reputation, it is perhaps not surprising that one little girl, whose
family was moving to the mining town, reportedly prayed: "Goodbye God! We
are going to Bodie.”
Bodie needed milled wood for construction,
mineshaft beams and heating; however, there were few trees in the area. Soon several businessmen formed the Bodie & Benton Railroad in 1881 for the sole
purpose of transporting lumber.
railroads in the West, the Bodie & Benton Railroad hired inexpensive
Chinese labor, much to the outrage of locally unemployed miners. By 1882
the 32 mile-long railroad was in service between Bodie and Mono Mills, along the east shore of
Mono Lake. Though the metal rails have long since been sold as
scrap, you can still see the old railroad grade not far from the remote
eastern shores of Mono Lake.
Many immigrants and
ex-miners homesteaded around Mono Lake in the hopes of making a simple
living off the land. Early Mono Basin ranchers often had plentiful food
and stock, and provided supplies to the local mining towns of Bodie and Lundy.
The boom was over just four short years
later and by 1882, Bodie started to decline. Its population had
dropped to just 3,000 as several smaller mining companies went bankrupt
and people began to leave the area in search of better opportunities.
Prior to 1882 there were no churches in Bodie; however there were two preachers,
Reverend Hinkle, a Methodist and Father Cassin, a Catholic. Services
were held in private homes and later in the I.O.O.F. (Independent Order of
Odd Fellows) Building and the Miner’s Union Hall.
Despite the decline of the mines, both a Methodist
Church and a Catholic Church were built in 1882. The Catholic Church
would not survive the later fires of Bodie but the Methodist Church still stands.
The two major mines -- the
Bodie and the
Standard, merged in 1887 and continued to operate successfully for the
next two decades.
While the boom lasted, some 30 companies
produced $400,000 in ore per month for an overall total estimated at $90
to $100 million.
In 1892 a fire ravaged much of the business
district, further depleting
population. Additional mines began to close. However, the very
next year Bodie
became one of the first mining camps to use electricity. Another fire
destroyed the Mill in 1898, but it was rebuilt the following year.
1915, most of the important mines were controlled by James Stewart
Cain who had arrived in
he was just 25 years old. Soon after his arrival, he entered the
lumber business transporting timber on barges across Mono Lake. He would grow so successful that he eventually would own the
bank, leased the Mono Lake Railway & Lumber Company (formerly known as
and Benton Railroad,) became the town’s principle property owner, and
the owner of the Standard Mill. However, the Standard Mill was
closed around 1916 and just a year later the
Benton Railway was abandoned.
In 1932 another devastating fire, caused
by a 2 ˝
year old boy playing with matches, destroyed 95% of
Though Bodie was
already dying, further decline resulted from Prohibition and the
Depression. While some mining continued, there were no new
strikes and companies eked out only minor profits, largely by using
the cyanide process to extract gold from old tailings.
However, a few people continued to live in Bodie
until after World War II, when the last producing, mine, the Lucky Boy
was shut down.
By then only six people were left in
the old settlement and five of these would soon die untimely deaths. First, one of the men shot his wife and after she died, three men
killed the murdering husband. According to legend, the ghost of
the murdered man would visit the three men, shaking his fist. Soon,
all three would die of strange diseases.
By the end of the 1940s Bodie was
town and was visited only by tourists interested in its history.
In 1962, after years of neglect, Bodie
became a State Historic Park, and two years later the ghost town of
dedicated as a
Historic Site. It has also been designated a National Historic Site.
Page - Bodie Legends & Bodie Slideshow