Bodie is one of the best preserved ghost towns in the United States.
Founded in the late 1800s during the Gold Rush boomtown era, the rugged
and inaccessible town, situated at 8375 feet above sea level,
grew to over 10,000 people before the mines went dry. After several
devastating fires, people left Bodie, leaving almost all their belongings
behind. The artifacts have been preserved over the years, giving us a
unique and rare look back in time to the turn of the century era of the
The boom in Bodie began in the mid 1870s and only lasted till 1882, although
mining operations continued in some fashion or another until 1942. It
was then that Congress passed the "Non-Essentials Mineral Act", which stopped
any mining effort that was not directly benefiting the war effort.
After the war, there were a couple of mining operations that tried to
start-up again but with meager results.
Most residents were young single men who
worked in the gold mines. These were jobs that ran six days a week,
twelve hours a day. (Miner's pay was $4/day; rent and two meals
was $1.50/day. This ratio is comparable to today's pay scales for a high tech
job in San Francisco.) The exodus from Bodie was quick and complete; almost
everyone left, save for a few families, the last of which left Bodie in 1961.
Bodie, being built mostly out of wood, had a few unfortunate mishaps.
The town had about 2,000 structures at one time, but a fire in 1932
destroyed the gold mine and a good portion of the housing nearby.
Worse, in 1937, a young child "Bodie bill", upset that he got Jello
instead of cake at his birthday party, set fire to the kitchen table
and pretty much leveled the town. There are now only 150 buildings left,
as people left as quickly as they arrived, leaving behind most everything.
The town's high
elevation (8375 feet), rugged terrain and difficult weather made it virtually
impossible to transport things in or out.