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Greasertown (also, Petersburg) is a former settlement in Calaveras County, 4 miles (6.4 km) west of San Andreas, on the west side of the Calaveras River. The town was rumored to have received its name due to what one-time resident and schoolteacher Margaret Blanc described as “a straggling settlement … with canvas tents and wooden shanties of which it consisted the abodes of … Mexicans who packed and drove mules up to the mines with provisions for the diggers at work on the banks on the Mokelumne and Calaveras.” Blanc said the town was in fact diverse, with many nationalities represented. She wrote that the town included, “About 30 children made up of all classes, nationalities and ages.”
According to “Grizzly Bear” author J. Rush Bronson, in the late 1850s, Petersburg boasted a population of approximately 200 Chinese immigrants mining the river bars on the Calaveras River and 25 white men. Bronson tells a tale of a miner-style battle. The Chinese and white miners “came in conflict with each other May 15 over control of a dam, the white miners fighting to maintain it and the Chinamen to destroy it. The battle lasted over an hour and was fought with rocks, clubs and shovels. About a score of Chinamen were disabled, some being seriously hurt and after being driven off they had the white men arrested for battery.”
After the heavy rains of 1907, residents of flood-ravaged Stockton sought to dam the Calaveras River to prevent further flooding. The condemnation of Petersburg was completed on June 25, 1924, clearing the way for the first dam on the Calaveras River. The dam flooded the old mining town under 115,000 acre ft of water when it was completed in 1930. It is named for Walter Byron Hogan, one time engineer and city manager for Stockton.
At times, however, Petersburg residents showed a more philanthropic side. The Marin Journal of Oct. 18, 1862, reported that a relief fund for sick and wounded soldiers sent east by the Sanitary Committee of San Francisco included a contribution from Calaveras County. “A little town in Calaveras County, with only about 50 voters, contributes $404; the name of this philanthropic place is Greasertown.”