CALIFORNIA (KTXL) – A recent discovery of a World War II boat at the bottom of Shasta Lake has sparked interest in what lies in the deep of California’s lakes. The continued drought has caused water levels to drop, revealing more than just boats.
A landing boat for the USS Monrovia, which served as General George S. Patton’s headquarters during the Sicily campaign, surfaced in Shasta Lake recently due to low water levels. But it’s not the only thing hiding in the depths of California’s largest man-made lake.
Four hundred feet under the blue waters of Shasta Lake is also the ghost town of Kennett.
Starting as a railroad construction camp in the early 1880s, Kennett eventually grew in size until it became an official town in 1884.
Two copper mines, Mammoth and Golinsky, would become the backbone of the town’s economy venturing into the early 20th century.
World War I caused metal prices to rise and the two copper mines drew more miners, smelters and railroad workers into the boomtown.
The prosperity would all come to a halting crash as the war ended. Metal prices fell and the Mammoth and Golinsky mines closed in 1923.
In 1931, Kennett was unincorporated and construction of the Shasta Dam began in 1935. By 1944 the town was submerged by the rising waters, where it remains today.
To control the flood waters of the American River, Folsom Dam was constructed in 1955, causing a century-old Gold Rush town to be submerged.
The town dates back to 1848, when W. Sidney Willis and Wilford Hudson, of the Mormon Battalion, ventured out from Sutter’s Fort to hunt deer. They found gold in the South Fork of the American River.
They returned with 150 Mormons to found the community of Mormon Island.
By 1853 the town had swelled to 2,500 people and four hotels, three dry goods stores, five general stores, an express office and many small shops.
But a fire raged through the town in 1856, and much of it would never be rebuilt.
The town went up and down in population over the next century until the waters of the American River covered it.
When water levels are low enough, the remains of the town can be found about a half-mile west of Browns Ravine boat docks.
The bones of one of the most notorious old west towns in California still remain at the bottom of this Kern County lake.
Just as the California Gold Rush was coming to a close in 1860, a prospector named Lovely Rogers discovered gold near the Kern River, bringing gold-seekers from Northern California down into the Southern Sierra Nevada.
The town got its name, Whiskey Flat, when whiskey peddler Adam Hamilton set up his tent and two whiskey barrels with a board placed on top.
Several mines opened in the following years, one of the most notable being the Big Blue mine which would yield around $12 million in gold.
More than 200 miners worked Big Blue and dozens of businesses opened to serve them.
The town’s growth was not a peaceful one, however, as a two-year conflict raged between local Native American tribes and the settlers. An estimated 200 Native Americans and 60 settlers died in the fighting.
In early 1864, as the growing town became a bit less wild, Whiskey Flat was renamed Kernville after Edward M. Kern.
“Families were moving in and it was no longer fitting to have the name associated with ‘demon rum,’ as the ladies of the town called it,” the Kernville Chamber of Commerce says on its website.
The town continued to be prosperous and would eventually become the backdrop for many westerns in the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s.
The town can be seen in John Ford’s 1939 film “Stagecoach,” which went on to win multiple Oscars, including Best Picture in 1940.
Following World War II, the U.S. government purchased the land where the town sat and began construction of the Isabella Dam.
As the flood waters began to come in, townspeople deconstructed many buildings and moved them to higher ground, but many buildings were not saved.
The foundation of the wild west town now sits hundreds under Lake Isabella.