January 2009 Issue Explore Historic California - Magazine for Enthusiasts










Room 8-The Most Famous Cat in Los Angeles




Sky high gas prices along with sluggish economic conditions have severely impacted our tour business for over a year.

We have reluctantly decided to suspend our tour operations for the remainder of 2008.

We will evaluate the prospects of resuming tours for the 2009 season.

Our sincere thanks and appreciation to all who have supported us.


LOGO T Shirts Available


Explore Historic California with our  logo depicting the California backcountry and its rich history both true and farce.

We now offer shirts, sweats, jerseys and cups with our logo.

Click the shirt for details!


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


Support Room 8's charitable legacy by donating to the Room 8 Memorial Cat Foundation or adopting one of their cats.

Click on Room 8's photo or phone

951-361-2205 for more information.


Mules can taste the difference--so can you




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



Click on the bag to find out how.


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

Terri Geissinger is a Bodie area Historian, Guide and Chautauquan. A long time resident who lives in Bodie and Smith Valley, she is dedicated to preserving stories of the pioneer families, miners, ranchers and teamsters. Click the photo for information on her tours with the Mono Lake Committee.


Back to the past in California City--Wimpy's!

8209 California City Blvd.,
California City, 93505



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.

The Mining History In and around

Sunland-Tujunga, California

by Cecile Page Vargo

It may come as surprise to Sunland/Tujunga locals that mining is a part of this area's rich history.  In fact, Rancho Tujunga is directly connected to the first discovery of gold in California. 

Long before the cry of gold was heard on Sutter's Mill in Northern California; stories were told of the yellow flakes being found on property near Saugus that was once owned by Mission San Fernando.  This was in 1834 during California's Mexican period.  Small shipments of gold were being made to New England during the days of hide and tallow trade.  The Indians apparently brought gold to the old mission.  It was believed that the padres were secretly mining the gold, and hiding it on the mission grounds.  By 1840 or 1841, an Indian, named Rogerio, supposedly found gold in Little Tujunga Canyon.

 In 1842, Francisco Lopez sat down to have his lunch under one of California's huge old oak trees, in the area we now know as Placerita Canyon.  While sitting there with his servant, he remembered to dig up some wild onions as his sister had requested he bring some back for her.  He dug around the soil where he had found the onions, and discovered more flecks of yellow.  Soon the cry of gold was to be heard in the pueblo of Los Angeles.  The cry quickly spread on throughout Southern California, from Santa Barbara, to San Diego.  The Mexican prospectors began digging and washing the canyons, yielding two dollars per day per miner.

Francisco Lopez was a member of a prominent California family from the early days.  His father was a leading citizen of Los Angeles, and a Latin scholar.  His mother was a teacher, and was also from a prominent family of the time.  His aunt and cousin were owners of Rancho San Francisco.  His brother, Pedro, was mayordomo of the Mission San Fernando. 

Pedro and Francisco Lopez were both granted ownership of the Rancho Tujunga lands.  A scholar himself, Francisco, had been educated in Mexico City, where he learned techniques of prospecting and mining at the famous Colegio de Mineria.  Two years before his fateful dig for wild onions, Andres Casstillero, a Mexican mineralogist, joined Francisco, in Southern California.  Near San Fernando they had found water-worn pebbles of iron pyrite.  From there, Francisco obtained mining tools and began searching for gold around the areas.  Perhaps, it was more coincidence that he found the wild onions for his sister, while he was actually on a search for gold, and the rest became the story that many of us have read in our California history books.

 From 1842 to 1855 the areas of Rancho San Francisco, in and around Placerita and San Feliciano Canyons were mined. In 1843, Francisco Lopez brought another visitor from Mexico, Francisco Garcia.  Upon visiting the placer locations in these canyons, Senor Garcia returned to Sonora.  He came back six months later with experienced placer  miners, known as gambucinos. 

In San Feliciano Canyon, 212 pounds of gold were taken out.  Over several years, Sonoran Jose Salzar found $12,000 worth of gold.  It's interesting to note that the first parcel of California gold dust coined in the U. S.  Mint in Philadelphia, was taken from the San Fernando Placers.  Abel Stearns, a Los Angeles merchant, shipped 18.34 ounces of gold around Cape Horn and it was deposited at the mint, July 8, 1843.  Gold was shipped to the mint for several years afterwards.  As late as 1859, miners in the San Fernando hills still reported discoveries.

 Along with gold discoveries, there are always legends of fabulous lost mines.  Supposedly, San Fernando Mission Indians brought gold from "Lost Padres" gold mine to the Fathers.  The mine was located somewhere in the mountains north of the mission, and worked in the early 1800's.  One tale has it that the mine was located in Pacoima Canyon under the flood control reservoir. 

 Another version, appearing in October 29, 1987 in the Pasadena Union,  hits close to home for Sunland/Tujnga residents.  The Union reported that "30  miles up Tehunga (Big Tujunga Canyon) is said to be the location of the 'Mina de los Padres'." Of course the exact location of the mine was unknown, but tremendous wealth was apparently pulled from the mine, until the Indians supposedly massacred the padres and removed all traces of it. 

Many believed the San Fernando Mission padres were hiding away their great gold discoveries for private use.  Before the mission was restored, treasure hunters would excavate the grounds hoping to find what the padres had hidden away.  In 1904, a visitor to the San Fernando Mission, claims huge holes were within the church itself.  The main alter was torn apart in the search for the treasures.  In 1915, vandals apparently looked for gold "buried in the bosoms" of dead monks.  For more than a century, people searched for the Los Padres Mine, but to no avail. 

