A Blast From the Past


Volcano Amphitheater

Almost 28 years ago, I stood in front of the St. George Hotel in Volcano, California. Not exactly a day to go down in the history books, but I’m often amazed at the memory of it. It was a hot June day and I was on my way to a family reunion which took place just outside the town limits. I’d never been there before—in fact, had never been in Amador County—so it was no wonder that I’d missed this little treasure of a town.

Maybe one of the reasons I remember that day so clearly is because God put it on my heart. At the time, I was holding my six-month-old baby, Nicole (who is 28 today) and sweltering in the heat. It felt as if I was worlds away from the present, as every building looked like something out of another time and place. I didn’t realize it was considered a living ghost town, so of course it felt other-worldly. There was a kinship, a slight yearning, that called to me. I had no idea, that twenty years later, when I married Chris, it would be my home.

It wasn’t until last week, when someone asked me about Volcano, that I even thought to do a little research. I knew it was quite the bustling town back in the day—the Gold Rush day, that is. What I didn’t know was that it came by its name because early miners thought it was actually a volcano, because of its bowl-like shape. I didn’t know that by 1853, there were 300 houses, eleven stores, six hotels, three bakeries and three saloons. By 1855, it brought thousands of gold-seekers and the six hotels increased to seventeen, a library and a theater. Today, a tortoise-speed walk through town might take you an hour if you’re like my husband and enjoy reading every plaque and historical fact displayed.

We have Civil War history, but I find it even more fascinating that Volcano housed the first private school and first private law school in 1855, and in 1856, the first legal hanging in Amador County took place. This metropolis of 17,000 people during the Gold Rush now brags of a population of 101 on the sign as you come into town. Hard to believe that Volcano almost became the county seat in 1854 and then again in 1857, but the newspaper closed in 1857 and the town began to decline.

Still, we are proud of our two hotel/restaurants (some say the best in the county) and our two theaters. I’m not talking movie theaters, here. We have an outdoor Amphitheater that produces plays throughout the summer and the cozy (seats about 60) Cobblestone Theater, which is preparing to launch into A Christmas Carol (for those of you who live close enough to attend). We have an adorable Country Store, which has the best burgers (and the cheapest prices) in the county. Sprinkled among these is a bakery, a Masonic Lodge, quaint shops, and a beautiful little park.

But what makes me the most proud of my home town? This time of year, it is transformed into something out of a Thomas Kincade painting. Lights are strung on all the trees along the streets and a nativity scene, large as life and lit up, sits above the park. In a time where Christmas trees have been relegated to “holiday” trees, and to say, “Merry Christmas” is politically incorrect, it does my heart good to know that simple faith is still displayed for anyone who cares to see.

I will not be doing a second post this week, as I’ll be celebrating Thanksgiving with my husband’s family. I wish you all a truly blessed Thanksgiving. May you find gratitude in your hearts, regardless of your circumstances.

One thought on “A Blast From the Past

  1. Jennie, I will be thinking of you and Chris and our families as we have our Thanksgiving way out here in Oklahoma. You are the best sister ever.

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