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    Photo: Leah Sottile/for OPB

How Cliven Bundy Found A Following


In many ways, the Bundy story in Nevada actually begins in Arizona — in a ghost town that was once called Bundyville.

Cliven Bundy’s great-grandfather, Abraham Bundy, created Bundyville in 1916, when he settled there trying to flee from the federal government. At the time, federal officials were persecuting Mormons.

Today, the area where the ghost town sits is known as Mount Trumbull. But when Abraham Bundy was there, nearly 200 people lived in the area. And most of them were named Bundy, hence the name.

The site of the ghost town Bundyville is miles from any nearby settlements. Rutted out and muddy roads meant the area was only accessible by horse until the 1920s.

The site of the ghost town Bundyville is miles from any nearby settlements. Rutted out and muddy roads meant the area was only accessible by horse until the 1920s.

Leah Sottile/for OPB

But the experiment to create a Bundy utopia far from any government rules or regulations didn’t last long. By the time Cliven was born in 1946, drought was becoming a real problem in the inhospitable land high in the desert.

Within a few more decades, Bundyville was essentially abandoned.

When Cliven’s family came down that mountain, they had learned a lesson about hardship and what it means to lose everything.

Cliven Bundy was the first person in his family to turn that loss into an advantage. He started telling a story about how he is the underdog and the government is out to get him — so his losses aren’t his fault. They are the government’s.

And this is the story his most zealous followers love. A reimagining of yourself, where you can be a hero no matter what you’ve done.


About “Bundyville”

“Bundyville” is a joint podcast by OPB and Longreads, hosted and reported by award-winning freelance journalist Leah Sottile. It is produced by Peter Frick-Wright and Robert Carver of 30 Minutes West Productions, and OPB’s Ryan Haas.

Subscribe to “Bundyville” on NPR One, Apple Podcasts or wherever you find your podcasts.


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