May 2010 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 time being.

Our sincere thanks and appreciation to all who continue to support 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

Bodie Foundation
"Protecting Bodie's Future by Preserving Its Past


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



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.



Click on the bag to find out how.


Visit Michael Piatt's site,, 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 Bodie Foundation.

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

8209 California City Blvd.,
California City, 93505

Hey Brother,

Can 'Ya

Spare a Job?

The nation's economic downturn has severely affected the newspaper industry. My job of nearly 30 years was eliminated several months ago.

I'm actively looking for full or part time job opportunities within my diverse skill set.

If you have, or know of any openings, please contact me through this CONTACT  link.




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.



Life and Times of the Bodie Cemetery

by Cecile Page Vargo

Keep The Gate Closed!

Someone left the gate of the cemetery open last night and let in a terrible draft of cold air. It was so cold that Bill Bodey got up and shut the gate with such a slam that both hinges were taken off. The residents of that section state that his language on the occasion was frightful. (Daily Free Press, December 3, 1879)  

When the early pioneers of the mining camp of Bodie met their maker, their bodies were taken to cemeteries in neighboring towns of Aurora and Bridgeport.  The trek to these cemeteries must have been sad and lonely, over rugged terrain, for 13 miles or more.  The swampy flat at the southern end of the Bodie, provided a much more convenient location for the dearly departed, and became the site of the first Boot Hill.

The water table was so high, graves often flooded, floating the coffins. In 1877 some graves with markers intact were moved 880 feet to the present day location that greets visitors as they enter the boundaries of Bodie State Historic Park. It’s unknown how many graves remain hidden in the original spot of the cemetery.

Over at Bodie the burial ground is so wet that they have to bail out the freshly dug graves to get the coffin in, and then they pile rocks on it to keep it from floating until the funeral is over, when the grave is filled with more rocks and with wet earth.  At one Place in the cemetery there is a coffin which is partly protruding from the ground, it having floated up from below. As the occupant was a Chinaman no notice can be taken of it. At the funeral services for these burials the preacher is at a loss to know whether to read the baptismal or the burial service. (Bodie Standard, 1879)

By 1880 as Bodie’s population boomed and death tolls inevitably rose, the cemetery grew to three discrete burial areas. The Freemason, or Masonic at the south end, was final home for eight people.  The 43 graves at the Miners’ Union section, also at the south end, were particularly noted for constant upkeep and replacement of worn headstones and picket fences. At the north end of the cemetery, The People’s, or Ward’s section, was final resting to place to 109, with a grand total of 160 graves in all three sections.

The boundry of the Bodie cemetery was marked by a fence. Social status of those within could be determined by which side of the fence one was buried. Only "respectable" citizens could be buried inside the fence.  “Outside the Pale of Decency”, the bad men and bad women who earned the title of gunman or prostitute were buried. Reformed prostitutes, the likes of Lottie Johl, who married the town butcher, were allowed to be buried just inside the fence in an almost forgotten corner. Illegitimate children, and Chinese were also laid to rest outside the fenced cemetery bounds.

Near the entrance to the cemetery, the brick Heilschorn Morgue was built, and still stands today. Better known as the Dead House, bodies were stored here during Bodie’s harsh winters when the ground was so frozen that funerals had to be delayed for several days. Blasting powder was sometimes deployed to loosen ice and snow so graves could be dug. During epidemics when large numbers of people took their final breath, it was said the ground trembled and town windows rattled  from the continual blasting which struck foreboding and terror into the hearts of snowbound and isolated residents. During these fierce winters, wooden sleds were drawn through the snow instead of the ornate horse drawn hearses that can be seen in the Bodie museum in town.

Before the bodies were buried, of course, an undertaker was needed. More often than not, a furniture store owner or cabinetmaker would be hired to make coffins and take on the duties associated with funerals. 

Mr. H. C. Ward and  Mr. A. C. Friend are mentioned the most often in the history books as undertaking the grim tasks. Business was so brisk at one point, for Mr. Friend and his wife, (who apparently took over many of the chores) that a $3,000 hearse was ordered one year, and sold out to the competition of Kelly and Carder the next, as dying played out.

 A Grave Question: Pat Brown suing H. Ward, undertaker, for $146 due for services rendered digging graves. During the trial it came out that it cost more to bury a rich man than a poor man – comment causing merriment among the spectators. It was explained that a rich man’s coffin was placed in a big box but a poor man was buried in a box just the size of the body. Jury returned verdict in favor or plaintiff for the sum of $124. (Daily Free Press, December 9, 1879)

  The bad men of Bodie may not have been allowed to lay to rest within the gates of the cemetery, but Cornish undertaker Johnnie Heilshorn, was their advocate in death. At the close of a funeral, “Shotgun” Johnnie would announce “Come ye forth, all ye wee Nickies and ye big Nickies, come forth and take a geek at the he before I screw ‘im down”.  An undertaker by  trade, a rounder by profession a thief by inclination, a dope fiend by choice, and a scalawag by association, Johnnie and friend, “Big Bill” Monahan also apparently ran a little side business which involved second hand coffins, freshly removed from the graveyard.

Time and  weather, as well as thievery, have all tested the Bodie cemetery, but it still stands today with 140 known graves. The last burial occurred on June 18, 2003, when Robert “Bobby” Bell was laid to rest with a marker announcing “Hello God, I’ve just arrived from Bodie. I am the last of the old time miners”   On Memorial Day 2010, souls will rise again, and Mrs. Friend and Mr. Ward will gladly take you to hear their stories.

Tis said before he died his good wife sorrowfully and affectionately asked him “Don’t you think you could eat a bit of something, John?” With a wane smile he said” I do think I could eat a bit of the ham I smelled cooking.”  “Oh No! John dear,” said his wife, you can’t eat that! I’m saving it for the wake!”  Lying Jim Townsend – last of the Bodie newspaper editors

Special Cemetery Tours

Sunday, May 30, 2010

in Bodie SHP

Bodie State historic Park will honor the "Souls of Bodie" with 75 minute guided tours of the cemetery from 10 a. m - 3 p. m.

Tours begin every hour at the Methodist Church and are  free with $7 Bodie SHP admission.

This is a one-day only event!








Cerro Gordo Update

Cerro Gordo is Closed to Visitors

Cerro Gordo's American Hotel (center) and nearby buildings are surrounded by a blanket of snow.

The town of Cerro Gordo is officially closed at this time - until further notice.

However, the road is a County Road, and pictures of the buildings may be taken from the road.

There is absolutely no trespassing off the road. A caretaker is on site, so please observe the no trespassing.

Please do not hesitate to contact Sean Patterson at:

Cell phone: 661-303-3692 or

Email address:

Stay tuned to this website or our Facebook page for updates on Cerro Gordo's status.



 Copyright © 2010, All Rights Reserved.                           Powered by