Family Home of the So-Called “Malibu Hillbillies” Hits the Market for $1.6M

“I won’t sell,” “Malibu” Millie Decker once told a reporter. “I’ve told them that already!”

Mildred Mae Meek Lewis Mandeville Decker, known as the “last of the Malibu hillbillies,” was true to her oath and kept her family’s ranch high in the Malibu mountains until her death at 98 in 2018. Now, the Decker Family Trust is selling a rustic cottage and 7.8 acres off Decker Canyon Road for $1.6 million.

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Currently under contract, the estate, purchased in 1936 by Millie’s third husband, Jimmy Decker, features a rustic, light-filled two-bedroom, one-bathroom cottage with original knotty pine paneling, Douglas fir wood flooring, a large redwood deck, and a stone fireplace with rocks gathered from the surrounding hills. Keeping up the cowboy theme, the property includes a glass green house, a refurbished 1950s travel trailer, and horse corrals.

“The Decker family lived off the land and grew their own vegetables and fruits, tended beehives, raised chickens, rabbits and ducks, and had horses and goats. It was the original farm-to-table, ‘living off the land’ location in Malibu!” say Coldwell Banker’s Tamara Campbell and Andrea Jacobs, who hold the listing, by email.

If it sounds as if the Decker property is from another time — far removed from the $40 million estates that surround it — that’s because it is. The Deckers have been in Malibu since the 1860s, when Marion Decker staked a claim to 160 acres of hilly land under the Homestead Act of 1862. Settling in the wild Malibu Hills, the obstinate, pioneering Decker and other homesteaders ranched, farmed, hunted, and cleared out a life for themselves.

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California pepper trees along a road at the Decker Family property in Malibu.

The Deckers figure into the history of Malibu in significant ways. Marion was the archnemesis of Frederick Rindge and his fascinating, formidable wife, May, who bought the enormous 13,330-acre Rancho Malibu in 1892 (for $10 an acre) and held onto it for decades.

“The Deckers are just as much a part of Malibu as the Rindges,” says David K. Randall, author of The King and Queen of Malibu, a definitive history of Federick and May Rindge. “A lot of people don’t really realize that there’s been this almost intergenerational feud between these families, or at least there had been for a very long part of Malibu history. The Deckers were the most important homesteaders.”

The Rindges controlled the beaches and the one rutted dirt road that led to Los Angeles. They repeatedly attempted to buy out the surrounding homesteaders and even put up a gate to keep access to the road limited. But the homesteaders, led by Marion, rebelled.

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The two-story house at the Decker Family property in Malibu.

“The Deckers were the ones who really were the instigators in terms of trying to open up Malibu by any means necessary,” Randall says. “Whether that meant bringing in people from the county and then the state to try to advocate for the building of what is now PCH, whether that meant trying to sabotage May Rindge, or whether that meant killing some of her livestock and attempting and making attempts on her life. The Deckers really saw May Rindge as this enemy who was keeping their chance of the promised land away from them.” Until the day she died, May believed that Marion was involved in burning down the couple’s Malibu mansion in 1903.

May not only fought with the homesteaders, she also eventually battled with the county of Los Angeles, which wanted to continue State Route 1 through Malibu. In a landmark U.S. Supreme Court eminent domain ruling in 1923, the county won, and the Malibu stretch of the Pacific Coast Highway opened in 1929. (May eventually lost most of her Malibu estate that same year amid the stock market crash.)

Millie Meek moved to the Malibu Hills with her family in 1920, as the battle over Malibu still raged.

“I knew old May Rindge when I was a little girl,” Millie told the Malibu Times. “She scared me. She walked around with a gun holster strapped to her hip.”

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Insider the Decker Family Home in Malibu

Millie was the quintessential Malibu cowgirl, a talented equestrian and bull rider in rodeos. But Malibu was already changing. Hollywood stars began colonizing the area in the mid-1920s, when May Rindge reluctantly leased land that became the famed Malibu Movie Colony. “I knew plenty of stars when I was a girl,” Millie told LA Weekly. “A lot of the Western stars used to come to my daddy’s horse shows.”

After two marriages, Millie married one of the most colorful members of the Decker clan, “Dynamite” Jimmy Decker, and moved to the property on Decker Canyon Road. “He was the one who took this great, great joy in blasting away the rocks and boulders along PCH and it was almost catharsis for his family,” Randall says.

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Inside the Decker Family Home in Malibu

The Deckers became legends in Malibu, and Hollywood took notice. Millie wrangled and rode horses for films, while Jimmy rigged explosives for television shows. Stars like Clark Gable, Orson Welles, and Cary Grant would come to the Malibu Hills to hunt and camp with Jimmy. Jimmy and Millie are gone, and their son Chip Decker moved out of state last year. But their legacy remains.

“It’s interesting that the Decker’s family name is stamped in Malibu much more than the Rindges’,” says Randall. “In some ways, the Deckers kind of won … You can get from up high in the mountains down to the beach very easily. Malibu is part of greater Los Angeles — and it is an open place.”

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The kitchen looks out on surrounding hills in Malibu.

A version of this story first appeared in the Feb. 21 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.

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