Cerro Gordo, or "Fat Hill"
(George Turner Collection)
Independence in 1873. The tall
roof of the courthouse can be seen on the right where the Cerro
Gordo Union Mine suit was played out.
(Eastern California Museum)
This is a typical stagecoach which
would have rolled between Lone Pine, Independence, Swansea and
Keeler during the silver mining boom days of the 1860s and 1870s.
In 1929 this
was all that was left of the Cerro Gordo Freighting Company rock
wharf at Cartago. Here Cerro Gordo bullion was transferred to
mule teams after being carried across Owens Lake on the steamer
by Remi E. Nadeau from his book - "The City-Makers"]
Pat Reddy who was M.W. Belshaw's
wily lawyer. His brother, Ned Reddy, shot first in gun fights
at Cerro Gordo and Lone Pine.
(Los Angeles Public Library)
Pleasant A. Chalfant, a '49er,
later settled in Owens Valley and founded the pioneer newspaper,
the Inyo Independent, in 1870. His editorials condemned
the lawlessness at Cerro Gordo.
(C. Lorin Ray Collection)
A day's bullion output from the
mine smelters of Cerro Gordo. Here 300 silver-lead bars, each
weighing 87 pounds an worth $335 each are stacked like cordwood.
When the bullion accumulated, as it did during the control of
freighting operations between the cities of Los Angeles and Ventura,
the miners literally built cabins out of the bullion!
(Eastern California Museum)
when the railroad came to the high desert of California and the
silver boom of Cerro Gordo and Panamint had passed its heyday
of record bullion production, Remi Nadeau sold his mule teams
and built the first four-story building, and the first with and
elevator, at First and Spring Streets in Los Angeles. The "Nadeau"
was Los Angeles' leading hotel through the 1890s.
(Security First National Bank Photo)
of Cerro Gordo"[pdf]
by Remi Nadeau
Keeler in the late 1870's
Captain of the Bessie Brady circa 1879
namesake of the second steamer on the Owens Lake
Independence, California, Saturday, May 13, 1882
A SEVERE DISASTER -THE BESSIE, BRADY BURNED: The well
known steamer Bessie Brady, which was launched on Owens Lake
in the Summer of 1872, caught fire and was totally destroyed
at about 5:30 o'clock on last Wednesday evening; A year or more
ago the former principal owner, M.W. Belshaw removed her machinery,
since which time she has been lying idle at the Lone Pine Landing,
until purchased by the Owens Lake M. & M. Company. Capt.
Keeler, the company's Superintendent, has of late had in immediate
charge the work of refitting the steamer, to which was being
transferred the engine and machinery of the Mollie Stevens. The
vessel had been thoroughly overhauled, caulked, cemented and
coated with coal tar paint. From Capt. Keelers letter, which
recounts all the details known of the burning, there is hardly
a question but that the accident can only be explained upon the
theory of spontaneous combustion - the combined okum, oil, paint
and tar being ignited by the heat of the sun's rays. The Captain
says: "The boat was sound, and I had spared no pains to
put her in nice trim; really, I was proud of her, as being just
what we needed. But she has been launched in fire and not in
water." Another account says that all of the company employees,
who slept 'atween decks, lost such personal property as coin,
watches, clothing, blankets, guns, etc. It seems that but one
man had been at work directly on the boat during the afternoon
and left it at 2 o'clock, and when the fire broke out this workman
was some distance away while going for more material.
The Bessie Brady was the pioneer inland steamer of
the Pacific Coast being - as was claimed and undisputed at the
time - the first one run on interior waters for strictly commercial
purposes. The vessel was built originally for James Brady and
D. H. Ferguson, and cost about $10,000.00. For years she transported
thousands of tons of bullion and freight all around the lake,
and was just being refitted for similar service.
The disaster is most unfortunate, as interfering with
the operations of the Keeler Mill and the Cottonwood flume, and
throwing a large number of men out of employment.
U.S. Senator Borah of Idaho
is one of the unique, one of the most exceptional and most worthy
of all those remarkable characters who have exploited and led
the way for the development of the west. The west owes him a
debt of gratitude which the west can never pay. Always poor,
often homeless, self-reliant, hopeful, generous and brave, he
has been the solitary explorer of desert and mountain vastness.
He is the one who unlocked from its imprisoned silence the countless
millions of what is now the world's wealth. He penetrates the
most remote and inaccessible regions, defies hunger and storms
alike, sleeps upon the mountain side or in improvised cabins,
restlessly wanders and searches through weeks and months and
years for nature's hidden and hoarded treasures. Often-times
his search ends in poverty and distress and failure, sometimes
in success. Without the prospector - this poor isolated wanderer
- the great mining centers of the west would not exist. Without
his uneasy, never-tiring efforts, millions of dollars now on
their way to minister to the happiness and comfort of the race
would never have been poured into the channels of business and
(Excerpt taken from "100 Years of Real Living" by the
Bishop Chamber of Commerce, 1961)
(Drawing by C. Lorin Ray)