. His grave marker is located at Fort McPherson National Cemetery in Maxwell, Nebraska, although Thomas R. Buecker notes, in Fort Robinson and the American Century, 1900-1948, that California Joe’s remains were not found when the post cemetery graves were relocated to this cemetery.
Marshall Trimble is Arizona’s official historian. His latest book is Wyatt Earp: Showdown at Tombstone. If you have a question, write: Ask the Marshall, P.O. Box 8008, Cave Creek, AZ 85327 or e-mail him at email@example.com