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In foothills, Wolfe tales still abound

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In foothills, Wolfe tales still abound

Postby ERIC » Thu Jul 23, 2009 8:11 am

In foothills, Wolfe tales still abound
Local historian believes he's solved mystery

By Dana M. Nichols
Record Staff Writer
July 23, 2009 6:01 AM ... /907230323

BEAR VALLEY - Folks in this part of the central Sierra Nevada still swap stories about a man called Monte Wolfe.


They say he eluded the law for years and survived alone in the deep snows of winter. They say his exploits, hunting, cabin building and survival in remote mountain wilderness in the 1920s and 1930s made him the last real mountain man. Some say his real name was Ed McGrath and that he was part American Indian.

Some parts of that legend have long been supported by historical records.

Newspapers chronicle the manhunt, clashes with the law, trial, acquittal and release of Wolfe in the 1920s, as well as his mysterious disappearance in early 1940.

But until now, even the members of the Monte Wolfe Society, who still maintain one of his wilderness cabins, and descendants of Wolfe's close friends didn't know who he really was.

Don DeYoung, 56, who grew up in Stockton and took Boy Scout backpacking trips to Monte Wolfe's cabin in the Mokelumne Wilderness in the 1960s, says he has cracked the mystery. And DeYoung promises to reveal all Sunday during a free talk in Bear Valley.

Wolfe's real name was Archie Wright, DeYoung said. And Wright didn't have even a drop of American Indian blood.

DeYoung declined to reveal all the details of what he's learned from sifting through census records, birth records, trial proceedings, property records and prison records.

DeYoung said he became a historian after a restructuring at United Airlines ended his career as an information technology manager there. So he began using his Internet research skills to find the real Monte Wolfe.

Others had tried before. James T. Linford of San Francisco, for example, is the son of a couple who knew Wolfe.

Wolfe told Linford's parents, who are no longer alive, that his real name was Ed McGrath and that it had also been his father's name. Wolfe also reportedly said his father had been an Indian agent, or representative of the federal government, in the upper Midwest, and that his mother had Indian blood.

Linford wrote in an article published in 2003 in Las Calaveras, the publication of the Calaveras County Historical Society, that he searched a quarter-century of federal records and could find no evidence of an Ed McGrath who worked in that capacity for the federal government during the decades when Wolfe could have been born.

Linford's article notes another tantalizing detail about Wolfe's past, however: "One piece of his early life is a picture of Monte Wolfe as a Folsom inmate in 1909-1911, apparently obtained from the state archives. However the inmate is identified as A.E. Wright, not Ed McGrath."

DeYoung focused his research on Wright. Among his findings: Wolfe/Wright came from a family of wheat farmers, had origins in Stockton and adopted the name McGrath after the name of a man who homesteaded land near Groveland on which Wolfe/Wright squatted for a while in 1920.

Wolfe has always been a controversial figure, in part because some folks were upset by what they believed to be his reliance on cabin burglaries to feed and clothe himself.

"He was a burglar and a squatter and a poacher," said Eddie Berry, a volunteer who serves as a steward for the Mokelumne Wilderness, where one of Wolfe's cabins still stands.

"I don't think the guy should be glamorized at all. He lived on public lands and stole from people," Berry said.

Meanwhile, word of the new revelations about Wolfe's origins is spreading rapidly among members of the Monte Wolfe Society.

Many, such as Ralph Emerson of Murphys, grew up in Alpine and Calaveras counties hearing old-timers tell of Wolfe slipping up to campfires, joining in card games and disappearing by dawn.

"All the stories I have heard of people that knew him, he was really friendly to people. He enjoyed the people. He had fun," Emerson said.

DeYoung said some people also reportedly found stacks of valuable animal pelts left in cabins that had been raided for food.

"It was his way of paying," DeYoung said.

Yet it also appears Wolfe did not reveal his real name to his closest friends, or if he did, they took the secret with them to their graves, DeYoung said.

"He felt that telling people he was an Indian would impress people, instead of telling them the real story, which is equally impressive," DeYoung said.

Contact reporter Dana M. Nichols at (209) 607-1361 or
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Re: In foothills, Wolfe tales still abound

Postby mokelumnekid » Fri Aug 07, 2009 11:25 pm

This is interesting because I was contacted about Wolfe many years ago by Linford who wrote the (unavailable) book. I have one of the few copies. I have posted quotes from that book, with some pics on my flickr site: ... 274080551/

But the new information seesm to call into question what ever story Monte wished to share with others. He actually did at one point enter my family cabin (built about 1920) during the winter for supplies, but the story goes that he repaid the "loan." Clearly the guy was a loaner, and was not a serious threat to anyone.

But wait...a later posting in the Record reveals that Monte had a family of four kids- so much for the romantic notion! See this:
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