April 2004 Issue Explore Historic California - Magazine for Enthusiasts




Maggie guards a golf's egg she found in the El Paso Mountains, March 20.







Moose Anderson Days, April 24-25 at Jawbone Station. Click on the photo for details.


Those Magnificent Men and their Rusting Machines.

Click HERE or on the photo gallery link above.

Enterprising Women of the Western Mojave Mining Camps

Part II: Proprietors, Pedagogues & Property Owners

by Cecile Page Vargo

          Mexican Nell and her girls may have been able to quench the sexual thirst of the early miners that came to Goler and Garlock, but the men still hankered for a respectable woman like the girl they had left back home, to settle down with. A few of those girls from back home actually braved the harsh desert environment to set up camp with their prospector husbands. Those that did quickly learned that they had skills they could provide for the lonesome miner as well, and by providing those skills they were able to help supplement the family income when pickings were lean in the gold fields. 

The Gold Digging Proprietor

          Polly Duke was one of the first decent women to come to the mining camps. She and her husband became known as Aunt Polly and Uncle Tom. As soon as they arrived they set up much needed boarding houses for the miners of Goler. The men often gave Aunt Polly a gold nugget or two, but she also spent some time gold digging on her own. The smaller nuggets that Polly discovered in her spare time were carried home in her mouth. Once there she would find an empty sugar bowl, Vaseline jar, or tobacco can to hide her finds. Polly Duke was known as a good Mormon, so more than likely she tithed one-tenth of her gold finds to her church.

Room & Board For the Miners

          Mrs. Freeman and Mrs. Archie Martin also set up boarding houses in Goler, but were quick to move to Garlock as prospects began looking better there. Mrs. Freeman set up in a long narrow tar paper-covered frame building. After a hard days work, a miner had the choice between the boarding houses as to where he could sit down and have a home cooked meal. Mrs. Freeman was a widow, and her cooking enabled her to support her family. Her 12 year old son, Bob, also helped by driving wagon teams carrying barrels of water from Cow Wells to Goler and Randsburg. He earned a dollar for each 50 gallon barrel.  Mrs. Martin’s sons were friends with Bob. When the boys weren’t busy helping their mothers they found time to play with each other. Mrs. Martin was particularly noted for her good food, and was also always willing to help nurse anyone in camp that was sick. 

          Moving boarding houses from one camp to the other seemed to be the vogue of the day. Mrs. Kerns had a wooden building with a boarding house in Goler, also. When Rand Camp began to boom, she simply pulled up the building and took it up the hill and it became the Miners Hotel which opened for business July of 1896. In 1897 freighter John Cuddeback built a rock house in Randsburg and brought his wife and children to live and work with him. After building a store in Fiddler’s Gulch, he took wooden buildings from Garlock and moved them through the deep sand and up the hill to Randsburg, as Mrs. Kerns had. Mrs. Cuddeback rented the houses as fast as Mr. Cuddeback could build them.


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UPDATE: State Budget Crisis Threatens Bodie  

by Jill Lachman

Leigh Pringle and Jill Lachman of The Friends of Bodie contacted us to ask for our reader’s help in saving Bodie State Historic Park . Jill fills us in on the current state of affairs with this article. David Tayres  has more information on how you can help and where you can send money to help stabilize some of the more deteriorating buildings on his website www.bodie.com.  We will post updates on how things are going and what more you can do, as we receive them.    

           Since the passage of the California Desert Protection Act (1984) an effort was made to create a coalition of agencies that would pool their financial resources with the intent to purchase the property which Galactic Resources, Ltd. had claim to (Bodie Bluff and surrounding areas).

          In the meantime, the California Department of Parks and Recreation began an extensive, ongoing stabilization project in Bodie. Prior to the start of each season the state architect, district departmental supervisors and Bodie personnel (rangers and maintenance) made an inspection of the structures in Bodie prioritizing the stabilization effort according to the severity of the structures integrity.

          The goal was to bring the buildings in Bodie back to their appearance at the time of the original purchase of the townsite. Guided by photographs of the town made in the early 1960’s, each season from May to September workers came to Bodie to begin and hopefully complete several “restorations”.

          Many buildings in Bodie were erected in a fashion known as “board and batten” whereby the structure was constructed on the ground it stood on without the benefit of a solid foundation.  This caused the structures to be subject to the natural movement of the earth beneath them and be in danger of imminent collapse. 

          During foundation construction workers retrieved intact bottles, children’s toys, newspapers from the 1880’s, and Union banners plus numerous small items.  Beneath the Standard Mill, workers found what appeared to be silt and dirt, with glittering flakes of gold still present.

