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Chinatowns

Chinese in Butte Creek Canyon

The Chinese came to Butte Creek Canyon in 1852 to mine for gold. They worked at different places along the entire length of Butte Creek. The white residents did not want the Chinese living in their towns, so they established their own communities. One Chinatown was a mile up from Diamondville, another at Centerville and still another at Helltown.

Chinatown near Diamondville, with a population of about five or six hundred, contained chinese stores, many small cabins, Josh Houses, and a cemetery. The Josh Houses were made of rock and mud with open fronts. They contained a small stand, a wooden block and a straw mat on the floor for each opium smoking customer.

Chinatown near Helltown contained four cabins and a large stone wall. The stone wall was constructed by the Chinese to seperate their cabins from the other residents of Helltown.

Chinatown near Centerville contained a Chinese store and a Josh House.

The majority of the Chinese worked as miners, and some worked as house servants or cooks. Others built stone walls or dug ditches.

Eventually the Chinese were forced to leave the canyon for two main reasons, the decline of available gold, and the extreme discrimination and prejudice they were subjectes to by the white residents of the canyon.Official sources recorded the presence of 2,177 Chinese in Butte County for 1860 and by 1900 there were only 712.

In 1875 economis sanctions were imposed against the Chinese with a revision of the canyon's mining laws.Chinese were fobidden to file or purchase mining claims within the canyon. California legislature had previously enacted a Foreign Miner's Tax Law(1850) under which foreigners were required to pay a special $20 a month tax. It was repealed in 1851 and in 1853 a new $3 month tax was passed, which increased to $6 in 1855. It was declared void in 1870.

In 1886 miners formed the Anti-Chinese Association and so began a sanctioned purge of the Chinese from the canyon. Those who had money returned to China, and the others moved onto Marysville and other valley towns or to San Francisco's Chinatown.

To learn more about the Chinese in Butte Creek Canyon visit the Centerville Colman Memorial Community Museum.

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