May 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.

Ella M. Cain--Bodie Schoolmarm and Historian

by Peggy Lee

            It was a clear, warm, and sunny day in July of 1960 when we met Ella Cain. Our family had come to visit Bodie, that ghost town we had heard so much about. Bodie had the reputation, and a well earned one, of being the wildest gold camp in the West and we had learned that there remained a great number of buildings still standing, that we were wanting to see. We were on vacation and staying in a cabin at Mammoth Lakes so we took the shortest route from that direction which took us up the Cottonwood Canyon road off of highway 167, the road to Hawthorne. This road of course was not paved and very rough, and along the way the muffler on our Mercury sedan broke loose. This did not make my husband happy.

The Bodie schoolhouse as it appears today. (Photo by Martin Cole)

             This was before Bodie had become a state park and you could still drive into town. Luckily we spotted a long piece of wire lying beside the road and that looked like a good temporary fix for the muffler, so we parked up on
Green Street very close to the school building, and my husband got to work fastening up the muffler. 
             While he was working on that I noticed that the school door was open. I took our children with me and entered into the schoolroom. Mrs. Cain was seated at the front behind the teachers desk. She stood and welcomed us and told the children and I to be seated at the students desks. She was very friendly and asked if we had ever been to Bodie before, and then she proceeded to tell us some of Bodies history, and also that she had been teaching here in the early 1900s. She showed us books and globes and many other items that had been in that room for many years. There were flags and maps, lunch boxes, and even paper mache Jack-O-Lanterns left from some long ago Halloween celebration. She seemed to enjoy the visit as much as we did but we, reluctantly, had to leave. We spent another hour or two walking around the town till we realized that it was time to head back to our cabin. We vowed to come again, and that promise has been kept since we have visited Bodie almost every year for over forty years. It seems as though every time we come we learn something new about that wonderful old town.

Ella Cain

            The large two story wooden building with the belfry on top was not the first school in Bodie. The first was most likely the one opened in March of 1878 on Main Street that was taught by Belle Moore, the wife of Ben Butler who owned a saloon also on Main Street. [i] Then there was one located about two blocks higher up on Green Street, it is said  that a disgruntled student who did not want to go to school set fire to it. This newer one had originally been the Bon Ton boarding house that had been run in 1879 by Mrs. C.A. Ratjohn.  Some of the early teachers were a Mr. Cook and a Mr. McCarty. The school was of the one-room type with students of all ages and grades. Some of the older ones were even 16 or 17 years old. [ii]
            Ella Cain was born  in Bodie in 1882 as Ella Margaret Cody,  daughter of  Michael Joseph [iii] and Catherine (Shaughnessy} Cody. She had two sisters, Mary and Katherine, and  three brothers, Ralph,
Edmond ,  and Mervyn. Her maternal grandparents, James and Margaret (Dunn) Shaughnessy were both born in Ireland and immigrated to Hartford, Connecticut. They answered the call of the California gold rush, and went by boat to Panama where they crossed the Isthmus on mule back, then went  by sailing vessel to San Francisco. Catherine, the first of their six children, who would become Ella's mother, was born in the little mining camp of Howland Flats, Sierra County, in 1862. 

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Bodie Boys Prank of Painted Piglets

by Terri Geissinger

              November mornings in Bodie are always bone chilling cold and hostile. It’s the kind of cold that takes your breath away as it freezes your cheeks when you step outside. If Miss Nagle had her choice, she’d be back home in Arizona where November mornings bring chirping birds and new flowers blooming. She missed the pleasant days of her childhood. For now, she would have to stay in Bodie until her contract expired. It would be two years before she could think of leaving. Bodie needed a teacher and she needed the job. The first time she laid eyes on the old mining town was in July. She had been accepted to interview for the teaching job and took the long trip out to meet with the Mono County School Board. It had been a pleasant experience, the people were nice and she found Bodie a unique atmosphere. There were so many young teachers available that jobs were few and far between. She was elated when the school board had accepted her on the spot. She looked forward in going back home and telling her family about her successful trip and returning with her belongings before the school year was to begin. As she left Bodie that July day, she admired  the hills surrounding the town. They were carpeted with beautiful green grass and flowering sage. The deep blue sky accented the small clusters of  quake and aspen trees that shimmered in the sun. The air was dry, warm and welcoming. That was all a distant memory this morning.                                           

            Her thin fingers were numb as she fumbled for the key to the schoolhouse door. It was expected of her to arrive early and start a fire in the stove that heated the one room school. As she scrunched  paper into balls and carefully stacked the kindling on top, her thoughts drifted to the day before. She was hoping that her students would be settled down after yesterdays shenanigans. Another prank that disrupted the class. She couldn’t remember how many there had been this month, too many for certain. Yesterday it took nearly an hour to settle back into the lesson. The students giggled and fidgeted until she finally got angry enough to threaten extra study. She’d had just about enough of these Bodie boys and their tomfoolery. She picked up the matches that she guarded in her desk and struck one and confidently lit the paper under the wood. Snapping and crackling, the fire grew within the belly of the stove, she closed and latched the steel door. With that chore done, her thoughts turned to the days lessons.

            She walked to the front of the room and started to write on the chalkboard. She didn’t notice that behind her, a steady stream of thick black smoke was escaping from the stove. Lost in her thoughts that seemed to wander from reading and math lessons to warm comfortable evenings in Arizona to misbehaving little boys. Her sense of smell warned her that all was not right. As she turned around quickly, the chalk slipped from her hand and rolled away. The sight took her by surprise and her instinct was to run. The ugly thick smoke hurled itself into the room clinging to the fresh air, filling it with the harsh stench of burning oil and rags. Realizing that this was quite possibly the result of  another prank from these Bodie hooligans, her jaw set tight with anger as she quickly stomped to the broom closet where the fire extinguisher was stored. Dark, smelly smoke continued to roll into the room. In a rush, she opened the closet door, her eyes didn’t see what she heard, but knew immediately that her day was about to get worse.

            The squeals came from a pair of piglets that had been locked in the closet overnight, and now with all the excitement, they were ready to make an escape. As the pair leaped for freedom toward the open door where a shocked and surprised Miss Nagle stood, the piglets couldn’t jump clear the bucket of red paint strategically placed  inside the closet doorway. The first little piggy plunged into the bucket and sent a wave of red paint onto Miss Nagle’s cream colored dress. With a blood curdling scream from the horrified teacher, the second piggy took flight only to land beside the first with his hind feet in the bucket causing it to tip and spill over her new boots. Freedom at last, wet, red and slippery, they ran like wild children, squealing all the way.

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2005 Tour Information

We're still in the process of revising our 2005 schedule.

Please contact us at for current tour information.

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.

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