February 2006 Issue Explore Historic California - Magazine for Enthusiasts




Mojave Expedition (11-12-05) photo gallery--Click the photo to go to the gallery



Burro Schmidt's

Tunnel Update

Burro Schmidt's "Famous Tunnel" now has a group of "friends" trying to preserve and protect the site.   

Click the photo to visit  their Website.



Click on the photo below to read more about Cerro Gordo.

Cerro Gordo now has its own Web site. Click the link below to visit.


Join us at the Nevada Boom Town History Conference, Feb. 3-5, 2006 in Amargosa, Nevada.  Click the drawing for details.




The Panamint Breeze is a new publication highlighting the history and legends California and Nevada.  

Click on the logo for details.

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The "Butcher of Bodie" and his Bride

 by Cecile Page Vargo

          German immigrant, Eli Johl, co-owned one of Bodie’s two butcher shops along with Charles Donnelly during the famous mining  town’s heyday in the 1880’s.  While Donnelly worked behind the counter, Eli butchered the meats.  

          The Bodie Evening Miner reported of the Easter Sunday Eli  devoted his holiday to dressing 15 hand raised gentle natured steer from the great ranges of Smith Valley, for the Union Market’s customers the following Monday.  Eli was also noted for tackling the  not so gentle wild steer from Kirman & Rickey’s slaughter house corral a few months before Easter actually arrived. The steer, apparently determined that he should not be killed during the Lent season, enabled by a corral full of several inches of snow, jumped the fence. At least 17 dogs, and untold numbers of men and boys escorted him up and down the streets of town several times unable to retrieve him.  During the chase, Mr. Steer ran across a laundry man, apparently mistaking the poor Chinaman for a beefeater.  The Chinaman, attacked the steer with his laundry basket; causing the wild steer to be thrown by the deep snow.  As the Chinaman escaped, Eli, who had been busy slaughtering the steer’s brethren, arrived on the scene and shot the renegade steer, butchering him  right then and there on the streets of Bodie.  Reportedly, Eli’s “knife flew around that beef like a cooper around a barrel” and hung the steer where the dogs couldn’t reach him.

          Obviously a rough, yet simple man, Eli Johl was a bachelor, who spent  his time away from the butcher shop, frequenting the dance halls  and saloons that lined Main Street.  He enjoyed whirling around the dance floor with the fancy girls, then going off into the night with them to be entertained at the high classed brothels.  He had his eye on one particularly attractive and lively dancer in one of the halls, and was more often than not caught just staring at her as she danced with her many admirers.  Lottie was the name of the woman that Eli couldn’t keep his eyes off of, and he was sure he was in love with her.  He began showering her with not only his attention, but gifts and money as well.   

Lottie Johl

          Born on a farm in Iowa, Lottie had  married, given birth to a daughter, then divorced, for whatever reasons,  which in the 1800’s was not at all a respectable thing for a woman to do. With little skills, and few opportunities to support herself, she left the child, and eventually arrived by stagecoach  in the red light district of Bodie.  She possibly worked either in the Highgrade or the Ozark, the better houses of Virgin Alley and Maiden Lane.  In spite of her chosen profession, Lottie appeared to be a decent woman, of merry and gentle disposition. 

          Eli Johl knew that Lottie was employed in a house of  ill repute, but he loved and respected her enough to ask her to marry him.  Having lived a life  where she had never known true love, it took her awhile to  accept his proposal, but at last she did.  The butcher and the soiled dove of Bodie were legally married, much to the chagrin of the prim and proper women in town.  Unfortunately, amongst those prim and proper women was Annie Donnelly, the wife of Charles Donnelly, Eli’s business partner.  Certainly her husband could not remain partners with someone who was bold enough to marry a woman with Lottie’s past.  However, the butcher partnership was stronger than Mrs. Donnelly’s ability to undermine it. 

            Determined that his new bride would have nothing but the best, Eli bought Lottie a five room cottage near his butcher shop, on Main Street, and filled it with the finest furnishings. To celebrate their home and their love, they decided to have a party.  Friends were invited, and Lottie excitedly prepared the meals they would serve, sure that everyone would attend.  As the evening of the party wore on,  no guests arrived.  Annie Donnelly had convinced everyone in town that a former prostitute did not deserve to have a fine and normal life as they had, so no one had  dared to show up. Lottie, of course, was heartbroken.  

