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As It Was: Once Bustling Mining Town Lies Under Shasta Dam Waters


The land around Kennett, Calif., was once home to some 250 Wintu Indian villages, but by 1835 their numbers had been decimated by disease and war.  After gold was discovered in Backbone Creek in 1852, the railroad town of Kennett grew into the most important mining center outside of Redding and Shasta.

The two largest mines were the Mammoth and Golinsky copper mines.  In 1884 Charley Golinsky opened a store with a post office and built a hotel and a family residence.  In 1883 a railroad camp with more than 1,000 Chinese laborers helped build the California and Oregon Railroad. 

By 1905 Charles Butters owned 6,000 acres and built roads, churches, schools, and an opera house.  The famous Diamond Bar Saloon held offices of the Justice of the Peace in the basement. 

Soon the copper smelter filled the town and surrounding hills with bluish smoke that killed foliage and destroyed farms up to 15 miles away.  A lawsuit closed the mines around 1925.  After World War I and the closing of the mines, most people left the town. 

In 1935 the federal government began construction of the Shasta Dam, and today Kennett is submerged under 400 feet of water.

Sources: "Kennett, California." Wikipedia. Web. 16 Nov. 2013. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kennett,_California; "Lake Shasta ~ Kennett, CA." Ghost Lakes. Ed. Judi Heit. Web. 16 Nov. 2013. .

Maryann Mason has taught history and English in the U.S. Midwest and Northwest, and Bolivia. She has written history spots for local public radio, interviewed mystery writers for RVTV Noir, and edited personal and family histories.  Her poetry has appeared in Sweet Annie & Sweet Pea Review (1999), Rain Magazine (2007), and The Third Reader, an online Journal of Literary Fiction and Poetry. In 2008 she published her first chapbook, Ravelings.  She organized a History Day for Southern Oregon.