• Hot as an oven, …a California ghost town

    by  • September 2, 2011 • Field Trip, History, Sierra Foothills, Something different, Summer • 8 Comments

    Turkey feathers stuck in the barn, Hornitos

    Turkey feathers stuck in the barn, Hornitos

    On a recent photo trek through the area between the Sierra foothills and the Central Valley of California, the little tiny town of Hornitos was found, baking in the 105 degree heat.  Quiet and deserted now, the one-street town once had 15,000 people living there, Mexicans who weren’t welcome in Quartzsville during the Gold Rush. The signs posted claim that 40,000 dollars in gold was transported to the banks daily.

    Miner's cabins

    Miner's cabins

    Free range turkeys in Hornitos

    Free range turkeys in Hornitos

    Because of the Gold Rush of 1849, businesses and bars and banks sprung up and several of the Fandangos or dance halls were underground allowing folks to go from one to another without being seen…perfect hideouts for bandits!  Legendary Joaquin Murieta was the head honcho bandit, say the signs.

    The name Hornitos, translates as ‘little ovens’, meaning the miners’ clay baking ovens or possibly the Spanish style of above ground graves of piled up stones and earth.

    Hornitos PO

    Hornitos PO

    Ken takes me unaware

    Ken takes me unaware

    The town was laid out like many Mexican towns, with the buildings situated around a square. As we wandered, I caught up to my brother who had ventured down a walk near a small garden.  I watched as a man stepped out of the building and began speaking to him. Oops, I thought, looking down at the sign half hidden in the rosebush saying ‘Private’.

    Dragonfly garden

    Dragonfly garden was an oasis of cool green

    Never fear, but Ken was asking the man about his garden and Old Bob Morse introduced himself (I had tiptoed over) and began telling us how he made his sunken brick -lined paths criss-crossing the small knot garden. I commented on the thin sticks rising 3 feet high above the herbs and lavender. Dragonflies, he said, gives them a place to land. Cool!

    Old Bob asked if we wanted to see inside the old building where he and his wife made their home. We said yes, of course, and he disappeared inside only to reemerge from another door with a stained glass window. We called Ken’s wife, Sheila, over to join us through the door and it took us several minutes for our eyes to adjust from the white sunlight.

    Pacific Saloon, Hornitos-picture of a picture by Ken Wyatt

    Pacific Saloon, Hornitos-picture of a picture by Ken Wyatt

    Exterior of the Pacific Saloon

    Exterior of the Pacific Saloon, Old Bob's residence

    The building was the old Pacific Saloon back in the when, made of adobe with walls about 18-20 feet high. Inside the ceiling was as high, but there were no windows except for the one in the door, stained glass. Bob turned on a light, which threw several candles worth of light on the huge room.  It was dark.  Ken, an avid photog, cranked his ASA to 6400 and took a photo of a display case filled with gems and orbs. Old Bob liked that shot and was starting to like us as well, I think.

    Bob's gem case.

    Bob's gem case.

    Old Bob and me by Ken Wyatt

    Old Bob and me by Ken Wyatt

    The room was filled with velvet furniture, Oriental rugs and religious relics. Old photos of Hornitos filled one wall and Bob pointed out each one giving as good a talk as any historian or museum docent would offer about the town’s past.  He had lived there with his artist wife for 17 years and lived in Mariposa before that. As we filed out into those 105 degrees, blinking, he urged us to visit two or three more points of interest, …the Jail and the St Catherine’s church.

    Ghiradelli General Store

    Ghirardelli General Store, Hornitos

    Across the street from the plaza are the ruins of a Gold Rush adobe and brick structure that once housed the general store of Domingo Ghirardelli. He went on to San Francisco to further his business by concentrating on one well-known product. Nothing is permanent.

    We photographed aimlessly what appealed to us, with the very good Sheila following us with the truck as we wandered along the one main street.

    St Catherine's Church, Hornitos

    St Catherine's Church, Hornitos

    St Catherine's Ch, Hornitos 2

    St Catherine's Churchyard, Hornitos

    Cultivator, Hornitos

    Cultivator, Hornitos

    Fence around a residence, Hornitos

    Fence around a residence, Hornitos

    I loved the old doors, especially, and their colors, some very tall and some made of solid steel. These buildings survive so long because they’re all built like banks.

     

     

    Chain lock, Hornitos

    Chain lock, Hornitos

    In front of the general store, now a gift shop, someone had chosen the exact right color petunias to fill a watering trough.

    Pump, In front of General Store, Hornitos

    Pump, In front of General Store, Hornitos

    Funny we make this a through point when on a ride or a drive, …been there fifty times but rarely stopped for long…Hornitos is a quiet town, no services but the Post Office to be seen,…turkeys, Bob, his unseen wife and their garden.

    Old adobe doorway to nowhere

    Old adobe doorway to nowhere

    Joaquin Murieta, the Straight Dope

    Domingo Ghirardelli

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    About

    Sue Langley, a passionate gardener and photographer lives and gardens with her husband and Corgi, Maggie on 7 acres just south of Yosemite, Zone 7 at 3000 feet. She also manages the Flea Market Gardening Facebook page and website.

    8 Responses to Hot as an oven, …a California ghost town

    1. September 3, 2011 at 6:50 pm

      http://www.goldrushcam.com/2009/mariposa%20news/mariposa_news%20618.htm

      I hope you follow up on this next month! Such clear photos of our hot Summer days. Your doors are the best.

    2. September 3, 2011 at 10:25 pm

      Interesting that the brick buildings are doing so well in earthquake country…

    3. Bom
      September 4, 2011 at 3:50 am

      Enjoyed this post (especially the last photo) so of course I had to click on your links. I liked the Ghirardelli angle better. Can you imagine if he had not left Hornitos?

    4. September 4, 2011 at 11:18 am

      By now, you probably know how much I love to explore off-the-beaten-track places and old forgotten sites, so this post was just my cup of tea! I hung on every word and enjoyed studying every photograph…what a treat, Sue! Thank you so much!

    5. September 4, 2011 at 12:59 pm

      Hi Katie, thanks for the link,…I’d like to visit during one of these festivals. It would be such a contrast from how we usually see this town!
      Lisa, we don’t get too many earthquakes here, not like closer to the coast LA and SF. However the buildings were made from thick adobe bricks then later, in the 1900s the brick was added.

      Bom, I like the background to some of these stories…I guess if Ghirardelli had been a successful gold miner, we chocolate lovers would have had one less choice.

      Desiree, I’m so glad you enjoyed the tour,…don’t you love the color in those petunias,..they’re not computer-enhanced, but still eye-popping!

    6. September 4, 2011 at 2:48 pm

      Wow, I so enjoyed visiting this goldrush town with you! Wonderful images, characters, history, everything!

    7. September 6, 2011 at 6:30 pm

      What a great post, Sue! It must have been a real treat to tour Old Bob’s home. Do you know how many people (other than Old Bob and his wife) reside in Hornitos today? Your photos of the doors were just awesome – I could so picture them in a photo book on artsy, eclectic doors…

    8. September 8, 2011 at 9:47 am

      Thanks, Country Mouse, we usually go through Hornitos on drives but this is the first time we went just to photograph. I thought my brother would enjoy the visit and he gets me enthusiastic about taking photos..

      Thanks, Arleen, I love doors and doorways. I once took photos of some cute house entrances in the Pacific Grove, CA area and enjoyed it so much!
      I wonder why they made all these Hornitos doors 10-11 feet tall? A mystery.
      There’s supposed to be 75 people there now, but many live in the outskirts I think. I only see three or four houses there that look inhabited. You know I think YOU should make a photo book, too!

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