October 2013 Issue Explore Historic California - Magazine for Enthusiasts










Room 8-The Most Famous Cat in Los Angeles

Visit our Explore Historic California site on Facebook



Cerro Gordo is



The town is open during daylight hours, road and weather conditions permitting.


Please contact owner Sean Patterson (661-303-3692) or Robert at Cerro Gordo for information and current road conditions:

(760) 876-5030


(909 856-4434


Contact us through email at:

Now Available

Cerro Gordo

A Ghost Town

Caught Between


Cecile Page Vargo's collection of Cerro Gordo stories, true, farce and somewhere in between, is being published in a new book, Cerro Gordo A Ghost Town Caught Between Centuries.

ISBN: 978-0970025869

The book gives glimpses of Cerro Gordo from the silver and lead mining days through the early twentieth century zinc era to its modern place as, according to author Phil Varney, "Southern California's best, true, ghost town." There's even a possible solution to the location of the fabled "Lost Gunsight Mine" that former Cerro Gordo owner Mike Patterson once suggested.

We are proud to team with the Historical Society of the Upper Mojave Desert (HSUMD) in Ridgecrest, Calif., to bring Cerro Gordo A Ghost Town Caught Between Centuries to print. This is their first major publishing venture. The book is  available for sale directly from HSUMD or through selected book sellers.

Contact HSUMD directly to order:

P.O. Box 2001, Ridgecrest, CA. 93556-2001.

Phone: 760 375-8456

Email: hsumd@ridgenet.net

Announcing our Arcadia Publishing Book:



Cerro Gordo

by Cecile Page Vargo and Roger W. Vargo

ISBN: 9780738595207

Arcadia Publishing Images of America series

Price: $21.99

128 pages/ softcover

Available now!

(Click the cover image for ordering information)

Available at area bookstores, independent retailers, and online retailers, or through Arcadia Publishing at (888)-313-2665 or online.

Mules can taste the difference--so can you

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.

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.



Early Water Works of Los Angeles

Part I: Quenching the Needs of a Thirsty Pueblo

By Cecile Page Vargo

William Mulholland (left) speaks at the opening of the Los Angeles Aqueduct, November 5, 1913.  The project was a hallmark of early twentieth century civil engineering.

November 5, 1913 a crowd of 40,000 people gathered at the northeast end of the San Fernando Valley to witness the first flow of water down the Cascades, as Mulholland proclaimed “There it is. Take it.”  As we approach the anniversary, we explore the history of Los Angeles water from sleepy pueblo to metropolis with this series.

On August 26, 1781, the Governor of California, Felipe de Neve signed an order dated at the San Gabriel Mission directing establishment of a pueblo at the site of  the Yang-na Indian Village. The pueblo would be known as Nuestra Senora La Renya de Los Angeles (Our Lady of the Queen of the Angels). Situated eight miles from the mission near the northwest boundary of a nearly level plain with a slight decline toward the south, the plain was bound by high mountain ranges on one side and the Pacific Ocean on the other. The Porciuncula River, today known as the Los Angeles River, ran easterly. The official establishment of the City of Los Angeles would become September 4, 1781. The public square was built a short distance from the alluvial bottom land of the river to make it easy to irrigate the thirty fields that were set up for the early settlers of the town.

Upon first glance, the pueblo appeared to have the ideal setting with all of its water needs quenched by the river. But the river was dependant upon the weather to survive and the weather was fickle, creating terrible droughts for long years at a time, followed by years of torrential downpours and flooding. Early attempts to record rainfall in 1857 show a yearly average of  5.867 inches.  By December of 1859 rain was falling at a rate of one foot of water within 24 hours, and the river was so swollen it was impassable. The overflow flooded a good portion of land around the pueblo, taking fences and hedges with it. Tracts of sand loam sediment were covered and vineyards washed of vines.  The dilemma of unstable water and weather would plague the city residents throughout history, from it’s creation as tiny pueblo to its 21st century incarnation as metropolis bursting at the seams.

