Gold Towns: Bodie

Once a good-sized mining settlement, today Bodie  is a ghost town preserved in a state of arrested decay.  Gold was discovered there in 1859, but it was not until 1875, when a mine cave-in revealed gold in quantity, that the town’s population expanded from 3,000 to about 10,000. It was named for the site’s 1859 discoverer William S. Bodey, but sources say that the spelling was changed to reflect the correct pronunciation of his name. At its peak Bodie boasted 40 to 50 mines on the eastern slopes of the Sierra Nevada at an elevation of 8,375 feet. The Standard Mine, discovered in 1861, was the first of Bodie’s mines to become famous. It was a hard environment, a rough town that was blistering hot in the summers and buried in snow in the winters. Families, miners, and merchants co-existed with gunfighters, robbers, prostitutes, gambling halls, opium dens, and a reputed 65 saloons. As a visiting pastor said in 1861, the town was “a sea of sin, lashed by the tempests of lust and passion.” Bodie’s gold boom ended in the early 1880s, with gold production ceasing altogether in the late 1950s. In 2002, it was designated as the official California State Gold Rush Ghost Town. Located northeast of Yosemite about 13 miles off of Highway 395, the town’s buildings and contents remain as they were after the last resident departed.

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