|Elevation||8,379 ft (2,554 m)|
|Time zone||PST (UTC-8)|
|• Summer (DST)||PDT (UTC-7)|
|Website||Bodie State Historic Park|
Bodie Historic District
Bodie, California, as seen from the hill, looking toward the cemetery
|Nearest city||Bridgeport, California|
|Architectural style||Various; Southwestern U.S. frontier-style, late-19th to early-20th century.|
|NRHP Reference #||66000213|
|Added to NRHP||October 15, 1966|
|Designated NHLD||July 4, 1961|
Bodie is a ghost town in the Bodie Hills east of the Sierra Nevada mountain range in Mono County, California, United States, about 75 miles (121 km) southeast of Lake Tahoe. It is located 12 mi (19 km) east-southeast of Bridgeport, at an elevation of 8379 feet (2554 m). As Bodie Historic District, the U.S. Department of the Interior recognizes it as a National Historic Landmark. Also registered as a California Historical Landmark, the ghost town officially became Bodie State Historic Park in 1962, and receives about 200,000 visitors yearly. Starting in 2012, Bodie is administered by the Bodie Foundation, which uses the tagline Protecting Bodie's Future by Preserving Its Past.
Discovery of gold
Bodie began as a mining camp of little note following the discovery of gold in 1859 by a group of prospectors, including W. S. Bodey. Bodey perished in a blizzard the following November while making a supply trip to Monoville (near present-day Mono City, California), never getting to see the rise of the town that was named after him. According to area pioneer Judge J. G. McClinton, the district's name was changed from "Bodey," "Body," and a few other phonetic variations, to "Bodie," after a painter in the nearby boomtown of Aurora, lettered a sign "Bodie Stables".
Gold discovered at Bodie coincided with the discovery of silver at nearby Aurora (thought to be in California, later found to be Nevada), and the distant Comstock Lode beneath Virginia City, Nevada. But while these two towns boomed, interest in Bodie remained lackluster. By 1868 only two companies had built stamp mills at Bodie, and both had failed.
In 1876, the Standard Company discovered a profitable deposit of gold-bearing ore, which transformed Bodie from an isolated mining camp comprising a few prospectors and company employees to a Wild West boomtown. Rich discoveries in the adjacent Bodie Mine during 1878 attracted even more hopeful people. By 1879, Bodie had a population of approximately 5000–7000 people and around 2,000 buildings. One idea maintains that in 1880, Bodie was California's second or third largest city, but the U.S. Census of that year disproves the popular tale. Over the years, Bodie's mines produced gold valued at nearly US$34 million.
Bodie boomed from late 1877 through mid- to late 1880. The first newspaper, The Standard Pioneer Journal of Mono County, published its first edition on October 10, 1877. It started out as a weekly, but soon became a thrice-weekly paper. It was also during this time that a telegraph line was built which connected Bodie with Bridgeport and Genoa, Nevada. California and Nevada newspapers predicted Bodie would become the next Comstock Lode. Men from both states were lured to Bodie by the prospect of another bonanza.
Gold bullion from the town's nine stamp mills was shipped to Carson City, Nevada, by way of Aurora, Wellington and Gardnerville. Most shipments were accompanied by armed guards. After the bullion reached Carson City, it was delivered to the mint there, or sent by rail to the mint in San Francisco.
Geography of the boomtown
As a bustling gold mining center, Bodie had the amenities of larger towns, including a Wells Fargo Bank, four volunteer fire companies, a brass band, a railroad, miners' and mechanics' unions, several daily newspapers, and a jail. At its peak, 65 saloons lined Main Street, which was a mile long. Murders, shootouts, barroom brawls, and stagecoach holdups were regular occurrences.
As with other remote mining towns, Bodie had a popular, though clandestine, red light district on the north end of town. From this is told the unsubstantiated story of Rosa May, a prostitute who, in the style of Florence Nightingale, came to the aid of the town menfolk when a serious epidemic struck the town at the height of its boom. She is credited with giving life-saving care to many, but was buried outside the cemetery fence.
Bodie had a Chinatown, the main street of which ran at a right angle to Bodie's Main Street, with several hundred Chinese residents at one point, and included a Taoist temple. Opium dens were plentiful in this area.
