retains memories of the Chinese who were active here in gold mining
While the Oriental Exclusion Laws were strict, they were
temporary workers, strangers in a strange land. They had little
chance of becoming citizens; few women came; many workers came in
work “gangs” for mining or railroad construction; Tongs were
important in their control and welfare. Since they were mostly
non-citizens, they could be victimized by rowdies or the
unscrupulous. Citizen men could not bring their wives here.
Some who wished to remain in the country commuted to China every
tow years by working “steerage” and produced a family there
attempting to attain citizenship for their children.
The Chinese Association headquarters remained in Baker until the
early 1950’s. Several families continued to live here and their
children earned excellent reputations as students in American
During WWII, some Orientals were eager to join the amend forces
so they could bring their families here from the homeland.
The Fongs, Lees, Engs, and others are well remembered. Their
heritage remains in such names as Shanghai Gulch or China Diggings
or China Creek. Stories remain, some no doubt fanciful, of their
wisdom, life styles, or of individuals like “Old Wong” who owned a
store at McEwen.
Virgil Wunder told about
Chinatown in Baker: ‘It was between the Powder River on Bridge
Street on to Resort Street, to Valley Avenue, then east on Valley to
the Powder River. The Joss house was a large building, painted
white, located on the north side of Auburn Avenue next to Powder
“Stories describe the escape hatches in the floor of individual
opium-smoking cubicles which gave access to underground tunnels
ending at the river bank – handy in case of raids.”
(The “Opium Dens” remained until after World War II when a state
building was constructed there. This historian explored the
tunnels, carefully. (JRE)
Some shacky little buildings between the Joss house and Resort
Street comprised the Chinese Red Light District.
To Their Native China
Herman C. Webb recalls working for Cook and Emele Sheet Metal Works
and making galvanized sheet metal boxes. The boxes were about 8’
square on the end, and ranged from 24’ to 30’ in length, dependent
upon the length of the longest bone of the body. Their use? To
return the last remains of the Celestials to their homeland.
Virtually all Chinese graveyards were only temporary resting
grounds, including the one at Sparta and the one at the end of
Campbell Street in Baker. Chinese custom asks that the body be
returned to the family.
To that end, bodies were exhumed, purified, and encased in sealed
metal containers to prevent possibility of spread of disease.
Chinese Memorial |
Chinese in Baker County
Baker County Towns
Oregon Genealogy Records
Other Genealogy Records
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