 Los Angeles newspapers first report gold in the Tujunga region in 1865. A ledge of gold-bearing quartz was found in Little Tujunga Canyon. The Mayflower Mining Company dug a tunnel eighty feet into the mountain, looking for the Mother Lode. The famed bandito, Tiburcio Vasquez, not only hid out in La Tuna Canyon, in the Verdugo Hills, and in Big Tujunga Canyon, in the San Gabriels, he also did a little gold prospecting along Mill Creek in the 1870's.

Early day forest rangers, Phil Begue, and Tom Lucas, discovered remnants of Vasquez mining efforts still in good condition in 1916. They burned the combustibles, and did a little gravel washing themselves, discovering about $6 worth of gold.

 Prospectors found small amounts of placer gold in the upper canyon of Big Tujunga in the late 1880's, creating a minor gold rush. As the placer ran out, the search was on for quartz veins in the hillsides. The slopes of upper Big Tujunga, the tributaries of Mill Creek, Alder Creek, and Wickiup Canyons showed promise. In 1889 the Tujunga Mining District was booming. Above Mill Creek, the largest mine, the Josephine, had two tunnels, one of which extended 400 feet. A small stamp mill was also in operation. The Tujunga, London, Hope, Lottie, Dundee, and Cable and Pacific mines, spotted the mountain. Dry washers could be seen along the main canyon. Abandoned arrastras from previous years were reported along upper Mill Creek.

 By 1896, The Josephine was no longer in existence. It could have shut down, or been bought out by new owners, who changed its name. Mill Creek was full of activity, however, with two major groups of mines. The Tujunga Group contained over a thousand feet of tunnels and many small stamp mills. Five tunnels, three shafts and a four stamp mill made up the Monte Cristo Group. The Monte Cristo was the most productive and longest of the gold mines.

 Although it's not known for certain, stories told by Delos Colby, of Colby Ranch along nearby Coldwater creek, could have been the beginning of the Monte Cristo Mine. When Colby first came to the mountain around 1867, he saw Spanish miners carrying ore up to a water wheel driven crusher. When the Spanish left, Colby used the wood from the waterwheel for his ranch. The Los Angeles Semi-Weekly News, January 1867, also reported the forming of a new mining district north of Tehungo and east of Soledad, with discoveries of gold bearing quartz. The paper told of four large arrastras, which would soon be in operation, and a 60 foot diameter water wheel which ran a twenty stamp mill.

 The Monte Cristo went through several owners over the next years. In 1893 Colonol Baker organized a company, and spent $85,000 building a rough wagon road from Acton up Aliso Canyon, over Mill Creek Summit, down to Monte Cristo. Heavy mining equipment and buildings were assembled. Very little ore was recovered, and the mine was quickly abandoned. Captain Elbridge "Ed" Fuller, arrived in 1895, and ruled the Monte Cristo during a colorful period of various partners, one of which was found dead with his head blown off.  Fuller was not successful in his mining venture, and eventually disappeared. Fred W. Carlisle took over in 1915 until 1946. Carlisle came to the Monte Cristo from the Randsburg Mining District, where he had been assayer. Upon suffering financial losses in Randsburg, Carlisle came to Mill Creek and the Monte Cristo mines.

Scott Cole and Eric Vargo explore near the Monte Cristo  Mine.

 From 1923 to 1928 the Monte Cristo, under supervision of Carlisle, recovered gold bearing ore from two rich quartz veins. Of six tunnels that were bored, the longest was 425 feet into the mountain. Among the machinery brought in was a Blake Crusher and a portable air compressor. In 1927, the California State Mining Bureau reported recovery of $70,000 in gold. Some claimed as much as $200,000 had been recovered - the difference stolen by high-graders. In the 1930's, production slowed down, and Carlisle suspended operations for awhile, then leased east and west veins to various outside operators. Order L-28 by the War Production board, in October of 1942, forced  the Monte Cristo, and all gold mines, to cease operations. More than 50 years of mining at the Monte Cristo, came to an end.

 Small mining ventures have occurred in the mountains above the communities of Sunland-Tujunga for years. Along the tributaries of Big Tujunga, Delos Colby mined small amounts of gold from a quartz mine in Wickiup Canyon in the earlier years of the 1890s. Thomas Clark worked along the west slope of Alder Creek in the 1890's. Captain Lester Loomis expanded that area from 1913-1936, Ore from the Loomis mine was milled by a water driven arrastra. Areas of Chilao were prospected for gold by prospectors named Bell and Hartman around the turn of the century. Even Charley Chantry, of Chantry Flats fame, tried his hand for a short while, but with little success.

 Several hundred tons of gold and silver ore came from the Falcon Mine near Mill Creek Summit in the years from 1939-1942. Minor quantities of gold came from the Black Cargo, along Monte Cristo Creek, up into the 1950's. The Black Cargo boasted the only 24 bucket tramway to transport ore from the mine to the mill. The tramway proved inadequate, however and a road was built instead.

 Today from our armchairs, we can visit the rich history of the Monte Cristo Gold Mine at www.encyberpedia.com/gold.htm. Bob Kerstein, the current owner of the mine, writes the colorful stories related to this area. Bob and Susana Kerstein's family acquired the properties in the early 1940's. They own 25.66 acres of private property, as well as 525 acres of surrounding mining claims. All claims have been registered and kept current for nearly 100 years. Property managers on duty maintain structures and claims. A raging fire burnt hundreds of thousands of acres of Angeles National Forest in September 1979. Three main buildings from the Monte Cristo Mine survived this fire. Perhaps someday the Monte Cristo will become productive again.


Rancho Tujunga: The History of Sunland Tujunga

by Sarah Lombard

(out of print)


Trails of the Angeles

by John W. Robinson

Wilderness Press


Mines of the San Gabriels

by John W. Robinson

La Siesta Press


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