Jody Stewart-Patterson

Our dear friend and the Ghostess of Cerro Gordo, Jody Stewart-Patterson passed away on December 6, 2001 at the age of 57 from cancer. Her memorial service held in May, 2002, was attended by more than 225 people, in the American Hotel. She truly loved Cerro Gordo and all those who passed through to visit or to volunteer. She made everyone feel welcome.

Jody's Grandmother was cook up on the hill back in the 1920's and her Uncle Cecile was a co-owner and caretaker of Cerro Gordo in the early 1980's. When things got tight, he asked Jody up to see the little town high in the Inyo's, in hopes that maybe she might buy him out. She arrived in her bug-eyed Sprite, stepped out into the dirt in her high heels, and fell in love with the little mining camp. She one by one bought out the co owners until she owned it lock, stock and barrel, and the rest is history. 

She moved up to Cerro Gordo in 1984, followed soon by Mike Patterson, and together they began the arduous task of restoring the Gordon House to live in as their residence. Once livable and restored to turn-of-the-century splendor, they took on the rest of the town. With Mike's construction abilities & creativity and her vision & creativity, they cleaned out, redid, unearthed, covered up, moved, re-moved, painted and repainted, re-carpeted, re-wallpapered, created or recreated, anything and everything to make it the charming place it is today.

Upon the loss of his wife, Mike then took hold of the rein's, and kept moving forward. Sometimes to go forward, you take two steps back, but he kept the dream alive.

The Salt Tram Cross Over Cabin (STCOC)

The STCOC was suffering from age, hard winters and the lack of maintenance. A group from Lone Pine requested permission from the Bishop BLM office to go up and stabilize the building. The Bishop manager stated that the cabin did not belong and that she was going to let it deteriorate and fall down. Fortunately she was transferred out and the new manager recognized the historic value of the salt tram and the cabin.

The Bishop BLM archeologist procured grant money to rebuild the STCOC and bought $25,000 worth of material. This was delivered to Cerro Gordo. Help was requested from the Gear Grinders to transport the wood from Cerro Gordo to the cabin. I think that there were 4 of us. Jerry Grimsley, Dan Burkhardt, me and I cannot think of the other person. I laid down the window in my “landcrusher” and carried between 600 and 800 pounds of wood resting on my windshield frame and the tailgate. A little bit top heavy on the down hill side, especially when going up hill out of Boiler Canyon. I hauled 2 loads the first day, 4 the second day and 2 the third day. Cannot remember the number of loads the others carried. It took approx 1 hour to get to the cabin with the load and .75 hours coming back empty.

I went up to the cabin 3 more times that summer and fall and spent a week each time helping to rebuild (stabilize) the cabin. The BLM hired two guys from Lone Pine with construction experience to work on and supervise the reconstruction. The first work period was Thursday thru Tuesday so some volunteers could come up and help on the weekend. Three people from the San Fernando Valley area showed up. (They liked working on the cabin so much that they were the ones that adopted the Minietta mine cabin. The Minietta is a lot lower in elevation and a lot warmer. We froze our tails off at the STCOC at nite.) The other two work periods were during the week and no other volunteers showed up. On the second work period, as we were entering the area there was a pile of bear fecal matter in the middle of the road. The archeologist identified some of the material in the feces as being rose hips. If I remember correctly, I went up twice the next summer to work on the cabin.

Written by Bill Maddux


An Owens Valley Legend Has Passed On

Our beloved friend, fellow desert rat, and Cerro Gordo icon, Mike Patterson has passed away on September 24, 2009.  He was only 62 years young.

But lets start from the beginning.  As the Gear Grinders were driving across the hill above Cerro Gordo that June of 1985, after crossing the Inyo Crest, Mike and Jody watched us with trepidation.  They had already been warned about "...... the rowdy, beer drinking, 4-wheeling crowd and to watch out for them."  Of course, this was a huge exaggeration and a long ways from the truth regarding the Gear Grinders.

When we pulled into town, they met us at the triangle and as we talked to them, we found out they had just moved into town, that they were the new owners, and they told us of their plans for the mining camp.

We were back, as a Club, to help them begin their restoration project, but this first weekend found us grubbing around the buildings and trimming the brush for fire protection.  They were so impressed with our accomplishments that weekend, that from then on, they knew that the Gear Grinders were going to be an asset to the project.

Many projects throughout the years have always made our club welcome.  Membership has changed over the years, as members come and go, but there are always some that are captivated by the charm of the town, but it was always the people that brought us back.  Mike and Jody became our friends and we in turn, not only came up to help with building projects, but became part of the kitchen crew, cooks, painters, wedding guests, and part of the Cerro Gordo community.  We made life-long friends with other volunteers over the years, people we would had never met if it hadn't been for the sleepy little mining camp.

So it is with a very heavy heart that we say good bye to that era.  We can remember and reflect on those wonderful times and two of the most gracious, friendly, wonderful friends we had in Mike and Jody.  We will miss them dearly but always carry them in our hearts.

The weekend Mike went in the hospital for the last time, the Gear Grinders were again up on the mountain, this time cleaning out the would-be chapel in anticipation of using it as a movie theater to show the movie, Nevada Smith with Steve McQueen, for the Lone Pine Film Festival.  We accomplished our task and also helped Frank, the long-time caretaker, rearrange the Change House into an orderly shop.

The weekend after Mike passed, again we were there, up on the mountain, but this time on a mission.  It was Mike's dream to remake the garage into the first chapel/theater ever in Cerro Gordo.  He never got to see this project completed so ...... volunteers took up the task ...... we raised the steeple the weekend of September 26 and 27 for and in honor of our friend.  We had Rick, Shelly and Lauren from Laguna; David from Hesperia; Brett, Tony, Josh, Sean, and friend from Ridgecrest; Robert & Sandy from San Berdnardino; new members Mike & Amie; old members Bill and Mary.  Thank you for a fabulous job well done.  During the week Brett manufactured the steeple cap and Mary got roofing material donated by Scott, so the steeple will be finished the weekend of October 3 & 4 by Mike with help from Matt, Nikki, and Mary.

Again, the volunteers made this project happen and helped complete it.  Mike would have been proud to see this accomplished and I'm sure he is looking down and smiling on us all.

He is survived by his Mother, Jo; his three wonderful sons, Sean, Heath, and Tyler; his 2 brothers Jeff and David and their wives and families; and his sister, Lisa and her husband Dan.  He was proceeded in death by his second wife Jody Stewart-Patterson in 2001 and his Father Tommy in 2003, and has now been rejoined with them in Heaven.  May they rest in peace.

Mary Grimsley, Volunteer and friend for 24 years

You may still visit Cerro Gordo and see an important part of early California history as caretakers are always on site.  Tours are $10.00 per person and will go to keeping the town alive and well.


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