A Ghost Story
he year was 1887. The aspen had turned to yellow and red in early October. The days were growing shorter but remained sunny and bright, and the nights were cool. Autumn had arrived and winter was on the way. Gold Rush merchant A. McGillivray, known by all as Mac, and his fiancée Sarah, arrived at the Bridgeport Inn after a dusty day long trip from mining town of Bodie. Mac and Sarah rode in the back of a gold ingot laden freight wagon that had stopped in Bridgeport to rest for the night on its journey to Carson City, Nevada. Mac was also on his way to Carson City to pick-up parts of heavy machinery coming from San Francisco that was destined to be part of a new hydro project on Green Creek. The hydro plant would bring electricity to Bodies’ gold mines when construction was completed by the early 1890’s. Mac had collected $50,000 from the Standard Mine as a down payment on the purchase of the equipment. His commission was ten percent.
ac had emigrated from Scotland when he was 16 years old. He had toiled in the California gold country for the past 17 years. Mac learned early that panning or digging for gold was a dangerous and rarely productive way to make your fortune. Supplying the goods and services required by the mining camps was a far better life for Mac, and had become very profitable for Sonora Mercantile, a company buying and selling goods for the silver mines of northern Nevada and the gold mines located in California’s Eastern Sierra. Mac had served the company as an apprentice for a number of years before getting the chance to make the equipment sale to the Standard Mine. He had lived in Bodie, the violent godless gold town for almost a year taking orders for goods and travelling back and forth to Sonora over the treacherous Sierra Nevada Mountains.
y the late 1870’s Bodie had 65 saloons and bordellos, and a population of 13,000, making it the second largest town in California. It had no churches. It was blazing hot in the summer and sometimes got down to fifty degrees below zero in the winter. In spite of the severe conditions the mines worked every day of the year. Mac had finally convinced Sarah to move to Bodie after their wedding next December in Sonora. After a three year courtship Mac had asked Sarah’s god-fearing, fire and brimstone preacher father for her hand in marriage during the spring of 1887 on Easter Sunday. The Reverend was not happy with their Bodie plans but he believed that Mac was a good and decent man. Sarah and her family had come west from Connecticut after the Civil War to spread the word of the lord. Mac and Sarah were deeply in love and both were committed to raising a large family in Sonora after the hydro project was completed. Sarah’s virgin white wedding gown was being made by a seamstress in Bridgeport and the final fitting was to take place the next day after their arrival from Bodie. Mac would be leaving for Carson City early in the morning and would not be able see the gown, but would be returning three days later with his load of machinery and tools to spend the night, pick-up Sarah, and travel back to Bodie.
ac was on the stagecoach to Carson City at sunrise the next morning. The freight wagon loaded with gold, the stagecoach, and three mounted Wells Fargo armed guards followed the wagon north out-of-town. In good weather it was a twenty hour trip with stops only to water the horses. Sarah planned a glorious day in Bridgeport with an afternoon trip to the Jim Cain cabin at nearby Virginia Lake. Sarah was back in her room at the Inn just after sundown. Inn proprietor Hiram Leavitt and his family had promised Mac that they would treat Sarah as one of their own during his brief trip. She had been included in a family feast of venison and an after dinner piano recital by the Leavitt’s daughter Amanda.
arah was startled awake at midnight by loud voices downstairs. It wasn’t long until Hiram Leavitt knocked on her door and gave an account of a terrible tragedy. Just north of Yerington, Nevada, the stagecoach and freight wagon were ambushed. Mac was robbed and killed, and the three guards were shot and killed as well. The wagon was stolen and the robbers rode away with the gold. The stagecoach and driver escaped. The stagecoach was abandoned as the survivors returned on horseback to Bridgeport. Sarah collapsed with grief and was cared for by Amanda Leavitt throughout the night.
he next day Sarah was despondent. Her life was shattered. Dressed in her just completed wedding gown she took her own life hanging at the end of a rope in her room upstairs sometime during the following night. Her note read:
“MAC WAS MY ONLY LOVE, MY PARTNER FOR LIFE
I WAIT FOR HIM HERE WHERE WE LAST SHARED OUR DREAMS
NOW I WILL LOVE HIM FOR ETERNITY AS HIS WIFE”
arah and Mac were buried in Sonora on their planned wedding day in December, but her spirit lives on in Room 16 at the Bridgeport Inn.
Copyright © 2008 by Robert Peters