Bodie historian Terri Geissinger as Lottie Johl during Living History Days

             The Johl’s kept to themselves and tried to live a quiet normal life, just the two of them.  Eli went back and forth to the butcher shop each day,  and came home to  a loving wife.  The two of them would enjoy their suppers together and try to forget about having friendships.  Yet Lottie grew lonelier and lonelier, in spite of their love.  Eli realized his wife needed something to do other than sit and look out the living room window during he day. He knew that Annie Donnelly was famous for her oil paintings and taught others how to paint as well.  Surely, if  his business partner’s wife could paint, his own wife could do so, and perhaps she could do better.  He purchased paint supplies for Lottie and she tried her hand at painting.  Before you know it their house was filled with her beautiful paintings, but no one would see them except the two of them, for no one in town would forget what she had done with her life before she had married.

          Mining towns often enjoyed grand balls and celebrations to brighten up the drudgery of day to day life.  When the  Bodie Miners Union Hall posted announcements of a masquerade ball, Eli Johl saw this as an opportunity to show the town that his wife, Lottie, was as good as any of them.  From San Francisco, he ordered  a white satin dress decorated with seeds and imitation pearls, and a crown to match.  He presented it to her and sent her to the ball, surely the most beautiful woman Bodie had ever seen, in the finest costume available.  So no one would recognize her, Eli stayed home and waited to hear her glowing reports afterwards.

          Lottie had a beautiful evening, dancing and dancing to her hearts content, as she had always loved.  Everyone agreed she was the most beautiful of all, and the appointed committee announced her as the winner of the most outstanding costume as the night wore on. Slowly, Lottie slipped off her mask, and everyone in the room gasped as they saw her face.  The man who had been dancing with her recognized her from his past and he left her standing alone on the dance floor. Two men came over and whispered something into Lottie’s ear and she ran out of the ballroom. 

          Eli was furious when he found out what the town had done to Lottie, but she no long cared. Respectable people would never accept a prostitute.  They learned to live a quiet lonely life, sharing their deep love for each other in the solitude of each others company, until Lottie became ill a few years later.  A doctor was called in to examine her, and a prescription was ordered. Eli gave Lottie the medication, but she her condition became much worse. In 24 hours Lottie Johl, died.

          Even in her death, poor Lottie could not escape the towns gossip.  Everyone was sure that she had committed suicide. Sure his beloved wife would never kill herself, in spite of her unhappiness, he demanded an autopsy on her body.  The results of the autopsy proved that she had been poisoned, but officials decided that it was not intentional, it was just something that had happened.  Now, the problem was where would she be allowed to be buried - a woman with Lottie’s past could not be buried beside the good citizens of Bodie.

            After much discussion amongst the towns people, some actually siding with Eli that his wife had been good and faithful for many years, it was decided that Lottie Johl could be buried just within the fence of the cemetery.  Eli sadly built a memorial for his wife with a tall wrought iron fence around her grave, the most elaborate in the entire cemetery.  

Lottie and Eli at their gravesite in the Bodie Cemetery during Living History Days

As memorial Day came along months later, he asked a carpenter to build a canopy over her entire grave, then he decorated it with red white and blue bunting, little flags, and paper flowers.  At the head of the grave Eli placed a large picture of his wife in her all her beauty, with her fine jewelry and lace.  Every Memorial Day thereafter he would decorate her grave and mourn his beloved wife’s death, as the curious would pause to watch.  He lived alone in the fine little cottage he had bought for her, until Bodie began to decline, then he  sold out and left his memories and  lonely past behind. 

          Lottie and Eli Johl’s house still stands in Bodie today, a haunting reminder of the butcher of Bodie  his love for his bride and the citizens who scorned her.   Her now unmarked grave still lies in the far southwest corner of the Bodie cemetery; a strong black iron fence surrounding it.  At least one of the paintings she rendered is on display in the museum in town.



Soiled Doves: Prostitution in the Early West

by Anne Seagraves

Wesanne Publications


Big Bad Bodie: High Sierra Ghost Town

by James Watson and Doug Brodie

Robert D. Reed Publishers


The Storie of Bodie

by Ella Cain

Fearon Publishers and Mother Lode Press




East of the High Sierra: The Ghost Town of Bodie, A California State Park

As Reported in the Newspapers of the Day

by Russ and Anne Johnson

Chalfant Press for Sierra Media, Inc.


The Guide to Bodie and Eastern Sierra Historic Sites

by George Williams III

Trees By The River Publishing


Poag's Guide For 1880 Bodie: A Tour of Main Street As It Was

by Larry Poag

Western Places


Poag's Guide To Shopkeepers And Shootists

by Larry Poag

Western Places


Bodie State Historic Park Brochure

California State Historic Park


Bodie Cemetery: The Lives Within

Bodie State Historic Park


Tour Information

We're back on the road again! 

Click on the photo for our preliminary 2006 schedule details.

Thanks to all who joined us on our dirt road travels.

Please contact us at info@explorehistoricalif.com for additional information or reservations.


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 contact us at: info@explorehistoricalif.com.

     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 16 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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