Hunting For Valuable Bottles In A 150-Year-Old Dump

When the American Hotel tragically burned down, so did the old ice house. The ice house sat on top of what was the dump for the American Hotel over 100 years ago, so over the past few months I’ve been breaking up the foundation of the ice house and digging through the dump on the hunt for old bottles and other treasures!

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I moved to Cerro Gordo in March 2020 because of the pandemic and to relieve our longtime caretaker so he could be back home. I’ve been here ever since. There have been ups and downs, but I feel I am learning a lot and becoming a better person.

Follow along on this channel for more from the town. I have no plans to leave and will continue making videos to update the progress on all the projects!

The town was originally established in 1865 and by 1869 they were pulling 340 tons of bullion out of the mountain for Los Angeles.

The silver from Cerro Gordo was responsible for building Los Angeles. The prosperity of Cerro Gordo demanded a larger port city and pushed LA to develop quickly.

The Los Angeles News once wrote:

“What Los Angeles is, is mainly due to it. It is the silver cord that binds our present existence. Should it be uncomfortably severed, we would inevitably collapse.”

In total, there has been over $17,000,000 of minerals pulled from Cerro Gordo. Adjusted for inflation, that number is close to $500,000,000.

It’s been a wild ride so far owning a ‘ghost town’ and we’re having a lot of fun figuring out what to do with it.

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The type of things that might lead you here are interests in ghost towns, abandoned mining towns, abandoned cities, California history, the zombie apocalypse, ghost stories, scary stories, nature, death valley, lone pine CA, mines, exploring, overnight challenges, exploration, urban exploration and yes theory.

The guy who had told me about the location of the dump said that he had found whiskey bottles here previously and that they had sold for tens of thousands of dollars and who knew there could be cases of them in the old dump. Yes, yes, hello, my name is Brent and we are here at Cerro Gordo is an abandoned mining town that was once the largest producer of silver for the state of California, but for the past 100 years or so It’s sat pretty much abandoned, and this week I am searching for treasure, but not treasure back in the mines.

I could normally do treasures in an old dump earlier this year when the American hotel burned down. It also, unfortunately, burned down the ice house, and I remember one of the first days after the hotel and ice house burned down. Somebody that was very familiar with the property was trying to cheer me up. They were trying to give me some good news, and they, let me know about the location of the dump and said: hey Brent, you know the things in there otherwise would never have been found and it helped a little bit. You know it was some type of bright point in an otherwise very dark situation, and so over the last few months I’ve been digging up the dump.

The American hotel was built in 1871 when it opened it didn’t have refrigeration. After a number of years, they opened an ice house which used to stand right there, but they built that ice house on top of what was the original dump for the hotel. So, for the first few years, everything from the hotel was dumped over there for over 100 years, nobody’s been able to get underneath the ice house because it was standing, but now that it has burned, I’m gonna dig underneath the ice house break up the concrete Pad dig there and see what was in the original dump. Yesterday I took a shovel and I dug a very little amount.

I dug that much not even a foot underneath the pad and that’s what came up cold plates bones and again that was after one foot of digging. So look at this pad this pad 30 feet by 15 feet. Maybe so I’m going to dig underneath this and hopefully capture some treasures that would have otherwise never been found. [, Music ], not even five minutes in as you can see, There’s a bunch of bone, a bunch of porcelain and some bottles. You know this one’s the bottom of one: It’s like a cork stopper, There’s stuff there. I just gotta find it, uh, and so for the first step for me was just breaking up these two concrete pads and I wanted to be really delicate about it.

I didn’t want to disturb anything underneath, so I took a sledge hammer to it and so over the course of a couple weeks, I was just sledge hammering into this old concrete that I’ve been told that concrete gets harder as it gets older, and I believe that, Because it was definitely a workout, you know who I didn’t need the gym, then, because I was just for hours each day, hammering the sledgehammer into the old concrete day. One finds a bunch of bones porcelain, some glasses I’ll, just break up this concrete to get underneath more because this pad is huge, you know, goes all the way over there.

I feel like There’s gonna be some stuff under here, just cracking the surface and finding this already, I hope so stay tuned many days to come. a lot of the concrete, broken up with the loader. Now, what I’m going to do is break up the rest by hand just to be a little bit more delicate with it and then put in the loader and then dump it over there. But once we get all this concrete out of here, I’ll have free reign to look for riches and treasure. So I want to get this stuff out of here.

The main thing I was looking for was whiskey bottles, because the guy who had told me about the location of the dump said that he had found whiskey bottles here previously and that they had sold for tens of thousands of dollars and who knew there could be Cases of them in the old dump, you know whenever I’m looking for these things, whether It’s jeans, which obviously I’m obsessed with or anything I find in the minds – the intention is never to sell them. It’s never to you, know, put them on sale and make some money from it, and I think the only reason I say the value of them is because that’s an interest point for people.

