Bodie: A California State Historic Park

EVELYN, Beloved daughter of Fannie O. & Albert K. Myers. Born May 1, 1894, Died April 5,1897.

Bodie State Historic Park

Bodie, California: 11 August 2007

Bodie, now a ghost town, was always known as a rough-and-tumble gold mining town. It didn't have much going for it...except for the gold and silver that was wrestled from the deep mine shafts by men who could endure the harsh surroundings.

High desert. 8,375 feet elevation; subject to high winds.

Cold winters. In the winter the temperature often gets to 20 below zero; with a strong wind blowing, the snow drifts can reach 20 feet above the ground. During the winter of 1999-2000, Bodie recorded the coldest temperature in the United States for 71 days, and thus received the dubious distinction of being the overall coldest location in the country during that time-period.

Hot, dry summers. Temperatures in the high 80s.

An isolated town, in desolate terrain, with no significant human settlement within 20 miles.

I could go on, but you get the idea, it was a rough place.

I have been fascinated with Bodie since I first visited the ghost town in 1981 or 1982. At that time, a group of friends and I rode our bicycles on a 3 day ride from Lee Vining to Bodie, to Aurora, to Bridgeport and back to Lee Vining. Since that trip I have enjoyed visiting the rough, hard-scrabble terrain on the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada.

In early August, I received an email message that the "Friends of Bodie," a non-profit organization that supports the preservation of Bodie, will be having "Friends of Bodie Day" on 11 August. I decided to go to Bodie and participate in the celebration.

This gallery of photos shows Bodie, or rather the remains of Bodie, on 11 August 2007. Today, only about five percent of the buildings it contained during its 1880s heyday still remain. The town of Bodie is just as time, fire and the elements have left it - a genuine California gold mining ghost town. Designated a state historic park in 1962, it is now maintained in a state of "arrested decay."

Bodie was named after Waterman S. Body (aka William S. Bodey), who discovered gold here in 1859. The change in spelling was a deliberate change by the citizenry to ensure proper pronunciation.

Bodie rose to prominence with the decline of mining along the western slope of the Sierra Nevada. Prospectors crossing the eastern slope in 1859 to "see the elephant"- that is, to search for gold - made a rich discovery at VIRGINIA CITY, NEVADA. This huge gold and silver strike, later known as the Comstock Lode, started a wild rush to the surrounding high desert country.

By 1879 Bodie boasted a population of about 10,000, and was second to none for wickedness, badmen, and "the worst climate out-of-doors." One young girl, whose family was taking her to the remote and infamous town, wrote in her diary: "Goodbye God, I'm going to Bodie." The phase came to be known throughout the West.

Murders occurred with frightening regularity, sometimes becoming almost daily events. The fire bell, which tolled the ages of the deceased when they were buried, rang often and long. Robberies, stage holdups and street fights were not surprising occurrences. The town's 65 saloons offered many opportunities for "relaxation" after a hard day of work in the mines. The Reverend F.M. Warrington saw Bodie in 1881 as "a sea of sin, lashed by the tempests of lust and passion."

Nearly everyone has heard about the infamous "Badman from Bodie." Badmen, like bad whiskey and bad climate, were well known in Bodie. That was then, and this is now. The streets of Bodie are very quiet now. Bodie still has its wicked climate, but all its badmen are in their graves.

Photographs taken by Neil Mishalov with a Canon SD-700is camera on 11 August 2007

Images Copyright © Neil Mishalov


Google Earth satellite/aerial photo map of the Bodie area with a GPS tracked route of my wanderings superimposed on the satellite/aerial image.
Hiking data gathered with a Garmin 60Cx GPS Receiver.

GPS data converter for Macintosh OSX by Load-My-Tracks.

Scroll to the right to see the complete map ======>

Tenaya Lake and Tenaya Peak (10,266 feet). Yosemite National Park. Heading to Bodie. Looking southeast.

Scroll to the right to see the complete photo ======>

Dropping down Tioga Pass. The road on the pass drops from about 9,300 feet to about 6,700 feet. Nevada in the distance. Heading to Bodie. Looking east.

Panoramic photo of Lee Vining Canyon looking at the eastern escarpment of the Sierra Nevada near Tioga Pass and Yosemite National Park. This is a view looking west. I camped in Lee Vining Canyon on my trip to Bodie.

Panoramic photo of Bodie. This is a view looking east.

