Jane Schuldberg’s involved and loving portrait of her family’s home town was a pleasure to read. Family stories and meticulous primary and secondary research is woven together here, taking it far beyond the normal reminiscences so prevalent in the literature of "places." What’s more, the author’s sense of place and sense of humor is found everywhere. A very delightful and readable story.
Schuldberg builds the story of Kennett chapter by chapter, following the needed discussion of the broad range of family life with great insight into the influence of early and profuse amounts of mining capital into the Shasta County nineteenth century economy. These large and some small mining operations (the author delves into the confusing history of the myriad of mining operations) provide for expanding populations creating great wealth, but are pitted early on against the equally powerful forces of litigation attempting to stop water and air pollution from taking over Shasta County agriculture. Consistent with mining and manufacturing of finished goods, the United States copper industry displayed a familiar boom and bust chronology, finally crashing when worldwide use of copper and prices drop after World War I. People and industry depart, leaving the town and surrounding area open to the formation of the federal Central Valley Project and burying of Kennett by the waters of Shasta Lake (1944).
The thirsty desert that is California has come to rely more and more upon the water impounded by Shasta. Schuldberg’s afterword sums up the problems of continually mounting use of water for California’s southland. In noting the plans to possibly raise the dam by 18.5 feet, polititian Diane Feinstein stated, "I believe it is a God-given right as Californians to be able to water gardens and lawns." The author states "Opponents located above Shasta Dam feel they have a God-given right not to be flooded."
So be it.
--William A. Jones, Special Collections, Meriam Library, California State University, Chico
"A dedicated effort to record the history of Kennett." --Jerry S. Coughlin, President, Shasta Historical Society
Biblio File Book Review: Town buried under Shasta Lake remembered
by Dan Barnett
"Shasta Lake," writes Chico resident Jane B. Schuldberg, "is made up of the flooded river valleys of three major Northern California rivers and their tributaries: the Pit, the McCloud, and the Sacramento. ... The flooding was caused ... by the building of the Shasta Dam. Hundreds of feet below the surface of the lake is a graveyard of ghost towns. There lie the remains of the old mining towns of Ydalpom (Copper City), Delamar, Winthrop ... and largest of all, Kennett."
When Schuldberg visited Shasta Dam's visitor center in 1989 she saw pictures of old Kennett. "Shocked by this brief look, memories came rushing back to me of tales my mother told when I was a child. My mother, Rubie (Radzinski) Blumenthal, had spent her teenage years in Kennett living with her great aunt and uncle, Rosa and Bernhard Golinsky, after her parents died." Schuldberg realized that the "Wild West" stories she heard growing up were from a real place, submerged under some 400 feet of water in 1944 with the completion of the dam. She set out to recover what she could of that past, combing through old newspapers, squinting at microfilm, interviewing family members.
The result is Kennett: The Short, Colorful Life of a California Copper Town and Its Founding Family.
The book includes more than 50 maps and black and white photographs, a reference list and an extensive index. The author's research sits lightly on the page; Schuldberg carefully sets the historical scene and then uses family stories and newspaper accounts to carry the narrative along. She does not gloss over what the "Euro American settlers" meant to the native Wintu. "In 1851," she writes, "a group of miners burned down a Wintu council meeting house and massacred about 300 people in the town of Old Shasta." By 1880 most of the Wintu were gone.
First called Backbone, named for the nearby creek, Kennett began to prosper in the late 19th century with the coming of the Southern Pacific railroad and the development of the town of Redding.
Charley Golinsky came to Kennett in 1884. He was "24 years old, good looking, short and wiry, and energetic." Convincing his Georgia family to follow him, Golinsky set up a general store and became the town's first postmaster. At about the same time a man named Charles Butters settled in Kennett with his wife and proceeded to buy up land. He was a mining engineer who wanted to build a utopia. What he did build was an ore processing plant. "This," says Schuldberg, "was the beginning of a rivalry with the Golinskys that lasted as long as the life of Kennett." In 1905, for example, townsfolk got into a heated debate over what to call the band -- Golinsky or Butters. Eventually it was called the Kennett Brass Band.
The author's mother arrived in 1899. Though she was romanced by a man named Royal N. Riblet, by 1905 he had left town and Rubie had left for Chicago (where she married the author's father in 1909). Just what happened in Kennett is still a mystery.
What was not a mystery was the importance of copper. The so-called "Copper Belt" around Kennett produced ores with 7 percent copper (compared with 1 percent of present-day ores). The Golinsky mine and the Mammoth Smelter helped make the area one of largest copper producers in the world. But the smelters took their toll, poisoning the air and worse. "Many men were maimed, burned or killed working in the open molten liquid vats, or near belts and cables. Men died from heat prostration."
There was a copper boom in World War I but then came the Depression. Kennett lost population, disincorporated in 1933, and by 1935 the first money was being appropriated for the construction of what was at first called Kennett Dam. Three years later "the U.S. government ordered the removal or destruction of all buildings left in Kennett." The town had faced numerous fires during its life but in the end it was buried by water. Gone are the tall stacks. All that remains of Kennett above the water line is Slaughter Island.
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