          Finally by 1997 a coalition of agencies managed to pool funding to proceed with the purchase of a swath of property atop Standard Hill and along the ridgeline to be annexed to Bodie State Historic Park thus effectively doubling the size of the Park’s area and forever eliminating the possibility of resumption of mining on Bodie Bluff.

          Park officials, agency representatives, Bodie personnel, local and regional government delegates, Bodie seasonal staff, former Bodie residents and their families attended the rededication celebration in September, 1997. The ceremony and following celebration took place on the hilltop where trains once delivered wood from Mono Mills to feed the boilers of Bodies steam powered machinery.

          Stabilization projects continue and many of Bodie’s buildings have undergone work, inside where it is invisible to general public eyes. These projects include such things as creating a foundation, shoring up walls with timber, re-pointing of brick mortar, and roof replacements.

          In recent years other factors have arisen to endanger the area’s ecological balance.  In the surrounding hills, not more than ten plus miles from Bodie, lies the Paramount and DelOro properties where companies are micro mining for gold. This process involves the removal of tons of earth for extraction of the gold and the creation of immense strip mines. The areas are ecologically sensitive and contain migration pathways, sage grouse licks and a riparian corridor.

          Another project of concern is along State Highway 270 where private resources are trying to establish a complex of an RV park, campground, store and employee residences. Property is in the course of being purchased fore this activity. This, too, is a sensitive area where numerous species migrate or traverse. Of greatest consequence would be the influx of humans bringing with them all the traffic and trash of our species.

          Today Bodie faces another hurdle in the form of severely decreased funding due to California ’s budgetary crisis. Much of the stabilization efforts have been curbed if not halted. Unfortunately, several buildings are still in critical condition and may possibly collapse in the near future.  

          One such structure is the Wheaton-Hollis Hotel on the corner of Main and Green Streets. It contains numerous historic objects such as the billiard table that sits in plain view through the large glass doors at the front of the building. Other things include the hotel furniture, a large kitchen filled with implements, the assayer’s office complete with kiln, bottles and scales, a safe and telephone switchboard which are also prominently visible. Attached to the hotel is the brick power plant holding the huge Roseklip Mine generators and transformers. The collapse of this place would mean the ruin of one of Bodie’s most recognizable edifices.

          Efforts are underway to raise funding for work to avert this disaster. At present the outcome is yet to be determined.                      

Jill Lachman has written more about Bodie State Historic Park in the winter 1994/1995 edition of  the Magazine of the California Historical Society: California History.  Her article and photography is titled Golden Promises, Abandoned Dreams: A Brief History and Portfolio of Photographs of Bodie, California . 


Our Tours with Ecological 4-Wheeling Adventures

We're climbing into 2004!

Please check here  for our 2004 tour schedule.

Explore Historic California!

     Not too many years ago, the family station wagon was the magic carpet to adventure. Today, that family station wagon is likely to be a four wheel drive sport utility vehicle or pick up truck. SUV's and other 4x4's are one of the best selling classes of vehicles. Ironically, industry statistics show that once purchased, few owners will dare to drive their vehicles off the paved highway. Click your mouse through our website and enjoy our armchair adventures and the histories behind them. If you are interested in taking one of our guided tours with your vehicle, please visit our ECOLOGICAL 4-WHEELING ADVENTURES.

     Several years ago, we bought our first SUV. We went to a one-night class at a local community college entitled "How to 4-Wheel Drive" by Harry Lewellyn. The following weekend we attended the hands-on day tour. We liked what we were doing so much that we began going out nearly every weekend and learned how to negotiate a variety of dirt roads. Our spare time was spent doing research on the history and ecology of our favorite areas. A one-day outing turned into 15 years of leading others on mini-vacations throughout Southern California and the Owens Valley.

     Our 4WD outings involve driving on easy to moderate dirt roads and are ideally suited to novice and intermediate level drivers. All tours are suitable for stock vehicles in good condition, although some tours do have vehicle size restrictions.

     Our tours are operated under permits issued by the Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service, and other authorities.

     We share our knowledge of the backcountry over the CB radio with our guests. We frequently stop to explore mining areas, old and new, and ponder the rocks, plants and animals we may encounter. We'll occasionally visit an old cabin or deserted mountain lookout.

     California has a fascinating history, from geologic unrest and prehistoric petroglyph scribes to the "Radium Queen of the Mojave" and the "Human Mole of Black Mountain." Load up your 4X, fasten your seatbelts and get ready to explore historic California.

Roger, Cecile and Marty

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