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Bodie - A Ghostly Ghost Town

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Bodie, California

Bodie, California, Kathy Weiser, July, 2009.

This image available for photo prints & commercial downloads HERE!


"A sea of sin, lashed by the tempests of  lust and passion."



-- Reverend F.M. Warrington said of Bodie, California in 1881




When mining began to decline along the western slope of the Sierra Nevada, prospectors began to cross the eastern slope in search of their fortunes. One such man named William (aka: Waterman) S. Bodey, discovered gold near a place that is now called Bodie Bluff in 1859. Alas, the poor man died in a snow storm that very winter and never saw the new town that would be named after him.


Though one legend attributes the change of spelling to an illiterate sign painter, the citizens deliberately changed the spelling in order to ensure correct pronunciation.

In 1861 the Bunker Hill Mine was established as well as a mill, though the camp was called home to only about twenty miners. Bodie grew slowly and remained an insignificant mining camp for 17 years. The Bunker Hill Mine and Mill, on the west slope of Bodie Bluff, changed hands several times during the years before being sold to four partners in 1877. The name was changed to the Standard Mining Company and within months the partners discovered a significant vein of rich gold ore. Profits rose dramatically and by the end of 1878 Bodie's population had soared to some 5,000 people. The Standard Mine would yield nearly 15 million dollars in gold over the next 25 years.

During the winter of 1878-79 Bodie's citizens saw many hardships. Particularly savage, the winter claimed hundreds of lives from exposure and disease. Falling timber in the mines and the explosion of a powder magazine took additional lives.


Miners, gamblers and business continued to flood the area and by 1879, Bodie boasted a population of about 10,000 and 2,000 buildings. Before long the town supported some 30 gold mines, 65 saloons, numerous brothels, gambling halls, and opium dens, as well, as a number of legitimate businesses, including three newspapers, several churches, a couple of banks and a school. Every other building on the mile long main street was a saloon. Three breweries worked day and night, while whiskey was brought into town in 100 gallon barrels.


Like many booming mining camps, Bodie soon earned a reputation for violence and lawlessness. Killings were sometimes daily events and robberies, stage holdups and street fights were common occurrences in the camp.


In its day, Bodie was more widely known for its lawlessness than for its riches. Of Bodie, the Reverend F.M. Warrington would describe it in 1881 as "a sea of sin, lashed by the tempests of lust and passion."

Given Bodie's 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.


Like other 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.



Bodie, California Mine

Standard Mine and Mill, Kathy Weiser, July, 2009.

This image available for photo prints & commercial downloads HERE!


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 Miners Union Hall.


However, 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.



Continued Next Page


Bodie California church

The Methodist Church in Bodie today, Kathy Weiser,  July, 2009.

This image available for photo prints & commercial downloads HERE!


Bodie California church

Interior of the church, Kathy Weiser, July, 2009.

This image available for photo prints & commercial downloads HERE!


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