Bodie also had a cemetery on the outskirts of town and a nearby mortuary, which is the only building in the town built of red brick three courses thick, most likely for insulation to keep the air temperature steady during the cold winters and hot summers. The cemetery includes a Miners Union section, and includes a cenotaph to President James A. Garfield. The Bodie Boot Hill was located outside of the official city cemetery.
On Main Street stands the Miners Union Hall, which was the meeting place for labor unions and an entertainment center that hosted dances, concerts, plays, and school recitals. It now serves as a museum.
The first signs of decline appeared in 1880 and became obvious towards the end of the year. Promising mining booms in Butte, Montana; Tombstone, Arizona; and Utah lured men away from Bodie. The get-rich-quick, single miners who originally came to the town in the 1870s moved on to these other booms, which eventually turned Bodie into a family-oriented community. Two examples of this settling were the construction of the Methodist Church (which currently stands) and the Roman Catholic Church (burned about 1930) that were both constructed in 1882. Despite the population decline, the mines were flourishing, and in 1881 Bodie's ore production was recorded at a high of $3.1 million. Also in 1881, a narrow-gauge railroad was built called the Bodie Railway & Lumber Company, bringing lumber, cordwood, and mine timbers to the mining district from Mono Mills south of Mono Lake.
During the early 1890s, Bodie enjoyed a short revival seen in technological advancements in the mines that continued to support the town. In 1890, the recently invented cyanide process promised to recover gold and silver from discarded mill tailings and from low-grade ore bodies that had been passed over. In 1892, the Standard Company built its own hydroelectric plant approximately 13 miles (20.9 km) away at Dynamo Pond. The plant developed a maximum of 130 horsepower (97 kW) and 3,530 volts alternating current (AC) to power the company's 20-stamp mill. This pioneering installation marked one of the country's first transmissions of electricity over a long distance.
In 1910, the population was recorded at 698 people, which were predominantly families that decided to stay in Bodie instead of moving on to other prosperous strikes.
The first signs of an official decline occurred in 1912 with the printing of the last Bodie newspaper, The Bodie Miner. In a 1913 book titled California tourist guide and handbook: authentic description of routes of travel and points of interest in California, the authors, Wells and Aubrey Drury, described Bodie as a "mining town, which is the center of a large mineral region" and provided reference to two hotels and a railroad operating there. In 1913, the Standard Consolidated Mine closed. Mining profits in 1914 were at a low of $6,821. James S. Cain was buying up everything from the town lots to the mining claims, and reopened the Standard mill to former employees, which resulted in an over $100,000 profit in 1915. However, this financial growth was not in time to stop the town's decline. In 1917, the Bodie Railway was abandoned and its iron tracks were scrapped. The last mine closed in 1942, due to War Production Board order L-208, shutting down all nonessential gold mines in the United States. Mining never resumed.
The first label of Bodie as a "ghost town" was in 1915. In a time when auto travel was on a rise, many were adventuring into Bodie via automobiles. The San Francisco Chronicle published an article in 1919 to dispute the "ghost town" label. By 1920, Bodie's population was recorded by the US Federal Census at a total of 120 people. Despite the decline, Bodie had permanent residents through most of the 20th century, even after a fire ravaged much of the downtown business district in 1932. A post office operated at Bodie from 1877 to 1942.
Ghost town and park
In the 1940s, the threat of vandalism faced the ghost town. The Cain family, who owned much of the land the town is situated upon, hired caretakers to protect and to maintain the town's structures. Martin Gianettoni, one of the last three people in Bodie in 1943, was also a caretaker.
Bodie is now an authentic Wild West ghost town. The town was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1961, and in 1962 it became Bodie State Historic Park. A total of 170 buildings remained. Bodie has been named California's official state gold rush ghost town.
Visitors arrive mainly via CA-270 which runs from CA-395 near Bridgeport, CA to the west, the last three miles of it a dirt road. There is also a road to CA-167 near Mono Lake in the south, but this road is extremely rough with more than 10 miles of dirt track in a bad state of repair. The roads to Bodie are usually closed in winter due to heavy snowfall.
Today, Bodie is preserved in a state of arrested decay. Only a small part of the town survived, with about 110 structures still standing, including one of many once operational gold mills. Visitors can walk the deserted streets of a town that once was a bustling area of activity. Interiors remain as they were left and stocked with goods.
