October 2014 Issue Explore Historic California - Magazine for Enthusiasts










Room 8-The Most Famous Cat in Los Angeles

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 * Please contact owner Sean Patterson for information about visiting Cerro Gordo *



Contact us through email at:


Friends of

Cerro Gordo

The Friends of Cerro Gordo is a 501(c)(3) public benefit corporation established to assist in the preservation, interpretation and public enjoyment of Cerro Gordo.

Help support these efforts by becoming a member.

Click on the FOCG logo (above) for additional information and to join or make a donation.

First year membership is only $10.

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.



Bringing Cerro Gordo from Bust to Boom

in the New Millennium

By Cecile Page Vargo

Cerro Gordo's American Hotel is highlighted by rays of sunlight through storm clouds. Owens Lake and the Sierra Nevada Mountains are in the distance.

On August 13, 2014, exactly one hundred years and 30 days after the anniversary of the incorporation of Cerro Gordo Mines under the direction of Louis D. Gordon, the Friends of Cerro Gordo joined hands with current town owner, Sean Patterson, in efforts to assist in the preservation, interpretation and public enjoyment of the town. Immediate goals are to raise funds to pay for enhanced insurance and an assistant caretaker/historic interpreter to assist town manager Robert Desmarais so Cerro Gordo Ghost Town can again welcome visitors next season.

The remnants of the little mining town that made Los Angeles grow sits precariously high in the Inyo Mountains, a testament to Pablo Flores and other Mexican miners who discovered silver in 1865.  Since then the Fat Hill, better known as Cerro Gordo, has gone through several booms and bust cycles under the reign of mining visionaries the likes of Victor Beaudry, Mortimer Belshaw, Thomas Boland, and Louis D. Gordon.  A few large companies tried their hands at keeping mining efforts going through the mid 1900’s, until  (then) caretaker Wally Wilson became owner in lieu of unpaid back wages.

A woman named Barbara Lee wandered up the back side of the rugged mountain from her more recent life as an actress in Hollywood and fell in love with Wally. Together they tried to keep struggled architectures and faded histories alive for the adventurous who traversed the unkempt dirt roads on back country adventures. Barbara outlived Wally and wound up facing the dream alone. She went down the mountain and found herself another husband to help, but he died, and she was single again.

Eventually Barbara became Mrs. Jack Smith, but the financial burdens of keeping the old place going still took its toll. Jack called upon his niece, Jody Stewart, an Owens Valley girl like Barbara, who had wound up in Hollywood as well. Dressed like a city girl, Jody got in her sports car and traversed much of the old bullion trail now turned highway until she got to the Yellow Grade Road. From there she slowly climbed up the dirt road until she reached Cerro Gordo. The town called to her and she helped finance Jack and Barbara’s dreams. Jody wound up with all of Cerro Gordo in 1984.

Jody Stewart shares some of Cerro Gordo's history with visitors.

Jody Stewart and her partner (and later husband), Mike Patterson, lead Cerro Gordo into the new millennium, shoring up and restoring old buildings for a state of restorative re-use. The former mining town began to boom as “the only bed and cook your own breakfast” ghost town in the world. The popularity of modern four wheel drive vehicles and backcountry exploration brought day and night visitors from far and wide. But their dreams began to slip away as Jody's health began to fail. She died in 2001.  Mike tried to hang on, but died of a broken heart in 2009. 

Since Mike Patterson’s death, Cerro Gordo has been in a state of vacillation with a permanent caretaker on the grounds to share the history and to protect the town from the elements of time and vandals.

 Through memberships and generous donations to the Friends of Cerro Gordo, the little silver mining town can boom once again.  Please help us in our endeavors and stay tuned for fundraising and current events on the mountain. The Friends of Cerro Gordo, Inc. is a 501 (c) (3) public benefit corporation. Donations may be tax deductable (consult your tax advisor). For additional information, please click the Friends of Cerro Gordo logo in the left column or visit www.explorehistoricalif.com/friendsofcerrogordo.org.

Headlines from Cerro Gordo

As Reported in California Newspapers of the Period

The Sacramento Daily Union (Volume 35, Number 5333) 1 May 1868,  published a report from an Owens Valley correspondent:

Eleven months later, the Sacramento Daily Union, (Volume 37, Number 5631) 14 April 1869, reported:

The following December, the Sacramento Daily Union (Volume 38, Number 5853) 30 December 1869, reported:

The California Digital Newspaper Collection is a free research tool for browsing old newspapers. While it doesn't contain the archives of all California papers (Los Angeles is notably missing), there's still a lot to peruse. The system attempts to convert the page images into readable text, but not always accurately. We've found it's more accurate to manually transcribe the page (PDF) images.

Click the image below to start searching the collection or visit: http://cdnc.ucr.edu/cgi-bin/cdnc.




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