You know it kind of pegs the to how rare these things are, and so for me, finding these bottles is became a quest, much like the jeans, where, if I could find them, I could display them and future generations can learn from them here at Cerro Gordo, Because for me every item, everything that I find, every rock every scrap, even There’s this bone laying by my foot, this bone tells a story and if I can understand the story of this bone, it usually leads into a segway into a larger story about the history of Cerro Gordo has been very well maintained, but the reality is, lots of stuff has been lost from Cerro Gordo.

There was an owner in the 50s and 60s that basically sold off a lot of the town to try to pay his bills. He sold off the kitchen flooring of the hotel to pay some bills. He let people take anything they wanted from the town and buckets and so Cerro Gordo artifacts are becoming rare and rare as we go on. So the idea, the thought, the possibility of finding new artifacts for Cerro Gordo to keep here to add to the collection is always really exciting. So it means a lot to me that you guys check out these videos because It’s another way of you know broadcasting.

This history of this place that I think is really important, and so my thought was I could find some bottles in the old dump. I would set aside part of the new hotel to create a small museum put the bottles. There explain that the bottles had come from the old dump and that’s obviously an entry point into the history of the American hotel. Sometimes There’s logos on them, that’s cool, because then you can try to figure out where they’re from oh, my god. Is it a full one, ho ho liam wish. Is your sauce bottle, the glass and the fire? Maybe It’s just like melted, solid baker and go ironstone. China, [, Music, ]! Yes, yes, now this is cool.

If you look it as powell, almost like brandy or something, but It’s probably It’s clay. So this is the collection so far of full bottles about eight There’s a bunch more that bucket over there but collections adding to it gonna keep going, hopefully find some more things. Oh yeah, this is cool. The stopper is still in it boom all right. Little break from the digging playing with the cats, It’s crazy, how fast they grow. You know It’s like there were kittens, and I was feeding on my hand. You know a month ago and now, like full grown adolescent cats, aren’t I’m getting them vaccinated.

We had a really kind volunteer that came and offered to vaccinate them, and so four of them are in la right now getting vaccinated, she’s, gonna bring them back and bring these guys there. She just couldn’t take seven at once. I guess she had other cats or something hey Gordo, but I think we have some of the names. This is Gordo. Gordo’s, the little gray guy he’s the smallest to run of the group probably was needy. This is Lola named after Lola Travis, of course, and then I believe the other one is uh. Mr. rice and beans is the tentative name, We’ll see?

Oh, what do you think guys which one’s your favorite this one? No that’s a yawn! Oh you like that. This one also thank you to whatever viewer bought this scratch post. For me, It’s gonna definitely save all my furniture in this house and it showed up – and I appreciate that and Gordo loves and the cats love it. Oh hello, every whole gang’s here. What do you guys think smells like history huh? Another fun fact about bottles is: if you see something like this There’s a wine bottle. You know push up at the bottom and the reason is it allowed the scent sediment to fall to the bottom of the bottles, and so There’s your tidbit of the day.

Everything guys this model Gordo, no okay, this bottle yes, Lola. Oh oh purring, but yeah, It’s nice. The cats have been a great addition. You know growing up. I’ve always been a dog guy had dogs on my life, so cats are a new thing for me, but I get it. I get you cat people, I see why you like them, and I can’t wait to see them grow up and become much like the bottles become part of Cerro Gordo’s history. All right so after the hand digging these are the full bottles I’m left with. I brought them back to my cabin to research them a little bit more.

I’m still gonna do some more digging with uh the machine now that I’ve gotten through kind of the softer dirt that has a lot of stuff in it. Maybe We’ll find a couple more things, maybe not, but We’ll see. So, as you can see, the hotel sites changed a little bit since I started digging for the bottles. This is a little hotel update. Then too, we’re going to build a basement, a full basement. So I’m taking down the dirt quite a bit over where the pad is after I dug through the first two feet of the dirt. It got to the point where I wasn’t finding very much stuff, so I thought maybe that’s as far as the treasures would go and so to expedite things to not hold up the digging of the American hotel anymore.

I started using a loader, so I take buckets and I created this screening thing that was made out of fence and some old pieces of piano that I actually found. So this is obviously a function of having to work with what you got, and so this is the sifter I’ve created where basically, I take a half bucket or so dump it in sift through and, as you can see, I’ve done maybe 10 12 buckets of this. So far haven’t found anything, and so that leads me to believe that most of the dump stuff was in the first two three feet of the dirt, and this is more just a precautionary thing.

