Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Passing Through Chinese Camp

As I drove along S.R. 120 toward Owens River Gorge the first time, signs that said "Chinese Camp" caught my eye, but I didn't have time to stop. On the way back, I pulled in for a few minutes to poke around and snap a few pictures. I didn't see many people around, and after reading the Wikipedia article, I understood why: the 2010 Census put the population at 126. 

It's hard to believe that nearly 5,000 people lived in this place during the gold rush. 

The sign states that "the first Chinese Tong War in state fought near here between Sam Yap and Yan Woo tongs." More history can be found on Wikipedia (of course).

The formation of tongs:
After settling in San Francisco and other California cities, Chinese workers faced hostility from their American peers who felt threatened by the Chinese who worked for lower wages. As labor unions and angered workers became more aggressive, many Chinese felt pressure to leave and go east, where they heard life would be less dangerous.[4] As a result many Chinese immigrants moved to cities such as New York and Boston where today there are large enough populations to build communities known as "Chinatowns".[5] Many Chinese soon organized voluntary associations for support and protection.

The Tong War of 1856 Tensions between the Tuolumne County Sam Yap Company and the Calaveras County Yan Wo Company, both headquartered near Chinese Camp erupted in violence. In the Columbia Gazette of October 1856 a comment directed toward the Yan Wo by the Sam Yap stated “There are a great many now existing in the world who ought to be exterminated.” An estimated 2500 men fought in the battle that followed. Most were armed in traditional fashion, carrying long pikes, butcher’s knives, and tridents. The Sam Yap Company had purchased 150 muskets and bayonets in San Francisco in preparation for the confrontation and after a hundred rounds or so The Yan Wo clan were forced to retreat. Surprisingly there were only 4 fatalities were recorded.
According to the Census, most of the 126 people in Chinese Camp identify as White, with a tiny percentage identified as "Other Races." I wonder how long it took for the population to dwindle so far. Probably didn't take too long after the gold ran out. 

It felt kind of spooky there. Tiny homes. The only people I saw were a couple of men drinking in the bar & convenience store along the main road.
A few trees and a lot of yellow grasses. Didn't seem too hospitable to me. Rocky earth. Not much water.
Beautiful skies on the way home.
I wonder whether Los Angeles might be like this one day. Quiet. Empty. I have no idea what living in a place like this would be like. That's probably why I'm so curious about it. I went from suburb to city. Maybe it's only natural that I'm wondering about the country.

The election is in 6 days. I need to do more homework.

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