The maligned Mutineer: William M. Amer

Madera County Historical Society In 1906, Madera County’s first treasurer, William M. Amer, had to move his office from the courthouse (left) to the jail (right). In the spring of that year, he moved again, this time to San Quentin to serve five years in prison for embezzlement.


William M. Amer was a Madera Mutineer in the Secession of 1893. He had lived in the northern end of Fresno County since 1886, laboring on the Adobe Ranch. Although he had worked his way into the ranch foreman’s job, his tenure at the Adobe had cost him dearly. In 1890 he lost an arm in a harvester accident. By 1893, he was more than ready to leave the farm; that’s what moved him to join the Rebels.

As the sentiment for county division grew, Amer saw an opportunity. If that slice of Fresno County north of the San Joaquin River became Madera County, he stood a good chance to benefit from the shift. Public servants would be in demand; the new county would need a treasurer, and it didn’t take two arms to do that job.

So Amer joined the movement for secession and when it was successful, he threw his hat into the political ring and ran for county treasurer.

In May 1893, the people gave Amer the job he was looking for. They made him treasurer and reelected him in 1894 to a four-year term.

Amer did a good job; the people liked him, and in 1898, they reelected him to his job. Then four years later, in 1902, once again the people rewarded one of the original mutineers. In 1906, he made plans to run for a third, full term, and that’s when fate turned against him.

Somehow his accounts came up short, and he was charged with embezzling $32,000. Instead of running for another term as treasurer, William headed for San Quentin.

Amer spent five years in prison, and then in 1911, the Progressive Governor Hiram Johnson, when presented with the petition that Amer’s wife Catherine had hand-carried all over Madera, he gave William a pardon — not a parole, but a pardon!

The ex-treasurer came back home with all of his rights fully restored. It was as if he had never been convicted.

William lived to the ripe old age of 91, outliving all of his fellow mutineers, and he maintained right to the end that he had neither betrayed the trust of the people nor the Secession of 1893.