Two false fronts face main street of Chloride


     Romance languages have a good idea in giving gender to nouns. For whatever reason, certain things (my bike, a bar of soap, a coffee mug) really do seem masculine; others (the shower curtain, a spoon, the milk carton in the refrigerator), feminine. Why inanimate objects "feel" male or female is beyond me, but so is most anything having to do with romance.


  • COUNTY:  Sierra
  • LOCATION:  2 miles southwest of Winston 
  • POST OFFICE:  1881-1956
  • NAME ORIGIN:  Named for a silver chloride which led to the establishment of a mining camp here
  • GNIS Info & Map

       And I'll go the romance languages one better -- not only do objects seem to have gender, they seem to have age. The crosswalk by my apartment, for example. It gets repainted every month but still seems old. Compare that to the baby-like clouds overhead, or the thirty-something golf course in the next neighborhood. Is all this weird? Maybe. Just don't tell the towels, they're at that impressionable age.

        None of this was on my mind as I drove the lonely but beautiful road out to Chloride, but it struck shortly after passing my first SLOW: CHILDREN PLAYING sign upon entering the town. Chloride has a distinctly young presence. Strange, then, that Chloride is well over 100 years old, with a history of bullfights and bare-handed battles with bears. Even the stock listed in an early advertisement for the hardware store feels old: iron, steel, picks, pick handles, ax handles, horse shoes, horse shoe nails, steel building nails, stock bells, hobbles, tinware, ironware, saws, chisels, hammers, screws, nuts, bolts, brads, tared paper, carpet felt, wrapping paper, wrapping twine, sacking twine, building paper, stoves, stove pipes, steel wheelbarrows, pocket knives, fishing tackle, cartridges and primers, shot guns, paints, oils, putty, glass, lanterns, canteens, lamps, galvanized and iron camp kettles, dinner buckets, galvanized clothes lines, milk pans, water buckets, galvanized wash tubs, augurs, shelf brackets, and door trimmings.

       Yet Chloride resonates youth. That may have to do with the fresh green grass, the well-kept homes, the very feeling of cleanliness and newness about the place. It's as if Chloride reincarnated itself.

       Chloride also has a distinctly feminine presence, but the origin of that is more easily understood. Well, more easily traced, at least.

       In 1879, Harry Pye (go ahead and laugh -- I did) discovered silver near what became known as Chloride Gulch. Pye was killed soon thereafter, but prospecting in the area continued without him. After a townsite plat was registered, lots were awarded by lottery, with one exception: a free lot was given to the first woman to settle in the town.

       Now, one of two things may have happened, or possibly both. Clearly these hardened and lonely miners were eager to have a female in their midst. Is it possible their desire was so strong they projected it onto the town itself? Or, what about this: the first women was so welcomed that her presence spilled over into everything about the town, its buildings, its streets, the mountains around it?

       Gender and age notwithstanding, Chloride has scratched its way out of the ghost town books and once again become a prosperous community. It's just around the corner from its older brother (I mean that literally), Winston. The Pioneer Store, shown with its twin above, is being renovated as a museum, proving that you can't keep a good false-front down. Or a good town, for that matter.