For Sale: California Ghost Town and a Few Ghosts Jun 17, 2018 23:20:42 GMT -5
Post by Graveyardbride on Jun 17, 2018 23:20:42 GMT -5
For Sale: California Ghost Town and a Few Ghosts
During its heyday, Cerro Gordo was California’s largest producer of silver and lead. Some 4,800 people lived there in the 1860s and 70s and the bustling mining town proved itself to be a lucrative venture – despite a high murder rate. Then the mine shut down and by the 1920s, the once prosperous settlement had become a desolate ghost town and remains so today.
But there’s good news for history buffs because the entire town is available for purchase. For a mere $925,000, the new owner will acquire more than 300 acres of land in Owens Valley in the Inyo Mountains above dry Owens Lake, along with 22 buildings – including the Belshaw House, a hotel, bunkhouse and superintendent’s quarters – and if the stories are true, a few actual ghosts.
Soon after the Paiute Indians were removed from the area, Pablo Flores, a prospector, discovered veins of high-quality silver and by 1865, had established mining and smelting operations. But Cerro Gordo, meaning “Fat Hill,” because of the abundance of silver, didn’t really take off until Mortimer Belshaw arrived in 1868 and transported the first wagonload of silver to Los Angeles. He subsequently built a superior smelter.
The rich mining operations attracted all sorts of people, including gun-slingers, and Cerro Gordo turned into a typical Wild West town. “Miners lubricated with whiskey settled fights over women and politics with pistols,” Cecilia Rasmussen wrote in a 2006 Los Angeles Times article. “Claim jumpers tunneled into the base of the mountain from all sides, prompting more gunfights. There was no genteel side of life here – no schools or churches – but Cerro Gordo had its charms. At separate ends of town, two buxom madams and their bevies of painted, frilled and scandalously-clad ladies welcomed miners and threw lavish parties. The miners found them just as alluring as the silver.”
Then the price of sliver began to fall in the 1870s and coupled with the difficulties obtaining water and a devastating fire, activity in Cerro Gordo came to a halt. Mining operations picked up again in 1905, when the town was purchased by the Great Western Ore Purchasing and Reduction Company, but the revival was short-lived and by 1920, only 10 men were working the mines.
But it wasn’t lack of work or the fire that brought about the demise of Cerro Gordo, it was lack of water. There are no wells and water had to be transported to the location. In 1870, Belshaw installed a pipeline from Cerro Gordo Spring and water was pumped into storage tanks on the crest of the mountain after which gravity carried it the three miles to town. However, beginning in 1913, the Owens River and other streams, which fed Owens Lake, were diverted to Los Angeles, the once mighty lake that had covered 108 square miles dried up and the prosperous town was no more. Today, water has to be hauled in by truck and the cost and labor involved renders Cerro Gordo uninhabitable.
For the past few decades, the Death Valley town has been owned by members of the Rasmuson family, but now they feel the time is right to sell. The current owners have been operating tours of Cerro Gordo, which will continue until the sale is complete. Jake Rasmuson told Annabel Fenwick Elliott of The Telegraph the owners have not placed any restrictions on the purchase of the property, but the goal is to find a buyer who appreciates Cerro Gordo’s rich history. “We would be more than happy to receive offers from any individual or group that will continue to care for this fantastic piece of history,” he said. “We would really like to find buyers committed to preserving the integrity of Cerro Gordo.”
Considering the cost of housing in California, an entire town for $925,000 is quite a bargain. Cerro Gordo, at an altitude of 9,000 feet, is rather isolated and reached by taking a steep road that passes through Keeler, California. But according to the listing, it’s worth it: “The site has been extremely well protected from diggers, artifact looters and Mother Nature herself,” the listing reads. “Restoration has been undertaken on most of the buildings, and the rest are in a state of protected arrested decay.”
As for the ghosts, they seem to be friendly enough. There have been reports of strange things in and around the old Belshaw House, where people sometimes see flickering lights and shadowy human “shapes” in their peripheral vision. And in the bunkhouse, built in 1904, it is said the last room on the left is haunted by an “entity” that manifests as a glowing mass and visitors have reported seeing mysterious lights in the main kitchen. However, so far as is known, no one has ever been hurt by any of Cerro Gordo’s dead residents – even the several hundred souls buried in the old graveyard seem to be at rest.
Sources: Brigit Katz, The Smithsonian, June 15, 2018, WFLA/CNN, June 16, 2018; and Hauntings, May 1, 2014.