Monday, February 6, 2012

Lake Shasta ~ Kennett, CA

Though the old mining town of Kennett was a faded relic of its boomtown self by the time it was flooded by Lake Shasta in 1944, it was still home to a hundred people. Like other “gold rush” towns in northern California, it was established for mining and prospecting in the 1850s, though it wasn’t until a railroad camp was built in 1883, with over a thousand Chinese laborers, that the population began to rise substantially.
One building that wasn't moved was the Kennett Elementary School --
 larger wooden building on the left of this photo.
Kennett was established in 1884 as a railroad town beside the Sacramento River when the California & Oregon Railroad extended its tracks from Redding to Delta. The place was first used as an emergency brake-testing station and was named by the railroad for Squire Kennett, a railroad stockholder and financier.

Goldminer Charles Butters arrived approximately 1885 and began purchasing land. The Kennett Post Office was established in 1886 (and discontinued in 1942). By 1905 Butters owned over 6,000 acres and began building up the town, complete with roads, churches, schools and even an opera house. Kennett was home to the famous Diamond Bar Saloon; offices of the Justice of the Peace were located in the saloon building basement. The town suffered a devastating fire in 1904.

In 1905 electricity arrived and the town soon became a copper mining boom. In 1907 the Mammoth Copper Company built a copper smelter. It generated thick fumes that sometimes enveloped the whole town in a haze of bluish smoke ... the hills around the town were exfoliated and denuded by its acid fumes. Farmers in the valley 15 miles away began a suit against the company for destruction of their crops and the smelter was shut down by court order in 1919. It operated again briefly in 1924 and was dismantled in 1925.

By 1910, Kennett boasted a population of over 10,000 and was the 2nd largest town in Shasta County and the most prosperous mining town in the west. But the mines closed after the end of WWI, the smelter soon followed, and Kennett’s population fell over the next two decades.

The remains of Kennett – along with many of the region’s smelters, paint factories, mines and their despoiled soils – lie  beneath 400’ of water in the deepest part of Shasta Lake just north of the dam. Many of the wooden buildings were either dismantled or moved entirely out of Kennett just prior to the rising waters. But many still remain at the bottom of Shasta Lake. One that wasn't moved was the Kennett Elementary School.

Other towns inundated by Lake Shasta were Heroult, Baird & Copper City.


  1. My grandfather was born in Kennett in 1916.

  2. My father was born in Kennett CA in 1914. I would love to find out information about my grandfather Martin Barthe whose name is on my father's birth certificate.

    1. Hi Elena ... I would be happy to help you. Please email your father's name to me at and we'll communicate one-on-one. Cheers, Judi Heit