About the Colony

Custer scout was investor in Atascadero

I never cease to be amused by the luminaries who have had some connection with Atascadero, from baseball great Jackie Robinson, who coached young boys here in 1941, to cowboy star Roy Rogers and his wife, Dale Evans, who stopped by to visit a cousin, or when Jack Dempsey and his wife stayed a night in the Atascadero Inn in the 1930s.

And on a cold January day in 1952, Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio, who were married in San Francisco, honeymooned in Paso Robles and were seen walking along El Camino Real, looking into the large windows of the Carlton Hotel.

Clark Gable got a speeding ticket driving too fast on El Camino Real through the middle of the town, and comedian Steve Allen was here in the early 1960s to visit Atascadero State Hospital because he was interested in forensic mental health issues.

But in 1934, the local newspaper reported that one of the last of Gen. Armstrong Custer’s scouts became an investor in the Atascadero Development Syndicate. Charles Ginger, who had been known as “Piute Charley,” escaped the massacre of Custer’s troops at Little Big Horn in June 1876, when he was ordered to carry a dispatch to another general (Marcus Reno) three days before the fatal battle. That’s why he missed being killed with the other 246 of Custer’s men.

But before Ginger reached Reno, he was ambushed by a small Indian party only a short time after leaving Custer. The first shot from his attackers pierced his leg and killed his horse. When the horse went down, it pinned Ginger to the ground, and he was forced to endure a fire fight with the Indians right there.

They repeatedly shot through his hat, which Ginger had placed some distance away on the body of the horse to deceive them.

The shots drew the attention of members of the 5th Calvary who were scouting nearby. When the wounded scout waved his hat to attract the attention of the cavalrymen, he was shot through the hand by one of the Indians. He was taken to Fort Laramie to convalesce from his wounds. Another cavalryman continued with the message to Reno. Ginger said that Custer was a victim of too much courage.

At the time he was featured in an Atascadero News story about his early life, “Piute Charley” was 83 years old. He became one more investor in the settlement plan to get Atascadero out of the debt left by founder E.G. Lewis.

Lon Allan has lived in Atascadero for nearly four decades. He can be reached at 466-8529 or leallan@tcsn.net.