Bodie

In Summer 1859, gold was discovered by four prospectors about 10 miles north of Mono Lake. One of these prospectors was W.S. Bodey, who was killed during a blizzard in November while making a supply trip to Monoville, and the camp that would develop was named in his honor (the change in spelling is often attributed to a painter that spelled it wrong, but it stuck). The news of the discovery did not travel far and was overshadowed by developments in Aurora and on the Comstock Lode. Nevertheless, a small camp formed with two stamp mills, but it failed by 1868.

In 1876, the Standard Company discovered a promising ore body at the old Bunker Hill mine. A subsequent discovery at the neighboring Bodie mine in 1878 brought hopefuls to Bodie, and by 1879 the town had nearly 7,000 people and 2,000 buildings. Regional newspapers predicted that Bodie would be the next Comstock Lode. Nine stamp mills were in operation, and gold was shipped to Carson City - either for use at the mint there or to ship by rail to San Francisco. As Bodie grew, it also earned a reputation as one of the roughest places to live. Some 65 saloons and gambling halls lined the streets, and shootouts and brawls were commonplace. A red-light district and Chinatown (with plentiful opium dens) also developed at the north end of town.

On November 14, 1881, the Bodie Railway & Lumber Company completed and put into operation a narrow gauge railroad connecting Bodie to the Bodie Wood & Lumber Company's new mill at Mono Mills, some 32 miles away. The following year, the line was renamed the Bodie & Benton Railway and work began on an extension to Benton and a connection to the Carson & Colorado Railroad; only nine miles were ever graded and no rails laid, presumably to keep the Company's monopoly on lumber. Bodie also benefitted from other technological advances. The cyanide process, invented in 1890, quickly made its way into Bodie's mills. In 1892, the Standard Company built a new hydropower plant on Green Creek with powerlines to the Standard Mill to replace the steam plant there. This marked the world's first long-distance electrical system. 3500 volts traveled 12.5 miles in almost a straight line - it was believed at the time that bends or curves in the system could cause the electricity to fly off the line.

That same year, however, a kitchen fire destroyed much of town. Some rebuilt, many left. By 1910, less than 700 remained in Bodie and in 1915 major mining came to a close. The Bodie & Benton Railway closed and was scrapped in 1917, and by 1920 the population had dropped to only 120 and Bodie was already labelled a ghost town. In 1932, another fire struck - this time started by a boy playing with matches - and most of what was left of town burned. In 1961 the remains of the town were recognized as a National Historic Landmark, and the following year Bodie State Historic Park was created. Today, about 110 buildings remain from Bodie's glory days, each in a state of arrested decay (while the buildings are maintained, care is taken to ensure they remain as they did in 1962 after years of abandonment).

I Visited Bodie
6.29.2009

See Also
Bodie Foundation*
*Outside Link