About the Park
The wild rush to the high desert country began as placer mining declined along the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada. In 1859 W.S. Body (Bodey) and others came upon what was to be one of the richest gold discoveries the West had ever known. The ore mined in the Bodie hills accounted for more than 32 million dollars in gold and 6-7 million in silver.
The spelling of the town's name was changed to Bodie in the early years to avoid the name being mispronounced. Bodie himself was not able to enjoy the fruits of his discovery as he froze to death the first winter while returning with supplies.
Mining was slow during the 1860's and early 1870's as nearby mines in Aurora, Nevada, were producing well. About 1875, a rich strike of gold ore was discovered after a mine cave-in. The rush was on! Even the severe winter of 1877-78 did not deter the miners. Mining companies formed and stocks jumped to fifty dollars a share. Stamp mills crushed ore from the mines around the clock
Gold fever spread like wildfire amongst all those who wanted to "get rich quick". The cry, "Good-bye God, I'm going to Bodie" was only half jest. During its heyday (1877-1881) Bodie rose to a population of approximately 10,000 and acquired over sixty saloons and dance halls. Bodie became known as the "most lawless, wildest and toughest mining camp the far west has ever known". The Bad Man from Bodie" walked the seldom quiet street, and killings occurred with regularity.
Other businesses profited during Bodie's Boom. A steady supply of wood was needed to power the mills and warm the houses. The Chinese provided this by the "mule load" until the Bodie-Benton Railroad was completed to transport heavy loads of lumber and firewood. A room, with meals, was between $1.00 - $2.00 a day, general stores and saloons provided the necessities of life, and the oldest profession of the mining camps was practiced by the women of Bonanza Street. Yes siree, Bodie had just about all a man could ask for.
Bodie's heyday was short-lived. After 1881, mining diminished and homes and businesses were abandoned. The town was threatened by a disastrous fire in 1892, when many homes and buildings were destroyed. The advent of electrical power to run the stamp mill and the introduction of the cyanide process for working the mill tailings aroused interest once again; however this rise was also short-lived. While playing with matches, 2½ year-old "Bodie Bill" was blamed for starting the 1932 fire which destroyed all but 5-10 percent of the town.