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  • Writer's pictureJenn

Visiting Bodie- The most famous ghost town in America

If you have thought about visiting Bodie I want to encourage you to go for it! Tucked just behind Yosemite is a ghost town called Bodie. It is 13 miles down a bumpy, slow road just off State Highway 395. It is home to 110 standing structures from the 1800s and has become one of the most famous ghost towns in America. Bodie is now a historical park and it truly is like stepping back in time.

Interesting Facts and History About Bodie

None of the buildings are restored, instead they are preserved in what is known as a state of “arrested decay”. “Arrested decay” means that buildings in Bodie only receive necessary maintenance that “prevents them from deteriorating or collapsing” and this is something that makes Bodie so unique. It seems as if people just fled. Bars are still stocked and furniture is left in buildings- dusty and broken. Some photos or mirrors hanging on by just one nail. Nothing here is fixed up to sell as a tourist trap; it is kept in the state in which it was left. I have been there several times back in High School and Brandon and I have also gone together. We both think this place is so incredible. But it had me thinking, what started this town about 80 years ago and what caused it to become a desolate ghost town? All my googling pointed me to one reason-the Gold Rush.

The California Gold rush was sparked with the discovery of golden nuggets in the Sacramento Valley in 1848. Just a little over 10 years later 1859, William S Bodey also known as Waterman found gold in a small town called Bodie Bluff. Bodie Bluff is just about 5 miles northeast of where Bodie Historical Park now stands. After Willaim S Bodey found gold- a mill was established just two years later in 1861 and the town began to grow. In just over 20 years the small town of 20 miners grew to over 10,000 people all because of gold- yellow, glittering, precious gold. Over 2,000 buildings were built and Bodie’s mines produced gold valued at nearly $34 million dollars. The main street became a busy place with stores, small shops and salons. I couldn't believe it, but Bodie too even had its own Chinatown as at one point several hundred Chinese residents lived there. I was also amazed that it had a Wells Fargo Bank, but with this growth also came robbers, gambling halls and gunfights. The mixture of money, gold and alcohol proved to be fatal. Towns papers would ask in the morning who was killed the night before. Bodie was thought to be on the wild side, where it witnessed roughly 70 shootings and nearly 30 murders in the span of 4 years from 1878 to 1882. From all the chaos came to life the term "The Bad Man from Bodie". It has never been said if this man actually exists, but it seems to be a story that may be blurred between fact and fiction. It is said that this term was just a playful exaggeration for enternaimnet sake back then. Bodie became a well known town until the 1900's when it began to decline.

After all this booming, thousands of buildings built and thousands of people that called Bodie their home what caused its decline? The decline is believed to have started when they printed the last Bodie newspaper in 1912 called the Bodie Miner. Mining profits in 1914 were at a low of $6,821. Later in 1915, James S Cain tried to save the town by buying and reopening the Standard mill to former employees. Once reopened the mill brought in $100,000 of profit, but it was not enough to save the dying town. As the gold vanished, so did the townspeople. In 1917, the railroad was also abandoned and iron tracks were taken for scrap. By 1920 Bodies population was recorded to have gone down to just 120 people. Yet, these residents stayed well into the 1940’s and even stayed through a severe fire in 1932.