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Captain Mace: The heavyweight in the mutiny

Madera County Historical Society After he retired from the California Assembly in 1878, Captain Russel Perry Mace turned to operating his Yosemite Hotel in Madera where much of the planning for the Secession of 1893 took place.


At 73 years of age and weighing 350 pounds, Captain Russel Perry Mace was rarely seen on the streets of Madera during those propitious days in the early 1890s. He spent most of his time in the Yosemite Hotel, which he had built in 1877.

This, however, didn’t isolate him from the political winds of secession that swirled around town at that time. The men of the Madera Mutiny sought him out. He became their Rebel Emeritus, and they made his hotel their unofficial headquarters.

With the exception of George Washington Mordecai, he had been first on the scene. Mace was the first to purchase property in what became the town of Madera and was the first to construct a building here.

It didn’t take the people long to recognize his leadership abilities. They elected him to the California Assembly three times, and by the time the locals decided to separate from Fresno County, they naturally turned to Mace for advice.

Some times one at a time, sometimes in a group, the mutineers met with Mace in the parlor of his hotel, and in early January those meetings grew more frequent. Figures such as Elmer Cox, Return Roberts, W.H. Thurman, Henry Clay Daulton, and William Conley could be seen tying their horses to the hitching post at the side of the building on E Street.

Finally, on the afternoon of Jan. 28, there was one more meeting. The mutineers were ready to strike. While the leaders were inside the hotel, a crowd was building across the street at the train depot. At 4 p.m. Mace bid the divisionists farewell, and 200 Maderans set out by rail to strike the first blow for Madera County.

All of that planning with Captain Mace paid off, and that night in a town hall meeting in Fresno, the mutineers carried the day. The people shouted their determination to create Madera County.

They carried the news back to Mace, and he lived to see the dream come true. Madera County was 11 months old when he died. His heart just gave out. And when they carried him to the graveyard, they buried him, not in Fresno County but in Madera County, thanks to the Secession of 1893.

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