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Cerro Gordo Mining


Twisted History

by Cecile Page Vargo


henever my husband and I are out on the back roads we like to know the history of the area and we pack as many books and maps, as we do clothes.  We have great fun inventing a history of our own, as well.  The following tidbits of twisted history were taken from travels on our own and as tour guides for Ecological 4-wheeling Adventures. 

     Long before my days working as a house maid in the American Hotel at Cerro Gordo , I was a miner in the old town of Bennetville .  Bennetville is situated in the Sierra Nevadas off of Tioga Pass, just before Yosemite National Park.  The road to Bennetville is only obtainable by foot.  I was too poor to have a burro, like some of the other miners, but I soon got over my fear of walking over the old logs to get across the stream, and I learned to enjoy my daily hike to work in the High Sierra mine. 

     I felt fortunate to be hired on as a miner in Bennetville, as women were not really allowed in the mines, and were actually considered to be bad luck.  It did prove to be bad luck for Bennetville, anyway, as the mine was considered a bust before any ore was ever pulled out.

     Fortunately, I left Bennetville before things got really bad there, and headed for Munckton further north in the Sierras.  I became famous as the saloon keeper at Dunderberg.  Miners came from far and wide to buy the bottled Starbucks Frappucinos that I had specially delivered by mule from Seattle. 

     When winter hit the Sierras, I knew my Frappucinos were not going to go over so well, so I packed up my bags, and all the riches I had made in the Dunderberg Debbie Saloon.  I moved down to LA for a few months and bought myself a little white cottage in Tujunga, in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains.  I enjoyed tending to roses in my little garden there, until I heard about the mines in the Big Tujunga Canyon high in the mountains that towered above my little white cottage. 

     Still having some money left over from Frappucino sales in Dunderberg, I was now able to by a burro of my own.  I headed up to the Mill Creek and Monte Cristo Mines in the Big Tujunga Canyon , and prospected on my own for awhile.  The winters in the San Gabriels, were much milder than in the High Sierras, and it being a drought year, after all, it was just the perfect season to be panning for the yellow flakes.

     As spring came once again, I realized that I sorely missed the Owens Valley , the Sierras, the Whites, and the Inyos.  I sold my burro and bought a horse and  wagon, then hightailed it for the old Fat Hill in the Inyo Mountains .  At Cerro Gordo, I found a cushy job as a maid for the American Hotel.  I actually made more money as a house maid, than I had in the mines at Bennetville, and at the saloon in Dunderberg combined. 

      Cerro Gordo became the Comstock Lode of California during my stay there. All who worked there became quite prosperous, even if they did not work in the mines.  I spent several months up on the old Fat Hill.  Amongst my friends were Remi Nadeau who owned the freight company transporting the silver bullion to Los Angeles .  I also knew Victor Beaudry who owned the general store and had a large interest in the mines, and I even got the opportunity to visit with Mortimer Belshaw once in awhile.  Mortimer had an even bigger interest in the mines, and the smelters, and he owned the roads that led into Cerro Gordo.  

      Contrary to any rumors that were going around the little high desert town, I was only a good friend of Lola Travis, and did not work as one of her girls at Lolaí Palace of Pleasure .  Tired of guilt by association, I decided once again to pack my bags and head further north to Bodie. 

     There always is a job waiting for me at the Standard Consolidated Mines, of Bodie , California .  Mrs. Hoover, the mine superintendent's wife, always welcomes me with open arms, in spite of my gender, and she always hires me.  This particular time around, I was hired as an amalgamator in the stamp mill.  During stays at Bodie, I particularly enjoy visiting with Mrs. Hooverís brother-in-law  who enjoys talking politics with everyone he meets.  I keep telling him that one of these days he really ought to run for president.  I think maybe someday he just might do so!

     Now that Iím secure in Bodie, I  think I will stick around for awhile.  If I get tired of working at the Standard Consolidated, I can always take an easy job working for the paper.  If the gold runs out and the town goes bust, Iíll get a job at the Daily Bodie Standard Newspaper as a Ghost Town gossipiest.  Iím sure people will enjoy reading about my lifeís adventures up and down the mining camps.