Posted on December 29, 2012
The little mining town of Bodie, California began life in 1859 during the Gold Rush fever when a couple of prospectors found gold. Twenty years later it was one of the largest boom towns in California. Mining companies came in and built stamp mills that pounded the ore to remove the precious metals. At it
s peak almost 10,000 people resided in Bodie with over 2,000 buildings, many thrown up as fast as wood could be delivered. The railroad transported the gold bullion from nine stamp mills to Carson City and San Fransisco. Along with its own newspaper, a telegraph was installed to connect Bodie with neighboring towns. Today you can see some of the original poles still standing and used for telephone lines.
As a bustling gold mining center, Bodie had a bank, four volunteer fire companies, a brass band, a railroad, miners’ and mechanics’ unions, and a jail. At one time over 65 saloons lined Main Street, which was a mile long, and it wasn’t uncommon to have several murders, shootouts, brawls, and holdups each night. With the mines running three shifts a day, the red light district at the north end of town was said to be busy 24 hours a day, seven days a week. At the other end of town it was said that the respectable people of Bodie held Saturday night socials and dances. There were several restaurants and ice cream parlors.
By the 1880s the boom town has started to declin
e. By 1915 the pounding of the stamp mills had grown quiet and Bodie was already known as a ghost town. In 1920 only 12 people lived there and there were still residents until the 1940s. One of the mining stamp mills still stands as a reminder of Bodie’s glorious past. The town is in arrested decay now and what’s left of the bustling town is being preserved just as it was when people deserted it. Many of the houses have furniture and household items left in them. Stores still have merchandise stacked on shelves as if any minute someone would stop in to shop. Time has stood still for Bodie, and the ghost of the once booming town waits for the next tourists to walk its streets and bring back to life the stories of long ago.
(Bodie is located in the hills east of the Sierra Nevada mountain range between in California. It has an elevation of 8379 feet. When I was there at the first of October, the businesses in the neighboring town of Lee Vining on Mono Lake were already boarding up for the long cold winter. The
rangers who live full time at Bodie spend the winters with snow and the only transportation in or out is on snow mobiles.)