Welcome to the fascinating world of Ghost Town Living Cerro Gordo, a historical and thrilling destination filled with stories of the past and lessons for the present. Located in the heart of Death Valley, California, this once-booming mining town offers a glimpse into the lives of the people who forged a living from the harsh and unforgiving desert landscape.
In this comprehensive guide, you’ll learn about the history of Cerro Gordo, its current owner, the challenges faced by the remote location, and the plans to make it an unforgettable tourist destination.
Cerro Gordo – A Brief History
The Early Days
Cerro Gordo, which means “fat hill” in Spanish, was named for the vast amount of silver it contained. Established in 1865, the town quickly became a bustling mining community, with the principal mines being San Lucas, San Ygnacio, San Francisco, and San Felipe. Within four years, mining claims would increase to over seven hundred.
Although Cerro Gordo’s ore was of extremely high quality, numerous obstacles restricted its growth. The rugged terrain, scarcity of water, and remote location made it difficult for the town to develop quickly. The first claim to be seriously developed was the San Lucas mine in 1866, and soon after, silver ore was transported to the Silver Sprout Mill by pack animals.
Cerro Gordo’s prosperity brought wealth to Los Angeles, with the town becoming the leading source of business in the city. By 1869, 340 tons of bullion had passed through Los Angeles, and Cerro Gordo’s silver ingots were displayed in prominent businesses. Additionally, news of the lawless environment and abundant riches attracted many prospectors.
By 1871, Cerro Gordo was well-established as a mining town with a hotel, general store, restaurants, and saloons. The town was known as a “wide-open town,” meaning that there was little to no law and order. The lack of law enforcement made Cerro Gordo a haven for lawless miners and contributed to the bloody record of shootings during the bonanza days.
Brent Underwood – The Modern Ghost Town Resident
The Newest Owner of Cerro Gordo
In 2020, Brent Underwood, a 33-year-old entrepreneur from Austin, Texas, purchased Cerro Gordo for $1.4 million. With a net worth of $4,700,000, Brent made his fortune through YouTube ads, sponsorship deals, merchandise sales, and affiliate marketing. His channel, Ghost Town Living, chronicles his adventures and life in Cerro Gordo.
Stranded in Cerro Gordo
Brent initially planned to take a short break in Cerro Gordo in March 2020. However, a snowstorm struck the area the following month, leaving him stranded in the ghost town. Brent embraced this unexpected twist of fate and has spent over 16 months living in Cerro Gordo, 30 miles from the nearest grocery store.
Rebuilding and Exploring
Brent’s ongoing goal is to rebuild the property’s 22 existing structures and explore the abandoned settlement to open it up to tourists. During his time in Cerro Gordo, he has discovered artifacts, rappelled into mines, and learned about the town’s dark history.
The Challenges of Ghost Town Living Cerro Gordo
Terrain and Accessibility
One of the primary challenges of living in Cerro Gordo is the rugged terrain and accessibility. The town is situated at an elevation of 8,500 feet, and the steep climb can be difficult for vehicles. High clearance 2WD is required from the west off Hwy 136, while high clearance 4WD is necessary from the east off Lee Flat Road. Road conditions can be treacherous, especially during winter storms.
Weather and Seasonal Considerations
Cerro Gordo is accessible year-round, but snow and winter conditions can make travel challenging. It’s essential to check for snow and road conditions before venturing into the area. During the winter months, chains may be necessary for vehicles approaching from the east.
Cerro Gordo Ghost Town Attractions
Site Location and Description
Cerro Gordo Ghost Town is considered one of the best ghost towns in California. It is privately owned and operated by the Cerro Gordo Historical Society, and permission must be obtained to visit. The town site includes the American Hotel, which was built in 1871, the 1904 Bunkhouse, and the Belshaw House, which was built in 1868. The General Store, now a museum, offers a glimpse into the colorful history of the mine and life in the town.
Robert, the caretaker of Cerro Gordo, may be available for guided tours. He is friendly and highly knowledgeable about the town’s history. If you’re fortunate enough to have him as your guide, consider leaving a generous tip to support the maintenance of this historic site.
Visitors can enjoy breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape from the town site. The unique combination of history and natural beauty makes Cerro Gordo an unforgettable destination for adventurers and history enthusiasts alike.
The Dark Past of Cerro Gordo
The Last Shootout
Cerro Gordo’s last shootout occurred in December 1892 when miner Billy Crapo gunned down postmaster H.B. Boland and shot John Thomas near the post office. Boland was killed, while Thomas survived his injuries. The lawlessness and violence of Cerro Gordo’s past still echo through the town’s bullet-riddled buildings.
The Tragic Mine Collapse
In the 1870s, a mine collapse trapped around 30 Chinese miners who were never rescued and remained buried underground. This tragic event is just one example of the dangerous and often deadly working conditions miners in Cerro Gordo face.
Unexplained Incidents and Paranormal Activity
Brent Underwood has experienced unexplained incidents while living in Cerro Gordo, such as lights turning on in unoccupied buildings and personal belongings moving or disappearing. These strange occurrences have led him to consider the possibility of paranormal activity in the town.
Ghost Adventures Investigation
In 2019, the Ghost Adventures crew visited Cerro Gordo and concluded that paranormal activity could result from two child spirits trapped in Belshaw House. Whether you believe in ghosts or not, the eerie atmosphere and mysterious happenings in Cerro Gordo add to its intrigue.
Exploring the Mines and Artifacts
During his time in Cerro Gordo, Brent Underwood has ventured into the mines, uncovering artifacts that offer a glimpse into the lives of the miners who once worked there. In one daring expedition, he rappelled 1,100 feet underground to explore parts of the Union Mine that had been untouched for over a century.
Time Capsules of History
In addition to mine explorations, Brent has discovered personal artifacts from the miners in the town’s general store. These items, which include bank statements, divorce settlements, and love letters, provide a unique insight into the daily lives of the people who once called Cerro Gordo home.
Future Plans for Ghost Town Living Cerro Gordo
Restoring the Town
Brent Underwood’s vision for Ghost Town Living Cerro Gordo involves restoring the property’s existing structures and opening the town up to tourists. He hopes to share the town’s rich history and unique atmosphere with visitors worldwide.
Building a Hotel
One of Brent’s plans includes building a hotel on the property, allowing guests to stay overnight and experience the ghost town for themselves. This hotel would provide an immersive experience for those seeking adventure and history.
Lessons from Ghost Town Living Cerro Gordo
Personal Growth and Adventure
Brent Underwood’s journey in Cerro Gordo has taught him valuable lessons about personal growth and seizing opportunities. His experiences have shown him the importance of staying focused, being open-minded, and embracing challenges.
The Long Game
Brent’s commitment to restoring and exploring Cerro Gordo demonstrates the importance of playing the long game. He plans to continue working on the town for the foreseeable future, ensuring its history and unique charm are preserved for future generations.
Ghost Town Living Cerro Gordo is a captivating destination that offers a unique blend of history, adventure, and mystery. From its rugged terrain to its dark past, Cerro Gordo provides a fascinating glimpse into the lives of those who dared to forge a living in this unforgiving landscape.
As Brent Underwood continues to restore and explore this remarkable location, visitors will have the opportunity to experience a piece of history that is both thrilling and unforgettable.