Goodbye God, I'm going to Bodie
19th century schoolgirl
(written in her diary when her family moved)
In the summer of 1859 four prospectors - Bill Bodey, Black Taylor, Garraty and Dolye went out from Monoville (near Mono Lake) to the area north and east of the lake. They found gold left from a glacier deposit which was one of the richest strikes in the gold rush.
Bill died the winter of 1859-60. Winter temperatures frequently plunge to 40 below (Fahrenheit, Centigrade - take your choice, they're the same) with snowfall 20 feet deep (covering many buildings that where later to stand). These conditions are weathered by the park rangers who live in some of the buildings today.
One will quickly note the discrepancy between the name Bodey and the town name Bodie. Bill Bodey was also known as William S. Bodey and Waterman S. Body. Some have blamed an illiterate sign painter. Truth to be told, the citizens of the town changed the spelling of the name to assure proper pronunciation of the name.
Between the founding of the town in 1859 and 1879 there was a drastic increase in the population (from 4 to 10,000). Much of this had to do with the gold rush moving to the east - from the western slopes of the Sierras to the Comstock Lode in Virginia City. Along with the prospectors and miners came the bandits, prostitutes, gamblers, and others that feed upon and support the wealth of a gold rush town.
Bodie had the reputation for the roughest city in the west - and quite possibly earned it too. There was a period of several months during its heyday when there was an average of a murder a night. Between robberies, stage coach holdups, and street fights outside the 65 saloons in the town; Bodie certainly was not a place for the timid. The Reverend F. M. Warrington wrote of Bodie as "a sea of sin, lashed by the tempests of lust and passion."
The mine at Bodie was very rich to say the least. The first 25 years yielded $15,000,000 from the Standard Mine. and sparked the rush to Bodie. Between 1860 and 1941 the Bodie Mining District produced nearly $100,000,000 gold and silver. The outbreak of World War II quickly drained the town of men. Very few residents remained after 1941.
Power for the mine was originally steam produced by wood fire. As trees were chopped down, the cost for wood became prohibitive and a test was carried out - power over a distance. A hydroelectric plant was built 13 miles from Bodie and provided 6,600 volts (130 horsepower). In November of 1892 a message was sent down the telephone line that was erected parallel to the power line - a switch was thrown - generators began to hum - thirteen miles away a motor began to move. Power at a distance for the first time. It should be noted that the poles were in a straight line - people were unsure if electricity could turn corners.
Little of Bodie remains today compared to what it was. A fire on July 26, 1892 burnt down almost all of the business district. Another fire in June 23, 1932 caused by a small boy playing with matches. In each instance there was plenty of water to put out the fire, however the screens at the reservoirs were not in place (removed for cleaning and not replaced) allowing mud and rocks to jam the hose. Today only 5% of the buildings remain.
Bodie was designated a state historic park in 1962 and is maintained in a state of "arrested decay" - preserving the current level of decay, no restoration.
And now my comrades are all gone;
Naught remains to toast.
They have left me here in my misery,
Like some poor wandering ghost.