The town of Bodie, known as the “one-time metropolis of Mono County” and “one of the wildest mining camps in the west,” experienced an unstable history of booms and busts during the California Gold Rush. In 1859—eleven years after the first discovery of gold at Sutter's Mill—gold was found at Bodie by William S. Bodey, after whom the town was named. Immediately, pioneers rushed for the gold at Bodie; but with a new discovery at nearby Aurora in 1861, Bodie and its mines took a large popularity hit. It wasn’t until Aurora’s mines were nearly exhausted—in combination with an unexpected climb in the value of Bodie Mine—that the town began to boom again.
Between 1876 and 1880, the town of Bodie—now a thriving metropolis—was at the height of its success. Bodie’s mines were said to have produced gold valued at more than 100 million dollars. During this time, the town was home to more than 8,000 residents and contained hundreds of buildings including 65 saloons, a red light district, a Chinatown, a Methodist Church and more. During its heyday, Bodie also gained a reputation for being “near lawless” as gold and money poured through the city and the “Bad Men of Bodie” made a name for themselves. In just one issue of the Bodie newspaper, three shootings and two stage holdups were reported.
After 1881, much of Bodie’s mines had been exhausted—as was its public interest—when the town’s school and post office were closed and its residents left. Today, a state park, Bodie is one of the best known and well-preserved “ghost towns” of the west. As a result of fire and age, less than 5% of Bodie’s original buildings remain. Nonetheless, remnants from more than 150 original buildings, including the Methodist Church, the James Stuart Cain home, the jail, the Miners’ Union hall, the Odd Fellows hall and several cemeteries remain at Bodie.
The Bodie State Historical Park is located on Highway 270 (12.8 miles east of Highway 395 and 19.8 miles southeast of Bridgeport).
Learn even more about Bodie at the Bodie State Historic Park nomination page.
Mono County is a rugged—yet beautifully scenic—region of high desert and Sierra peaks that holds dearly a colorful mining history from the days of the California Gold Rush. It is said to have received its name from the term “Monache,” which was applied to the Native Americans inhabiting the region prior to settlement. Mono County was formed in 1861 from parts of Calaveras and Fresno county territory; however, its eastern boundary remained undetermined for several years. When lines were finally drawn in 1863, Mono County’s first county seat—Aurora—ended up in Nevada. Bridgeport became the new county seat, and remains in that position today. Home to historically important Gold Rush towns such as Bodie and Dog Town, remnants of pioneer mining activities can still be seen today.