In 2009 and again in 2010, Bodie was scheduled to be closed, but the California state legislature was able to work out a budget compromise that enabled the state's Parks Closure Commission to allow it to remain open. As of 2012, the park is still operating, now administered by the Bodie Foundation.
Bodie is a rare example of the dry-summer subarctic climate (Köppen climate classification Dsc), with warm summers and long, snowy winters, and is part of USDA Plant Hardiness Zone 5. Winds can sweep across the valley at close to 100 miles per hour (160 km/h). Nights remain cold even through the summer, often dropping well below freezing. Bodie rivals notorious Barrow, Alaska as the locality in the United States with most nights below freezing; in fact no month has ever been completely frost-free, with the fewest nights below freezing being two in August 1968, which also saw the highest minimum on record of 60 °F (15.6 °C). The longest frost-free period is a mere thirty days from 20 July to 18 August of 1901, but to illustrate the vast diurnal temperature range, Bodie had as many as 98 consecutive maxima at or above 68 °F (20 °C) between June 9 and September 14 of 2007.
The harsh weather is due to a particular combination of high altitude (8,400 feet or 2,600 metres) and a very exposed plateau, with little in the way of a natural surrounding wall to protect the long, flat piece of land from the elements. Plenty of firewood was needed to keep residents warm through the long winters. Bodie is not located in a forest, so lumber had to be imported from Bridgeport, Benton, Carson City or Mono Mills. The winter of 1878–79 was particularly harsh and claimed the lives of many residents. On average, there are 22.7 days with 80 °F (27 °C)+ highs, 19.6 days where the high fails to rise above freezing, and 35 nights with sub-0 °F (−18 °C) lows. The record high temperature of 91 °F (33 °C) was set on July 21, 1988, while the record low of −36 °F (−38 °C) was set on February 13, 1903, which also saw the lowest maximum temperature of −4 °F (−20.0 °C).
Average annual precipitation is 11.79 inches (299 mm), with August on average being the driest month and January the wettest. There are an average of 60 days annually with measurable precipitation. The wettest calendar year was 1965 with 26.04 in (661 mm) and the driest was 2000 with 4.57 in (116 mm). The most precipitation in one month was 7.39 in (188 mm) in January 1901. The most precipitation in 24 hours was 4.57 in (116 mm) on February 12, 1895. Average annual snowfall is 93.2 inches (237 cm). The snowiest year was 1965 with 269 in (6.83 m). The most snow in one month was 97.1 in (246.6 cm) in January 1969.
|Climate data for Bodie, California|
|Record high °F (°C)||61
|Average high °F (°C)||40.4
|Average low °F (°C)||4.7
|Record low °F (°C)||−27
|Precipitation inches (mm)||1.66
|Snowfall inches (cm)||17.4
|Avg. precipitation days (≥ 0.01 in)||7.1||7.3||6.3||5.7||4.2||4.1||3.4||3.5||2.8||3.5||5.1||7.2||60.2|
|Avg. snowy days (≥ 0.1 in)||4.9||4.4||5.2||3.1||1.6||0.4||0||0||0.2||1.1||3.1||5.4||29.4|
|Source: NOAA (1981–2010 normals), Western Regional Climate Center (extremes)|
Bodie in fiction
Kathleen Haun's historical novel No Trees for Shade (2013) is set in Bodie in 1880.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to:|
- Bodie, Washington
- List of California state parks
- Rosa May – the “hooker with a heart of gold” who lived in Bodie
- Madame Moustache – notorious gambler who last lived in Bodie
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- Official Bodie Foundation – A non-profit organization
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- Bodie area maps and information
- National Park Service: A History of Chinese Americans in California: Bodie Chinese American Community
- Learn about and tour Bodie online at Bodie.com
- Story of Bodie – Stereoscopic Video Project
- Bodie in 1865 and recent photographs
- Historical Population Line Graph Image #1
- Historical Population Line Graph Image #2
- Bodie Fan Community
- Warren A. R. Loose Gravesite; Jordan Hydroelectric Powerhouse Victims Cemetery; Masonic Section, Wards Section, and Outcast Section of the Bodie Cemetery at Find a Grave.