Goodbye, God! We’re Going To Bodie
According to a local
newspaper, the little girl ended her prayer saying, “Good, by god! We’re going to Bodie”. This was in reply to the above slur published
by the Nevada
William S. Bodie credited
with being the first white man to take residency in what became know as Bodie Camp. In July 1859, he and his partner Pat Garrity found
some placer gold, marked the corners of a claim and built a cabin.
The following winter the
two, when returning to their cabin after a brief absence, became overwhelmed
by a blinding snowstorm. The snow drifts
got so deep that they could hardly move.
Bodie, exhausted beyond his ability to continue, took refuge on a snow
bank. His partner wrapped him in a
blanket and continued on to their cabin. When the storm subsided attempts by a search
party failed to find Bodie.
In fact, the frozen body
of William S. Bodie remained covered in ice until
the annual thaw arrived the following May.
His body was placed in a shallow
grave marked by a wooden post. He would remain there for the next 20 years.
Bodie Camp had more
than its share of gun fighters, stage robbers and other armed drifters with
short tempers – “Bad Man of Bodie”. Fortunately,
most of them were poor marksmen. Billy Deegan and Felix Donnelly faced each
other at long range on Main Street
over some disagreement. They exchanged a
total of nine shots all of them went wide – even the few bystanders were
It was well know,
that Pat Shea and John Sloan hated each other.
One Sunday morning Pat Shea walked into Magee’s saloon and stated berating
Sloan who was counting the past evening’s proceeds from the bar. This went on until Sloan, a big man, grabbed
Shea and threw him bodily through the front door out onto the boardwalk. He then drew a gun and shot two rounds at Shea
before the gun jammed. Both shots went
Shea, while lying on his
side, pulled a Colt Lightning from his hip pocket and returned fire one round tore
at Sloan’s coat collier the following two rounds went wide. The next day Shea and Sloan were each fined
$15 for disturbing the peace.
Jesse Pierce gambler
and stagecoach robber was considered moderately intelligent when sober. On a dance
night at the Miner’s Exchange Hall, Jesse lost his temper and shoved entertainer
Kittie Wells causing her to tumble onto the dance floor. When her friend Joe Black stepped forward to
help her to her feet, Pierce pulled a gun and put a round in Black’s ribcage. Pierce was arrested and taken to the local
jail. As soon as Sam Black showed signs of a
complete recover, for reasons not clear, charges against Pierce were dropped.
A short time later,
Jesse became involved in a highway robbery.
Two masked men stopped the stagecoach southbound for Bishop. The coach had two sporting women as passengers
Tillie Swisher and Minnie Otis. The
robbers took $500 from the Wells Fargo
Express box and money and jewelry from the two women.
Tillie Swisher recognized
Pierce and yelled, “Mr. Jesse Pierce, that is all I have left and it is not
fair to leave me with nothing”— Tillie Swisher’s testimony at trial sent Jesse
Pierce to the State Penitentiary for six years.
Crime among the
Chinese population of Bodie mostly involved the sale and use of opium. The local Chinese, in true spirit of the
West, would take whatever measures necessary to protect themselves and their
property. Some carried weapons, hidden
beneath their loosely fitted garments, which they could draw and fire with
Sam Chung a ranking
member of the local Yung Wah Tong was a truly dangers man when upset. Chung was
arrested for shooting and wounding two men at a opium den. The charges were dropped
based on his claim of self-defense.
Later more serious charges
were lodged against Chung for the murder of Encino a Mexican wood hauler. According to local authorities, Chung found
Encino’s mule tramping his vegetable garden and in a state of rage grabbed a
shotgun and emptied two shells at close range.
Encino died that evening as a result of numerous buckshot wounds.
and barbarous murder,” reported the Bodie
Standard, echoing the outrage harbored by the Mexican community. Highly esteemed attorney Patrick Reddy hired
by Sam Chung, with his usual courtroom witness badgering, convinced a few
jurors that Sam should go free. This
resulted in a hung jury.