Scroll to the right to see the complete photo ======>

Panoramic photo of the eastern escarpment of the Sierra Nevada as I was leaving Bodie. If you look closely you can see Mono Lake. This is a view looking southwest.

Scroll to the right to see the complete photo ======>

Click on an image to see the full size picture

Much of the text describing Bodie and its buildings was taken from a California State Parks booklet titled "Bodie State Historic Park," author not identified.

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At the summit of Cottonwood Canyon Road, looking down at Bodie. The house in front of the church is the Dolan House. The Dolan family produced two Mono County sheriffs around the turn of the century. Bodie Methodist Church. Erected in 1882. This is the only church still standing in Bodie. The Catholic church on Wood Street, also built in 1882, burned down in 1928.
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Inside the Methodist Church. Miller House. Tom Miller worked for the Mono Lake Railway & Lumber Company at Mono Mills, south of Mono lake. Much of the Jeffrey pine lumber used in the construction of Bodie came from Mono Mills.
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Inside the Miller House. Inside the Miller House. Inside the Miller House.
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McDonald House. Dan McDonald was injured in 1879 when two tons of dynamite blew up the old Standard works. Metzger House. Henry Metzger, born in New York in 1860, came to Bodie in 1878 to work in the Standard Mill and was its forman when it closed down about 1916. Two of his seven children were born in this house. A residence of James Stuart Cain. He arrived in Bodie when he was 25, entered the lumber business, and put barges on Mono Lake to transport timber to the Bodie mines. Cain eventually acquired the Standard Mine and Mill, and became the town's principle property owner.
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Donnelly House and the Seiler House. Charlie Donnelly was a butcher. Later the house was owned by E.W. Billeb, the last superintendent of the Bodie & Benton Railroad. Seiler owned a saloon in Bodie. Cameron House and Lester E. Bell House. Lester E. Bell was in charge of the cyanide plant, then the largest such plant in the United States. The cyanide process of extracting gold was perfected in Bodie and enabled the working of otherwise worthless mine tailings for gold. Another view of the Cameron House and the Lester E. Bell House.
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Tom Miller Stable and Ice House. Ice was cut from local ponds in winter. With sawdust for insulation, the ice would last through summer. Pat Reddy House. Known throughout the West as an able criminal lawyer, the one armed Reddy built a considerable reputation on his ability to defend the criminal element. Bell's Machine Shop and the Kirkwood House. Bob Bell, son of Lester L. Bell was born in Bodie and worked in its mines. Kirkwood owned the stables in Bodie.
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Stuart Kirkwood Livery Stable & Blacksmith Shop. In 1880 the population of Bodie was about 10,000 inhabitants. To feed clothe and supply the population many wagons and hundreds of horses and mules were required. Moyle House (south). The Moyle brothers had a store on north Main Street. Later George Moyle, a member of Bodie's baseball team, operated a bottling plant on south Main Street. Mendocini House. This house was occupied by Annie Mendocini. Her father drove freight wagons from Aurora.
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Aurora is about 18 miles down the canyon. Directly ahead is the site of the red-light district of Bodie. Virgin Alley and Maiden Lane were two of the street names in this area. Chinatown was on the left portion of this photo. Mastretti Liquor Warehouse ruins. The Town Jail. It may not look like much now, but it had its day. Joseph DeRoche was taken from here by a vigilante group and hanged.
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Bodie Bank ruins. The bank was bought by James S. Cain from E.L. Benedict in 1890. The bank escaped the fire of 1892, but was destroyed in the fire of 1932. The vault was robbed on 1 September 1916 by 4 men who got away with $4,000 in money and jewelry. Moyle Warehouse ruin. Sam Leon Bar and a Barber Shop.
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The Firehouse. Lottie Johl House. Lottie began her career in the red-light district, but achieved respectability as a painter and the wife of a local butcher. In 1932 the Post Office was located here. The Boone Store and Warehouse. Erected in 1879, this building served as a general store. It was owned by Harvey Boone, a direct descendant of Daniel Boone.
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Hydroelectric Building and Power Substation. A hydroelectric plant was built 13 miles from Bodie on Green Creek above Bridgeport. In November 1892, the plant was put into operation. News of this engineering breakthrough spread around the world. Keep in mind that the electricity was not brought to Bodie to provide electric light in the homes or on the streets. No, the electricity was brought to Bodie to be used in the Standard Mill to operate electric equipment used in the extraction of gold and silver from ore. Bodie School House. Built in 1879, it was originally the Bon Ton Lodging House. The first school was located two blocks up the street and was burned down by an early-day juvenile delinquent. Dr. Street's House.