Making sure I didn’t miss anything pretty much. All I’m finding is big rocks, as you can see, and so I’ll sift through some more today show you guys how I was doing that and maybe We’ll find something, maybe not, and then all this dirt has to get pushed over, because where I’m you can see Over there, the basement needs to get dug: [ Music, ], um. So this is a lot of the miscellaneous stuff that I found some of the broken pieces of glass and pottery. I found a lot of bottlenecks, and so what I’m going to do now is just sort through them all and hear the museum, because doing it in my cabin would make it pretty messy, but It’s cool all right.

This is the final. Take. We got the stoppers. These are super cool; most of them are lee parents, so for the whoosh, whatever sauce There’s a bunch of those some bottlenecks, some of them even have the stoppers in them, which I think is really cool, broken glass, some with some even label on it. Still, china ceramics, then the full bottles, the stars of the show, the cream of the crop, the museum quality items. So I think, obviously those will go in the museum. These we might make like a mosaic out of you know, allow some artists to come and do their interpretation, so I think it’d be really cool to keep them in some way.

You know as kind of a nod to the hotel. So that’s the plan, There’s tons more bones, but, to be honest I don’t need more bones in here, so those are kind of still where they were but exciting times more to come. I’m excited about finding more stuff. Now you know you kind of get that that itch to find some more stuff. So that’s what’s coming next, all right, There’s a little bit of the dump left. Maybe, but this might be it. We ended up with two four six, eight ten about 11 or 12. Full bottles which isn’t bad and now what I want to do is just go in here and do a little bit of research, try to learn a little bit about them and yeah.

All these bottles are put in the museum of the new hotel. You know their bottles that wouldn’t have been found otherwise and so they’re part of the history of Cerro Gordo. You know who knows why, when the last time the guy took some words to start, I don’t know how to pronounce that if you guys want to bring the pronouns to lee and parents worshipers sauce, you figure some guy 150 years ago. Put this on. Probably not the best meat at Cerro Gordo and now It’s here so just gonna learn a little bit about these and I’ll be back soon with my findings, so you can tell the age of the bottle in a number of ways. You know the color markings on it. Probably the easiest way is the lip and you have to figure.

You know before 1890 or so glassblowing is a profession, so you know imagine a guy blowing the glass in and he would come out. They would put on the lip afterwards. It’s called the applied lip. If you see There’s stuff like the square applied lip and you can see so There’s a little excess underneath it it’s. Obviously they added this square band after the bottle was done or you have stuff kind of like the band. There see how It’s added on afterwards and most that the applied things are like 1840 to 1870ish. So you have to figure all the ones that have these afterthought lips on them or from that era, which makes sense you know, given the dump was active during that era as well.

Between 1850 and 1880, the most common color for bottles was aqua. Clear wasn’t really a common one yet and prior to that it was mainly amber, but during that era which most of these seem to be from aqua was the color. So if you notice almost all these bottles are aqua in color. So that would say you know 1850 to 1880s or so, which is true and another one that I think is really cool. Is this cork? You see that we have that there, and so most of these are yeah, I would say 1840 to 1880s. So that’s what 180 to fish years ago and so to 150 years ago, but these two bottles that are the same bottle. Just this one has a cork both say: j walker’s vb on the bottom and after a little research, it turns out.

Vb stands for vinegar, bitters, so vinegar, bottles, and these seem to be from about 1849. So you know about that old, pretty common. Unfortunately, I see some listings on ebay for them for about 30 bucks, so these two saw vinegar bottles. Next, we have this. This stone thing says powell, and I thought It’s a brandy on it, but it seemed like a weird opening for a brandy bottle turns out. This is a william powell, bristol stoneware pottery croc from the 1850s and this 50 bucks on ebay. So again, not a not a home run, but again just something that’ll be really cool to put into the hotel museum. We’ll move this over to the right side of the table.

Stop we got this stoneware beer bottle and it seems that these two-tone stoneware bottles were from about the 1870s to 1880s. They were imported from great britain um. It was crazy because back then all the beer bottles have been made by hand. So you figure all. These are made by hand, There’s probably tons of these around Cerro Gordo, considering how much beerus drank up here ebay shows about 25 bucks solved that will go in the solid pile over here and also, if you’re, a bottle expert out there, and you can correct me On this stuff, please do, but, to my knowledge, this is what we’re finding all right.

