Cerro Gordo California

Located in the Inyo Mountains on the eastern side of Owens Valley, Cerro Gordo California is a currently a ghost town after almost 100 years in operation from 1866 to 1957.  Several buildings still survive, including the general store, assay offices and hoist house. Cerro Gordo, spanish for “Fat Hill” is located on private land and permission to visit must should be obtained.

Cerro Gordo overlooking the then full Owens Lake.
Cerro Gordo overlooking the then full Owens Lake.

The town site is currently on the ridge of the mountain range, and accessible from either the western side in Owens Valley, or from the East from the Saline Valley Road.  Founding of the site is credited to Pablo Flores who began mining near Buena Vista Peak.  Initial development of the area was hindered by Native American activity in the area.  The establishment of Fort Indepence helped “control” this activity and the amount of activity in Cerro Gordo increased.  Early efforts were primitive with most mines being open pits or trenches and smelting was done in adobe ovens.

Mortimer Belshaw
Mortimer Belshaw

The location began to develop with the foundation of the first store at Cerro Gordo by Independence businessman Victor Beaudry.  He soon acquired several claims in exchange for payment of debt at his store and soon built two smelters.  

In 1868, Mortimer Belshaw established a partnership with another stakeholder the Union Mine.  He secured financing from Los Angeles, and built the first road, a toll road known as the “Yellow Road”, which gave him a lot of control over shipments coming down the mountain.

Cerro Gordo was famously a rough and tumble town and claims that a murder a week was commonplace. Water is not available at the townsite and several attempts were made from bring the life sustaining liquid to the town. For a time, water was piped in from several springs many miles away. The springs dried up when the Owens Lake was drained by Los Angeles in the 1920’s. Water was brought up by burro and for a time it was pumped up from 600 feet down the Union Mine. The ore was delivered down hill to Keeler utilizing an aerial tramway. From Keeler, the ore was transported some 275 miles to the small port city of Los Angeles.

The townsite was place for sale and the ghost town was sold for $1.4 million dollars along with some 360 acres surrounding and 22 structures remaining. The development group which features Brent Underwood is hoping to turn the town into a destination of sorts. While undergoing renovations, the American Hotel burnt down on June 15th, 2020 along with the ice house and a nearby residence. Brent Underwood is currently living full time in the town and uploads videos about once per week on a YouTube channel.

It is clear from his videos that Mr. Underwood has a passion for the area, the town, the history and some point, I would love to pay him a visit.

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Troy Nevada

In May 1867, prospector Alexander Beatty worked the the Grant Mountain range when he discovered silver and founded the town site of Troy, in Nye County, Nevada. Beatty quickly stacked five different claims in the valley. In 1868, Beatty started the Troy Mining District.

Troy Nevada is located in Nye County, Nevada.

In 1868, the town attracted a group of investors from England. After prospecting and exploring the area, these investors purchased Beattys mining claims and The Troy Silver Mining Company was founded in 1870.

The little town of Troy, in 1871 was home to seventy miners and their families. Their needs were meet with two general stores, a school, blacksmith shop, boarding house and an unofficial post office. The Troy Silver Mining company invested some $500,000.00 into the mining facilities and built a modern 20-stamp mill and furnaces.

Despite fund raising, the new mining company was not destined to be the next great boom town. The mines never produced as anticipated and by 1872 the company was on the verge of going under. In 1873 a new manager was able to get silver production up to keep the mines open. Flooding in the mines and the speculation from the flooding caused the stock prices to plummet. Despite this news, the stock holders voted to keep mining operations in place.

In 1876, the end finally came for Troy when the mines were closed and the assets sold and moved including the mills and furnaces. In December of that year, the Troy Silver Mining Company was dissolved.

George Sharp, a nearby rancher, purchased the mine site for back taxes in 1902. He demolished one of the two furnace chimneys for the raw materials for his ranch. Sharp sold the claims to the Birdno family.

The mining camp saw various revivals over the next 50 years. The population would teeter back and forth between 1904 – 1920. The Birdo Family sold out the claims and divested in 1936.

The final operations in the valley started in 1946 when the Locke Mine was opened above the town of Troy by Joseph Hafen. The Locke Mine produced gold and pipe delivered to water up to the mine to produce electricity for a mill which was assembled. The Locke Mined operated until the mid 1960s.

