Butte County California Chinese Immigrants

THE CHINESE COMMUNITIES OF OROVILLE:

A BRIEF SKETCH


BRIEF BIOGRAPHICAL ESSAY



Steadman, Agnes, and Jean Minasian (co-editors)

1976 Oroville: Legacy of a Gold Town. Friends of the Parks of Oroville, Oroville.


Pages 3, 5, 6, and 8. A tent town was established (1849) on the Feather River at about Downer Street. By 1850 it was a conglomeration of tents and shanties called “Ophir”. A rich strike at White Rocks (1852), four miles up the river, emptied the town except for a few Chinese and a handful of Caucasian miners who kept the camp alive. The Feather River and Ophir Water Company completed a ditch into the settlement in 1856, thus stimulating mining activities in the dry diggings. The population of the camp soared. Late that same year, Ophir was the fifth largest town in the state with a population of 4,000.


Miners began to exit the settlement in 1857 seeking gold in other locations. The town went broke. At this time the city applied to the Legislature to allow it to disincorporate. The police force was dismissed and fire fighting equipment was stored away. The community experienced a period of lawlessness and arson fires all but wiped it off the map. However, the Chinese stayed on and continued to find gold in the mines that other miners had abandoned and their community expanded into one of several thousand souls. Other events contributing to the growth of the town was the birth of the lumber industry, the foothills swarmed with lumberjacks, and eastern farmers using the rich soil south and west of the city.


Mac Minn, George R.

1941 The Theater of the Golden Era in California. The Caxton Printers, Caldwell, Idaho


Page 497. One of the theater companies was the Hook Tong Company.


Page 498. On a true Chinese stage all the actors were men, no women were allowed.


Page 499. Most of the speeches in the drama were chanted or sung to the accompaniment of monotonous music provided by “humming, banging, scraping and screeching of Chinese pipes, cymbals, and gongs.”


Page 503. Throughout the later 1850s Chinese theatrical performances were given regularly in San Francisco for a considerable portion of the year. The troupe would also be likely to move on to Sacramento and then up into the mining regions.


Page 507. Chinese theaters usually had common benches for the male audience and a small gallery for female spectators. When the character died, he just walked off. When not engaged, the actors sat at the rear of the bare stage, eating or smoking. The orchestra consisted of five or six instruments, chiefly gong, drum and Chinese fiddle. The musicians sat just behind the actors. There was usually no expression on the faces of the performers and the audience alike.


McLeod, Alexander

1947 Pigtails and Gold Dust. The Caxton Printers, Caldwell, Idaho .

Page 45. When a Chinaman arrived at the mine diggings, his first purchase was a pair of heavy mining boots (worn by all miners). He would pick out the largest boots he could find for his money.


Page 62. The Chinese were allowed to appear as a witness in our courts (1861). Testimony would be allowed after the Chinese took an oath known as the “Confucius formula.” A slip with the oath inscribed in Chinese characters, signed by the witness, was set on fire. The witness took the slip of paper in his left hand to waft the spirit of the oath to the gods, raised his right hand, and repeated the oath, calling on heaven to crush him in case he failed to speak the truth, and declaring that in testimony of the promise made he offered the burning vapor for the perusal of the imperial heaven.


Page 62. Chief Justice Murray of the California Supreme Court ruled that all Asians were Indians.


Page 63. In 1852, 18,400 Chinamen emigrated from China.


Page 65. The Foreign Miner’s License Tax was originally intended to exclude Spanish-Americans and Australians, but it was finally directed specifically against the Chinese.


Page 66. The tax collectors made the Chinese pay though they might not be mining. They included transient visitors, invalids, cripples, cooks and traders.


Thomas, Ed (editor)

1995 In Focus: A Pictorial History of Southern Butte County, California. The Oroville Mercury-Register. This book contains several pictures of Chinese parades.


Dunn, Forrest

1977 A Collection of Places in Butte County, California. Association for Northern Californian Records & Research, Chico.


Page 65. Lynchburgh. Shown on 1862 county map. Located SW 1/4 of the SE 1/4 of Section 17, T19N, R4E. Named for George Lynch who first settled here in winter of 1854-55. School established in 1860, but it was closed and annexed to Oroville in 1862. Settlement was located at the present site of Oro Vista Addition of South Oroville.


Chan, Sucheng

1983 “Using California Archives for Research in Chinese American History”, found in The Annals of the Chinese Historical Society of the Pacific Northwest, pp.49-55 .


A good summary of the use of records created by county agencies in California for historical and ethnic studies research. It was a great guide for this study.