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Bodie

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Bodie

Page Type: Article

Object Title: Bodie

 

Page By: Marcsoltan

Created/Edited: Jan 6, 2014 / Feb 7, 2014

Object ID: 882182

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Page Score: 93.58%  - 43 Votes 

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Bodie

Buried in a huge hillside are hundreds, if not thousands, of unmarked graves. All signs of disturbed ground have long disappeared with rain, wind and erosion. There is a small graveyard nearby belonging to those few who had the means to have a headstone. Several hundred feet below this hillside, nestled in a valley in Mono County of California, is a town that was abandoned by its residents decades ago. This is "Bodie."



Looking down Main Street
Looking down Main Street where there were hundreds of store fronts lined both sides.


What is left of this once bustling town of several thousands are the weathered skeletal remains of buildings, streets and abandoned gold mines. Yes, gold mines- gold was what brought the hopeful crowds to this town, and some might speculate, brought it to its knees and its ultimate demise. For anyone who has seen the movie "Paint Your Wagon," the movie could have very well been about Bodie. The busy streets, saloons, whorehouses, gunfights and outright murders were all a way of life in Bodie. This is a town where dreams of rags to riches were realized and lost and gold was always central to everything.


Mining Equipment
Mining Equipment

Mining Equipment
Mining Equipment

Mining Equipment
Mining Equipment

Mining Equipment
Mining Equipment

A very brief history helps shed light on the legacy of Bodie. The first gold nuggets in California were discovered in 1848 in the foothills of the Western Sierras. The population of California soared and within ten years the prospectors were searching for new sources for gold mining. The search led to the east side of the Sierra Nevada Range, and eventually to the location that became Bodie. The town is named after William S. Bodey, the first man to find gold in the area in 1859. The town's name took on a different spelling to ensure correct pronunciation. 



Even to this day with modern roads, it is hard to believe the perilous distances men were willing to venture to find this rare metal. But, the great distances on horseback or by foot did not keep the secret for very long. Within ten years, the tiny settlement of Bodie had grown to a bustling town of 10,000. With all the riches came all the corruption, wickedness and crimes. With the building of some thirty plants and a railroad, for a period of time Bodie seemed to be heading in the right direction to becoming a viable industrial city. Even President Herbert Hoover's visit to his brother, Theodor Hoover, who lived in one of the most lavish houses and oversaw the operations at the largest plant, Standard Consolidated Mining Company, could not guarantee the downfall of Bodie. In 1932 there was a massive fire that devastated the entire town. Considering the back-breaking effort that had gone into building this town, it's easy to see why the residents did not find it in the heart to rebuild it. It is said that many families left thinking that they would come back, but they never did. At present, however, Bodie is a state historical park with only a handful of rangers to keep this town in a state of "arrested decay." No permanent residents here; Bodie is a true ghost town.


Headstones
many graves belonging to children under age of five

a very small graveyard...
A very small graveyard for a town of 10,000. A portion of the hillside where most of the dead were buried in unmarked graves is seen behind the official graveyard.

Well-kept gravesWell-kept graves
Distant view of Bodie
Bodie seen from the graveyard

Hearse at the museum
A hearse in the present day museum

The Morgue
A morgue for the less fortunate Bodie residents

Life in Bodie during its heyday could not have been all that unbearable, at least for a fraction of its population. There were hundreds of store fronts lining the main street. There were expensive residential buildings, school houses, hotels, banks, restaurants, saddleries, a fire department, sheriff's office, barber shops, and even saloons and churches, which more often than not, were not very far from each other. Just as if working in the mines and the plant wasn't enough for the rugged men of Bodie, there was at least one athletic club. The punching bags, chin-up bars and the hanging rings for gymnastics are preserved and can be viewed from behind the window. The original sign is set on the floor reading "Bodie Club, Cold Beer." Yes, in Bodie you could exercise, drink cold beer and listen to piano music all in one big room. I would not be surprised if guitar playing, singing and dancing girls paid visits to this club as well, never mind the fact that this building was also used to run an undertaking business. Strange and interesting things happened in Bodie.


The Cain House
James S. & Martha Cain House

Bodie Hotel
Bodie Hotel. The sign inside says "Meals At All Hours" indicating a robust night life in Bodie.

School House
School House

A classroom
This classroom is viewed from the window. Except for 1/2 inch of dust, everything has been preserved as the original.

Four Buildings
These buildings housed a hotel, a post office, an athletic club and a morgue.

