October 04, 2014

the ghost town of Bodie, part 1 of 2

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photo by Donald Kinney

I've been a kid for a long time now--67 years at last count--so I figure that for most of those years I've been the proverbial kid-in-a-candy-shop each time I have visited my beloved Bodie. I somehow seem to belong here.
Bodie began as a mining camp of little note following the discovery of gold in 1859 by a group of prospectors, including W. S. Bodey. Bodey perished in a blizzard the following November while making a supply trip to Monoville, never getting to see the rise of the town that was named after him--with the slightly different spelling of Bodie.

click photo for full-size image
photo by Donald Kinney

Bodie was a hard-working and hard-drinking town. The rule of law was often ignored. A respectable lady in a rough town like Bodie might be hard to find.
As with other remote mining towns, Bodie had a popular, though clandestinely important, red light district on the north end of town. From this is told the unsubstantiated story of Rosa May, a prostitute who, in the style of Florence Nightingale, came to the aid of the town menfolk when a serious epidemic struck the town at the height of its boom. She is credited with giving life-saving care to many, but was buried outside the cemetery fence.
Sorry… Now, back to the story:
In 1876, the Standard Company discovered a profitable deposit of gold-bearing ore, which transformed Bodie from an isolated mining camp comprising a few prospectors and company employees to a Wild West boomtown. Rich discoveries in the adjacent Bodie Mine during 1878 attracted even more hopeful people. By 1879, Bodie had a population of approximately 5000–7000 people and around 2,000 buildings. One idea maintains that in 1880, Bodie was California's second or third largest city, but the U.S. Census of that year disproves the popular tale. Over the years, Bodie's mines produced gold valued at nearly US$34 million.

Bodie boomed from late 1877 through mid- to late 1880. The first newspaper, The Standard Pioneer Journal of Mono County, published its first edition on October 10, 1877. It started out as a weekly, but soon became a thrice-weekly paper. It was also during this time that a telegraph line was built which connected Bodie with Bridgeport and Genoa, Nevada. California and Nevada newspapers predicted Bodie would become the next Comstock Lode. Men from both states were lured to Bodie by the prospect of another bonanza.

Gold bullion from the town's nine stamp mills was shipped to Carson City, Nevada, by way of Aurora, Wellington and Gardnerville. Most shipments were accompanied by armed guards. After the bullion reached Carson City, it was delivered to the mint there, or sent by rail to the mint in San Francisco.   source: Wikipedia

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photo by Donald Kinney

To power the Standard mill 12 miles distant, water from Green Creek flowed nearly a mile through a ditch before entering a penstock and plunging 1,571 feet (355 feet vertically) through an 18-inch diameter pipe to the powerhouse. Eight nozzles shot high-pressure water against four Pelton waterwheels spinning on a common axle with a Westinghouse 120-killowatt AC generator. Spent water discharged into the creek bed, eventually joining the East Walker River. The generator produced 3,530 volts of AC power, conducted 12.46 miles to Bodie. After losing some potential, the 3,100 volts arriving at the Standard mill drove a 120-horsepower motor that turned the belts, shafts, and gears that ran 20 stamps, 4 concentrators, 8 pans, 3 settlers, and 1 agitator. A transformer at the mill provided 100-volt current to light the building’s interior and adjoining offices.

So far, the Standard mill was the only building at Bodie with electricity. Because AC motors ran at constant speed, they were unsuited for hoisting, which required starting and stopping under changing loads. Therefore, the Standard works atop the hill continued operating under steam at a cost of $11,000 per year for wood. Likewise, other area mines and mills continued as best they could with their old steam engines. Not until late in 1910, when a commercial power network made electricity available across the region, did Bodie’s dwellings and downtown businesses receive the new form of energy.   source: Bodie History

click photo for full-size image
photo by Donald Kinney

Bodie is located near Owens Valley; east of Yosemite and a bit north of Mono Lake on a 12 mile very rough dirt road at an elevation of 8379'.

I remember it from before it became a State Park in 1962, and aside from some restored roofs Bodie hasn't changed much in the past 50 years. The two dirt roads to-and-from Bodie are still as badly washboarded as ever.

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d smith kaich jones said...

While reading this, my mind kept returning that first image and I kept thinking someone wanted that color - someone wanted a bit of pretty to make her days not as long. What lives they must have led.

Thank you.

John @ Beans and I on the Loose said...

Ah yes, a wonderful place. I must make a return trip someday. You are right, everything is always just as you remembered it when you were last there.

AphotoAday said...

Yes, Ms Jones, it must have been a totally different way of looking for a way to eek out a living and/or to strike it rich. A very harsh place to live. Brutal winters. No trees to speak of.

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