Sketch of a water carrier in the early days of the Pueblo Los Angeles - First water distribution system in Los Angeles was the women who carried home earthen jars filled with water from the Zanja Madre. Later, men delivered to families their daily quota of water by means of barrels swung between handles of wheelbarrow. Third distribution cycle consisted of ox-drawn water carts.

(LAPL / Padilla Collection)

During the Spanish-Mexican era water needs were tended by each family as a part of their community service. Within a month of the founding of the pueblo an earthen ditch known as the Zanja Madre or Mother Ditch, was completed. Those who oversaw the upkeep of the Mother Ditch were known as zanjeros.  Deputy zanjeros were appointed to help oversee protection of water courses against blockage, contamination, breaches in the system and illegal use, and report to the head zanjero. In 1854, as Los Angeles grew under American rule the importance of the water needs and those who watched over it were recognized with the appointment of the head zanjero as a city official. By 1860 the head zanjero was receiving a higher salary than the mayor. The zanjas they watched over were described by John S. Hittel in Resources of California (1863) as bodies of water three feet wide and a foot deep running at a speed of five miles per hour. The water was carried from the river to the gardens with nine tributary ditches that ran from the mother ditch to various districts of the city. 

The notorious judge, William Dryden, decided to tackle the inadequate system of delivering water. By 1858 Dryden had established the Los Angeles Water Works Company as  private enterprise..  A 40 foot wooden water wheel was erected along the banks of the Los Angeles River to lift river water through the Zanja Madre to a central brick reservoir in the main plaza of the city.





Dryden's water wheel built in the late 1850s to raise water from the L.A. River into the Zanja Madre or "Mother Ditch" of early L.A., to provide water for irrigation. The wheel was destroyed in a flood.

(LAPL Collection)

Los Angeles Star December 24, 1858 

The citizens of Los Angeles were pleased by the prompt action taken by the city authorities, upon the petition of Hon. Wm. G. Dryden praying a certain water privilege from the corporation of the city of Los Angeles. The petitioner, being the owner of lands in the upper and northern part of the city, upon which are large springs of lasting water, the idea suggested itself of collecting water and, if possible, by a force pump to raise the water thus collected to supply the city generally with pure drinking water...

An ordinance granting the right of way to Wm. G. Dryden to convey water over the lands of the corporation of the city of Los Angeles:

The Mayor and Common Council of the City of Los Angles do ordain as follows:

Section 1. That the right of way is herby granted to Wm. G. Dryden, his heirs and assignees to convey all and any water that may rise or can be collected upon his lands in the northern part of this city of Los Angeles, over under and through the streets, lanes, alleys and roads of the city of Los Angeles; provided, however that nothing in this grant shall in any manner interfere with the vested rights of any one.

Sectc.2 That the further right and privilege is hereby granted to Wm. G. Dryden, his heirs and assignees, to erect and place upon the main zanja of this city a water-wheel, to raise the water by machinery to supply this city with water; provided however, that the free course in said zanja shall in no manner be be obstructed thereby.

Manuel Requena, President Common Council

Approved this 24th day of February, A.D. 1857,  Jon G. Nichols Mayor

I certify that the foregoing is a true copy of the original ordinance now on file in the office under my charge as Clerk of the Common Council.  W. G. Dryden, clerk

Dryden’s system served only a small portion of Los Angeles. The mains were constructed of wooden pipes, which constantly broke down, turning the streets to muddy bogs. Floodwaters from heavy rains in 1861 destroyed Dryden’s system completely, forcing him to withdraw his contract with the city.