Town Summary

NameTroy Nevada
LocationNye County, Nevada
Latitude, Longitude38.34578302126987, -115.57371331915309
Elevation6000 feet
Population100
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Wonder Nevada

Wonder Nevada is a ghost town and mining camp, which is located about 14 miles north of the US 50, in Churchill County, Nevada. In May of 1906, prospectors discovered veins of rich quarts in a wash just north of the Chalf Mountains. News of the discovery spread like wild fire and by June 1, 1906 with town of Wonder was founded by hundred of people seeking opportunity.

The Wonder mining camp, Nevada 1907.
The Wonder mining camp, Nevada 1907.

Tents and buildings are soon constructed to house and service the influx of people. The Wonder Mining News was soon sold by news boys in the fledgling town promoting the town to further heights. Drug stores, saloons, hotels, assay offices, cafes, sporting houses and boarding houses were soon constructed on business lots which could costs up to $8000 to purchase. A stage line pulled by a 6 horse team ferried passengers to Fallon and Fairview.

Small shops sold mining equipment and real estate while industrious pioneers setup food counters and sold beans, eggs, jerky, ham and canned goods. The town of Wonder also could boast a telephone system and electrical supply.

Wonder Mine 1907 - Stanley W. Paher, Nevada Ghost Towns and Mining Camps, (1970) p 100
Wonder Mine 1907 – Stanley W. Paher, Nevada Ghost Towns and Mining Camps, (1970) p 100

Investment Capital from the east poured into the fledgling town which included many start up mining operations. The formation of the Nevada Wonder Mining Company and its subsequent sale to investors formalized the development of the mining operations. By 1913, the Wonder Mining Company constructed a mill to process the ore immediately below the mine.

Lowest level of Wonder mine, 1907 - - Stanley W. Paher, Nevada Ghost Towns and Mining Camps,  p 100
Lowest level of Wonder mine, 1907 – Stanley W. Paher, Nevada Ghost Towns and Mining Camps, p 100

Despite heavy investment and a flurry of activity, mining operations ceased in 1919 and by August of 1920, the post office closed. Small lease operations did continue for a short while.

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Candelaria Nevada

Candelaria was a ghost town in Mineral County, Nevada located about 120 miles south of Falen. The location may be closed due to another local modern mining concern.

Candelaria, Nevada 1876
Candelaria, Nevada 1876

The area first received attention in 1864 when Mexican prospectors discovered silver. However it was not until 1879 when European prospectors came into the area that it became a mining town. The Nothern Belle was founded in 1873 and was the towns most profitable mine.

Candelaria, Nevada c 1880
Candelaria, Nevada c 1880

The towns growth was limited by the amount of available water. Water is a requirement for both people and mines. The lack of water caused Candelaria mines to operate the stamp mills dry. This dry stamping process caused a fine particulate dust to fill the air, and many miners suffered from “Miners Consumption” as a result.

Main street buildings of Candelaria, probably in the early 1880s
Main street buildings of Candelaria, probably in the early 1880s

For a while, in 1875, there was daily stage service to Columbus Nevada. The Nothern Belle produced about $15 Million in silver. The town itself consistend of two hotels, stores, saloons, and all of major professions of the time, including doctors and attorneys.

Lack of water prevented growth and the populations dwindled. The post office closed in 1939 and 1941 it was truly a ghost town. Today the site is mostly destroyed by a modern mining venture.

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Bodie California

Bodie, California is the ghost town by which all others are judged.  Located at 8300 in the Bodie Hills above Mono Lake, Bodie is the largest and perhaps best preserved ghost town in America. Established as a ghost town and state park in 1962, the town site is now administered by the Bodie Foundation.

Bodie, California c1890
Bodie, California c1890

Currently preserved in “Arrested Decay” a condition and phrase coined by the State of California for the Bodie, the town site is preserved as it was found in 1962. This essentially maintains the structures as the were at that time, and work may be done to keep them to that standard. Some buildings get new roofs, windows sealed and foundation rebuilt to preserve the state of degradation. It is because of this forward thinking policy that the town remains in the state of decline that it does.

Bodie CA is a town lost in arrested decay. Photograph by James L Rathbun
Bodie CA is a town lost in arrested decay. Photograph by James L Rathbun
The Standard Mill, Bodie, CA. Photograph by James L Rathbun
The Standard Mill, Bodie, CA. Photograph by James L Rathbun

I remember my first visit to Bodie was probably in the the late 1970’s.  My father drove our old Ford truck into the town, and as I jumped out my eyes found the old Standard Mill.  The Standard Mill still dominates the valley with its grayish-blue siding, multiple smoke stakes and extreme size.  The Standard Mill is the most intact mill in California and processed over $14 million dollars in gold during its 25 years of service.