Bodie Club
Inside of Bodie athletic club

Bodie Club
Inside of Bodie Athletic Club, a beer joint, piano bar and general entertainment room.

 
Lottie Johl's House
Lottie Johl's House
 
Lottie Johl
Lottie Johl, was a famous woman of the night with a big heart! After getting married she became a humanitarian and gained respectability with many of the residents. Unfortunately, she was still treated poorly by many women of Bodie.
 
Lottie Johl's house
Inside of Lottie Johl's house. Note: President George Washington's photo on the wall.
 
Hoover House
Theodor Hoover, brother of President Herbert Hoover, lived in this house and managed the operations at the nearby plant.
 
Fire Fighting wagons
With firefighting equipment like this it's no surprise nearly the entire town was burnt to the ground.
 
Fire Station
Fire Station


It is obvious that religion also played a big part in the lives of the people of Bodie. The Methodist Church is the most well-kept structure even to this day. There were families with children who needed schooling. There is also a school house that is well-preserved and can be viewed from behind the window. Visiting the cemetery, small as it is for a town of 10,000, makes it clear that even to this day some of the descendants of the original residents of Bodie still pay regular visits to this town. Some of the graves are well-kept and a few are adorned with flowers. Reading the headstones brings you to some very sad conclusions. It seems that many children perished before the age of five. It's obvious that life, even for the more privileged residents, must have been very harsh in this town.


Methodist church
Methodist Church is one of the most prominent buildings in Bodie

A well-preserved church
Inside view of the Methodist Church




Walking down main street brings back a feeling of nostalgia for the days when thousands of people went about their business, horses pulled wagons, and children ran home from school, if not on their daily mischief. At night, however, the mood in the street was different. With some 65 saloons and a number of whorehouses, night life must have been right out of what we have seen in western movies. After dark not many walked with a pocket full of gold, unless they were wearing a gun. And a gun certainly didn't keep anyone safe. Killings occurred with frightening regularity. As it were, daytime was hardly less violent or more safe. Travelers were easy targets for robbers and murders. It's easy to imagine that many bodies were never found.




In the movie "Paint Your Wagon" the gold town collapsed into its tunnels that crisscrossed underneath the town. Movie dramatizations aside, it is said that gold mine tunnels around Bodie extend more than fifty miles. The hillsides are pock marked by the entrances to the mines. The dirt removed from the tunnels looks yellow and contaminated. Bodie didn't need to collapse into its own tunnels to die. Its demise was mostly due to harsh winter conditions, an elevation exceeding 8000 feet, devastating fires that burnt and destroyed most of the town, and of course, running out of gold. It is, however, estimated to still have some 20 million dollars in gold left within its bowels.




At the entrance to Bodie there is a rock tower with three plaques giving a short history of how this town came to be a state historical landmark.  The bottom plaque, "Return to Bodie" recognizes the men and organization that dedicated themselves to preserving the living history of Bodie. It is worthwhile to take a few minutes to read and appreciate the efforts that went into preserving this chapter of California's history.



Images


Comments


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Viewing: 1-18 of 18    

lisaeNice!

lisae

Voted 10/10

I went to Bodie last Spring, right after the road opened. A fascinating place to wander around. None of the buildings were open when I was there - clearly it is an advantage to come later in the season.

I loved the gate at the graveyard - the turnstyle - the endless cycle of life and death....
Posted Jan 7, 2014 12:43 pm

MarcsoltanRe: Nice!

Marcsoltan

Hasn't voted

Hi Lisa, I went to Bodie in 2012 without visiting the graveyard, I only looked at it from a distance. On the same trip I asked one of the female rangers about the size of the graveyard and how small it was for the number of people who were dying and getting killed on daily basis. She told me that the entire hillside behind the graveyard is where most of the bodies got buried. That peaked my interest enough to go back in 2013 and learn more about the history of Bodie.
Posted Jan 7, 2014 1:59 pm

lisaeRe: Nice!

lisae

Voted 10/10

I think the fenced graveyard is still being used for burials. There were a few relatively recent graves there.
Posted Jan 7, 2014 2:13 pm

MarcsoltanRe: Nice!

Marcsoltan

Hasn't voted

I didn't look at all the dates on the headstones, but I would not be surprised if some would like to be buried there. Alice Dolan, daughter of the sheriff and now 100, still visits her old house and stays with the rangers.
Posted Jan 7, 2014 2:57 pm

AlbertoRampiniVery interesting!

