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As It Was: Crescent City Orders Chinese to Leave Town in 1880s

Almost as soon as Crescent City, Calif., opened its port, Chinese arrived, looking for gold or working  for settlers who preceded them.

The Chinese also helped build roads in the Smith River area, including the Horace Gasquet Toll Road from Del Norte, Calif., to Oregon that opened in 1857.

By the late 1870s, the Chinatown population had grown to several hundred people. Wash houses, stores, and apartments ran down Second and along G and H streets.  Some shops sold elaborate beach kites shaped like animals and birds.

In 1885, a Eureka City Councilman was accidentally shot and killed there during the Tong gang wars, violent disputes among rival Chinese factions.  Although Crescent City had no Tong violence, the community was frightened by the thought of it.  After an impromptu parade carried signs demanding “The Chinese Must Go,” the city ordered the Chinese to leave by ocean steamers to San Francisco.

When only two women, two children and three men remained, they were put in a wagon and dropped off on Howland Hill on a cold February morning, never to be seen in town again.

Source: Chase, Doris. They Pushed Back the Forest. Crescent City CA, Del Norte Historical Society, 1959, pp. 53-55.

Lynda Demsher has been editor of a small-town weekly newspaper, a radio reporter, a daily newspaper reporter and columnist for the Redding Record Searchlight, Redding California. She is a former teacher and contributed to various non-profit organizations in Redding in the realm of public relations, ads, marketing, grant writing and photography.