October 2011 Issue Explore Historic California - Magazine for Enthusiasts










Room 8-The Most Famous Cat in Los Angeles



Cerro Gordo is again open to day visitors, road and weather conditions permitting.

Please phone (760-876-5030) for current conditions before venturing out!

A caretaker is living on on the site and visitors must check in before venturing around the ghost town.

No supplies or accommodations are available at Cerro Gordo and visitors should bring plenty of drinking water and haul out their own trash. The dirt road from Keeler to Cerro Gordo is a steep, eight mile ascent. Four wheel drive is not usually required, but vehicles should have adequate ground clearance.

Phone 760-876-5030 for current information or contact us through email at:


Robert C. Likes, co-author of From This Mountain--Cerro Gordo, has  completed a second book about Cerro Gordo.

Click on the cover image (above) to learn more.

This is a story of a generation that sought its own self-identity in a world that suddenly became more complicated with an uncertain future and values.

This epic journey was staged on desert mountains, on steamboats carrying silver bullion across a desert lake, and on a freighting trail that traversed 200 miles of inhospitable desert.

Mules can taste the difference--so can you

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


Click on Room 8's photo or phone

951-361-2205 for more information.


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:  echco@msn.com

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

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 Bodie Foundation.

Credo Quia Absurdum




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.



Scurvy — It’s Not Just For Sailors Any More:

Off the Boat and Off To the Mines

by Cecile Page Vargo

The sailors and passengers who jumped ship at the Bay of San Francisco to answer the call of gold in the early days of the 1849 California Gold Rush more than likely thought their worries of vitamin C deficiencies from lack of fresh fruit and vegetables were over. The dreaded scourge that plagued sea travelers had been around for thousands of years causing debilitating illness and ultimate death on long voyages where the primary foodstuffs available were cured and salted meats and dried grains. For several centuries the simple cure had been recognized, although not completely understood. Surely, however, in a port described by early Spanish explorers as lined with green trees, freshwater streams, and very good grass covered soil, lack of  L-ascorbic acid would not be a concern.

In the early 18th century, a simple housewife sat down and wrote a 100 page book of household remedies. Nearly 40 years before British naval surgeon James Lind experimented with antiscorbutic  diet treatments consisting of two oranges and one lemon daily for six days,  Mrs. Ebot Mitchel came up with a cure for scurvy, which included extracts from plants, orange juice, white wine or beer. It is unknown how many people benefited from Mrs. Mitchel’s remedy, but James Lind’s was taken a bit more seriously. Unfortunately for long term sailors, the landlubber medical establishment did not condone the benefits of citrus fruits and dismissed Lind’s evidence as unproven and anecdotal.

By 1794 two thirds of an ounce of lemon juice was served in a daily grog to crew members of the  Suffolk that were headed for a non-stop ocean voyage to India. The twenty-three week journey led by Rear Admiral Alan Gardner, suffered no outbreak of scurvy, and lemon juice was soon in wide-demanded.  It wasn’t until after 1800, however, that the British Navy insisted on sufficient supplies of citrus juice to prevent the disease.

The world appeared to forget the benefits of vitamin C and physicians still sought to prove it’s affects even through the mid 1930’s. Scurvy followed the trans-continental explorers of the United States, and even the military would suffer. The Long Expedition of 1819-1820 came through the Rocky Mountains with three hundred cases of scurvy, and one hundred deaths. Botanist, geologist, and surgeon, Dr. Edwin James, was the company’s physician, but did not know how to prevent or cure those who succumbed to the disease.

His observations of unscathed hunters who had been away from camp for some time, allowed him to come to the conclusion that the diet of green herbs and wild garlic they ate in the woods along the hunting trail, kept them healthy. In 1834, one of the cooks from the Long Expedition remembered this, and saved the life of Maximilian, Prince of Wied, who came down with scurvy during a stay at Fort Clark. Even as late as 1860, twenty-five army men under Captain John Mullan’s command, began showing signs of hemorrhages around skin hair follicles, and other common symptoms. The Captain’s brother, James, an army surgeon, was appointed to the company’s health, and relied on an old fashioned folk remedy of fresh vegetables and vinegar to prevent disease progression and death.

In 1850, Dr. I. S. P. Lord wrote “scurvy is as common as damaged flour, and yet we seem to have pure air, soft crystal water, wholesome food, cooked well and regularly and comfortable sleep.” Unfortunately, Argonauts and immigrants coming to California by land and sea subsisted on diets of beans, salt pork, boiled beef, pancakes and little vegetables, and continued along similar diets once they reached their destinations. The disease was often dubbed “The Explorer’s Disease”, rivaling cholera as the number one frontier killer.

Military outposts and wagon trains all suffered alike due to inadequate supplies and lack of education on natural vegetation containing vitamin C, where no other fresh fruit and vegetables were readily available.