Frenchman, Jean Louis Sansevain owned a vineyard and winery on Aliso Street and had great interest in domestic water. He signed contracts with the city in 1863, proving unsuccessful in attempts. Contracts were awarded to David W. Alexander two years later in 1865, but after only eight months, Alexander gave up. The lease was reconveyed to Sainsevevain in 1867. Sansevain joined hands with a former mayor of Los Angeles Damien Marchessault. According to historian William L. Karhl, these two men oversaw construction of a new water wheel complete with 5,000 feet of iron pipe to replace the faulty wooden ones. A dam and reservoir were also contracted. Winter came and Mother Nature released her fury once again, destroying the project. Sansevain threw up his hands and quit the water business for good. Marchessault, also suffering from depression from gambling debts, was so distraught over the affair he committed suicide in the city council chambers.

Section of the early brick water canal, the Zanja Madre, west of Union Station, recently re-discovered (circa 2000). It had brought water to the early pueblo from the Los Angeles River.

(LAPL / Security Pacific National Bank Collection)




Los Angeles Public Library photo collection

History of Los Angeles County California 1880

by Thompson & West, Reprinted by: Howell-North 1959 


Water & Power: The Conflict over Los Angeles

Water Supply In The Owens Valley

by Willima L. Kahrl

University of California Press, 1983


The Water Seekers

by Remi A. Nadeau

Chalfant Press, 1974


William Mulholland and the Rise of Los Angeles

by Catherine Mulholland

University of California Press, 2002



Cerro Gordo Update

August, 2013

Cerro Gordo is again

welcoming visitors by appointment only!

The town is open during daylight hours, road and weather conditions permitting. The road is suitable for 4WD vehicles and 2WD vehicles with adequate ground clearance, proper tires and in excellent mechanical condition.

No services are available at Cerro Gordo (except out houses). Please bring your own food and water.

Please contact owner Sean Patterson (661-303-3692) or Robert at Cerro Gordo for information and current road conditions (760) 876-5030 / (909 856-4434.


Contact us via email (see link on left column) for additional information.



Los Angeles Aqueduct Centennial 1913-2013


One Hundred Mules to walk the Route of the Los Angeles Aqueduct


October 15–November 12, 2013

On  the  centenary  of  the  opening  of  the  Los  Angeles  Aqueduct, Lauren Bon and the Metabolic Studio will perform One Hundred Mules Walking the Los Angeles Aqueduct, a commemorative artist action to connect Los Angeles to its water source. This performative parade of 100 mules will traverse the 240 miles of pipelines and canals that bring water from the Eastern Sierras through a gravity-fed system to Los Angeles, passing through three counties and nearly 50 communities along the way. Mule power shaped the modern West and was a primary force in constructing the aqueduct, an engineering feat that took only seven years to complete despite the rough terrain.

The parade will take nearly a month, with public events planned in Bishop, Manzanar, the Owens Dry Lake Bed, Pine Canyon, Neenach, The Cascades, Hansen Dam, and Griffith Park. It will culminate in a Veterans Day Parade down Western Avenue in Glendale to welcome the mules into the City of Los Angeles on November 11, 2013, followed by a ceremony at the Equidome to celebrate our countrys equine labor force—the mule.

 This commemorative action is a prelude to Bending the Los Angeles River Back into the City, a work that will pierce the concrete jacket of the Los Angeles River and use a sixty- foot waterwheel to reconnect the land to the river that originally supplied water to the city.

 One Hundred Mules Walking the Los Angeles Aqueduct is an action with a resolution to move forward into the next hundred years with renewed appreciation for this vital re- source: Let it be resolved that the citizens of Los Angeles will do better at utilizing this life-giving resource in the next one hundred years!

 This action is coordinated with the support of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) that has itself been working to make a new century of water delivery happen.

About the Metabolic Studio: The Metabolic Studio was formed in 2009 to support the signature projects of Lauren Bons artistic practice. The studio team also directs philanthropic support to the people, places, and projects that underpin the long-term goals of Ms. Bons work.

 The Metabolic Studio has been instrumental in helping to preserve Cerro Gordo's heritage.

For additional information, visit www.metabolicstudio.org.

Click HERE to download pdfs of the 100 Mules Walking flyer or click on either of the two images above.

Visit http://anothercityispossible.com/home.html to view route and schedule information or click the image above.
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