Let me start with a story as an example:
Lucy Frye lived in Petersburg, Calaveras county, in the California gold country during the 1850s. The story passed down is that she had a small store where she sold various things the miners needed: flour, sugar, beans, etc. In exchange for these commodities, Lucy often took in gold dust as payment. She had quite a bit of it when someone warned her that Three Fingered Jack was coming to rob her place that night! (In case you’re wondering, I have no idea why “Jack” only had three fingers, if he was born that way or lost two fingers in an accident, I don’t know).
That night Lucy took her gold dust home rather than leave it at the store.
When Lucy opened her store the next morning, the place had been ransacked, flour sacks ripped open, but her gold had been kept safe.
In my research, I wanted to know more about Three Fingered Jack and the location of Petersburg.
Three Fingered Jack: This robber was so popular that a volcano in Oregon has been named after him. He was said to have been Joaquin Murietta’s right hand man, Manuel Garcia. Murietta spent many years robbing and plundering in California’s gold country. Every community in the Sierra foothills has one or more stories of plunder by Murietta and Three Fingered Jack from 1850 to 1853.
Petersburg, California: Petersburg, Calaveras County, California, is no longer on any current map. It is under the waters of the New Hogan Reservoir. Petersburg was not alone in its’ demise. There were many towns flooded by water projects. For instance, most of the town center of Enfield, Massachusetts, was flooded by the Quabbin Reservoir.
Things you can do to verify a story or find a drowned town:
- Check the newspapers.
- Check local and county histories.
- Interview the locals.
- If you suspect a town (anywhere in the U.S.) where your family lived is now underwater, you might want to check the following list:
What stories has your family inherited?