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Looking at the town from the Standard Mill. Looking down Green Street. The road in the distance goes to the town site of Masonic.
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The Conway House. In the 1880's the Conways ran freight wagons between Bodie and Carson City, Nevada. With loaded wagons, it was an eight to ten day round trip. The Standard Mill.
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This building was last used as a morgue. County Barn. Last used to store county road equipment. Here you see a high-sided freight wagon and a robust mountain wagon. County Barn. Last used to store county road equipment. Here you see two flatbed freight wagons. These were used to transport supplies and ore.
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The Methodist Church and the James S. Cain house are identifiable. Yet another morgue. This building is located adjacent to Ward's Cemetery, the Masonic Cemetery, the Miner's Union Cemetery and the Chinese cemetery. Only those accepted as respectable were buried inside the fences. Others were buried in "Boot Hill" outside the fence, usually without a grave marker.
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James B. Perry, A Native of Ireland. Died June 8, 1896, Aged 63 Years. Late Supervisor of Mono Co. Buried Here Are The Mortal Remains of Waterman S. Bodey 1814-1859, Native of Poughkeepsie, New York. In the cemetery looking at the town.
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Solomon B. Burkham. Died Jan. 1904 Aged 49 Years 16 Days. Kathryn Lee Burkham. 1892-1912. Harlan Burkham. 1893-1914 Evelyn, Beloved Daughter of Fannie O. & Albert K. Myers. Born May 1, 1894, Died April 5, 1897 Annie C. Fouke, Wife of R.R. Fouke. Born July 19, 1859. Died April 27,1896. A Native of Denmark.
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Mary Elizabeth. Wife of B.F. Butler. Died Nov. 24, 1878. Aged 30 Y'rs 8 Mo's 8D's. William Hick. Died Nov. 24, 1901. Aged 54 Years. Native of Cornwall, Eng. Erected by His Wife and Children Mary Louisa Moore. Born March 23, 1871. Died April 26, 1891. Aged 20 Years.
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AnnaMaria Petralli. Born June 24, 1852. Died June 30, 1915. Native of Switzland. Mateo Petralli Born Nov 10, 1860. Died Feb 2, 1915. Native of Switzland Martha B., Daughter of J.Z. & A Lockwood. Died Apr. 8, 1892. Aged 3 Yrs. 15Ds. Brother We Lay Thee Now to Rest. W.H. Wereley, Born Dec. 20, 1848. Died Feb. 9, 1890. A Native of Ontario, Canada
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Martha Adams Letcher. 1847-1882. Born in Cornwall England. Loving Mother of Martha Letcher Gottschalk 1881-1973. Born in Bodie, California. Beloved Mother of Arthur, Elma, George, Alice, Earl and Robert. Born and Raised in Lovelock, Nevada George W. Son of J.A. & M.A. Conway. Died May 20, 1901. Aged 1 Yr. 2 Mos. 28Ds
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The Standard Mill. The Standard Mill. The Standard Mill.
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An electric motor inside the Standard Mill. A drill press inside the Standard Mill. A lathe inside the Standard Mill.
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Four five stamp mills next to one another. Thus, the Standard Mill was a 20 stamp mill. A five stamp mill. The smelter building inside the Standard Mill area. The gold and silver ingots were created here. The majority of the ingots were taken to the U.S. Mint at Carson City, Nevada, where they were made into the gold and silver coins used by the public at that time.
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The Standard Mill. The Standard Mill. On top of Green Street, above the town, and near the site of the mine shafts.
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One of two holding ponds used as water supply storage facilities for the town's potable water. The road to Masonic in the distance. The site of the cyanide plant. Unlike most western towns, Bodie saw few fires during its boom years. However, later fires, such as the burning of the Standard Mill in 1898, hastened the town's demise. The mill was rebuilt and local mining experienced a brief resurgence, but by 1909 Bodie was again in decline. The burning of the cyanide plant occurred in 1947, and is attributed to arson. A docent explaining the features of the mining area.
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Remains of a mine shaft. A open mine shaft. Probably a straight drop down 1,000 feet or so. Another view of the open mine shaft.
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A diesel fuel storage container. Originally used on a flatbed train car.

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This page created on 2 September 2007. All photographs copyright 2007 by NEIL MISHALOV