The Gold Rush and subsequent expansion into the West through the early 20th century drove an overwhelming need for prosperity and wealth which developed into unbridled greed, opportunism and exploitation in a nearly unknown region that the Industrial Revolution started in the decades prior to it. Bodie was a prime example of this mindset that was well documented; however, there were several places during this time going through the same thing that either people or time itself tried to erase - whether it was their histories or physical remnants.
Atolia, California (#1-6), located in the heart of the Mojave Desert was once a thriving tungsten mining community founded in 1905 that eventually saw a peak population of over 2000 people and several businesses including the infamous "Bucket of Blood" Saloon after the reconstruction of a fire damaged mine in early 1916. This was followed immediately by its boom period in the mid to late 1910's. Like mining in other mining towns, when there was a sharp downward spike in the production, people deserted to other mining town rather than wait to see if production came back on pace with a discovery of a new source of ore. Atolia, as a town, was over; though, commercial production continued on and off through the next few decades. These days, even though Atolia is barely off modern day Highway 395, it is very easy to pass right by without even knowing that you did in the first place. Time has eroded most of the townsite that had not been already looted, relocated or even sunken into exposed mine shafts. What is left is an eerily beautiful reminder of its past.
St. Thomas, Nevada (#7-14), on the shores on the Muddy River and just outside of the Valley of Fire, was founded by Mormon settlers who discovered gold by accident while washing clothes in the river. Mining was expanded into the surrounding hillsides where salt and silica deposits were discovered. The self-sustaining community prospered until 1871 when the Federal Government came in, surveyed the land and subsequently moved the Nevada state line one degree of longitude east (which include the St. Thomas townsite) and demanded that the residents pay taxes on gold they had previously mined. Because of this, instead of complying, they fled to Utah and founded new communities. Miners in the nearby areas took the opportunity to claim St. Thomas for their own. When the nearby Hoover Dam was completed, the town was then abandoned for good when the rising waters from Lake Mead turned the townsite into a modern day city of Atlantis. During the dry season when the waters recede, it uncovers a seemingly out of place group of foundations out of sight of anything that resembles civilization.
Rhyolite, Nevada (#15-23), was Nevada's answer to Bodie. Surrounded by a mining district of over 200 small mining companies, Rhyolite was founded in 1905 when the Bullfrog Mine was started by two miners, Frank Harris and Ernest Cross, after striking one of the biggest gold deposits in the area. Word quickly spread about the discovery and suddenly, Rhyolite went from a two man operation to a full fledged town of 1,200 people in just two weeks. Soon, there were dozens of saloons, brothels, general stores, banks, an opera house and even a stock exchange. Harris and Cross then realized that their strike might be short lived because of the lack of new high density deposits being found. Starting to panic, they started selling shares in their overvalued mine company to all the uninformed miners coming in hoping to get rich. Playing on the miners' desperation to get rich fast, Harris and Cross came up with a seemingly ingenious marketing ploy that billed Rhyolite as the "Paris of the West". The campaign was so good that even the likes of Charles Schwab wanted in who eventually bought out Harris and Cross' stake in the company. Schwab then built up Rhyolite's infrastructure to include electricity, running water, a post office and railway spurs that connected other big mining towns and Las Vegas. These improvements brought Rhyolite into its explosive, but short lived boom period. At this point, the population swelled to about 3,500 to 5,000, based on academic records since there were no official records of the population. Profits soon flattened which caused Schwab to realize that he was fooled by Harris and Cross and demanded an independent survey of the mine. The surveyor deemed the mine to be "severely overvalued" which caused the mine's stock price to plummet after the majority of miners dumped all their stock and move away. Rhyolite's six year boom abruptly ended. With the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake and Financial Panic of 1907, capital was hard to come by to improve or expand. Soon after when the post office closed down, Rhyolite was completely abandoned and its buildings were either moved or scraped to build new buildings in neighboring Beatty. Ironically, a deposit of nearly three million ounces of gold was struck by three mining companies in the 1990's just on the other side of a mountain ridge south of Rhyolite. It has been estimated that the remaining buildings of Rhyolite will by fully eroded by wind, dust storms, heat or other natural factors within a century.
Scary Dairy (#24-31): In the 1930's, the state of California completed construction of Camarillo State Hospital (now the site of California State University, Channel Islands) in Camarillo to house drug addicts, the mentally ill and criminally insane in order to rehabilitate them to rejoin society. The hospital was soon praised for its cutting edge treatments for the illnesses and disorders seen at the hospital. Despite this, there was an equal amount of barbaric and exploitive practices. So much so that the movie "The Snake Pit" was filmed here depicting these dangerous "treatments". One of the most well-known rumors of Camarillo State Hospital is that The Eagles wrote "Hotel California" about it. The dairy that the hospital ran on its grounds (now known by locals as Scary Dairy) used the patients as near slave labor in the name of "work study" in order to prepare them for living a normal life after they were released. Many of the horror stories and local folklore of the hospital revolve around the dairy. One of the dairy's most well known stories is that of a criminally insane patient who was subjected to some of the most barbaric treatments. He did not want to go through them anymore so he manipulated the staff into thinking he was getting better. He soon became eligible to work at the dairy under minimal supervision. He then took advantage of the situation to escape. The story goes that he came across a nearby ranch house, broke in while the family was sleeping and killed and robbed them. Events like this and finding out how patients were being treated forced the reform of patient treatment and the forced the closure of the dairy in the 1960's. The hospital never recovered back to its peak of its innovation and eventually shut down in the 1990's to make way for the university. Yet, the dairy has sat abandoned and forgotten to this day by most of the world since its closure and has became home to rumored gang activity, delinquents, and a collection of graffiti art that ranges from basic tagging to the downright bizarre in its own strangely beautiful isolated ecosystem.
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