Below is the story and facts about Bodie Ghost Town by Dave French, which you can also
read along the way in our Bodie Photo Gallery.
Bodey discovered gold near what is now called Bodie Bluff. A mill was established in 1861 and the town began to grow. It
started with about 20 miners and grew to an estimated 10,000 people by 1880! By that time, the town of Bodie bustled
with families, robbers, miners, store owners, gunfighters and prostitutes of all kinds. At one time there was reported to be
65 saloons in town.
Amongst the saloons were numerous brothels and 'houses of ill repute', gambling halls and opium dens. Needless to say the
town was second to none for wickedness, greed, evil men, and one of the worst climates in the whole of the United States.
Only 5% of what was once a booming gold mining town remains. One little girl, whose family was taking her to the remote
and infamous town, wrote in her diary: Goodbye God, I’m going to Bodie. Reverend F.M. Warrington saw it in 1881 as a
sea of sin, lashed by the tempests of lust and passion. In my recent visit in late November, the cold was intense, and as I
looked out at the decaying buildings they seemed to shiver in the freezing fog. This only added to the eeriness and
desolation of the scene before my eyes.
How anyone could live in Bodie is beyond me. With the hot summers and incredibly cold winters, life at best must have
been nothing short of misery. The winter of 1878/79 was especially severe. Bodie residents who were not adequately
prepared often died of exposure, disease, and violence. It is said that every day a man was killed in Bodie. However, this
did not shake the flood of newcomers each month. For greed drove many of them to do evil that they never thought
possible before coming to Bodie.
The Town Sawmill, was kept plenty busy during the winter months. The 20 foot deep snows, 100 mile per hour winds, and
occasional 40 degree below zero temperatures, created a constant need for fire wood. However, wood was very costly
and eventually it became more and more scarce. Originally, the mill was run by steam power. In 1892 the mill had new
electric equipment installed. The mill was then powered by a substation at Green Creek, where a new hydroelectric power
plant was built.
After observing many of Bodie’s structures, I can tell you, that they are a far cry from the homes most of us are
accustomed to. With great ease, the wind and cold penetrated every nook and cranny of these once indwelled structures.
It must have driven many of them into the streets where robberies, street fights, and other sorts of violence took place on
an every day basis.
There are about 200 structures still standing in Bodie. This old weathered door tells the story of a time long gone by. It still
stands, but the people who once swung it open to greet their guests, have long disappeared from this earth. The Lord Jesus
tells us of a spiritual door that we all have, and there are many out there who have left Jesus standing on the outside. If the
door to your heart is beginning to warp and bind shut, don’t hesitate to free it open, and let the Eternal One in, before it’s
Tools and carts littering the ground are a common site in Bodie. They must have been used every day to build and repair
the structures in a once bustling community. Outdated, broken and abandoned, they have all been left to rust and decay. If
we think that any of our material processions will fare any better, we need to take a hard look at this photo, and remember
our Lord’s word;
A dust covered lantern in Tom Miller’s home, was once a source of light for his families use. Today, it remains only as a
reminder of life in the eighteen hundreds. As Christians, we have an Eternal Light that will never go out. Jesus Christ tells us
that He is the light of this world. May we share that Light with the many people He places in our lives.
Evil men, greed, bad whiskey, and a nasty climate made Bodie the stuff of nightmares. The streets are empty now, and
apart from the occasional visitor and the scampering rodents, all is quiet in the abandoned town of Bodie.
The Bodie Mining District produced close to $100 million in gold and silver. During those years, gold prices ranged from
$20 to $35 an ounce, and the price of silver ranged from 70 cents to a dollar. However, in spite of all this wealth going
through the town, its residents lived in very modest dwellings. Most of the wealth was squandered on loose and riotous
living, or shipped out to absent owners who lived elsewhere.
Although there were two preachers in town, Bodie didn’t have any church buildings until 1882. Prior to then, Reverend
Hinkle (a Methodist), and Father Cassin (a Roman Catholic), would hold services in private homes, and later in the
Independent Order of Odd Fellows building or the Miner's Union Hall. The old Methodist Church was erected in 1882.
This is the only church still standing in Bodie and the only Protestant church ever built.
