July 2005 Issue Explore Historic California - Magazine for Enthusiasts





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.





The birth of a new year is also the death of California campfire permits issued in 2004. Visit your local land management agency (BLM, NPS, USFS or State Parks) to renew your campfire permit for the 2005 calendar year.




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




Don't have a 4X and want to visit historic sites in Eastern California?

Capture the spirit of the past as it comes alive with true tales of pioneer families, prospectors, muleskinners, hero's and gunslingers. Listen to legends of lost gold, found wealth and superstitions. Journey back in time with Terri Geissinger - Historian, Interpreter and Guide

Click on Terri's yellow van for Terri's Ghost Town Tours or contact Terri by clicking here:






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

Click on the logo to request  subscription information.

A Time To Celebrate:  The Fourth of July

by Cecile Page Vargo

Part I:  Along the Trail

         As pioneers rolled covered wagons across the vast North American continent to a new land, the love and loyalty for the country they were leaving behind remained with them. Even the brave men who paved the way to this new frontier for these pioneers would stop and pause for a moment of brief celebration and patriotism when July 4th came around. The celebration of old and familiar holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, and other events monumental or otherwise,  gave weary travelers something to look forward to other than the arduous work of their journeys and expeditions. It also helped them to remain connected to the land and the loved one's back in the States.

Corp of Discovery Greets Day With A Bang

          Diaries from these travels more often than not noted Independence Day. Not quite two months into their journey of exploration into unknown territories, Captain William Clark of the Lewis & Clark Corp of Discovery noted July 4th 1804 :

         "Ushered in the day by a discharge of one shot from our bow piece, proceeded on, passed the mouth of a bayou leading from a large lake on the S.S. (starboard, or right side,) which has the appearance of being once the bend of the river, and reaches parallel for several miles. We came to on the L.S. (larboard, or left side, known today as port side) to refresh ourselves. Joseph Fields got bitten by a snake, and was quickly doctored with bark by Captain Lewis.

           We passed a creek twelve yards wide, on the L.S., coming out of an extensive prairie reaching within two hundred yards of the river. As this creek has no name, and this being the Fourth of July, the day of the Independence of the United States , we called it "Fourth of July 1804 Creek." We dined on corn. Captain Lewis and I walked on shore above this creek and discovered a high mound from the top of which he had an extensive view. Three paths came together at the mount. We saw great numbers of goslings today which were nearly grown. The lake is clear and contains great quantities of fish and geese and goslings. This induced me to call it Gosling Lake . A small Creek and several springs run into the lake on the east side from the hills. The land on that side is very good."

No Time To Rest on the Fourth

          Explorer Stephen Long led an expedition across the plains to the Rocky Mountains in 1820.  Forty miles east of the peak which is now named after Long, they paused briefly to celebrate the birth of the nation they had come from. Edwin James, a physician, accompanying Long, noted the day in his journal:

          "We had hoped to celebrate our great national festival on the Rocky Mountains , but the day had arrived, and we were still at a distance. Being extremely impatient of any unnecessary delay, which prevented us from entering upon the examination of the mountains, we did not devote the day to rest, as had been our intention. We did not, however forget to celebrate the anniversary of our national independence, according to our circumstances. An extra pint of maize was issued to each mess, and a small portion of whiskey distributed."

          The maize Edwin James talked of was a delightful addition to the soup kettle of boiling buffalo meat, instead of the usual barley.

Read More 


Dr. Swift's Cure for Hysteria

by Maria Zajacz

Editor's note: This story contains references to sex and sexual devices of the Victorian Era. If you are uncomfortable with such subject matter, please do not read this article. 

As far as we know, Dr. Swift never practiced at Cerro Gordo . The character is based on an poster we once saw in the museum, however his modality of treatment is well documented.


        Finally a doctor who knew what women wanted and needed!

        "Give it to me baby," may have been said by many women in Cerro Gordo in the mid-1800s when Dr. Swift arrived in their town to offer his magical massage treatment with the promise to heal sicknesses from neck to knee.

IT PAID TO ADVERTISE--Dr. Swift advertised his healing powers with handbills. Because he had no office, he visited his patients in their homes.

        Women with physical or emotional symptoms such as headaches, emotional instability, melancholy, aggression, depression, feeling lower abdominal heaviness, muscle pains and other discomfort might have sought his treatment as these symptoms were considered to be linked to women's reproductive system.

        More specifically, Victorian Era (1837-1901) physicians referred to these symptoms as female hysteria from the Greek idea of a "wandering womb seeking its proper place." The symptoms, according to their testing, could treated by the stimulation of the female genitals which induced “hysterical paroxysm.”

        It is nice that men recognized that women must have orgasms, too. The sad part is that husbands of that time were not trained for this elementary "medical" treatment.

House Calls

        So while some big city doctors welcomed women in their office for treatment, Dr. Swift at Cerro Gordo, who lived in the American Hotel and had no building on which to hang his shingle, went to his patients' homes to offer comfort and privacy.


        Let me give you my address, doctor.

        In a society were good women were not supposed to have sexual cravings, it was quite acceptable to visit the doctor or to be visited by the doctor when bothered by symptoms of hysteria. In those times, manual manipulation was a customary and accepted medical practice. When male doctors came up with this great treatment in the 1800's, many women felt in their every day life as if they were guided by angels.

        That is why women love men so much. (Ha-ha)

        As we all know, massages do wonders, but this type of massage is quite unimaginable in today's society.  

Read More


2005 Tour Information

We're still in the process of finalizing details for our tour insurance. We hope to be back on the trail for our Fall, 2005 tours.

Please contact us at info@explorehistoricalif.com for tentative dates or to be put on our interest list.

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 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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