| The famous "Yellow
Grade" climbs over 5500 feet in 7.5 miles from Owens Valley to the townsite of Cerro
Gordo. The road was so winding that Cerro Gordans often joked of having to be drunk to
drive it. On the narrow sections of the road where wagons met and could not pass, it
became standard practice to disassemble the smaller wagon in order for the larger wagon to
In 1871 alone, 2,500 tons of bullion from the mines of Cerro Gordo were taken to Los Angeles by the famous freighter Remi Nadeau down this road. When the "bullion wagons" would descend the grade, the massive wheels on the wagons were chained together to prevent them from rotating, iron "shoes" were then attached to the wheels to prevent wear, and the wagon would then slide down the road with several spans of mules tied behind to hold the wagon back. It was on this road that one of Nadeau's teamsters came up with the idea of a "double brake" system that gripped the wheels in the front as well as the back.
Looking down from the road you can see the Owens Lake followed by the Eastern Sierra Nevada mountains.
| Between the years of 1868
and 1875 approximately $13,000,000 in silver-lead bullion was shipped from Cerro Gordo
smelters, making these mines the greatest producers of silver-lead in California's
Rich silver deposits were first found here by Mexican miners in 1868. Soon afterward, a mining engineer by the name of Mortimer Belshaw arrived on the scene and quickly recognized the potential of the area. He felt that the shipping of the silver ore would be most profitable if it were smelted on site before shipment. The smelting process requires lead which was also very abundant at Cerro Gordo. So Belshaw bought into the Union Mine for both it's silver and lead, and eventually owned two of the three smelters at Cerro Gordo. Belshaw also built a toll road (the Yellow Grade) and controlled the only water supply.
Belshaw partnered with Victor Beaudry who owned the Cerro Gordo general store and together they dominated Cerro Gordo through its short but profitable life.
Let's explore Cerro Gordo
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