Ghost town in San Francisco Bay

Some years ago, the California State Legislature was considering a proposal to name an official California ghost town. I had a candidate in mind.
But I should have known it didn’t have a ghost of a chance.
But I gave it a try anyway.
What about Drawbridge? I suggested.
California has more than 260 ghost towns, places that once boomed then busted and have been all but abandoned.
Today some are visited by the curious. Others have simply vanished.
They had names like Casa Diablo, Chloride City, Angels Camp, Crackerjack, Lost Horse, Rabbit Springs and Shallow Alto. No, scratch that last one.
California has an official animal, bird, colors, dance, fife and drum band, fish, flag, flower, folk dance, fossil, gemstone, insect, marine fish, marine mammal, mineral, motto, nickname, poet, prehistoric artifact, reptile, rock, seal, soil, song, theater and tree.
So, why not a ghost town. Right?
That was the thinking of some students from Lee Vining who suggested that the nearby ghost town of Bodie be given official status.
Assemblyman Tim Leslie, R-Sacramento, introduced AB 1757 to do just that.
Bodie was one bad place.
At its peak as a mining town in 1859, it had about 10,000 inhabitants and a wicked reputation.
But by 1882 most of the ore had been mined and most folks took off.
Today it is one of the largest and best-preserved ghost towns in the West.
I have been to Bodie in a remote part of Mono County and it is worth the visit. The 170 remaining buildings have been sealed off and you can look into the windows of some to see how life was in another time.
While it looks like Bodie is a shoo-in, folks from the Mojave Desert ghost town of Calico, near Barstow, also want their place given official status.
And I’m saying, what about Drawbridge, the ghost town of San Francisco Bay?
Drawbridge, on an island just north of the San Jose-Fremont city limits, is a real ghost town. No one lives there anymore.
I’ve been there a number of times marveling at the buildings slowly sinking into the bay mud.
It has the feel of a ghost town. No tourists. No people. Just silence and the distant roar of the freeways, which sound a lot like distant waterfalls.
Wisps of fog dance amid the cabins and the pickleweed.
This now off-limits town was once a bustling haven for duck hunters.
Later, families moved in.
Drawbridge was born in 1876 when the South Pacific Coast Railroad built a two-room cabin for bridge tender George Mundershietz on Station Island between the Coyote and Mud sloughs.
He allowed duck hunters to sleep on the cabin floor for 50 cents a night.
Pretty soon, other buildings went up, then hotels.
By 1906 Drawbridge covered 80 acres with two hotels and 79 cabins.
Over time it became two communities divided along religious and ethnic lines.
Catholics of Irish, Portuguese, French and Italian backgrounds gathered on the south end, and Protestants, mostly of English and German background, lived on the north side.
But as the area around the south end of San Francisco Bay grew, people pumped fresh water out of the ground and Drawbridge began sinking.
By 1940 only 50 cabins remained.
The last person to leave was Charlie Luce in 1979.
Drawbridge became a true ghost town.
But official status?
The folks in Sacramento told me it hasn’t got a ghost of a chance.


About drockstroh

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