I absolutely love this picture. This is just the kind of image of that can transport my brain to another era, like falling into the rabbit hole. Doesn’t it just come alive? Makes me feel like I’m standing right there on the edge of town…a tiny new community popping up in the middle of no where…which is exactly what happened in this historic town of Bodie, California. I came across this picture while looking up info on Montana mining towns, but I marked the site because I was really struck by the contrast in pictures, like I”d been pulled into the bright shiny start of a new gold rush community and then dropped into the aftermath following the boom by the picture below.
Here’s Bodie from another angle, the ghost town I’d expect to see nowadays with a skeletal reminder of its booming heydays. Can you see the church? Kind of spooky the difference lighting and angle can make. Bodie was a Quintessential boom town, making a sleepy start in 1859 when prospector W. S. Bodey discovered some gold. He died during a freak blizzard in November of that year, so the town was named in his honor…sort of. A painter accidentally lettered the stable sign to read “Bodie Stables”, and the new spelling was adopted by the town.
Bodie remained an obscure little mining community with a handful of residents until 1876. A large deposit of gold-bearing ore was discovered and by 1880 the population had exploded to nearly 8,000. The town grew to more than 2,000 buildings, including two banks, a brass band, railroad, miner’s and mechanic’s unions, several newspapers, and a jail. Over the years Bodie produced nearly $34 million worth of ore and bullion.
At its peak 65 saloons lined Main Street, which was a mile long. Murders, shootouts, barroom brawls, and stagecoach holdups were regular occurrences. “Badman from Bodie” described the town’s rambunctious inhabitants, earning the community a reputation for violence that rivaled Tombstone, Deadwood and Dodge City. Eventually the gold went the way of water in these hills…and the booming town dried up along with it.
Here’s an interesting tidbit I found on Bodie History.com:
The Founder Has His Day
“Bodie’s confirmed status as a gold-producing community inspired its historically-minded citizens to wonder about the unfortunate prospector who had succumbed in a snowstorm some 20 years earlier and become the town’s namesake. They located his shallow grave and dug up his bones. One area pioneer said the remains were those of William S. Bodey from New York, but his presumed widow in Poughkeepsie said his first name was really “Wakeman.” The New York Times printed “Waterman.” Despite uncertainty, which continues to this day, citizens organized a grand funeral procession and formally interred the bones in the town cemetery. But they failed to mark the new grave and quickly forgot its location. “
Still, it’s the spark of life in the first picture that really takes me back. Do you feel it? Or maybe that picture really makes me believe in GHOST towns 😉