April 2014 Issue Explore Historic California - Magazine for Enthusiasts










Room 8-The Most Famous Cat in Los Angeles

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Cerro Gordo is



 * Please phone




before your visit.


The town is open during daylight hours, road and weather conditions permitting.


Please contact owner Sean Patterson (661-303-3692) or Robert at Cerro Gordo for information and current road conditions:

(760) 876-5030


(909 856-4434


Contact us through email at:


Friends of

Cerro Gordo

The Friends of Cerro Gordo is a 501(c)(3) public benefit corporation established to assist in the preservation, interpretation and public enjoyment of Cerro Gordo.

Help support these efforts by becoming a member.

First year membership (though December 2014) is only $10.

Click here  or the F.O.C.G. logo above to download a membership  brochure.

Now Available

Cerro Gordo

A Ghost Town

Caught Between


Cecile Page Vargo's collection of Cerro Gordo stories, true, farce and somewhere in between, is being published in a new book, Cerro Gordo A Ghost Town Caught Between Centuries.

ISBN: 978-0970025869

The book gives glimpses of Cerro Gordo from the silver and lead mining days through the early twentieth century zinc era to its modern place as, according to author Phil Varney, "Southern California's best, true, ghost town." There's even a possible solution to the location of the fabled "Lost Gunsight Mine" that former Cerro Gordo owner Mike Patterson once suggested.

We are proud to team with the Historical Society of the Upper Mojave Desert (HSUMD) in Ridgecrest, Calif., to bring Cerro Gordo A Ghost Town Caught Between Centuries to print. This is their first major publishing venture. The book is  available for sale directly from HSUMD or through selected book sellers.

Contact HSUMD directly to order:

P.O. Box 2001, Ridgecrest, CA. 93556-2001.

Phone: 760 375-8456

Email: hsumd@ridgenet.net

Announcing our Arcadia Publishing Book:



Cerro Gordo

by Cecile Page Vargo and Roger W. Vargo

ISBN: 9780738595207

Arcadia Publishing Images of America series

Price: $21.99

128 pages/ softcover

Available now!

(Click the cover image for ordering information)

Available at area bookstores, independent retailers, and online retailers, or through Arcadia Publishing at (888)-313-2665 or online.

Mules can taste the difference--so can you

Friends of Last Chance Canyon is a new organization interested in sustaining and protecting areas within the El Paso Mountains, near Ridgecrest, California. The main focus is preserving and protecting historic sites like Burro Schmidt's tunnel and the Walt Bickel Camp.

Please click on either logo to visit the FLCC site.

We support

Bodie Foundation
"Protecting Bodie's Future by Preserving Its Past


Click on Room 8's photo or phone

951-361-2205 for more information.


The Panamint Breeze is a newsletter for people who love the rough and rugged deserts and mountains of California and beyond.

Published by Ruth and Emmett Harder, it is for people who are interested in the history of mining in the western states; and the people who had the fortitude to withstand the harsh elements.

It contains stories of the past and the present; stories of mining towns and the colorful residents who lived in them; and of present day adventurers.

Subscriptions are $20 per year (published quarterly – March, June, September & December) Subscriptions outside the USA are $25 per year. All previous issues are available. Gift certificates are available also.

To subscribe mail check (made payable to Real Adventure Publishing) along with name, address, phone number & e-mail address to:  Real Adventure Publishing, 18201 Muriel Avenue, San Bernardino, CA 92407.

For more information about the Panamint Breeze e-mail Ruth at:  echco@msn.com

It's always FIRE SEASON! Click the NIFC logo above to see what's burning.

Visit Michael Piatt's site, www.bodiehistory.com, for the truth behind some of Bodie's myths.

Credo Quia Absurdum




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 the website and enjoy our armchair adventures and the histories behind them.



Bodie Childhood Memories

By Cecile Page Vargo

As you drive into Bodie from the kiosk entrance, distanced from the main town site, and across the street from the cemetery, the Moyle House sits on the edge of the meadow.  Ella Haynes spent her childhood summers in this home which was originally owned by her grandparents, Thomas Nelson Moyle, and Daisy (John) Johnson Moyle. Ella’s father was the first of six children, all raised in Bodie. The home was used by various family members as a summer home until its reluctant sale to the State of California when the fading mining town turned ghost town was designated a California State Historic Park in 1962.

The Moyle House is one of the first buildings visitors see when entering Bodie from the south. The main town is off to the right. The map below (from USGS Bodie topo, 1994) shows the Moyle House in relation to the rest of Bodie.

In 2010 I had the pleasure of meeting Ella Haynes, and have kept up a friendship with her through the magic of modern social media. We recently spent a morning comparing stories of life in Bodie then and now. Ella fondly remembered how she and her siblings entertained themselves and we pondered over whether children today could keep themselves entertained in an isolated town with three kids and three or four adults minus electricity, phone, radio or television.

The close proximity the Moyle house had to the graveyard made it a favorite spot for Ella to run up to and climb inside an abandoned casket to greet tours as they arrived. She also recalls being able to hear sounds of voices and shovels on rocks when she was in her bed at the house trying to sleep. The following day Ella’s Dad and Bobby Bell would find bones dug up where someone had been searching for jewelry, and she would hear them talk about what they would do if they caught someone up there digging.

Graves in the Bodie Cemetery can be seen in the hillside behind the Moyle House.

Strains of music caught Ella’s attention one evening, so she set out to investigate. Instead of a ghost she found an Irish tourist with a set of bagpipes. He was camped out down below the present day entrance of the park.  He couldn’t see her, so she started applauding. “That was my radio entertainment…..I guess.”

