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A Brief History of Bodie

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A Brief History of Bodie

Located east of the Sierra's in the Bodie Hills, lies the ghost town of  Bodie.  The town was named after Waterman S. Body who found gold in the area in 1859 and died in the severe winter of that same year.  
 
The town was known for extremes in both weather and lawlessness.  In 1881, Rev. F. M. Warrington called the town "a sea of sin, lashed by the tempests of lust and passion."  In 1879-1881, Bodie's population boomed to 10,000 people, and consisted of 2,000 buildings.  Miner's wages at the time were $3-$4 for a 10 hour day.  Bodie was the second largest city, behind San Francisco, during this time.  A Canadian, Jim Cain, was the town banker and most leading citizen.  By 1921, only 30 or so people remained in town.  By the 1930's the tourist trade began to develop.
 
Bodie was the first town to have hydroelctric power.  In November of 1892 the power was transmitted over 13 miles of straight-laid wires.  The power was used to run the mill and the mine.
 
Around 1890, the cyanide process of refining gold and silver was pioneered, bringing a revival to the fading town of Bodie that lasted through the "teens" of the early 1900's.
Jim Cain estimated total production to be $50-60 million, but others estimate production as closer to $30 million.
 
Bodie became a California State Historic Park in 1962.  It is maintained in a state of arrested decay.  The fires of 1892 and 1932 destroyed all but 10 percent of the original buildings.  Bodie is still the largest ghost town in the western United States. 
 
Photo & Story by Roger W. Vargo