E.J. Clinton of San Francisco restored the church and held the last service there in 1932. Since then, the interior has been
badly vandalized, and the Ten Commandments painted on oilcloth which once hung behind the pulpit (Thou shalt not steal)
has been stolen. Buildings may fail, and artifacts may be stolen, but God’s Word will never pass away.
Firewood was a very important commodity in Bodie. With winter temperatures often falling well below freezing, firewood
not only a very expensive item, but it also became a matter of life and death. So is it any wonder that thieves in the town
resorted to taking wood from the stockpiles of other residence. But when law enforcement could not stop the thieves,
homeowners took matters into their own hands. They randomly placed gunpowder in some of the logs. Well, it was not
long before everyone in town knew who was steeling the wood. Though no lives were lost, several stoves and a few homes
were no longer a working part of Bodie.
The church in the background and the industrial complex in the foreground. Is this not a symbol of our lives? Money is the
god of this world, and there is no doubt that this will not change anytime soon, certainly not until Christ comes back.
The residence of Bodie are now long gone and their beds are empty. One can only imagine the things they must have seen
while sitting and gazing out their windows. History only gives us the foggy details of the past, but the Lord God has
recorded it all.
The old wagon has come to rest in Bodie, and the weeds grow around its rusted wheels. The only supplies Bodie receives
today, is a stiff cold wind and a flurry of snow from the north.
This simple cart was tool that could be used by one man to carry far more weight than he could than if he were to carry it
on his back. But there is another type of weight that the good Lord never intended us to carry.
This church building in Bodie stands as one of the best structures still remaining, and many visitors to Bodie go in to see its
interior. Prayerfully, we too will to will often visit a place of worship in our area of residence.
Cord wood was used for fueling fires in the mines and mills and for home heating. The Pinon tree was the favored source
for cord wood. Because it is full of pitch and burns very hot, it was very useful for driving steam engines. So not only was
wood in Bodie critical for firewood for warming its residence, it was also very important for running the gold mining
The timbers of the mill go on, but the usefulness of the machinery has come to an end. There was a time when men stood at
their post, and worked the day through, but they now continue on in a different world.
And now my comrades all are gone; Naught remains to toast. They have left me here in my misery, like some poor
Bodie, in my opinion, is one of the most interesting Ghost Towns of the American West. If you ever get a chance to visit it,
you will not be disappointed.
May God bless you on all your journeys, Dave French
Story by, Dave French
Bodie Mining Town by; Dave French
Rhythm On The Rock Productions
Dave's Photo Galleries
|Welcome to Dave's
Featuring; Bodie - California
Bodie is an old abandoned
mining town from the late
1800's. Bodie is located in
the Basin Range, east of the
Sierra Nevada Mountains,
about 13 miles East of U.S.
Highway 395 in central
California. Bodie became a
State Historic Park by the
State of California in 1962.
©Rhythm On The Rock Productions
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Bodie Mining Town .......See photos of an abandoned Ghost Town from the 1800's.
The California Deserts ....Death Valley, Mojave, Joshua Tree National Park and others.
Fall Colors in Autumn .....Fall Foliage photography highlights during October and November Seasons.
Mt. Moran .........................With an elevation of 12,605 ft. Located within the Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming.
Times Gone By ................Taking a stroll down Memory Lane!
BODIE GHOST TOWN
Most likely if you ever visit Bodie it will be during the warm summer months and you will be greeted
by a friendly staff member at the entrance gate. The sky is often blue, and many visitors will surround
you as you walk the streets of yesterday. But the Photos you will see in this particular gallery are a
result of an extremely cold day in November when an icy fog rolled through the nearly deserted Ghost
Town of Bodie, California. The friendly staff at the gate were no longer in attendance, and aside from
a few people in the main visitor center building, the place was abandoned. It was so cold, that my
daughter and younger son stayed in the vehicle, and only my wife Marleen, and son Sean braved the
frigged weather to wander about the town. As I went about taking photos of the eerie scenes that lay
before me I often had to duck behind an old structure to avoid the bitingly cold wind. But it wasn’t
long, before even I had to run for shelter, because my nose was showing signs of frostbite.
It is hard to imaging that Bodie was once a town of 10,000 people; a town that operated 24 hours a
day in an effort to exploit the riches of the area. But as I walked the streets, I tried to imagine what life
must have been like among the broken glass and splintered boards. How many lives must have been
spent on the hope of riches? The chill in my bones only added to the sense of desperation many must
have felt as they endured the violence and harsh reality of life in this most unforgiving of towns. If
only the walls of the old miners homes could speak, what a tale we they could tell!
