March 2009 Issue Explore Historic California - Magazine for Enthusiasts










Room 8-The Most Famous Cat in Los Angeles




Sky high gas prices along with sluggish economic conditions have severely impacted our tour business for over a year.

We have reluctantly decided to suspend our tour operations for the time being.

We will evaluate the prospects of resuming tours for the 2009 season.

Our sincere thanks and appreciation to all who have supported us.


LOGO T Shirts Available


Explore Historic California with our  logo depicting the California backcountry and its rich history both true and farce.

We now offer shirts, sweats, jerseys and cups with our logo.

Click the shirt for details!


Friends of Last Chance Canyon is a new organization interested in sustaining and protecting areas within the El Paso Mountains, near Ridgecrest, California. The main focus is preserving and protecting historic sites like Burro Schmidt's tunnel and the Walt Bickel Camp.

Please click on either logo to visit the FLCC site.

We support


Support Room 8's charitable legacy by donating to the Room 8 Memorial Cat Foundation or adopting one of their cats.

Click on Room 8's photo or phone

951-361-2205 for more information.


Mules can taste the difference--so can you




It's always FIRE SEASON! Click the NIFC logo above to see what's burning.



Click on the bag to find out how.


Visit Michael Piatt's site,, for the truth behind some of Bodie's myths.

Terri Geissinger is a Bodie area Historian, Guide and Chautauquan. A long time resident who lives in Bodie and Smith Valley, she is dedicated to preserving stories of the pioneer families, miners, ranchers and teamsters. Click the photo for information on her tours with the Mono Lake Committee.


Back to the past in California City--Wimpy's!

8209 California City Blvd.,
California City, 93505



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 the website and enjoy our armchair adventures and the histories behind them.

Bodie - Mining Camp Gone to the Ghosts

by Cecile Page Vargo

Tucked away in the hills north of Mono Lake in Eastern California, lies the faded town of Bodie, California.  The once bustling boomtown where an arguable number of both good and bad citizens, lived, worked and played during the mining zenith of the 1870’s-1880’s, stands as a mere shadow of it’s former self in the new millennium.  Somewhere between five and ten percent of the original buildings struggle to survive in various degrees of arrested decay, maintained  as part of the California State Parks system. Modern tourists come from all over the world to explore its colorful and covetous past. 

Bodie didn't even rate a dot in this 1876 California-Nevada map.

Map courtesy, Library of Congress collection

 W. S. Bodey and Black Taylor were among the first to wander into the hills in search of color in July, 1859.  Later that fall, while preparing to winter on Silver Hill near their claim, a blizzard hit. Bodey perished as he struggled through the deep snow with supplies. Prospectors and common folk eventually followed the cry of gold.  The town that sprouted near Bodey and Taylor’s original strike was named after W. S. Bodey.

The town of Bodie, despite its 8300 foot elevation, sits in a bowl-shaped depression on high desert terrain. The town never had trees and had to import all its wood for fuel and construction.

 By 1864, journalist J. Ross Browne reported scattered primitive miner’s habitations and the promise of rich mining operations on the Bodie Bluff. A few families such as the Butlers, Horners, and Kernohans, lived in the isolated camp. The women set up housekeeping while the men ventured from their normal trade as blacksmiths in Aurora, Nevada and tried their hand at prospecting and mining.

Bodie is shown on this 1885 railroad map, but Aurora has disappeared.    Map courtesy, Library of Congress collection

The population would swell in the next few years to nearly fifty residents, twenty wood and adobe houses and one boarding house, all located on the hill close to the mines. At the pinnacle of mining in the early 1880’s, the population was reported to be anywhere from 7,000 – 10,000, complete with miners, women and children, gunfighters, vigilantes and whores. 

 The number of Bodie residents, necessary businesses and entertainments would wax and wane with the production of the big mining companies that moved into the area on and off through the 1920’s, and the amount of ore that was pulled out. 

 Midwinter, 1883, Bodie saw an economic downturn, with all but six or seven of the larger mines closed and only 2,500 citizens remaining. Many businesses would clear shelves, board windows and lock their doors for the last time. The rip roaring mining town that Rev. F. M. Warrington had once touted a “Sea of sin, lashed by tempests of lust and passions” in 1881, struggled to hang on with barely 500 souls by 1886.  A letter from the editor of the Bodie Evening Miner to the editor and publisher of the Los Angeles Evening Express declared real estate in “utter stagnation.”

 James Stewart Cain, a prominent citizen, businessman and banker, saw promise in Bodie.  He bought dormant mines, built new hoisting works, a cyanide plant, and leased properties to others. By 1920, E. J. Clinton secured a lease from Cain, and re-worked old tailings.  Clinton brought his family with him, and moved into the old  railroad office on the bluff. His children attended the Bodie school, and he and his wife kept the Methodist Church going by renovating it and reviving Sunday sermons, which they preached themselves. Clinton brought with him thirty employees who lived in the fading town during this time. 

