Of course, we all have thought of wanting to own a house of our own, or whatever property that some of us may want. Sometimes, you might also think that you probably want to have a whole town all for yourself! Just think about everything you can do by having a town with no one else but you, kind of amazing right? Well, this is exactly what a man named Brent Underwood did. In July 2018, Underwood purchased the former mining town of Cerro Gordo, hoping to turn the town into a tourist attraction while still maintaining the property’s historic nature.
Looking For A Challenge
Underwood was looking to do a bigger project as a challenge to himself, which is why when his friend showed him the silver mining town called Cerro Gordo, he decided that he would purchase the abandoned silver mining town in the year 2018 alongside with his several business partners. “I fell in love with the combination of hospitality and history,” he said. Underwood also owns a hostel in Texas, HK Austin, that was built in 1892.
The Town’s Past
The town has a long and bloody past, according to Underwood. Its 5,000 people have been left by law enforcement to their own devices since it’s three hours outside Los Angeles. The town averaged about a murder a week at one point, and miners used to place sandbags in their bunks during the night to avoid stray bullets.
Heading To The Town
The town usually has a caretaker, Robert Louis Desmarais, who stays on-site and manages the property, but when he decided to check on his wife, it just so happened that the coronavirus struck the United States. Underwood, who normally lives in Austin, Texas, decided to take over the city by taking care of it himself. He packed up his truck and in pursuit of adventure, drove 24 hours to California.
By the time Brent got to the ghost town, he was met with an unfortunate event as a snowstorm had struck the area. Because of the snowstorm, he was stranded in the area as he was trapped in there for over three weeks. Brent said, “I’m a Florida boy, so a couple feet of snow to me is something else. The weather outside was a frigid 25 degrees Fahrenheit. When we get up to four or five or six feet and it’s on the banks of the road, that’s a recipe for dwindling supplies.”
Remnants Of The Past
According to Underwood, he says that seeing the remains of what the town used to be gives him a sense of peace and comfort. The town has been through a lot of different problems, and still, its 22 buildings remains intact. Underwood also found several bullet holes in the walls, blood stains on the floor of the saloon, and a cemetery filled with the graves of hundreds of miners.
The Belshaw House
The Belshaw house is a house made in 1871. It has no running water, but it has two bedrooms and a bathroom even though it does not have any water. Right now, this is where Underwood is staying. The house was owned by a person named Mortimer Belshaw, one of the town’s leading figures. Belshaw built the toll road, owned the general store, as well as owning several claims on the mines.
Communicating To The Outside
Underwood could connect with his staff and business partners and check up with family members, but for video services such as Netflix, Youtube, etc.? His internet connection is a bit too sluggish. He even missed out on the craze of the “Tiger King.” When asked about what he thought about this, Underwood said, “I’m all right with that, it kind of makes me slow down a little bit, which I think is important in times like this.”
Underwood intended to run a supermarket run every one or two weeks, but it was impossible for him to do so as the road was blocked by heavy snow. According to him, he is currently eating his way through his stock of rice, beans, and canned soup. He also came across cans of food left behind by previous individuals. “Some of it may have been expired, but when desperate times call for desperate measures … I hope these somewhat-expired baked beans don’t hurt me too bad,” Underwood said.
The nearest town away from him has about 20 residents, which is over nine miles away at the end of the mountain road. Underwood stated that he has been acquainted to a few people there who could drive halfway to him in case he needs help, but for them to actually reach him, he would have to hike his side of the half. Underwood speculated in a worst-case scenario that he could be reached by a helicopter, but he doesn’t anticipate things to get that severe.
Underwood said with a laugh, “All work and no play, right? It’s something that my friends pointed out to me when I got snowed in acting as a caretaker.” Coincidentally, Underwood found among the VHS tapes in town a copy of Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining”. Sitting on his desk, he said that he’s too afraid to be able to watch it right now. “I can’t bring myself to watch it., I would get too freaked out.” Underwood said
Underwood initially intended to open the city for an overnight experience in May, but he acknowledges that those plans have been postponed by the coronavirus for now. Which is why he decided to renovate several buildings as well as build his own deck! “I don’t know how to build a deck, but I tried and it kind of worked out,” Underwood said. He’s learning as he goes along.
Exploring The Town
Underwood discovers something different nearly every single day. A bible from 1875, a psalm booklet dedicated to a student in 1841, and a briefcase in an old general store have all been found so far. “The briefcase just had everything about these miners’ lives — their highs, their lows, their bank statements, their divorce settlements, lawsuits, mining claims, love letters, hate letters,” Underwood said.
Picking Up A New Hobby
To pass the time and entertain himself, Underwood started to pick up a new hobby. Astrophotography. “I’ve never done it in my life, but out here we don’t have any neighbors for 20 miles, so there’s no real light pollution. I was able to break out the camera and try to learn how to take photos of the stars.” Underwood said.
Learning New Skills
On top of having a new hobby, he also learned how to track animals in the snow! To help identify the tracks that he saw, he would take pictures and post them to an animal tracking forum on Reddit. “I never knew anything about what different animals’ footprints looked like, but because we have so much fresh snow when I take hikes in the morning, I see different animal prints.” Because of his animal tracking skills, he has found bobcats, foxes, rabbits, etc.
Going To The Mine
As he found the tracks of a bobcat, he decided to follow its track and see where it leads him. Eventually, the bobcat led him to the mine. Underwood said, “I started following where it came from and it seemed to visit my porch in the night, go down to the hotel that we have, and go into the hotel. It seems to live in one of the old mine tunnels. The tracks go in and out of there each night.”
A Mysterious Print
Underwood wanted to hike to Death Valley for the day and he found a big print in the snow on his way back. He posted it on Reddit to his animal tracking group, but they were unable to describe what animal made the humongous print. When asked about the print, Underwood said, “To me it looks like Bigfoot. I might be dealing with Bigfoot. It just makes the whole experience something else.”
In the past few weeks, Underwood said he has witnessed a few things he can’t explain: when no one is around, books have fallen off book shelves, his wallet continues to be passed around and the lights have also been switched on in completely locked buildings. “I went in, turned them off, re-locked the building, and they were turned on again that night.” Said Underwood, recalling the mysterious events that had occurred in his home.
Cerro Gordo is an important part of the history of California that Underwood is proud to own and experience first-hand. The mining city helped Los Angeles evolve into what it is today. “I came up here looking for an adventure and I found that. We’re living through history, and I thought to myself, what story do I want to be able to tell in that period of my life?” Underwood stated.