Patrick Reddy stood
well over six feet in height used his size and personal charm to win the
respect of others. The loss of his arm
to a bullet wound from an unknown assailant marked the end of his mining days
in Aurora and
sent him in pursuit of a new career as an attorney. He
decided that he could make more money settling mining disputes than digging for
gold and started studying the law that led to his admittance to the bar.
Reddy’s court dates grew
as mine owners and prospectors hired him to prosecute claim jumpers and settle
other property disputes. His success defending
murders and those charged with lesser crimes mounted as the population of Bodie
increased. He eventually established an office in San Francisco. It was said that young attorneys would attend
his trials to lean how to enthrall a jury.
The Bodie Bluff Consolidated Mining Company was
established in 1863 with Leland Stanford, Governor of California, as president. On his visit to Bodie, Stanford brought a
mining expert to investigate the ore body on his behalf.
After a brief
examination the noted expert proclaimed, “There will be no color twenty feet
below the surface”, meaning the ore body ran shallow. Based on this terse assessment, Stanford sold
his interest in the mine and resigned as president of the company.
prospectors took possession of Bodie Bluff and continued digging into an
existing tunnel. Because of scarcity and
high cost of wood, the walls were not properly timbered. This omission may have been the cause of a
loud rumble and roar that shook the ground like an earthquake early one morning. The walls had collapsed exposing a rock ledge.
Awakened by the
noise, the partners rushed to the entrance and stood in amazement staring at a broad
rock face sparkling with bits of gold of unimaginable wealth – they had at last
found their bonanza. It was said that,
“Dame Fortune had truly embraced them with open arms”.
Bodie Bluff renamed
the Standard Mining Company went on to produce gold by the wagon loads well
into the 20th Century. When Governor Stanford stepped off the Bodie stagecoach
a few years later, a small group of town leaders where there to greet him -- “Boys,”
he said, “I tell you what, I missed a big fortune by listing to the advice of a
Bodie Camp reached a
population of over 5,500 according to the 1880 censes. The streets held over fifty saloons to serve
thirsty hard working miners and town folk.
Two banks, three newspaper and
six general stores gave Bodie-ites a sense of living in a permanent community.
included lodges, a church, a school and a well maintained cemetery Bodie looked fair size with picturesque buildings
of all types spread out over a mountain saddle.
Of the thirteen ore
bearing mines in the district, only five showed a profit. Overall gold production began to decline as smaller
operations went idle. Interestingly, ore
from the Standard mine showed color well below 20 feet and would continue, off
and on, producing gold until 1940.
Members of the Pacific Coast Pioneers of Bodie decided to give
the founding father a proper burial. To that end, the remains of William S.
Bodie were unearthed, his scull and a few assorted bones put on public viewing
at the Masonic Hall and then taken by funeral procession to the cemetery. A length oration given by R.D. Ferguson ended
with a plea to, “Let a fitting and enduring monument be reared in his
The locals showed
there gratitude by subscribing $500 for a monument. A sculptor was commissioned to chisel out of
native granite the “majestic Shaft” described by R.D. Ferguson. When the sculpted object was readied for an
inscription plate, a telegram arrived with word that President James A. Garfield had
A great sense of loss
and quiet sadness fell over Bodie. A
week of morning dictated that some measure must be taken. An inscription plate was prepared and place
on the “majestic Shaft” that had been completed to honor William S. Bodie. The inscription read: Erected to the Memory
of James A. Garfield.
Remains of the
departed could be found in either the Bodie Cemetery
or Boot Hill.
Law abiding persons
of good character were awarded a plot and marker within the fenced cemetery grounds. Lesser
beings, such as gun fighters, prostitutes and horse thieves, wound up on Boot
Hill in unmarked graves.
So where is the grave
of Washoe Pete? Early visitors to the
ghost town asked. Well, Pete was a
fictional character created by E.H. Clough. The storied “Bad Man of Bodie” became a
national sensation after it appeared in the June 1878, issue of Argonaut a
popular magazine of the day.
Bodie, now a state
park, is open to the pubic when not snowed in.
Beware: It is well documented that if you carry away
even a sliver of wood from here you will be visited by the ghosts of Bodie who
will haunt you until the object is returned.
From Highway 395 take
Highway 270 to Bodie