BODIE, California"Good-bye God, I'm going to Bodie."
The Story The Pictures
History: Bodie was named after Waterman S. Body (also known as William S. Bodey) who discovered gold here in 1859. The change in spelling of the town's name has often been attributed to an illiterate sign painter, but was a deliberate change by the citizenry to insure proper pronunciation.
The town of 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 - discovered what was to be the Comstock Lode at Virginia City, and started a wild rush 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 2,000 buildings, and was second to none for wickedness, badmen, and "the worst climate out of doors". One little girl, whose family was taking her to the remote and infamous town, wrote in her diary: "Good-bye God, I'm going to Bodie." The phrase came to be known throughout the west.
Killings occurred with monotonous 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 provided variety, and the town's 65 saloons offered many opportunities for relaxation after hard days of work in the mines. The Reverend F.M. Warrington saw it in 1881 as "a sea of sin, lashed by the tempest of lust and passion."
The town became more known for its wild living than for its big gold resources. Every other building on the mile long main street was a saloon. Seven breweries were working day and night. The whiskey was brought in by horse carriages, 100 barrels at a time.
The boom was over in four short years and by 1882, Bodie was in the grips of decline. The rich mines were playing out and mining companies were going bankrupt. Two fires, one in 1892 and the other in 1932, ravaged the business district. Bodie faded into a ghost town during the 1940's. It became a State Historic Park in 1962, managed in a state of arrested decay. Today, with less than 10% of the town still standing, it is still the largest ghost town in the western United States, and what is left looks much the same as it did over 50 years ago when the last residents left.
Nearly everyone has heard about the infamous "Badman from Bodie." Some historians say that he was a real person by the name of Tom Adams. Others say his name was Washoe Pete. It seems more likely, however, that he was a composite. Bad men, like bad whiskey and bad climate, were endemic to the area. Whatever the case, the streets are quiet now. Bodie still has its wicked climate but, with the possible exception of an occasional ghostly visitor, its badmen are all in their graves.
|High snow level at the POST OFFICE (in the Reading Store) March 1911.||THE BOONE STORE AND WAREHOUSE. Erected in 1879, this building served as general store. It was owned by Harvey Boone, a direct descendant of Daniel Boone.|
|WHEATON & HOLLIS HOTEL and BODIE STORE. In 1885-86 this was the U.S. Land Office, run by M.J. Cody, the father of Ella Cain. The building later served as the Power Company office and finally as a boarding house.||The TOWN JAIL may not look like much now, but it had its day. Only one prisonner is known to have escaped. Bail for a "guest" was $5. Joseph DeRoche was taken from here by the Bodie "601", a vigilante group, and hanged.|
Me freezing my A$$ off in Bodie cemetery; (note) stole boyfriends shirt!