California Militia and National Guard Unit Histories
Bodie Guard
The Miners Union Hall which doubled as the armory for the Bodie Guard.
Military Unit Designation: Bodie Guard, 3rd Brigade, National Guard of California
Date of Organization: 6 February 1880
Date of Disbanding: 27 March 1880
Inclusive dates of units papers at State Archives: 1879-1880
Geographical Location or Locations: Bodie, Mono County
Unit Papers on file at the California State Archives:

a. Organization Papers 4 documents (1880)
b. Bonds none
c. Correspondence (Unclassified letters) 8 documents (1879-1880)
d. Election Returns 1 document (1880)
e. Exempt Certificates, Applications for none
f. Muster Rolls, Monthly returns 1 document (1880)
g. Oaths Qualifications 1 document (1880)
h. Orders none
i. Receipts, invoices none
j. Requisitions none
k. Resignations none
l. Target Practice Reports none
m. Other none
Commanding Officers

William A. Irwin, Captain
M. D. Kelly, First Lieutenant

Official History

The first gold ore discovery of the Mono region was made in 1852 by members of Lieutenant T. Moore's detachment of the Second Infantry Regiment, United States Army, while searching for recalcitrant Yosemite Valley Indians. [1] Later in 1859, W. S. Body made a spectacular find and the settlement resulting from this discovery was, named "Bodie" after the founder. The Bodie Mine was considered for many years as a "wild cat", then it rose in value and between the years of 1876 and 1880 the town of Bodie was at the height of its success, continuing to hold interest until 1881. The population during this period numbered between 10,000 and 12,000 people and was known as one of the wildest camps in the West.[2] In 1879 the first information that was given of the efforts of the residents to organize a military company (the Bodie Guard) for Bodie, Mono County, was obtained from a letter written by G. S. Morgan (who signed himself as Captain Morgan) to Adjutant General P. F. Walsh. In this letter of December seventeenth of that year Captain Morgan acknowledged receipt of a communication (December eleventh) from the General, and in answer informed him (General Walsh) that the application of the company for admittance into the National Guard had been forwarded to Headquarters through Brigadier General Edward Canavan of the Third Brigade. The Captain said, "that seventy names were on the roll and he believed that they could easily raise their numbers to 120; all members would be first class residents who were employed in Mono County." He explained, "that the reason that no formal application had been made previously was due to the fact that the men were waiting for a William A. Irwin to attend to the matter and had believed that he had done so, until it had come to their attention to the contrary. The "Captain" expressed his desire in the letter that the company be mustered in under the existing administration; also, that as they were already for the procedure which required the appointment of a person to preside at a formal election, he respectfully suggested the name of Mono County's Trial Justice, Judge R. L. Peterson as Inspector for the official ceremonies. They had already found a fine building, the "Miner's Union Hall", to use as their armory, which had rooms for use of the storage of the ordnance supplies. Mr. Morgan continued his letter with the information that the members of the unit were desirous of his accepting the Captaincy of the company, and if he acceded to their wishes he would like to obtain uniforms and arms immediately for which he could give the necessary Bonds. He begged the General's pardon for all the trouble he might be giving him, but after hearing Captain Young talk about him (General Walsh) he felt as though they were personal acquaintances. In conclusion "Captain" Morgan stated he would want 100 stand of arms and that by Spring they hoped to have a company second to none in the State, as all or nearly all, were old hands at the "business".

Adjutant General Walsh's reply of December twentieth went into lengthy detail, explaining the general action of the Board of Location and the issuance of uniforms and ordnance supplies. As to the first problem, the Adjutant General stated that the application for the company had not been received from the Brigade Commander (Brigadier General Canavan) but when the General's report was received he would try to convene the Board and have the Board take up their request for action. In regard to the second problem Adjutant General Walsh informed Captain Morgan that uniforms were not furnished by the State. Each company uniformed themselves, prices ranging from $25 to $40 a suit, and in most instances they also furnished their own Parade Equipment. All that was providable from the State at the time were arms and some old equipment, together with such proportion of the appropriation as the future Board of Military Auditors might determine necessary. There were at the time, old organizations which were not yet armed with Breech Loaders, and it would be impossible to send but forty of the requested 100 arms at the present, in fact,any other type of arms would be useless in that particular district. The Adjutant General further explained that each company received $75 per month from the state, provided the Legislature made the necessary appropriation; in previous years the appropriations had been but one half of the amount necessary, sometimes even less than that. He mentioned these matters so as to inform the Captain of the real situation and requested an answer as speedily as possible if the volunteers did not care to make the necessary expenditures themselves so as to save any unnecessary activity on the part of the Headquarters Staff.
The Adjutant General's letter was read before the informal gathering and they replied to the effect that they would accept the forty stand of arms; and that they were organized and awaited further orders from Headquarters. Following this correspondence between the General's Office and the company, the Adjutant General issued Special Order No. 43 on December 31, 1879, stating that the application of the citizens and residents of Mono County had been approved by Brigadier General Canavan, and ordered the General to issue all necessary orders for the appointment of an Inspector and adopt ~he formal actions necessary to the procedure of the formation of a military company.