Next up we have these two bottles which are almost identical, and this took some context clues to get to because There’s not really markings on them. But given the fact that they’re next to a hotel with the kitchen from the 1870s turns out, these are spice bottles. So I found some online that are very similar, so this could have been any of your household spices would have been stored in these and up in the cupboard and that’s why they’re pretty generic but two spice bottles. 30 50 bucks. Maybe these two will knock off the list they’re both lee and parents bottle they’re, worcestershire sauce and, admittedly, that’s a very difficult word for me to pronounce – I actually just googled how to pronounce it.

I got a bunch of those and these same range. You know 20. 50 bucks, maybe if they’re, really good shape so We’ll add these to the fountain collection. Well, these three are a conundrum. They have no identifying features on them. They have the applied lip for sure, but no real label no markings they’re all aqua. There are various sizes that that and that, so I don’t know so if you are a bottle expert or if you have any educated guesses, I’m all ears. This is the museum here at Cerro Gordo and It’s crazy to think. Six months ago, these glass cases were empty and, as I searched through the mines or search around the property, I find things and just add them to it. And now people come, they can see stuff and not just old stuff.

You know stuff that was from this property that has a connection to this property, and I think that’s why these bottles are so awesome for me, because they’re from here and There’s a story to them, you know I’m going to create space somewhere in this with a Little plaque about the fire and about the dump and how these bottles were consumed in the American hotel at Cerro Gordo and what that means, and so that’s what that’s? What keeps me going? You know It’s easy to think hey. Why did you spend months finding bottles that you can buy on ebay for 50 bucks, but you can’t buy these bottles on ebay, 50 bucks.

These are from Cerro Gordo. You know they’re from here. They deserve to be here, and I just I love that it just keeps me going. You know, I think people sometimes ask me if I’ll sell them anything that I find you know, because I found a bunch of cool stuff, the answer’s. No, you know it all stays here and for me It’s just about, giving a you know. I think that’s what it comes down to and maybe something that will resonate with that. Maybe something you won’t but like when you can tell somebody cares that There’s an intention that There’s a care put into things, then you appreciate it, or at least I do and for me I hope you know people come and they see not just you know three Axe picks that could have been seen in any antique store, but somebody who gave us enough to keep them around here and display them for future generations, because these bottles aren’t not very cool.

You know only being 150 years old, but if they stick around for 300 years, these are gonna, be some really cool and important pieces of history, and that’s just the timeline I think about things on, I think about them in centuries, even not just decades or Years, so, if you think on that timeline, like I do about Cerro Gordo, then anything you find here from the past is interesting and It’s historic and it deserves to be preserved. If you’re familiar with the channel you’ll see stuff like this jacket that I found in one of the mines that I was able to recover, these two boxes were both from the 200 level that had we not wiggled our way into these would have been lost to The elements you know and to me that’s cool, There’s something to it that this is from an important part of Cerro Gordo’s history and it was preserved and It’s staying here.

So I guess not to sound like too much like Indiana jones, but it belongs in a museum. You know, and these pants found these pants in a neighboring mine. I think the guy that last rolled up those pant legs isn’t around, but the pants are still here and hopefully many generations can come learn from them. Just like they’ll learn from these bottles. I hope – and this pile over here. So this pile is a pile that I haven’t even sorted through, yet I got these out of mine. I think I showed it in the six or seven month update but found this strap a denim, a bunch of old dynamite instructions which is crazy.

You know these are instructions that could have been lost to the elements that have stayed back in the mind, but now they’re here, I’m gonna try to preserve them canteen, more dynamite stuff. So this channel is about preserving history. Appreciating history, that’s why I bought Cerro Gordo. Maybe that’s why you’re boxing the channel, maybe just watch the channel to see me almost die in mines. This is a piece of galena from Cerro Gordo see how shiny it is so heavy.

Now this rock a lot of people lost their lives. Looking for this rock and from that you can tell a whole story about mining and history and Cerro Gordo. So tomorrow I’m going into the bouillon mine, which could lead into the 200 level, which is very exciting. So stay tuned subscribe. If you haven’t already leave a comment below of other things, you want to see and I’ll see you guys next week and maybe one day you’ll see these. Thank you so much for subscribing the channel. It really means a lot.

It’s really cool to see this community developing that I get to kind of tap into each week helps you know when you’re up on the mountain by yourself, but anything you want to see in future videos. Let me know in the comments below uh subscribe. If you haven’t already share this video around and just again, thank you guys so much so until next time, I’m signing out here at Cerro Gordo and uh I’ll see you next week.

Jason Smith

Former Marine, IT Guy & Builder of Websites.  I have 5 US states left to visit. I enjoy hot springs, adventures, hiking, photography, sci-fi, wine, coffee & whiskey.  I am fluent in sarcasm, name that tune, & speak in movie quotes.  I spend most of my time building websites, fixing computers, metal detecting, magnet fishing and gaming occasionally.

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