The other day someone mentioned to me that they wanted to see Bodie, a well-preserved Ghost town in California. It is located 12 miles east-southeast of Bridgeport and is a National Historic landmark. As part of our Off-Roading trips, I have been to Bodie several times. Although we come through the back way with the four-wheeled drive, the ghost town is accessible by car on a maintained road.
Bodie began as a mining camp when gold was discovered in 1859. In 1876, the Standard Company discovered a 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.
As a bustling gold mining center, Bodie had the amenities of larger towns, including two banks, 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 also had a popular 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 towns men 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, because ladies of her caliber wasn’t fit to lay to rest among the other townfolks.
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, complete with a Taoist temple and plenty of Opium dens.
The first signs decline were in 1912 when The Bodie Miner printed it‘s last newspaper. 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. Despite this Bodie had permanent residents through 1942.
I happen to love Bodie. I have been a couple of times and since I have gone out of season, there have not been many tourists present. . The lack of sightseers gives Bodie a true ghost town feeling. That and the fact that many of the buildings and homes left standing still have the bits and pieces of everyday life in the 1800’s. You can look through the window of a home and still see plates on a table, rotting curtains, chairs, canned goods. Same with the general store. It is full of the stuff one needed to buy in a mining town.
Bodie is well preserved thanks to the efforts of the Bodie Foundation. I highly recommend that if you are going that away, you take a day and explore Bodie. You can stay in Bridgeport, which is also fun to explore albeit very small. It is rumored the Bridgeport Inn is haunted!