New owner of California ghost town shares its grim, hilarious stories

Cerro Gordo
Cerro Gordo. Photo credit: Instagram/

A man who bought an entire abandoned mining town has shared the secrets and stories behind its Wild West past.

Business partners Jon Bier and Brent Underwood bought Cerro Gordo - which translates to 'Rich Hill' - in October 2018 for NZ$2.1 million, with the idea of reviving the ghost town.

Underwood took to Reddit on Saturday to expose what it's been like getting to know the former silver mine settlement, prompting an informative and hilarious thread of comments.

The price included 360 acres of land, full mineral rights and 22 buildings - including a general store and eight-room bunkhouse. One user commended Underwood on the value of the deal. 

"Holy moly. With that kind of cash, you could have bought...a small one-bedroom condo in San Francisco," said Tripleshotlatte.

The inside of the old saloon.
The inside of the old saloon. Photo credit: Instagram/

Cerro Gordo came into existence as a small mining town after the discovery of silver in 1865. And at one point it was the largest producer of silver and lead in California - but that wasn't its only claim to fame.

"In its heyday, it averaged a murder a week," the real estate agent who sold the property, Jake Rasmuson, told CNN. "It's really part of the Wild West."

Now the town boasts just one resident, Robert, who has lived there as a tour guide and caretaker for over two decades.

"Robert originally came to the town 21 years ago to mine the town. He read about it in a mining trade magazine," Underwood wrote on Reddit.

"The first day I asked Robert if he was ever scared of living up there. He said no, he always had his two friends, Smith and Wesson, with him."

Robert - the caretaker.
Robert. Photo credit: Instagram/

One Reddit user pointed out at a potential downside to Robert's continued employment.

"Seriously, a guy with 21 years of knowledge on the area is invaluable. Until he grows greedy, decides to dress up as a monster to terrorise [you], and [you] have to call a group of ghost hunters and their dog to solve the mystery," Mr_105 posted.

The town is 45 minutes from the nearest supermarket and gas station and, while it has electricity and a waste system, it needs water to be trucked in.

Underwood told CNN the long-term goals for Cerro Gordo are to bring "high level programming in forms of writing retreats, music events, dining experiences, photo shoots, theatre, special events, and more".

Unfortunately for the new owners, all signs of silver have disappeared from the mine that originally brought people to the town - though Robert is still holding out hope.

"The former owners had done some core samples over the years and did not believe that there were any minerals remaining," Underwood posted.

"Robert however has other ideas. After every rain he hikes the property looking for signs of the long-lost 'vein'."