The original outhouses still stand next to the homes and businesses in Bodie. Ella’s grandparents' home had indoor plumbing when she was a child, but she would often slip out at night to tend to her business and listen to the ghosts talking to her through the half moon air vent. “Who knew ghosts liked outhouses?” Ella laughs today. “Because of the ghosts in the outhouse I got a spanking in the middle of the summer when my parents figured out that the smell outside the front door was where my sister and I would go at night….it was fine during the cold months but not so sweet during the heat of summer.”

Worse than ghosts in the outhouse, Ella remembered “….one night there was a big earthquake and the bed bounced halfway across the room and sleeping in the bathtub because the coyotes were howling right outside the window and if my sister needed to use the potty that night she was too scared also!!”

Animals have always been a big part of life in Bodie. The sage hens, that still frequent the town today, were fun for Ella and her siblings to walk up to and watch fly in a circle just like a boomerang and fly right back to your feet since they didn’t stay in the air long and always came right back. The sage hens also provided food instead of domestic chicken or turkey, for Ella’s family. To take the strong taste of sage away, it was best to soak the hens in water for a short time then rinse them off thoroughly after the soaking.

A bull once charged Ella and her sister as they came across the meadow. Ella made her sister climb into a large pipe that was out there and started yelling until the adults could come rescue them. Mother came with one high heel on and one in her hand and went after the bull. When the bull wandered off, Ella’s sister found herself stuck in the pipe.  Bobby Bell got down to help her out, and decided that they would have to leave her there to go into Bridgeport to get help to get her out. “No don’t leave me!” cried the sister, as she managed to crawl out.  She wasn’t stuck at all, she just felt safe inside the pipe.

A popular Bodie ghost story during Ella’s childhood, was told about a donkey that was taken down into one of the mineshafts and got so big and fat they had to leave him down there when most of the town was gone. The donkey wore a bell around his neck and early tourists would swear they heard the bell of the ghostly donkey ringing. Ella knew better, as there was always one cow in town with a bell around its neck so the other cows would follow it. If sheepherders were around their donkey or one of their goats also wore bells. It was great fun to listen to the tourists talk of the “ghost” of the poor donkey and watch their faces turn white as a sheet.

When you live in an abandoned town, the most asked question you get is if you have ever had any ghostly encounters. Modern Bodieites spending a season in the Moyle and other residential houses swap stories at night for entertainment after hours. Ella shares her ghostly stories and admits that perhaps the “rotten kid” inside her had something to do with many of them.


La Noria Spins Again

By Roger Vargo

 Drawing of an early day water carrier.

(Image courtesy LA Public Library Collection)


 Since its founding in 1781, Los Angeles has had close ties with the Los Angeles River. Water was originally distributed to users through a series of ditches and crude canals and by hand by water carriers.

 William Dryden proposed a closed-pipe system to deliver clean water to homes in 1853. The plan was rejected  because of Dryden's request for land and a 20-year franchise for water distribution were deemed excessive. Four years later, Dryden was granted his franchise and established the Los Angeles Water Works Co.

The Water Works built a 40-foot water wheel to lift water from the main water ditch in 1857 and built a wood and brick storage tank in 1858 at the city plaza. The structure lasted about three years until it was destroyed by heavy rains, ending both the reservoir and Dryden's company. Three additional attempts by different parties were made in the ensuing seven years to resurrect the system. None were successful.

Prudent Beaudry, John S. Griffen and Solomon Lazard formed the Los Angeles City Water Co. in 1868 and were granted a 30-year water franchise by the City Council..

(TOP) This wood and brick structure  in the center of the Plaza was one of LA's  first reservoirs. It was constructed in 1858 by William G. Dryden and his LA Water Works Company. The structure was destroyed in a flood in 1861.

(BOTTOM) LA's second water wheel was built circa 1863 as part of a failed project to revitalize Dryden's waterworks. Over the years, as many as nine water wheels fed Los Angeles.

(Images courtesy LA Public Library Collection)


LA City Water Company acquired many of the private sources of water over the ensuing years and its superintendent, Fred Eaton, hired William Mulholland as a ditch digger in 1878.

Eaton was elected Mayor of Los Angeles in 1898 on a platform of establishing a new public water system for Los Angeles. The following year, Los Angeles approved a measure to purchase the LA City Water Co. system for $2.09 million. The acquisition process was bogged down with litigation until 1902 when the Los Angeles Water Department was established. Mulholland was selected as superintendent and brought with him senior employees from the LA Water Co., to run the new system.

Six years later, Los Angeles began construction of a 233 mile mile aqueduct to bring water from the Owens River to Los Angeles. The aqueduct was completed in 1913. Los Angeles, the city, grew and prospered. Los Angeles, the river, was relegated to a flood control channel.

Artist Lauren Bon and her Metabolic Studio have received approval from the LA City Council to build a 70-foot water wheel that will lift water from the LA River during "dry" months (the water is discharge from water treatment plants and natural drainage) for use at the Los Angeles State Historic Park and in the neighborhoods and gardens surrounding the Studio in downtown Los Angels. The water will be used for irrigation.

Bon named the project "La Noria" (Spanish for water wheel) in honor of its nineteenth century predecessors. The wheel will lift nearly 35 million gallons (106 acre feet) of water from the river each year when the project is completed in August, 2015.

Engineering drawing of La Noria water wheel. Click HERE to see the flow simulation.


Model of La Noria water wheel bucket. The bucket's design is based on the nineteenth century Pelton water wheel bucket.


Lauren Bon (center) shares La Noria and "Bending the river back into the city" at the Lincoln Heights Senior Citizen Center March 22 during World Water Day.


Contact info@metabolicstudio.org for more information on La Noria or Metabolic Studio, or visit www.metabolicstudio.org.



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