In 1859 William (a.k.a. Waterman) S. Bodey discovered gold near what is now called Bodie Bluff. A mill was established in 1861 and the town began to grow. It started with about 20 miners and grew to an estimated 10,000 people by 1880! By then, the town of Bodie bustled with families, robbers, miners, store owners, gunfighters, prostitutes, and people from every country in the world. At one time there was reported to be 65 saloons in town. Among the saloons were numerous brothels and ‘houses of ill repute’, gambling halls and opium dens – an entertainment outlet for everyone.
On a daily basis miners would emerge from the mills and head for the bars and the red light district to spend their earnings. The mixture of money, gold and alcohol would sometimes prove fatal. Newspapers reported that townspeople would ask in the mornings “Have we a man for breakfast?” Meaning ‘Did anyone get killed last night?’
Some records show that a “Wm. Body” took a ship from New York, around the horn, to end up in San Francisco. It isn’t clear if that’s the same man who was prospecting near present day Bodie. In any case, the spelling of the name was changed at some point before the majority of the people made their way to Bodie, and it stuck.
Today, even though Bodie is down a dusty, bumpy, slow, 13 mile long road off State Highway 395, it’s amazing how many people are aware of this once glorious town.
There’s a story about a little girl whose family was moving from San Francisco to Bodie who, depending on who tells it, wrote in her diary either: “Good, by God, I’m going to Bodie” -or- “Goodbye God, I’m going to Bodie.”
Learn more about Bodie and decide for yourself…