Bodie, California, is a ghost town on the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada mountain range in Mono County, California, United States, about 75 miles (120 km) southeast of Lake Tahoe. It is located at 38°12′42″N, 119°00′46″W, at an elevation of 8369 feet (2550 m).
Gold was discovered in 1859 by prospector W. S. Bodey (also spelled Body), after whom the town was named. Bodey died in November after making a supply trip to Monoville and perishing in a blizzard.
In 1876, the Standard Company discovered a profitable deposit of gold, which transformed Bodie from an isolated mining camp of 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 1880 Bodie boasted a population of nearly 10,000.
As a bustling gold mining center, Bodie was famous for its lawlessness. At its peak it had 60 saloons. Murders, barroom brawls, and stagecoach holdups were regular occurrences. Legend has it that a little girl, upon finding out that her family was moving there, prayed one night, "Goodbye God, we are going to Bodie." But a local editor claimed she had really prayed, "Good. By God we are going to Bodie."
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 an armed guard. Once the bullion reached Carson City, it was delivered to the mint or sent by rail to the mint in San Francisco.
A first in electrical power
In 1893 the Standard Company built its own hydroelectric plant, located approximately 13 miles away on Green Creek, above Bridgeport, California. The plant developed a maximum of 130 horsepower and 6,600 volts alternating current to power the company's 20-stamp mill. This pioneering installation is marked as one of the first transmissions of electricity over long-distance.
Interesting points about town
Bodie had its own Chinatown, which had several hundred Chinese residents at one point, and even included a Taoist temple. Chinese workers earned their incomes mainly from selling vegetables, operating laundries, and cutting, hauling, and selling firewood.
Bodie has 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 from the intense summer heat which would make undertaking a malodorous job.
As with most remote mining towns, Bodie had a popular, though clandestinely important 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 was attributed to giving life-saving care to many, but was denied burial within the gates of the town cemetery, remaining a social outcast even to her death.
In town's center stands the Miners Union Hall, a general meeting place for residents. It now serves as a quasi town museum. As a State Park, the ranger station is located in one of the original homes on Green Street.
Summers in Bodie were hot, but in winter, temperatures often plummeted well below 0°F, and winds could sweep across the valley at close to 100 miles per hour. These days nights stay plenty cold even throughout the summer months, and to this day the ghost town most often holds the nightly records for coldest temperature in the nation. The harsh weather is due to a particularly bad combination of a very high altitude, (8,400 ft.), and a very exposed plateau, with little in the way of a natural surrounding wall to protect the long, flat piece land from the elements. Plenty of firewood was needed to keep residents warm through the long winters, possibly related to the fact that there are very few trees today in the area. Many inadequately prepared residents perished during the winter of 1878–1879, which was particularly harsh.
Authentic ghost town
Though greatly reduced in prominence, Bodie held a permanent residency through most of the 20th century. Bodie is now the Wild West's most authentic, intact ghost town, even after a fire ravaged much of the downtown business district in 1932. The town was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1961, and in 1962 it became Bodie State Historic Park
Today, Bodie is preserved in a state of arrested decay. Only a small part of the town survives. Visitors can walk the deserted streets of a town that once had a population of over 10,000 people. Interiors remain as they were left and stocked with goods. Bodie is open all year, but the most comfortable time to visit is during the summer months.
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