California witnessed a period of the major gold rush, and after that, the story of Bodie started. Four prospectors came and found gold in the tiny valley which was situated southeast of Lake Tahoe. They came to the particular part, which was popular as the Mother Lode region, looking for the sought-after gold.
The small gold-laden valley and the mining post were struck by a terrible blizzard just after these four prospectors found the gold. One of the four prospectors W.S. Body, died in that blizzard, and that is where the town got its name from.
Bodie is now a ghost town northeast of the Yosemite National Park, close to the Sierra Nevada mountains. This town used to be a vibrant one, with almost 10,000 residents. Now it is a state park, a Californian Landmark, and a historical landmark as well.
During the Gold Rush back in 1859, Bodie started with a mining camp. The whole area became a campsite for these four prospectors, and that included W.S. Bodey. It was that November itself that Mr.Bodey passed away in that blizzard while he was taking a supply trip to Montville. He never got to see the town, which was named after him, again.
According to the pioneer judge of the area, J. G. McClinton, the district was first called Body, then its name changed to Bodey, and after that, there were some other phonetic variations, but the town finally got the name when a painter from the nearby town of Aurora, made a sign for Bodie Stables.
Because Bodie is a center for mining gold, this small town has amenities like any large town. It even has a Wells Fargo Bank, a brass band, a fire company volunteered by four men, a miners and mechanics union, a railroad, a jail, and a few daily newspapers. The Main Street, which was almost a mile long, had a line-up of 65 saloons. The town had a lot of criminal activities going on as well. Shootouts, stagecoach holdups, barroom brawls, and murders were regular occurrences.
The Luck Of Bodie
Bodies’ luck finally struck again when a miner named Bunker Hill started caving in 1875. But that could be the beginning of the end. This could have been the reason behind the downfall of Bodie when the mine collapsed. But along with that, it disclosed a huge amount of gold. There was so much gold that this news made its way to San Francisco, and a lot of prospectors gathered here to get a part of Bodie’s riches.
The gold mine that was exposed because the mines collapsed was very lucky and fruitful that a few capitalists formed a company and bought the entire thing. The newly formed Standard company made a lot of profit from the purchase. Back in 1877, the company made a solid profit of $784,523 in both silver and gold bullion, which would roughly sum up to $17.5 million now.
Bodie changed after that. It became home to new miners and residents. A lot of other wealthy investors and companies bought shares and made their way into this booming town. All of the residents of Bodie and people from other parts of the country became optimistic that this town would be one of the most prosperous ones in the entire region. Investors from New York and San Francisco invested huge amounts in digging deeper mines as they were sure there was more gold.
Except there was no evidence that said there was more gold in there, waiting to get discovered. By the end of 1878, they dug 22 mines with very expensive machines in the hope of getting more gold.
Settlers from all over the world came to this small town to be a part of its riches. In one year, the population grew to 8,000 from 7,000 residents. Because these people came in the hunt for gold, the town became a victim and became a violent boomtown.
Today, the ghost town of Bodie stands witness to the buildings it once held dear in the dirt streets. The old building for the Miners Union, the jail, the firehouse, the huge Standard Mill, the Methodist Church, the school, the morgue, everything is covered in dirt.
The thriving roads of Bodie and the abandoned buildings talk about the way of life in the Wild West. many are standing like they did almost 60 years ago. Now things have changed a lot. The Miners Union building is now a museum, restoring artifacts from the past. They have restored the Standard Mil partly. There are also regular tours to the complete stamp mill for ust a cost of $6.
Bodie Cemetery is one of the main attractions for the visitors. It is located on the outskirts of this small town, at the end of a short footpath. Bodie was known for having two cemeteries. One was inside the ornate cemetery fence and one outside of it, popularly known as the informal Boot Hill cemetery. The plot inside was reserved for resting the respectable citizens, and the outside one was for derelict characters.
The state historic park is an easily accessible and authentic ghost town, which is famous for mineral riches and western lawlessness.
You can get to this town by leaving Mammoth Lake on Route 203, turning left after crossing the overpass, and then taking Route 395. Drive for at least 35 miles and pass the town of Lee Vining. Then take the right turn on State Route 270 and travel 10 miles to the East to get there.
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