Butte County California Chinese Immigrants
The Chee Kung Tong was sometimes called “Chinese Freemasons” by Euro-Americans. “Freemasons” began paying taxes on their property in the Oroville Chinatown (Broderick Street). While doing research in the old assessment rolls, taxes were being paid by the “China Free Masons” or “Chinese Free Masons” in Oroville Chinatown, beginning in the dated 1875. The China Free Masons’ first tax bill was for Outside Lot No. 86 and a 13-foot front of east side of Outside Lot No. 87. The property was valued at $50 with $600 worth of improvements. Total taxes paid were $12.60.
The same group was taxed in 1876 under the same property description with the same estimated property value, but the taxes are now $14.00. A third time (1877) this group was taxed for Outside Lot No. 86 and the E 1/2 of Outside Lot No. 87 with a value of $100 and $700 worth of improvements, but the total taxes paid were $23.80.
In the 1878 ledger the group’s name is now “Chinese Free Masons.” Property is again valued at $100 with $700 of improvements but taxes are back down at $14.00. Property and improvements are valued at $700 in 1879, 1880, and 1881 with taxes paid being $11.90 (in 1879) and $11.20 (in 1880 and 1881).
Things have changed for the Chinese Free Masons in 1882. They were assessed for Outside Lot No. 80 and 12 feet of Outside Lot No. 87, value of property was $50, total taxes paid were 80 cents. Several other people were assessed for Outside Lot No. 80 in the same year: a Quong Wing Hi was also assessed in this year for the east 32 feet of Outside Lot No. 80, valued at $125 and $675 worth of improvements (this was only part of his assessment for this year); Ah Fun was assessed for Outside Lot No. 80, valued at $60 and 96 cents taxes paid; and Hoop Ye Tong was assessed for Outside Lot No. 80, valued at $50 with $2.40 in taxes paid. Did not find any Chinese entries showing who was being assessed for Outside Lot No. 86.
In 1883 the assessment for the Chinese Free Masons is for Outside Lot No. 80, valued at $50 and a tax paid of 75 cents. Once again others are being assessed for Outside Lot No. 80 in this same year; Ah Fun was assessed for this lot, valued at $75 and paying a tax of $1.13; and Wing Lee Hong was assessed for Outside Lots No. 80 & 81, valued at $250, and paying taxes of $5.75.
One lot in Chinatown, valued at $50 was the only assessment for the China Free Masons in 1884. They paid taxes of 75 cents. Quong Wing Hi was assessed for 32 feet of east end of Outside Lot No. 80, valued at $150 with $700 worth of improvements (this was only part of his assessment for that year).
The China or Chinese Masons disappear from the tax assessment ledgers in 1885. Quong Wing Hi is once again assessed for 33 feet of the east end of Outside Lot No. 80 that was valued at $200 with $700 worth of improvements. This was only part of his assessment of $3170. He is not assessed for this property in 1886.
Chinese “Free Masons” are mentioned in newspapers in 1897 and 1898.
January 17, 1875, columns 1-6 (Weekly Mercury): Under “Delinquent Tax List.” Free Masons, China - Ophir Township, Outside Lot No. 86 in Oroville - $50, improvements $650. Total taxes due $15.20. January 25, 1897, page 3, column 2 (Oroville Daily Register) had an article on the funeral of Gee Chung Oy, the second officer in the Chinese Free Mason Lodge of Oroville. The article was titled Chinese Funeral - A Large Crowd Witnessed the Ceremonies. “The funeral ceremony took place in front of the Masonic Building. His “splendid” coffin lay in state on the street, surrounded by numerous flags and emblems of the order, while close by stood two tables on which was a large roast hog, and various other article of food. After some ceremonies, a procession formed and the participants made their way to the cemetery. In the procession were members of the order on foot, bearing flags and banners, each one wearing a rosette of red and white ribbons - which are the Chinese mourning colors. Gee Chung Oy, a native of Canton, had been a resident of Oroville twenty years or more and was 58 years old at the time of his death”.
February 10, 1898, page 3, column 1 (Oroville Daily Register): In this issue was a nice write up of the Grand Chinese Parade. In the sixth paragraph the article reports that “The Chinese Free Masons were conspicuous by their dress and a peculiar round plate worn by each in back and front. Following this organization a red flag with a black border was carried.”