Kennett, California was once a boomtown in Northern California, prospering in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, with numerous stores, saloons, a hotel and a schoolhouse. Now, it sits at the bottom of Shasta Lake. And while the artifacts of this town are now lost to the 400-feet deep waters of the lake, we still have the photos and stories to map together what was once an important part of Northern California’s rich history.
Kennett was originally settled by nine groups of Wintu Native Americans in 250 villages surrounding what was then an upper stretch of the Sacramento River (it’s hard to distinguish the Upper and Lower Sacramento River without the Shasta Dam). European fur-trappers settled in the area in the early 1800’s and it is said that 75% of the Wintu population were dead with disease from contact with the white settlers.
The town started to grow during the construction of the railroad and was given the name “Kennet” after a railroad worker. At some point, the spelling changed to Kennett, probably due to the misspelling of a mapmaker.
In 1884, Charley Golinskey arrived in town, opening up the first store, post office, and hotel. Once two mines were opened in the area, pure copper ore was found, bringing riches to the community.
The town was visited by prominent businessmen off the railroad tracks and became known for it’s spirited Diamond Saloon, open 24 hours a day. The saloon even distilled and bottled its own successful brand of whiskey which was served to patrons on a 150 foot long redwood bar.
The town peaked in the early 1900’s, with an estimated population of 10,000.
Kennett continued to prosper during World War I due to increased metal prices, but once the war ended, the mines were forced to close and the town’s population dropped significantly in 1923.
Located along the Sacramento River, the Kennett area was the perfect location to build a dam and in 1935, the government forced the people out of the town with the construction of the Shasta Dam.
There is no record of any public hearings to ask Kennett residents their opinion. The diminished population of the town was likely considered too insignificant to matter. Most people sold their land to the government willingly, while some waited until the waters began to rise before abandoning their homes. Kennett was completely submerged by 1944, one year before the completion of the dam.
Now the town is lost to the waters that flow down from Mt. Shasta and into the ocean through the San Francisco Bay.
While it’s easy to grasp onto the past looking for answers to our history, let’s not forget the beauty we see at that same location today: