Welcome to Bodi

Boom Town
Gold Town
Ghost Town


This is Bodie, or rather the remains of Bodie. Only about 5% of the buildings it contained during its 1880 heyday still remain. Today it stands 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 Watermann S. Body (a/k/a William S. Bodey), who discovered gold here in 1859 (but died in a blizzard that November while returning to camp with supplies). 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.

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 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 towns 65 saloons offered many opportunities for relaxation after hard days of work in the mines. The Rev. F. M. Warrington saw it 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." 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.

Copyright 1988 California State Parks

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