August 2013 Issue Explore Historic California - Magazine for Enthusiasts










Room 8-The Most Famous Cat in Los Angeles

Visit our Explore Historic California site on Facebook



Cerro Gordo is again


as of  August 17, 2013

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

A $10 donation per person is requested.

Please contact Robert at Cerro Gordo for current road conditions:

(760) 876-5030


(909 856-4434


Contact us through email at:

Friends of Bodie

Day 2013

Sat., August 10, 2013.

Click on the poster above for more information.


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


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:

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

Visit Michael Piatt's site,, 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.



Early Los Angeles

Part I: Sleepy Pueblo Turned Hell Town

By Cecile Page Vargo

 In the winter of 1776, early California governor, Felipe Neve, and a small band of soldiers trekked north from Baja to Monterey. By February 3, 1776 they reached their Alta California destination and proclaimed Monterey the provincial capitol. Nine months later, the first civilians settled in San Jose. Inspector General Teoedoro de Croix proclaimed that a second pueblo was to be established. The instructions sent to Governor Neve announced: “I have ordered the founding with the title de La Reina de Los Angeles sobre el rio de la Porciuncula.” Pobladores (settlers) were recruited to form the new pueblo.

1802 Spanish/Mexican map showing the California coastline as of 1791 (Carta Esferica de los Reconocimientos Hechos en la Costa N.O. De America en 1791 y 92 por las Goletas Sutil y Mexicana, y otros Buques de S.M. Cardano lo grabo. Morata lo escribio. Numero 1.

Map courtesy David Rumsey Historical Map Collection

Eleven settlers and their families from Sinaloa and Sonora, Mexico, thought the journey worth while. Their number totaled 44. Two heads of the family were pure blooded white Spaniards, four were Indians, two were Negro, two Mulatto, and one was Mestizo. Twenty-six of the settlers reportedly had African blood running through their veins. Twenty-two of them were children. Most of the group were poor farmers looking for something newer and better.

Soldiers escorted the pobladores from Los Alamos east of Loreto on the Mexican mainland. The year was 1781, and everyone had been promised seed and animals for the journey. Captain Rivera who had led a mission finding expedition in 1769 was their leader.

Travel was by sea and land to the banks of the Porciuncula River that Father Crespi had described in a 1769 diary as “a very spacious valley, well grown with cottonwoods and sycamores, among which ran a beautiful river.” The area today is known as the North Broadway entrance to the Elysian Park near the Los Angeles River. The River had been dubbed by Crespi “el rio de Nuestra Senora de Los Angeles de la Porciuncula” in honor of a Franciscan celebration observed in August first known as the “Jubilee of Our Lady of the Angels of Porciuncula”

It was seven months or so before the original settlers started arriving at Mission San Gabriel. Plans for the new pueblo were drawn up on September 4, 1781, by Governor Neve. The date stamped on official records sent to Spain, became the official birthday of the city of Los Angeles, and is still celebrated with recreations of the original trek of the founding families.

1857 map of the City of Los Angeles by Bancroft & Thayer; Hancock, Henry; Hansen, George; Ord, E.O.C.

Map courtesy David Rumsey Historical Map Collection 

The original families were each given plots and a lot that faced the Plaza, which was the community center for over a century. Struggling villages took three years to build a small adobe church. Corporal Vincent Feli, a Spaniard in command of an army of four or five Mexicans was in charge of the government. By 1800, seventy families lived in 30 adobe dwellings and survived by raising grain and cattle.

The pueblo was described as ugly with crooked and ungraded streets. Caballaros kicked up clouds of dust as they galloped through the streets. Sidewalks and shade trees were non-existent. The adobe houses the families lived in were described as mere hovels with flat roofs covered with brea (asphatum or tar) from the springs west of town. Tiny fields imperfectly cultivated supported a few roots and vegetables for the families. Treks to the San Gabriel Mission were made weekly for other supplies. Water came from ditches controlled by the most important public official, the zanjero, who kept them free of animals and laundry, and made sure the water was directed into proper tributary channels.

After the first decade of life El Pueblo soared to a population of 139 with a successful agricultural community. A chapel had been built, and three soldiers received grazing permits. In 1815, however, torrential rains flooded out the pueblo, forcing relocation on higher ground. The Plaza Catholic Church of 1822 and the Avila Adobe of 1818, located on present day Olvera Street, are the only surviving structures from the Spanish period of the pueblo.

Early Los Angeles was a Spanish-Mexican settlement, controlled by Spain, and colonized by Mexico. Outside contact with the rest of the world was restricted to two ships a year. Following secularization of the missions (1834-1837) more American traders, miners and adventurers trickled in, embracing the Roman Catholic church, marrying Mexican heiresses and becoming Yankee Dons throughout California. The names of Mexican cattle barons (Pico, Figueroa, Sepulveda, Bandini, and others) are commemorated in street and place names in modern times.

Following the Mexican war and the eventual seizure of California by the United States the period between the 1850’s and 60’s was tumultuous with horse and cattle thieves, desperados raiding stagecoaches and freight wagons, murdering bad men, professional gamblers, escaped criminals and fugitives from justice. 

One book describes the influx of newcomers as “offscourings of hard bitten communities below the border and backwashed from the mines, ruffians of every sort whom vigilance committees in the north had encouraged to migrate to other fields.” As a major point of civilization in Southern California, Los Angeles would be come a rip-roaring frontier town.

Nearly a century and a half after the violent period, author Gordon De Marco would write:  “The legendary mining town of Bodie, located on the east slope of the Sierras, had the reputation as the rootin’tootin’, shootin’est town in the old west. A town that was too tough to die and too mean to live. A place where Clint Eastwood would have needed a bodyguard. ‘Goodbye, God, I’m goin’ to Bodie’ is what men who pulled up stakes and went to work in the mines there used to say. There was no correspondingly catchy phrase for Los Angeles, which by most accounts was a far rougher place. Had there been one it might have been, ‘Hello, Hell, I’m here in Los Angeles.’ In reality, during the time period of 1848-1871 the sleepy pueblo struggling to turn town was often referred to as Los Diablos or the devil.

1848 map of Oregon, Upper California and New Mexico by  Bourquin, Frederick; Mitchell, Samuel Augustus; Tanner, Henry S.

Map courtesy David Rumsey Historical Map Collection


To be Continued…..



A Short History of Los Angeles

by Gordon DeMarco

Lexikos 1988


California: American Guide Series

by Works Progress Administration

Mabel R. Gillis California State 1939


The Cattle On A Thousand Hills-Southern California 1850-1880

by Robert Glass Cleland

The Huntington Library 1941


History of Los Angeles County California 1880

by Thompson & West, Reprinted by: Howell-North 1959


Maps courtesy David Rumsey Historical Map Collection








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