On January 6, 1880, Eugene Lake, Acting Assistant Adjutant General ,issued Special Order No. 4 from Headquarters of the Third Brigade by command of Brigadier General Canavan in compliance with the Special Order No. 43, authorizing Judge R. L. Peterson to open the enrolling book and to appoint the time and place for the organization meeting, and ordering the Judge to preside and superintend the legal business for this meeting. The Judge opened the enrollment book and after eighty-one residents signed themselves as members for the new company, closed the book. This brought a protest from the group who had originally signed the petition for the military unit. A meeting was held and Thomas C. O'Brien who was Secretary for this organization together with Eugene Markey, another member, communicated with the Adjutant General to inform him of the existing situation. Mr. O'Brien stated that Judge Peterson had kept the book open but two days, had accepted but twelve or fifteen of the original signers, excluding from sixty to seventy other petitioners who had heretofore paid all expenses incident to the matter, such as Hall Rent, advertising, locating and surveying a Shooting Range and other incidentals. It was the belief of these petitioners that this hasty action and subsequent prevention of the original petitioners to sign the enrolling book was done in order to prevent them from properly forming a company. It was their contention that those who first organized the company were the persons entitled to sign the Muster Roll and so constitute the Charter Membership, thus giving others the privilege of joining after the organization had been perfected. Secretary O'Brien concluded his letter stating it was the opinion of many, that considering the Judicial position of the official, disqualified him as an Inspector. An official opinion expressed by Brigadier General Canavan on this controversy stated, first--"that the Judge had no authority to close the book until the full compliment of 140 men had signed; second-- he had no authority to exclude any person subject to military duty who offers himself for enrollment until said roll had reached the number of 140, third--after the organization of the meeting the presiding officer had no right to allow any person to sign said Roll or Book; fourth--Judge Peterson was not disqualified from presiding at the organization under the provision of Section 1, Article 3, New Constitution; and fifth--original petitions should have a prior right to sign the Roll if they so elect. In an effort to appease the disturbed citizens,a Special Order was issued by Eugene Lake, Acting Assistant Adjutant General, by command of Brigadier General Canavan on January thirteenth, revoking the appointment of the Judge and naming Frank P. Willard as the duly authorized person to continue the organization activities for the Bodie Guard. The meeting was held February sixth and seventy-five men were mustered in. William A. Irwin and G. S. Morgan were nominated for Captain. Mr. Irwin was elected to serve a two year term. W. D. Kelly was nominated and elected First Lieutenant. The election of other officers followed and with its completion a vote of thanks was tendered Mr. Willard for the impartial and efficient manner in discharging his duties. The meeting was adjourned to meet the following Wednesday evening, February eleventh,when the members would perfect the organization.

Mr . Willard sent two reports on the organization to Captain Lake, Acting Assistant Adjutant General, the first one of February ninth gave the general report on the meeting, and a few personal notes on the situation. He stated that 11 the seventy-five signers who were clerks and business men and constituted the 'Citizens Company' and had signed the roll call for February second, failed to put in .an appearance that evening so he declared 'all Rolls off' and opened a new one on the evening of the sixth. Seventy-five of the 'old crowd' were present and were mustered in. There was a good de al of kicking done about this company, but those who did it were the 'Dog in the Manger' set."[3] Mr. Willard concluded this letter by saying, "that the protesters had had a fair opportunity to win a bloodless victory, but refused to take advantage of it and that those who had signed the roll were justly entitled to the opportunity afforded them."

It is apparent that Mr. Willard was prejudiced in favor of the group of men who were elected as officers of the new company as he reported in his second letter to Captain Lake, under date of February nineteenth, that he would not hesitate to say that the newly organized company should not be armed if he thought the Miner's Union element would acquire control of the organization. He informed the Captain that there were about one dozen good men in the unit, including the officers, and that Captain Irwin had assured him that he would be able to weed out the rough element, which was predominating, and soon have a good company which would be desirable in this location. Mr. Willard expressed it as his opinion that the organization should be accepted and to let Captain Irwin perfect his company by taking in other men, after which,arms should be issued to the unit. It was his belief that they should be accepted on probation, drill for a month and if their attendance sufficed, then accept the unit as a company for the Third Brigade.

Two further communications settle the destiny of the intended military company. On the nineteenth of March, Sherrill W. Blasdel, as a representative of "Bodie's good citizens" , communicated with Captain Lake protesting the acceptance of the company as a unit of the -National Guard as they did not believe enough good material was available for a military corps, and thanking the Captain and the General for the patience and interest they had manifested. It is apparent that many letters of protest were sent by other citizens to the Brigadier General, as a penciled note in the files requests that General to destroy some letters for which he might have no further use so as to protect the writers. The final letter from Brigadier General Thomas E. Ketchem of the Third Brigade to Brigadier General Samuel W. Backus on March 24, 1880, states that he had approved the various returns as he had no alternative in the matter. He recommended that the Bodie Guard should not be listed as a company of the National Guard of California as he believed that the element composing it was a dangerous one, and that the citizens preferred no protection rather than have the existing one, formed of the miners union element. General Ketchum suggested that if the request of the Bodie Guard was refused that one of the three petitions of Visalia, Modesto and Stockton be considered so to fill the ranks of the Third Brigade. After carefully considering both sides of the situation, the final analysis was made by Governor George C. Perkins and the order permitting the company to reorganize was revoked, and the Bodie Guard was disbanded March 27, 1880.

1. Indian translation means "Beautiful" and the county is supposed to have derived its name from the beauty of the Indian women.
2. Historic Spots in California by Hero Eugene Rensch and Ethel Grace Rensch - 1932, page 100, 102 .
3. Taken from letter of February ninth ,written by Mr. Willard to Captain Lake, Acting Assistant Adjutant General.
Muster Roll Information:
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