Cost to freight scurvy preventing foods to struggling frontier town or mining camps made it prohibitive for the average person. In the mining camps in particular, the common disease of gold fever took precedence over anything else and preventive eating measures were not even considered even if it was as simple as enjoying a native grown herb or bulb full of  “C” in the very ground they trampled over in their search for precious ore.

The mountain men and Native Americans should have served as example for the American pioneers suffering from symptoms of bleeding gums, loose teeth, and large areas of hemorrhaging skin. One man scolded, “Red muscle meat will do you in the settlements, maybe so where you can get plenty of green vegetables. But on the prairie you will have the cow’s insides for choice marrow, lights, heart and tongue, warm liver spiced with gall, and best of all guts-plain guts-and raw at that!”

Organ meats contained plenty of the missing vitamin needed in the average pioneer's diet, but the thought of partaking, would have turned many a stomach, even if they did believe in what the seasoned mountain man told them. The Native American diet of herbaceous plants, an uncooked liver, fat, and bile, as well as undigested vegetable contents of the first stomach of the buffalo, were rich in C, but also unattractive to the average pioneer who observed their practices.

Edward Gould Buffom was among those who came to the California country and contracted the disease. He recorded not only that at least half the miners were down with scurvy, he was experiencing “swelling and bleeding of the gums, followed by a swelling of both legs below the knee, which rendered me unable to walk. For three weeks I was obliged to feed upon the very articles that had caused the disease and growing daily weaker, enduring the most intense suffering from pain in my limbs which were now becoming more swollen and turning black.” 

Fortunately for Buffom, a friend had the sense to search for wild beans and make a decoction of bark from the spruce tree. Buffom cheated death. Teas were common cures of the day for many diseases, and for scurvy, teas of sassafras spruce leaves, acidulous drinks, stewed fruits and pickles were often concocted.

One mining camp in the golden hills of  California took advantage of a large outbreak of scurvy by tackling the problem of both disease and government management at the same time. The scurvy crisis hit primarily the Mexican and Chilean population of Sonora during the rainy season of 1849 and 1850 due to the usual culprit of salt meat and no vegetables or fruit. 

A town hospital was proposed to deal with the problem. By November 7, 1849, following the selection of a mayor, and a council of five American and two Frenchmen, a hospital was quickly established and maintained successfully, at least until the ravages of scurvy were checked.

Expenses were exorbitant for the hospital, with five dollar lime-juice, one dollar potatoes  and canned fruits and other anti-scorbutics at twenty-fold the usual prices. Even the hospital servants earned eight dollars a day. The mayor was dedicated to the cause and contributed his official fees to hospital uses, and Sonoran citizens generously contributed. As the scurvy was conquered and hospital needs subsided, town fees went to vacant lots and property surveys, quickly turning the mining camp to a full fledged town.

Historian Anthony J. Lorenz touted that at least 20,000 men died of scurvy during the California rush for gold. Nearly half of those deaths were in the first winters of 1848 and 1849 when it all began. The numbers exceeded the deaths for cholera. The Chinese were not among the great numbers who came down with scurvy, with their rich diet of vegetables they grew themselves. Herbal treatments and acupuncture may have attributed to their health as well.

As vegetable and citrus farming were introduced, and vegetables and fruits more became more readily available, scurvy was still so dreaded, that these commodities commanded high prices which were  willingly paid.

As miners fell victim to scurvy, some camps were known to bury victims in the ground up to their necks. The belief was that by immersing themselves in the land, they could maximize its effects. Those who remained unburied, stood guard to “keep off grizzlies and coyotes” Whether the procedure worked or not, was never recorded. After 1850, however, scurvy epidemics were virtually unheard of.


Bleed Blister and Purge, A history of Medicine on the American Frontier

by Volney Steele, M.D.

Mountain Press Publishing, 2005


Mining Camps, A Study In American Frontier Government

by Charles Howard Shinn

Harper Torch Books, 1965


No One Ailing Except A Physician: Medicine in the Mining West, 1848-1919

by Duane A. Smith & Donald C. Brown

University Press of Colorado, 2001


A Bodie Wedding

by Roger Vargo

Bodie's Methodist Church, built in 1892, has seen many weddings in its 119 year history. A wedding held September 17, 2011 was special because two of Bodie's own park aids, Woody and Tara, became husband and wife.

Youngsters ring the church bell to summon guests to the wedding.


The best man and groom shake hands (top) and the bride walks Bodie's dusty Green Street to the Methodist Church (center). Rod Duff, minister and retired park aid, waits at the alter (bottom).

Under Rod's watchful eye, Tara and Woody take their vows (top) while Supervising Ranger Tom Gunther stands watch at the church door (bottom).

Well wishers gather outside the church after the ceremony.


Tara poses for a portrait by the church door.


With Bodie's old buildings as a background, the new couple prepares to dissect the wedding cake.


Befitting nineteenth century Bodie traditions, nuptials are later toasted in several old drinking establishments.


Satisfactory, and so recorded!







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