Intriguing Wild West Ghost Towns

Bodie Ghost Town Storm

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Ghost towns exist across the world but rarely are they more intriguing than in the United States, where former mining towns played host to the pioneers of their day.  Other towns grew up around the railroad, as civilisation gradually spread from the eastern seaboard to the Wild West.  Reasons for their abandonments are wide and varied, from the inherent lawlessness of the era to the depletion of natural resources.  Whatever the reasons, ghost towns provide a fascinating glance into our history.

Bodie, California

Ghost Town Bodie2

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Bodie is a ghost town in California east of the imposing Sierra Nevada mountains.  The town is thought to be named after W.S. Bodey, one of a group of prospectors who discovered gold there in 1859.  The discovery of more profitable gold-bearing ore in 1876 turned Bodie into a frontier boomtown.

Ghost Town Bodie3

At its peak it had two banks, four volunteer fire companies, a railroad, several daily newspapers, a brass band and post office.  In the true spirit of the Wild West, it also had a jail to accomodate the pervasive lawlessness.  Main Street was a mile long and lined with 65 saloons.  Not surprisingly then, murder and shootouts were common place in this wild land where a man’s life was all too often measured by the speed at which he could draw his gun.

Image by Jon Sullivan

Image by Jon Sullivan

Decline set in around 1880, when miners were lured away to other promising boomtowns like the fabled Tombstone, Arizona.  Bodie lingered on as a more family orientated community, with a new Methodist church and mines remaining profitable as technologically advanced.  But by 1912, the Standard Consolidated Mine had closed and the last copy of the Bodie Miner newspaper was printed.

Image by manyhighways

Image by manyhighways

By 1917 the railroad had closed and gold mining in the U.S. was halted to make way for war production.  It never resumed.  In 1962, the town became Bodie State Historic Park, and receives around 200,000 visitors annually (although it is rumoured to be closing soon due to budget cuts).  Spookily, many of the supplies and household goods are as they were left years ago when the town was finally abandoned.

Calico, California

Ghosts Town Calico1

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Calico is a ghost town also located in California, this time in the Mojave Desert.  Unlike Bodie, it was a silver mining town and once boasted around 500 mines.

Ghosts Town Calico2

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The town was abandoned in 1907 and its last original resident, Lucy Bell Lane, died in the 1960s.  Her house now forms the main town museum.

Ghosts Town Calico3

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Not quite so authentic today, Calico was extensively renovated by Walter Knott around 1951, and visitors can now enjoy staged gun fights (rather than the real thing!), gold panning and trips on the old Calico & Odessa Railroad, bringing the past of this once lawless Wild West town back to life.  By all accounts, the town could soon be heading for the big screen!

Near Brenham, Texas

Ghost Town Brenham1

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Not strictly a ghost town in the Wild West sense, but according to photographer Trey Ratcliff, writing in January 2009, these buildings had been recently abandoned for one reason or another.

Ghost Town Brenham2

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They are interesting for two main reasons: first, the high definition photography really brings out the atmosphere in these old buidings; second, their bright colours generate a lively and jovial feel which contrasts with their abandonment.

Ghost Town Brenham3

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They look inviting and forbidding at the same time, and leave us wondering why they became abandoned in the first place.

Related Articles:
Ghost Town and Abandoned Mines in Alaska, Arizona and Askansas
Abandoned Mansions, Farms and Ghost Towns
Ghost Town of Bodie: Spectres, Curses and “Arrested Decay”
Suburban Exploration: Ruined Canal Town of Matildaville
Scotland’s Outer Hebrides: Ancient Ruins and Crumbling Crofts

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  • http://beachtreasure.blogspot.com Laume

    Just surfing on Twitter and found your site. Love this sort of thing. I’ll definitely be back for more. And Bodi is a photographer’s dream. I’ve been there several times and my family always has to drag me away with inane requests like needing food and water.

  • Tom

    Thanks a lot for your comment, Laume, and sorry for the delay responding. Things have been pretty hectic and the site has had an overhaul since you last came by! Have you made it back to Bodie? I’ve never been amazingly but it’s certainly on my to do list!

  • http://beachtreasure.blogspot.com Laume

    I haven’t been back recently, although I’d love to revisit during a more gloomy day. Winter would be great but I’m not sure if the park is open then as the elevation is so high that it might be difficult to get in and out. If you’re interested, I have photos online here:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/8606532@N04/sets/72157604396207979/

    and a few more here:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/8606532@N04/sets/72157604440768073/

    And when I went to grab those links for you I also thought you might be interested in this intriguing place in the middle of Nevada:

    Thunder Mountain: http://www.flickr.com/photos/8606532@N04/sets/72157607769192488/

    Keep up the great posts – I’ve taken to telling folks about your site whenever the opportunity arises.

 
 
 
 
 

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