During the California Gold Rush, a time when gold fever plagued even the most innocent and content of men, legends and stories of gold mines filled the hearts, souls and minds of prospectors, driving them into some of the most dangerous and desolate lands in search of gold. The desire for gold can be so great that it motivates men to endure unbelievable hardships including starvation, dehydration and death.
O land of gold, you did me deceive, And I intend you my bones to leave, So farewell home, now my friends grow cold, Iím a lousy miner; Iím a lousy miner, In search of shining gold. The Lousy miners, gold Rush-era song
The dry desert lands of the U.S. have been the location of many famous mines and gold discoveries. Mining towns such as Tumco, Bodie, Oatman and Randsberg were once booming with growth due to the mining operations.
Bodie began as a mining camp of little note following the discovery of gold in 1859 by a group of prospectors, including W.S. Bodie (first name uncertain). Bodie perished in a blizzard the following November while making a supply trip to Monoville (near present day Mono City, California), never getting to see the rise of the town that was named after him. Townspeople felt that poor Bodie deserved a proper burial so in 1879 a W.S. Bodie services were held creating a monument on his behalf, but two years later after President Garfield was assassinated Bodies monument was adapted for Garfield and erected in the cemetery. No one is sure were in the cemetery Bodies remains are.
In 1876, the Standard Company discovered a profitable deposit of gold-bearing ore, which transformed Bodie from an isolated mining camp comprising a few prospectors and company employees to a Wild West boomtown. Rich discoveries in the adjacent Bodie Mine during 1878 attracted even more hopeful people. By 1879, Bodie had a population of approximately 5000Ė7000 people and around 2,000 buildings. One idea maintains that in 1880, Bodie was California's second or third largest city, but the U.S. Census of that year disproves the popular tale. Over the years, Bodie's mines produced gold valued at nearly US$34 million.
The first signs of decline appeared in 1880 and became obvious towards the end of the year. Promising mining booms in Butte, Montana; Tombstone, Arizona; and Utah lured men away from Bodie. The get-rich quick, single miners who originally came to the town in the 1870s moved on to these other booms, which eventually turned Bodie into a family-oriented community. By 1920, Bodie's population was recorded by the US Federal Census at a total of 120 people. Despite the decline, Bodie had permanent residents through most of the 20th century, even after a fire ravaged much of the downtown business district in 1932.
A few mines are still being actively worked today, but most mining companies that have tried to revive the old mines have been unsuccessful. The stories of lost gold mines still lure prospectors, even today. Many believe it is easier to find a mine that has been lost, than to discover a new location.