Evelyn Myers, a three year old girls grave marker located in Bodie, CA reminds us that not all mine camps were filled with men. Photograph by James L Rathbun
Evelyn Myers, a three year old girls grave marker located in Bodie, CA reminds us that not all mine camps were filled with men. Photograph by James L Rathbun

Formed in 1859, the town under went several mining booms, busts and fires.  At it’s peak in 1879, Bodie hosted 5000 – 7000 souls, 65 saloons, a “Redlight” district, a china town, four volunteer fire stations, several newspapers, churches and of coarse, a Jail.  Bodie maintain a rough reputation over the years and suffers from murders, shoot outs, stage robberies and the odd bar room brawl.

They say you were wild and woolly, Bodie

And fast on the draw as them make ’em;

That you lived at ease with the bad and the bold,

Who thought nothing of shooting a man down cold,

And defying the law to take ’em

Lillian Ninnis
Bodie, California, Dec. 1, 1909, Bridgeport quadrangle, picture by G.R. Davis, topographer.
Bodie, California, Dec. 1, 1909, Bridgeport quadrangle, picture by G.R. Davis, topographer.

By 1910 the population settled at about 700 people, mostly families, as the miners and those who service the miners moved on to more prosperous areas.  The last printed paper was in 1912, and signaled the beginning of the end for the scrappy little town.  Although labelled a ghost town in 1915, Bodie continued to linger and dwindle is size until 1940 when the Post Office closed.

The interior of a general store is virtually the way it was when the store owner left Bodie, Photograph by James L Rathbun
The interior of a general store is virtually the way it was when the store owner left Bodie, Photograph by James L Rathbun

Under threat and vandalism the state of California took over the town site, and currently hosts some 200,000 visitors per year.

"Bodie Bill" - Age 2 1/2 years - Firebug of the Bodie Fire, June 23, 1932
“Bodie Bill” – Age 2 1/2 years – Firebug of the Bodie Fire, June 23, 1932

Remote locations, harsh weather and rustic builds make Bodie is a popular site for photographers.

The road into Bodie is accessible to almost any vehicle, but can server as a launch point the many back roads and trails. Nearby attractions are Masonic, Chemung and Aurora who like to get off the beaten path.

A weathered wagon wheel in Bodie reminds us of a bygone era. Photograph by James L Rathbun
A weathered wagon wheel in Bodie reminds us of a bygone era. Photograph by James L Rathbun
General Store still found in Bodie, California. Photograph by James L Rathbun
General Store still found in Bodie, California. Photograph by James L Rathbun
A deteriorated globe in the schoolhouse windows reminds us of the life that used be in Bodie. Photograph by James L Rathbun
A deteriorated globe in the schoolhouse windows reminds us of the life that used be in Bodie. Photograph by James L Rathbun

Gold was first discovered in the Mono Lake region in 1352 and placer gold was then discovered at the future site of Bodie in July, 1859* by William S. Body. On July 10, 1860, the Bodie Mining District was organized. In August, 1859 quarts veins were also discovered in the area, but the lack of -water and the extreme difficulties of transporting supplies and equipment over the mountains and desert tended to severely restrict mining activities at Bodie for some time. From 1860 to 1877, Bodie polled only some 20 votes a year, and in 1865 the town still had only SOP 14 small frame and adobe houses.
In 1876-77, however, new quartz discoveries were made at the Bodie and Standard mines, touching off a great gold rush to Bodie in 1878. From a few shacks, a term of some 250 wooden buildings rapidly appeared in the desert and the population leaped to 10,000 or 12,000 persons, with the usual assortment of gambling dens, breweries, saloons, and the nightly shootings, stabbings and brawls. Bodie soon merited the title of “Shooters Town,” and a “Bad Man from Bodie” was then universally recognized to be a particularly unpleasant individual. In 1879, when Bodie reached its pinnacle, its main street was over a-mile long and built solidly with one and two-story frame buildings. In 1881 a 32- mile narrow gauge railroad was constructed from Mono Lake to Bodie to carry in fuel and lumber. % 1883, however, the boom was over and all but the Bodie and Standard mines closed down; these two mines finally consolidated in 1887. In 1895 Bodie had a small revival when the cyanide process of recovering gold was put in use, Mining continued intermittently up to World War II, when Bodie finally became a true ghost town.

NATIONAL SURVEY OF HISTORIC SITES AND BUILDINGS

Town Summary

NameBodie
LocationMono County, California
Latitude, Longitute38.2121401, -119.0120874
GNIS1658094

Resources

Bodie Map