of Bodie Christmas
Cecile Page Vargo
of 1859, the mining camp that was to become
Bodie was barely a glimmer in the eyes of the few prospectors
that had wandered up the hills in search of gold. For Black Taylor,
perhaps alone in a tiny cabin on a gulch named after him, it would have
been a somber one. Thoughts
of his partner, W. S. Bodey whom he had buried in the deep snow after he
collapsed and died in the fierce November blizzards, would have haunted
him. It would be May of the
following year, before
was finally able to return to the spot where Bodey had been abandoned.
Scattered bones were all that remained for
to bury in the ground near where they were found.
As more prospectors inhabited the area, it became Bodey’s
Diggings, and by
July 10, 1860
, the “Body” Mining District was formed.
In the mid 1860’s Bodie was a typical mining camp, with most of
its fifty residents men who were miners.
They lived up on the hill close to the mines.
There were no stores or restaurants.
Supplies were brought in from Monoville or Aurora. One can only
imagine the harsh and lonely winters these miners survived. As the mines
became prosperous, the population expanded and Bodie slowly grew into a
It was not until
1877, that the post office, telegraph office, and newspaper arrived.
Families and children were common enough to create a school
district. The Miners Union was organized and their great hall was built.
The first of what was to become many Christmas parties was held
in the hall, complete with
Christmas tree, Santa, and gifts for everyone. The Christmas tree was
lit with candles, while men stood by with wet sponges held on long
poles, in case of fire.
The newspaper reported of LIVELY
TIMES IN BODIE: “
has presented a lively sight during this past week.
The weather has been all that could be asked for, and out of door
work has been pushed in every direction.
The stores, shops and saloons have been doing a big trade,
especially in the last five days, with nearly $70,000 in miner’s wages
circulating around. Wagons,
long trains and stages arriving daily with freight and passengers;
interested crowds eagerly discussing the latest strike, or some new
discovery; capitalists and prospectors joining forces or driving quick,
business-like bargains; the rush and stir of superintendents hurrying
their winter supplies to safe and convenient shelter while the favorable
weather lasts; all these are the sights and sounds of a prosperous
growing mining town, on a solid substantial basis.”
travel a few miles outside of California into
to find Santa Claus stuck
in the Bullfrog,
Nevada, jail for Christmas
of 2003. While
he’s there, perhaps he’s fondly remembering
these letters that were published in the Bullfrog
December 21, 1906
Please send me a train of cars with a track
and some candy and orange game and a horn,
“Dear Santa Claus:
I would like a doll cart, set of dishes, a
table and trunk. I
have two doll bodies without heads.
“Dear Santa Claus:
send me an automobile,
a game, 5 trains an engine, and a coal car and some
candy and nuts and some paints and a set of tools
a fire team freight
train and that is all.
My P.O. Box is No. 31
“My Dear Santa:
yoused to have a doll named Blanch and
thought she was the cutest thing on earth and our
Italian neighbor’s boy stole her but I am older now
And don’t want no more dolls…………
“My Dear Santa Claus.
I love you and if you love me you will bring me
part of Mr. Clark’s railroad track with a big toots
engine and two three cars and a conductor mans
cap and a nice suit of clothes and some marbles
and some carpenter tools……..”
to author Alan Patera and his book Rhyolite, The Boom Years,
available at: www.westernplaces.net
This Mine be Saved?
Can Make a Difference
Tucked away in the
high above the
is an almost completely intact mine and mill.
Legend has it that two prospectors wondered up the mountain and
discovered gold, but one miner was killed in an avalanche before they
could do anything with the claim. The year would have been1890, and
the original file on this
claim was listed as the Mendocino.
The mine and mill were active through the 1980’s.
Until recently, only a few tried and true ghost towners or
local residents have ventured up the dusty dirt road, and explored the
area. Most refused to talk much about it in fear that less mindful
people would haul everything away. Today, the
and the Mono Basin Historical Society have joined hands in efforts to
preserve what remains. Plans are in the making to make this area safe
for general public access to this important part of
’s mining history. Buildings
are being locked and safety hazards removed.
Plexiglas may replace glass windows for viewing the complicated
mining machinery inside these buildings. Interpretive signs may be put
up to help visitors identify what they are seeing.
There’s even talk that a
caretaker will stay at the site during the summer months.
The Mono Basin Historical Society is spearheading the
preservation efforts for this nearly forgotten mine and mill, but they
can’t do this alone. If enough interest from people who care
about preserving our mining history is not shown, there is a
possibility that these efforts will stall, and this historic site will
fall victim to the harsh winter weather and to the vandals and
souvenir hunters who have discovered it.
Please e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org
or contact Don Banta of the Mono Basin Historical Society
(760-647-6627) or email@example.com, or
(760-647-3044), if you would like to
help save this endangered mine and mill.
Volunteers are also needed to help
collect oral or written histories from old timers that actually
worked in this mine.
Our Tours with
Ecological 4-Wheeling Adventures
Our 2003 tour season is
complete and we're resting!
here for our 2004 tour schedule.
Explore Historic California!
Not too many years ago, the family station wagon was the
magic carpet to adventure. Today, that family station wagon is likely to
be a four wheel drive sport utility vehicle or pick up truck. SUV's and
other 4x4's are one of the best selling classes of vehicles. Ironically,
industry statistics show that once purchased, few owners will dare to
drive their vehicles off the paved highway. Click your mouse through our
website and enjoy our armchair adventures and the histories behind them.
If you are interested in taking one of our guided tours with your
vehicle, please visit our ECOLOGICAL 4-WHEELING ADVENTURES.
Several years ago, we bought our first SUV. We went to a one-night class
at a local community college entitled "How to 4-Wheel Drive" by Harry Lewellyn.
The following weekend we attended the hands-on day tour. We liked what we were
doing so much that we began going out nearly every weekend and learned how to
negotiate a variety of dirt roads. Our spare time was spent doing research on
the history and ecology of our favorite areas. A one-day outing turned into 15
years of leading others on mini-vacations throughout Southern California and the
Our 4WD outings involve driving on easy to moderate dirt roads and are
ideally suited to novice and intermediate level drivers. All tours are suitable
for stock vehicles in good condition, although some tours do have vehicle size
We share our knowledge of the backcountry over the CB radio with our
guests. We frequently stop to explore mining areas, old and new, and ponder the
rocks, plants and animals we may encounter. We'll occasionally visit an old
cabin or deserted mountain lookout.
California has a fascinating history, from geologic unrest and
prehistoric petroglyph scribes to the "Radium Queen of the Mojave" and the
"Human Mole of Black Mountain." Load up your 4X, fasten your seatbelts and get
ready to explore historic California.
Roger, Cecile and Marty