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The Disastrous Death Blow of the Ghost Town of Bodie The Disastrous Death Blow of the Ghost Town of Bodie
The oft-forgotten Eastern Sierra  along the CA/NV border has a vast wealth of really cool off-pavement places to explore in a 4×4. Here is... The Disastrous Death Blow of the Ghost Town of Bodie

The oft-forgotten Eastern Sierra  along the CA/NV border has a vast wealth of really cool off-pavement places to explore in a 4×4. Here is one story from that area that may motivate you to get some dirt on your tires.

The Editors


Just after midnight, on March 7th 1911, all the power went out in the mining town of Bodie, CA.

It had been snowing for 3 weeks straight, night and day. Bodie was covered in 28 feet of snow, and yet another blizzard raged outside.

Obviously a power line must have been blown down in the blizzard, somewhere on the 18 miles of line between the power house at the base of Copper Mountain near Mono lake and Bodie. Several men from Bodie donned skis, and went out into the blizzard to find the line break and fix it…braving 50 mph winds and negative 12 degree temperatures.

The power house was built 1000 feet from the base of Copper Mountain, near the entrance of Lundy Canyon in 1909. It was made of reinforced concrete, as were the four cottages for the workers to live in that were built near it An old massive copper smelter that was built in 1880 was nearby. Also called the town of Jordan, the power house supplied electricity to Bodie, Aurora, Lucky Boy and Fairview mines.

The author with his boys in Lundy Canyon.

The work crews skied along the entire power line in the miserable blizzard. Stopping at a couple ranches that were buried in the snow along the way to rest and warm up. After covering 17 miles without finding a downed power line, they came to the ridge above the power house…the weather had cleared….

It was all gone.

The largest snow slide in western history fell off Copper Mountain just after midnight and 4 million pounds of wet snow completely wiped out the small powerhouse town of Jordan.

The small town of Jordan and the powerhouse were located behind the wagoner in this valley. Copper Mountain is to the right.

The snow slide was one mile long, a half mile wide and 20+ feet deep. All of the buildings and equipment had been sheared off the foundations and pushed over 500 feet. One of the transformers which was 15 feet tall and weighing over 20 TONS had been moved 300 feet.

To make the devastation even more eerie, a water main had broken and was shooting water 200 feet into the air, forming a massive icicle that was over 100 feet tall.

 

Wreckage and debris from the avalanche  still exists today.

Back in Bodie, the town was partying it up hard. Without power, the mines were closed and everyone was off work. Gambling, fighting drinking and dancing in the saloon.. waiting for the power to turn back on.

Suddenly the door to the saloon burst open and someone announced, “The Power House is GONE! A snow-slide took it out! There maybe 8 people buried under it!”

The revelry immediately stopped. Hardened men hung their heads in prayer…..then they all got up, donned skies and over 100 men braved the trip in subzero temperatures to help out.

 

Clamper Plaque on HWY 395 that memorializes the tragedy.

One man was easy to find. His frozen arm was sticking straight up from the snow and rubble. Another two bodies were frozen solid, encased in the ice formed from the broken waterline.

The men worked on in temperatures that now dropped below negative 20 degrees. Someone heard moaning from underneath a heavy concrete slab. Below that slab was the body of Robert Mason, he was pressed onto the left leg of his wife, who was miraculously still barely alive along with her little black dog who was pinned above her head.

She was stuck under the snow for 62 hours…her leg had developed gangrene. Her and the dog were the only survivors of the snow slide.

The dead were buried in a small cemetery that overlooks the valley where they lived, worked and died. Each grave is marked with a piece of white gray marble stone reclaimed from the wrecked power plant switchboard. The graveyard and some of the debris from the slide is still there to this day.

 

 

The small graveyard with the graves of the victims rests very near the former site of Jordan.

The seven men buried there that died in the slide, along with another man who died in a separate slide the next day are:

H.M. Wier
Died March 8, 1911.

D.O. Knowelton
Died March 7, 1911

R.H. Mason
“Killed in snowslide.”
March 7, 1911

R. Harden
Died March 7, 1911.

P. Stromblad
Died March 7, 1911

Patrick Stromblad
Died March 7, 1911
Aged 42 years

L. Laveaux
Died March 7, 1911

B. Pesen
Died March 7, 1911

Paying respect to the poor souls

Kurt Schneider Land-use Advocate

Kurt Schneider has been involved in Off-Road Motorsports his entire life. Literally growing up in the back seat of his father's Wagoneer, Kurt's childhood was spent camping and four wheeling over nearly the entire country. For the past two decades, he has been very involved in many aspects of the off road industry as a land-use advocate, a writer, a race team promoter and manager, a racer, and educator. He is a founding member of the Kyburz Krawlerz 4x4 club, and has been relentless in fighting to keep public lands open to public. For Kurt, off roading is not a hobby; it is a lifestyle.

  • Harry says:

    Thanks for the history. I grew up in Colorado but now live in New Mexico. No matter where you go, you will find remnants of towns and mines throughout the Western US. Traveling to see these sites helps us to remember the challenges of those who preceded us in exploring our country. Too many times, we forget to remember events like this and then, when something like it occurs again, we say “it’s never happened before”. Too often it has, but we have forgotten our history.

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