Bricks and a steel door are all that remain of Cain's bank after it was destroyed in the 1932 fire.

 The Treadwell – Yukon Co. joined in mining efforts and brought in another 150 workmen. The population grew from 30 to 400. The school was re-painted, saloons opened up, automobiles came to town, congesting streets where horse and buggy once ruled.

 It may have been Prohibition in the rest of the United States, but Treadwell-Yukon’s employees were thirsty. Ice cream parlors served as saloons when the Feds weren’t around checking up on things. Gambling and girls were still sport as well.  Tourists began wandering in to see a slice of the Old West.

 By the 1930’s, attempts to extract gold and silver from Bodie’s waste rock failed and the mining companies started leaving. By 1931 Bodie had only a few remaining families. The following year, a little boy now known as "Bodie Bill" was disappointed because he was served Jell-O instead of cake. He started a fire destroying seventy-five per cent of Bodie’s business district. With major hotels, stores, and banks gone, combined with the agonizing demise of the mining industry, most of Bodie's remaining residents moved on.  The population once again dwindled to fewer than 30 people.

 The Bell family pursued small scale mining efforts at the Noonday mine in September of 1932. A little over $1,000 was recovered. Bridgeport headlines of April 1933 talked of big strikes in the ghost of Bodie.

 In 1996, Bobbie Bell, told author Michael Piatt (Bodie: The Mines Are Doing Well), that at the time of the old camp's renewed interest he was 18 years old.  His father, grandfather and a couple of neighbors had exaggerated their efforts. A few remnants of high grade rock left over by the last mining camp were scratched out of the old stopes, but the big ore body was gone.

 As the last two underground leases were being worked in 1935, James S. Cain left Bodie. Always hopeful, Cain purchased many of the remaining buildings and began to lease them off. A watchman was hired to look over the properties, and keep the near ghost town from being totally scrapped by vandals and souvenir hunters. 

 The Western-Knapp Engineering Co. came in with a cyanide plant in October, 1936. A modern complex was built on the site of the former Treadwell-Yukon plant. A dam was built to impound tailings in Taylor Gulch. By October 10,  Bodieites watched as the 250 ton per day Roseklip plant started up. 

 A dance was held in celebration. The Bodie school house re-opened in expectation, as 35 employees moved into town with their families and the population increased to 113. The deteriorating remains of original Bodie buildings served as homes for the families, with no efforts towards re-building the losses of the 1932 fire.

 The Miner’s Union hall opened its doors after twenty-five years of silence. A Bodie housewife played the piano and a workman or two picked up the banjo, fiddle or guitar for an impromptu dance. The Roseklip Mines Co. struggled, with little profit, until 1942 when the decision was made to shut it down. After WWII, new management came in, and began refitting the plant. A fire broke out during the work crew lunch break, and burned it into the ground, literally turning dreams of another pay dirt into smoke.

Grass grows along Main St. in Bodie. Two major fires, and relentless weather erased many original buildings. Today, the remaining structures are maintained in a state of "arrested decay." They won't be restored, but will be preserved as they were in 1962 when Bodie became a California State Park.

 Bodie never totally went to the ghosts.  The J. S. Cain Co. held on to the old town after J. S. Cain’s death in 1938.  A good portion of what fires didn't destroy was lost to WWII scrap metal drives. Visitors came in search of the old west, and often took off with a piece of it for their personal collections, in spite of the watchmen who had been hired to keep them from doing so.

Visitors peer into the Bodie school house.

 What remained served as a backdrop for Hollywood’s jaded view of the old west in a few movies.  The Miner’s Union hall was turned into a museum with a collection of artifacts from the old mining town’s past.  The few Bodie residents who had managed to hang on to their homes for vacation purposes, lost all but a quarter of what they were worth when the town was sold to the State of California.

 But the memories linger on in 168 well-worn buildings that remain in the care of the park rangers who brave the harsh Bodie winters to preserve and protect them, and in the historians who record the stories they have to tell. The ghost of Bodie live on in the hearts of all who visit it’s detained disintegration.




A Trip to Bodie Bluff And The Dead Sea Of The West (Mono Lake) In 1853
by J. Ross Browne

Golden, Colorado
Bodie 1859-1900
by Frank S. Wedertz
Sierra Media Inc./ Chalfant Press, Inc.
Bishop, Calif.
Bodie Bonanza
by Warren Loose
Exposition Press Inc.
Jericho, New York
Bodies Gold
by Margurite Sprague
University of Nevada Press
Reno, Nevada


Bodie-"The Mines are Looking Well"

by Michael H. Piatt

North Bay Books

El Sobrante, Calif.


California's Historical Monuments
Compiled from a series of articles in P.G. and E. Progress
Pacific Gas and Electric Company


Maps courtesy American Memory Collection

United States Library of Congress


Read more about Bodie:






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