Bodie was a thriving mining town in the late 1800’s. Once home to 65 saloons and two churches, it was a bustling community of families, drunks, thieves, criminals, hard-working miners, gun slingers, prostitutes, and shop owners.
Mixed in with a one-armed Sheriff, a school teacher, two preachers, a blacksmith, a mining company, gold fever, cold winters and hot summers, and you have a partial picture of this one-time booming town.
Only a portion of the town remains and it was designated as a National Historic Site and a State Historic Park in 1962
Now completely deserted, with only Park Rangers as caretakers, the town sits in a state of “arrested decay”.
You are able to walk through the remnants of this once rambunctious place, take pictures to your heart’s content, peek through windows, go inside a few buildings, and visit the small museum. There is also a guided tour through the mining operation available for just $5/person.
“Bodie State Historic Park is a genuine California gold-mining ghost town. Visitors can walk down the deserted streets of a town that once had a population of nearly 10,000 people. ” – California Department of Parks and Recreation
There are still around 100 buildings standing, so there is much to see. Many of the rooms look exactly as they did back when the last families abandoned them.
The Methodist Church is one of the first buildings you come to after walking from the parking lot. According to history, there were originally no churches in town, but both the Methodists and Catholics opened their church doors within a few days of each other and remained the only houses of worship in Bodie.
They were gravely outnumbered by brothels, saloons, opium dens and other savory means of adult entertainment.
Also used as a meeting hall and where services were held prior to the two churches being built.
Theodore Hoover was the manager of the Standard Mill and lived here with his wife, Mildred. He was the brother of Herbert Hoover, who visited Brodie before he went on to become the President of the United States.
The original school was burned down by one of the student after a disagreement with the teacher and a larger school replaced it. This picture was taken through a glass window, so it is not as sharp as I would like. You get the impression that the children are at recess and just left everything behind.
Mr. Cain became one of the wealthiest men in town. Arriving in Bodie at the ripe old age of 25, he was a land owner, as well as in the business of delivering much-needed lumber to Bodie. Lumber was used in the construction of the mines, as building material for the town, to heat the homes and to fuel the boilers used to process the ore.
The area was remote, materials were in high demand, and nothing could be wasted. Tin cans when empty were cut open, flattened and used as building siding, or to help seal up a leaking roof.
There really were some colorful characters living in Bodie. According to Bodie.com, here are a few of note:
Mike McGowan – ‘Bad Man’, came from Virginia City. Would bite off ears, noses, thumbs.
Dan McMillan – One-armed sheriff and manager of the Bodie baseball team.
Alex Nixon – Elected as first President of the Miners’ Union, Jan. 15, 1878. Shot and killed in a saloon gun fight.
There is also a small museum in town that houses memorabilia. It is free to go through and I wish we would have had more time, as I only spent a few minutes inside.
It was time for our afternoon tour through the Standard Stamp Mill, where the ore was processed. The operation was complex, dangerous, loud and toxic. For those that are interested in more information about hard rock mining, please click here.
Another tidbit of history occurred here. Since lumber was so scarce and expensive to get delivered to Bodie, in 1892, Thomas H. Leggett convinced J.S Cain to invest in his idea of bringing electric power to town. Mr. Cain agreed, and Bodie became the first town to operate an electric stamp mill using long distance power lines.
It is rumored that an occasional ghost can be seen here. We ran out of time before we could visit the cemetery. Maybe just as well???
I would love to know what you think of Bodie. Please leave me a comment below.