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W a n d e r i n g s . . . . N e a r & F a r
BODIE, California—The Infamous Ghost town
Bodie is located 50 miles south of Lake Tahoe, in California, near Bridgeport and the Highway 395, close to the Nevada border.
The town of Bodie was named after Waterman S. Body (aka William S. Bodey) who discovered gold there, in 1859. The change in spelling of the town's name was intentional as the towns people wanted to insure proper pronunciation.
When gold was discovered—the Comstock Lode at Virginia City-—the town of Bodie rose to prominence. This started a wild rush for gold to the surrounding high desert country. Bodie became a boom town in 1877 and by 1879 Bodie boasted a population of about 10,000 with over 2,000 buildings, and a reputation for wickedness and “badmen.”
With winters of forty degrees below zero, winds over one hundred miles an hour, Bodie’s boom days only lasted twenty-five years In that period thirty mines had taken an estimated one hundred million dollars of gold out of the ground.
Bodie was a wicked place with killings occurring with monotonous regularity.
The fire bell, which tolled the ages of the deceased when they were buried, rang often. Stage holdups, robberies and street fights were a daily occurrence. The town's 65 saloons and a red light district were more than busy, bringing in whiskey by horse and carriage (over 100 barrels at one time). Bodie became known as the town of wild living for miles round. In 1881, the Reverend F.M. Warrington saw Bodie as "a sea of sin lashed by the tempest of lust and passion."
By 1882, the boom was over in just four short years. The gold mines were not producing ore and mining companies were going bankrupt. In 1892 two fires, one in 1892 and one in 1932, ravaged the business district of Bodie. The town seemed to gradually fade away into a ghost town in a stage of decay.
With less than 10% of the town still standing; it is considered the largest ghost town in the western United States, and what is left looks pretty much the same as it did over 50 years ago. It became a State Historic Park in 1962.
For a taste of the “old West” and a glimpse into the past, you would enjoy a visit to the ghost town of Bodie—its bad men are all in their graves!
Maryvonne CM Martin
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