CALIFORNIA, (KTXL) — Many towns and cities across California can date their founding back to the Gold Rush days, but there are many towns that didn’t make it beyond those mining days. Those are California’s ghost towns.
Although the cycle in which these towns boom and bust are all very similar the history, appearance and prominence of these towns are all different.
Ghost Towns in Northern California
One of the most famous and iconic ghost towns in California, Bodie was once a town of 10,000 people in its heyday.
Around 7 miles from the California/Nevada border, this once prosperous town rests in the high desert of the Eastern Sierra.
Gold was originally discovered in the area in 1859 by William S. Bodey and by 1961, 20 men worked the newly built mill. In just over 20 years, 10,000 people would call Bodie and its dusty hillsides home.
In order to provide lumber for buildings and firewood, the Bodie Railway and Lumber Company was founded in February 1881.
When hydroelectric power was brought to the area, the need for firewood was not as great and by September 1917 the railway was closed and stripped for materials.
During its peak, Bodie had 65 saloons, numerous brothels, gambling halls, homes, a church, a sawmill, a jail and more.
Today many of those buildings remain standing in the same condition they were left in during the 1880s.
The town was designated as a National Historic Site and State Historic Park in 1962.
What was once a hub for mining, transportation and commerce in Tuolumne County for a little over 30 years is now a collection of decaying buildings and is said to be the most haunted town in Northern California.
The town is located around 10 miles south of Sonora along Highway 49.
According to the town’s historical marker, a group of Englishmen employing Chinese miners set up a mining camp in 1849 where gold would later be found.
By the 1850s several mines operated by Chinese miners were operating in the area as well as stage lines.
During this time of prosperity, 5,000 Chinese miners called Chinese Camp home and would produce $2.5 million of gold.
The town consisted of a store, hotels, two Chinese temples, a blacksmith shop, a church, a school, a bank, a Wells Fargo Express office, a Masonic Lodge and a cemetery.
Chinese Camp was also the location of the first battle in the tong wars in California, between the Sam Yap and Yan Woo Tings, which resulted in the death of some Chinese residents.
Located just off Highway 299 between East Fork Road and the North Fork of the Trinity River sits a handful of crumbling buildings that hold a millennia-old history.
The site of Helena sits on a Native American camp that dates back as far as 4,000 years ago.
The town of North Fork (Helena) would raise its first buildings in 1852 as settlers began farms and orchards to support other mining camps along the Trinity River.
In 1855 North Fork would gain a blacksmith, brewery and toll bridge thanks to the investment of German immigrant Harmon Schlomer.
A flood in 1861 would destroy much of the town, but it would continue to be a main supply post for mining operations along the Trinity River.
In 1891 the town changed its name to Helena, but when Highway 299 bypassed the town in 1930 the town’s role as an outpost was no more.
Built around the Malakoff Diggins, the town of Humbug (North Bloomfield) sprouted up in the forests north of Nevada City in Nevada County.
The population would not see much growth until 1852 when settlers found gold in gravel deposits, prompting the induction of hydraulic mining in the area by 1853.
As the mining operation grew the need for workers increased and the town of North Bloomfield numbered 500 people by 1857.
Many French pioneers would move into the area and open hotels and businesses and start growing food.
When Julius Poquillion made a large investment into mining the area in 1866 the town saw a large jump in population as more workers were needed.
The mine was employing at least 1,110 people by 1868 and still more larger and ambitious projects were to be completed.
In less than 10 years the town would double in size again as more than 2,000 people called North Bloomfield home by 1876.
This boomtown would soon bust as litigation against the pollution caused by the hydraulic mining in nearby waterways would slow and eventually halt mining operations in the late 1890s.
The once bustling town would shrink to 730 people by 1900, in 1950 less than 20 people lived in the town and by 1965 the Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park was established.
Unlike many ghost towns, the buildings of North Bloomfield are well looked after and maintained. The town consists of several homes, a drugstore, a church and a schoolhouse.
Ghost towns in Southern California
This California Silver Rush ghost town once had 500 operating mines during the largest silver rushes in the state. These mines would produce $20 million in silver ore over 12 years.
The town would develop to include several hotels, bars, general stores and restaurants and be home to around 3,500 people.
The town was founded in 1881 but when the price of silver drastically decreased, due to the Silver Purchase Act of 1890, many miners packed up their tools and left by 1896.
This would not be the end of Calico though as Walter Knott of Knott’s Berry Farm would purchase Calico in 1951.
Knott was very familiar with Calico as his uncle John C. King was one of the first residents of the town and Knott himself helped build a portion of the cyanide plant in the town in 1915.
Going off his memory, old photographs and talking with former residents of the town, Knott began restoring Calico at a final cost of $700,000.
In 1966, Knott donated the town to San Bernardino County as a regional park, which it remains as to this day.
This is the only ghost town on the list that does not have a tie to the gold rush and is the most recently vacated ghost town.
Located in the Southeastern corner of California, near Joshua Tree National Park, sits a decaying town that once supported the state’s largest iron ore mine.
Henry Kaiser, of Kaiser Permanente, founded Eagle Mountain and the subsequent iron mine which would grow to a population of 4,000 people.
The town consisted of 400 homes, 200 trailer spaces, an auditorium, a park, a shopping center, a community swimming pool and more.
Iron was transported from Eagle Mountain to Fontana steel plants by a 51-mile section of railway called the Eagle Mountain Railroad.
The mine was incredibly productive, as on Aug. 17, 1977 the mine celebrated their 100 millionth ton of iron ore to be shipped on the railway.
Prosperity would not last forever though as foreign competition in the summer of 1980 led the mine to close for a brief time before it reopened with a reduced workforce in September 1980.
By June of 1983 the population had all but gone as layoffs began, stores closed and schools held their final graduation ceremonies.
Eagle Mountain Railroad was also ripped up and recycled following the mine’s closure.
Today the former location of Eagle Mountain High School is now Eagle Mountain Elementary School and is the only operational building in the area.