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Mace Mayes and the Vanderkarr Gang: Cattle Rustlers of the AV

During the late 1880s and early 1890s, Mace Mayes was a true outlaw in the wild west of the Antelope Valley (See Figure 1). Originally born in Georgia, Mayes came to the AV and ran a saloon located on Antelope Avenue which was just north of 10th Street West (Gurba 2005). It was there that he and his accomplices would hatch their plans to cattle-rustle the ranches throughout the AV. Figure 2 is an image of the Oak Bar Saloon, which was another bar located along Antelope Avenue, perhaps near Mayes’ place (See Figure 2).

In addition to owning a saloon, Mayes served as constable of the Antelope Valley from 1891-1894 (Antelope Valley Rural Museum). No doubt his position kept his secret life of crime hushed. One of Mayes partners was George Vanderkarr. It is documented within an 1895 court case that Vanderkarr had a butcher shop where many of the stolen cattle were killed. Mayes and the gang would then ship the beef “all the way to the Needles”, making money off the stolen meat (The Los Angeles Times 1895). It was claimed that Mayes, Vanderkarr, and their gang stole over 3000 heads of cattle from 1892-1895 which valued to nearly $60,000 at the time (The Los Angeles Times 1895).

It was Eli Cammer, the next elected constable who served from 1894-1898 who would arrest Mayes for his crimes (Antelope Valley Rural Museum 2017, Gurba 2005). The court case would take place in the Antelope Valley and lasted ten days. There were 125 witnesses for the case and about half of the AV’s population came to visit the trial (Gurba 2005). The court case was documented by The Los Angeles Times in 1895 and the text can be viewed in Figure 3. Here are some excerpts from the Los Angeles Times Article:

“Mace Mayes was ordered into the custody of the Sheriff yesterday by Judge McKinley, as the fight between the law-abiding citizens and the band of cattle-thieves in Antelope Valley is growing so hot and strong that it was deemed no longer safe to leave the ringleader of the gang at large with only a bond to prevent his making a sudden break for the mountains.

Nearly all of Lancaster is hanging around the corridors of the Courthouse... It is claimed that Mayes ruled the rougher element in the Antelope Valley with a rod of iron. And that many dare not testify against him. While deputy sheriff, it is alleged, he protected many queer characters, and shielded some decidedly crooked dealings.

The ranchers have had enough of this and have organized in their turn to rid the country of this plague, and so protect their herds (The Los Angeles Times 1895).”

Ultimately, Mayes was sentenced to six years at San Quentin prison (see Figure 4). Mayes’ mug shot features the date of his entry, likely reading 1902, and six-year sentencing. How many years Mayes served varies by source, ranging from four to six years (Antelope Valley Rural Museum 2017, Gurba 2005). Once released, Mayes soon became involved with counterfeiting and would return to prison.

An article from the Los Angeles Herald in 1899 documents the arrest of nineteen-year-old Silas Duntley, perhaps of relation to local BBQ legend Rawley Duntley. Silas was thought to be the last of the dwindling Vanderkar gang after Mayes was sent to jail. Duntley was “very neatly trapped” by S.D. Pruden, an AV rancher, a man named L.C. Sticky, and Constable H.J. Butterworth (See Figure 5 for an image of the Constable). Pruden apparently had suspicion of the boy and had Duntley agree to sell him two steers from which it was later proven that the steers were stolen goods. Sticky and Constable Butterworth waited for Duntley and Pruden to meet before arresting him. Duntley would confess his theft and was later taken to court. The full article can be read here as Figure 6.

Mace Mayes clearly made a damaging impact to the ranchers of the Antelope Valley. He now remains a legend from the Antelope Valley’s wild west days.

Works Cited


Antelope Valley Rural Museum. “History of Law Enforcement in Antelope Valley Reviewed Antelope Valley Press- January 28, 1955” Newsletter Vol. 1 No. 1 2017 (AVRM-Newsletter-2017-Vol1-No1.pdf (avmuseum.org)).


Gurba, Norma H. Images of America Lancaster. Arcadia Publishing, 2005.



Newspapers.com. The Los Angeles Times. “Mace Mayes Again in Custody. Lawn’s Confession.” from Wednesday November 6, 1895- Page 9 (06 Nov 1895, 9 - The Los Angeles Times at Newspapers.com).


University of California Riverside- California Digital Newspaper Collection. Los Angeles Herald. “A Cattle Stealer Silas Duntley Neatly Entrapped in the Antelope Valley” from March 16, 1899 (Los Angeles Herald 16 March 1899 — California Digital Newspaper Collection (ucr.edu).



Figure 1: Mace Mayes (Photograph from MOAH Collections, Identified by Norma Gurba 2005).


Figure 2: Locals in front of the Oak Bar Saloon on Antelope Avenue, Lancaster (Photograph from MOAH Collections, Identified by Norma Gurba 2005).


Figure 3: News clipping of The Los Angeles Times’ article “Mace Mayes Again in Custody. Lawn’s Confession.” from Wednesday November 6, 1895- Page 9 (Newspapers.com).


Figure 4: Mace Mayes’ San Quentin Mug Shot (Western Hotel Museum Facebook Page, 2018).


Figure 5: Constable Harry Butterworth rides a spotted horse during cattle round-up near Lancaster on May 28, 1906 (Photograph from MOAH Collections, Identified by Norma Gurba 2005).


Figure 6: News clipping of The Los Angeles Herald’s article “A Cattle Stealer Silas Duntley Neatly Entrapped in the Antelope Valley” from March 16, 1899 (UCR California Digital Newspaper Collection).

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