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Ron & Donna Miller - Publishers

Some People Travel The World
But We Went To Bodie!

Inside the Miller house, dust covers the furniture and utensils, wallpaper is peeling from the walls and cracked linoleum is on the floors.

In October, two good friends went on a photo safari in South Africa. Another two friends visited the Galapagos Islands that month. We went to Bodie!

A panoramic view of Bodie, taken from the center of town, shows the abandoned mine in the center.

We were visiting with an antique dealer in Genoa, Nevada, recently and he asked if we’d ever been to Bodie. No, we hadn’t. We had never heard of Bodie, much less been there. A woman standing nearby said, “Oh, you really should visit Bodie once.”

With that second endorsement, we had to find out more. The dealer went on to explain, with the help of a map, that Bodie is a genuine ghost town of the West. In 1882, it had 10,000 inhabitants, and a mine turning out millions of dollars worth of gold and silver. By the 1940s, and with the mine long closed, there was no one left.

The abandoned mine in the center, once producing quantities of gold and silver, is now unsafe to enter.

We headed for Bodie the next day.  It is actually in California, although very close to the Nevada border to the east. Take Highway 395 south from Carson City, Nevada; continue into California a few miles to the small community of Bridgeport; go another six miles south to a sign that points east to Bodie, 13 miles; and head up and up and up the mountainside. The first 10 miles are paved. The last three twisting turning rutted washboard pot-holed miles are not. That’s when I focused on the last word the woman bystander had said: “once.”

The contents of an old general store still line the shelves, covered with dust. An extremely ornate coffee grinder is in the center.

In the early 1960s, the State of California bought Bodie and made the entire area a state park. It is a huge area, with a few dozen buildings (about five percent of the original number) and three cemeteries scattered around the hillsides, in addition to the abandoned mine. The state maintains the area in a state of “arrested decay.” The only maintenance that has been done since it was turned into a state park is to reshingle the roofs; all other weathering is allowed to happen as nature dictates. And nature can be really harsh at this altitude of almost 9000 feet.

All the buildings were made of plank siding, and apparently no insulation. It was a harsh life, with temperatures dropping to 20-30 degrees below zero during the winter months.

Bodie was known to be an extremely lawless community, even by the rough-and-ready standards of the mining towns of the West. Furthermore, it was also said to have the worst climate. One young girl supposedly wrote in her diary, “Good-bye, God. I’m going to Bodie.”

Perhaps this building would appear straight to a miner coming home late from a saloon.

According to the $2 booklet we bought, killings were almost daily events, robberies, state holdups and street fights provided variety after a hard day in the mines, and the town’s 65 saloons offered a place for relaxation. Today, only the wicked climate is left.

When we were there, the one remaining church was open to look into, and we could walk through just one house. (We thought it was appropriate that it is known as the Miller house.) The Visitor Center/Museum was also open, with some fascinating artifacts, both large and small. We didn’t get to Bodie in time for a mine tour, and I think reservations are required to take it.

The pencil sharpener in the museum was a handy thing to have in the 1880s.

The town is a fascinating piece of the history of the West and I can strongly recommend it as a trip to take once.

***

If you’d like to see Bodie for yourself, phone (760) 647-6445 or check the website: www. parks.ca.gov/bodie. Off-season visitors are cautioned to contact the park for road and weather conditions before taking the trip.

Note: If you don’t detect much color in the photos of Bodie on this page, please recognize that brown buildings on a dry sagebrush-covered hillside, and interior buildings covered with decades of dust, really don’t lend themselves to much color!

 

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