I have a recipe to share and you’ll find that recipe all the way down at the bottom of this post but first I have a story to tell you about a small town and a little girl…a long, long time ago.
This is Maziel Moriarty. Her portrait hangs on the wall of The Iron Door Restaurant in Johnsville, California. Maziel was a member of one of the original mining families that settled in the town of Johnsville during the gold rush era of the late 1800’s. Sadly, her life was very short and she passed away at the age of 10 from rheumatic fever. Although her time here was brief, her presence has remained throughout time and even still today.
About a 4 mile drive up the mountainous Johnsville Road, just behind the town of Graeagle, lies the historic town of Johnsville. Shortly after gold was discovered on nearby Eureka Peak, thousands of miners descended on the Plumas-Eureka area. The town of Johnsville was founded in 1876 and became home to many of these miners, including the Moriarty family. Gold fever was in full swing.
The Iron Door Restaurant opened for business in 1961 in this historic building that served as a general store and post office for the mining town over 100 years ago. It is the only remaining commercial establishment in the small town of Johnsville today.
Just down the road from the restaurant you’ll find Plumas-Eureka State Park where you can walk through the historic museum building that was originally constructed as the gold miners’ bunkhouse. Across the street from the museum is the mining area, including the historic Mohawk Stamp Mill, pictured above, that processed more than $8 million in gold from the mine’s 65 miles of tunnels.
There are several other buildings from the era including the mine office and blacksmith shop. Docents and staff conduct summer time blacksmithing demonstrations and tours which I highly recommend.
As a matter of fact, my Dad was a docent at the blacksmith shop for years. Here he is on the right, giving my husband a quick blacksmithing lesson.
You can also visit the restored Moriarty House, where the Moriarty family, one of the original mining families, lived and raised their large family.
It’s a marvel that a family of ten made due in a house this size. You can sign up for tours of the home but we just strolled around the exterior and peeked in the windows.
Almost directly across from the restaurant where Maziel’s portrait hangs is the Johnsville Cemetery. I’ve always found this cemetery to be so beautiful.
Many residents of the old mining town are buried here.
Strolling through the cemetery and reading the headstones gives you a glimpse into the lives of the people who inhabited the town. You can feel the history.
Many of the miners and their family members lived very short lives due to the dangerous work in the mines and diseases which were untreatable at the time, which brings me back to the story of Miss Maziel Moriarty.
It is common knowledge within the community and especially with restaurant employees that Maziel’s ghost resides in the upstairs section of the historic building. Restaurant staff will very matter of factly tell the stories of strange happenings, especially whenever someone attempts to remove her portrait or move it to another location. For that reason, it remains in it’s place, prominently displayed, as it always has. If you’re lucky, you’ll get a table within view of the portrait of the sweet little girl. Take a close look at her face and you’ll see that she had an old soul and note the evidence of difficult times behind those eyes. The ambiance of the dimly lit restaurant resonates through this picture and all the other antiques and old photos depicting the former mining town. Stepping into the restaurant is like stepping back in time.
In addition to it’s rich history, The Iron Door offers some of the best cuisine in the area and is truly a fine dining establishment. The menu features perfectly-prepared steaks, prime rib, seafood, pasta creations and some German specialties like jaeger schnitzel. The beautiful bar area is worthy of a visit all on it’s own.
I have very fond memories of dining at The Iron Door as a child with my great big family while on vacation. What a treat. I honestly can’t remember what I used to order for my entree but I will never forget dessert. We all had “The Johnsville Special” and it’s still on the menu today. This three ingredient marvel is so festive and irresistible! Luckily, it’s very easy to recreate at home.
It consists of vanilla ice cream, a substantial drizzle of Creme de Menthe and it’s topped of with a sprinkling of Ovaltine. This may sound unusual, especially the Ovaltine, but it’s fabulous. When the powdery Ovaltine hits the ice cream it begins to liquefy a bit and combined with the vanilla and mint…heaven. This is a fantastic last minute dessert you can throw together in a pinch and people will love it.
Thanks for visiting the charming town of Johnsville with me; one of my favorite places in this world. You should visit this area if you can, and be sure to stop by the Iron Door for some delicious food, some killer cocktails, and some great ghost stories.
The Johnsville Special
- Vanilla Ice Cream
- Creme de Menthe
- Place several scoops of ice cream in a bowl. Drizzle with some of the Creme de Menthe. Sprinkle the top with some Ovaltine and serve
- So easy!