Bodie often records some of the coldest temperatures for the day in the United States, and as I write
these words, my wife was reading the newspaper and telling me that Bodie this eighteenth day of
May, 2007, once again, hit the low for the entire lower 48, at a mere 19 degrees F. while Death Valley
only 100 miles to the east recorded the highest temperature at 110 degrees F.
Even founder Bodie himself is reported to have died form exposure to cold in the winter of 1859-
1860. He was later to be found by his friend Taylor in the spring thaw of 1860. His untimely death
was less than a year after his discovery of gold in the area. Bodie was buried with no tombstone and
no death certificate. You see, miner’s were superstitious and believed that those who discovered rich
deposits die tragically. William Smith Bodie never lived to see the biggest boom year of all for the
town that was named after him which occurred between 1879 and 1880. In 1880 Bodie’s Standard
Mine was called the largest mine in the world.
Today, few of the homes remain from the boom years of 1879 and 1880, but the few that do still exist
are treasures indeed. They were particularly inviting to us few frozen visitors that day, as we slowly
pushed open the old blistered doors of yesteryear. And as you entered, you could feel yourself
entering an era of times gone by.
The dwellings were rough at best, and life was anything but elaborate. Only the basics were apparent.
A simple lantern for light, a rough clap board shelve that held remnants of sacks of flour or other food
staples, an old frying pan left on a counter or a left over bedpost lying on the floor of a one bedroom
dwelling. These were the treasures that remained. For what is life but vanity beyond the basics of
everyday existence? That is why our Lord tells us not to store up treasures here on earth. They will
O land of gold, you did me deceive,
And I intend you my bones to leave,
So farewell home, now my friends grow cold,
I’m a lousy miner, I’m a lousy miner;
In search of shining gold.
--"The Lousy Miner", Gold Rush-era song
(Arlen, Batt, Benson, and Kester 1995)
Women were also a part of Bodie, and many took up residence in the local brothels. But Bodie was
certainly not a kind place for the fairest of the sexes, and many were shamefully abused. It was also
not uncommon for miner’s to beat their wives, and though not looked upon favorably by the
residence, many abuses were never punished. As a result of this many abused women, respectable or
not, had very few places to turn, and this no doubt led to the high suicide rate among Bodie women.
Although Bodie reached its peak in 1880 with over 1800 homes in the area, the boom was not to last.
By the end of the year, the boom began to weaken, and by 1881, the decline began in earnest. Miners
began to feel the pinch, and found it hard to pay their bills. Supporting businesses such as lumber mills
found themselves with receivables that went unpaid, and debts were mounting.
Bodie did not end abruptly, however, but slowly diminished over the years. Most of the structures
were destroyed by the first big fire in 1892, (when 64 building were destroyed), while the remaining
bulk were destroyed in the Great Fire of 1932. Bodie as a living town finally ended during World War
II, when the U.S. government shut down all gold mining. Bob Bell was the last resident to leave.
Much vandalism has gone on in Bodie since, and many personal items and even gravestones have
been removed by thieves. Some misguided individuals have even been reported in gravesite areas with
metal detectors looking for metal that may have been buried with the residents. They were apparently
willing to become grave robbers.
Life was an exercise in endurance during Bodie’s heyday, and any visitor who is able to access the
park in the colder months will quickly conclude that the elements or snow, ice, and wind are
formidable opponents indeed. I remember checking out the jail at the edge of town one cold day, and
thinking of how it must have been for a captive during the night. It must have been an exercise in
survival lying on that hard boarded cot. Wind must have whistled from every nook and cranny making
survival difficult at best.
Fortunately in 1962 Bodie became a State Historical Park, and is now protected. Bodie is still
considered, (even after all the vandalism and theft and destruction), to be the best preserved “Ghost
Town” in all the United States, and I would highly recommend a visit if you are able.
In the meantime, please take some time out and enjoy the special photographs in the gallery. Dense
fog and blowing ice made conditions fantastic that day for photo images of Bodie Ghost Town. In
hindsight, I wished I would have got back out there and braved the cold for more photo opportunities.
For who knows when I will ever be able to get back up there and get conditions like that again?
See Dave's website TimberlineTrails.net