AlbertoRampini

Voted 10/10

Thanks for sharing this article and the beautiful pictures, memories of the past...
Alberto
Posted Jan 7, 2014 1:19 pm

MarcsoltanRe: Very interesting!

Marcsoltan

Hasn't voted

Thank you very much Alberto for checking out this page on Bodie. I agree with you on visiting places with a history. I can relate to this abandoned town because it happened in the recent past and I used to venture into old abandoned gold mines in California some forty years ago.
Posted Jan 7, 2014 1:48 pm

Stu BrandelEerie Bodie

Stu Brandel

Voted 10/10

Thanks for the great pictures of Bodie. This ghost town struck me as very eerie, due to the fact that its debris is more modern than your average run of the mill western gold town. Seeing old 7UP soda bottles in one cabin during a visit a few tears ago made it seem like an old Twilight Zone episode. Your picture of the athletic club produced similar reactions.
Posted Jan 9, 2014 3:49 pm

MarcsoltanRe: Eerie Bodie

Marcsoltan

Hasn't voted

Thank you very much Stu. "Eerie" is the word I should've used in the article, but I was hit by several different emotions at the time. The second time we went there we started from the graveyard, and I looked at the hillside behind it where most of the dead were buried. I couldn't help myself thinking about their faces and the cloths they must have been wearing. I'm sure they were buried with the same cloths on their back. I can easily think of the athletic club full of people doing their thing, chin-ups, drinking beer and getting loud. Well, yes, Twilight Zone, all the way.
BTW, I wonder if one of the rangers, or one of the early visitors left the 7-UP soda bottle there as a joke, or by forgetfulness. Well, it's been removed. I didn't see it.
Posted Jan 9, 2014 6:30 pm

SenadR...

SenadR

Voted 10/10

Great stuff!
Posted Jan 15, 2014 4:35 pm

SenadR...

SenadR

Voted 10/10

Great stuff!
Posted Jan 15, 2014 4:35 pm

MarcsoltanRe: ...

Marcsoltan

Hasn't voted

Thank you very much Sen. Visiting Bodie might be a great diversion for a climbing rest day.
Posted Jan 16, 2014 1:16 pm

EricChuA very interesting page!

EricChu

Voted 10/10

Thanks a lot for the great work you did here, Marc! It was a very interesting read!!
Cheers,
Eric
Posted Jan 17, 2014 2:59 pm

MarcsoltanRe: A very interesting page!

Marcsoltan

Hasn't voted

Thank you very much Eric. Truth be told, I was very hesitant to put this page up since it has nothing to do with mountain climbing. But, since Bodie is located within the hillsides of Mono County at over 8000 feet and was discovered by a "mountain man" I thought it might kind of fit. In any event, I am very happy to know that you liked the page.

All the best,
Marc
Posted Jan 18, 2014 10:16 am

MarmadukeA Hidden Gem

Marmaduke

Voted 10/10

Good stuff Marc, looks like a great side trip after some hiking in the Sierra. I need to get there, been by and see the signs but always travel by. My daughter, sister, Mom have been but not me. Does the park stay open based on staffing and time of year or snow and the road isn't plowed?
Posted Jan 19, 2014 10:54 pm

MarcsoltanRe: A Hidden Gem

Marcsoltan

Hasn't voted

Thanks much Troy. Agreed, Bodie is a great little side trip for a rest day. Unfortunately, I don't know the answer to any of your questions. I think the rangers are there all year round. But, as far as plowing the road in winter I'm not sure. I didn't see any snow removal equipment anywhere. Well, with this drought we're having, I'm sure the road will be open. All I know is that they close down by late afternoon.
Posted Jan 20, 2014 1:25 am

Sierra Ledge RatPretty cool

Sierra Ledge Rat

Hasn't voted

I went to Bodie for the first time back around 1965
Posted Mar 9, 2014 4:46 pm

MarcsoltanRe: Pretty cool

Marcsoltan

Hasn't voted

I would have liked to see Bodie in 1965. It would be interesting to see how things change in several decades.

Thanks for dropping by.
Posted Mar 9, 2014 7:03 pm

MarmadukeRe: Pretty cool

Marmaduke

Voted 10/10

I agree. I just went and found it to very interesting. People I guessed lived there all the way up into the 40's even! So 1965 to today i'M SURE THERE WAS A HUGE CONTRAST. ANY PICS Rat?
Posted Jun 14, 2014 10:42 pm

Viewing: 1-18 of 18