Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Details: Jue Joe in Marysville

My research in St. Helena has got me interested in trying to follow Jue Joe's early years from Northern to Southern California . Auntie Soo - Yin mentions that after arriving in San Francisco in 1874 at the age of 14 Jue Joe is sent to work in the vineyards of Marysville in the central valley . I didn't even know there were vineyards there but some more internet sleuthing reveals that there were a number of wineries in the area and that Chinese laborers were used to pick and press wine , just as they were used in the St. Helena area .
Here is a young Chinese laborer working in the vineyards around Marysville circa 1870 to 1880 when Jue Joe was there .

A fascinating 1879 history of Yuba County is available on the internet . This history is very important as it gives us a snapshot of the Marysville area in exactly the time frame that Jue Joe was in the area .
Here are some interesting information from the book

History of Yuba County 1879 by Thompson and West

"The Chinese found abundant employment in the mines in the early days. Soon after their first appearance, a prejudice against them began to gain ground among the miners, although with a few exceptions, they were allowed to work peaceably on their claims. After claims were deserted by white miners, the economical Chinese located them again, and by diligent toil managed to make them pay handsomely

Wine was made in Marysville, by J.M. Ramirez, as early as 1855, though none was made for the market prior to 1859, when Charles Covillaud, who had been making small quantities for several years, commenced its manufacture on a larger scale. A great deal of wine is now throughout the county, by a number of persons who have vineyards. The largest vineyard and winery near Marysville is that of Grass Bros. They commenced the manufacture as early as 1863, and now have twenty-five acres of vineyard. This, at an average of one thousand vines to the acre, makes a total of twenty-five thousand vines, which are of forty-three varieties. They have made as high as seventeen thousand gallons of seven varieties of wine in one year. Last year their manufacture was, however, but four thousand five hundred gallons. Some of the wine made here is shipped direct to the East, but the larger portion is sold in San Francisco. Two of the finest varieties of grapes, cultivated here, were imported from South America, by J. M. Ramirez; they are the Rose of Peru, and the Chile Rose.

Celestial Valley

This locality, on Oregon Creek, two miles from Middle Yuba, was so named because of the number of Chinamen here. At one time there were thirty or forty men here and one hotel. At present half that number are engaged in mining and farming."

Marysville had a large Chinese population during Jue Joe's time. A nice summary of the city's Chinese history is provided on the Bok Kai Temple web site.


"Marysville Chinatown

Marysville had a fairly large Chinese population between 1850 and 1900 in comparison to other towns in the Northern Sacramento Valley. In businesses, it was ranked among the busiest and largest in the Northern Sacramento Valley and, at times, ranked second only to San Francisco.

Marysville's Chinatown, which is one of the oldest in the United States still in existence, was ideally located, offering merchandising services to mining camps to the north and east. It was regularly supplied with goods and materials by river boats via the Sacramento and Feather Rivers and stage coaches.

According to a business directory of Wells Fargo Bank in 1878, Marysville's Chinatown boasted some two dozen Chinese firms.
By 1882, according to the Wells Fargo directory, Chinese businesses had nearly doubled in number.

Marysville's Chinatown was a place for rest and entertainment to thousands of Chinese miners and laborers. It was a bustling and lively community on weekends and during holidays, drawing between 500 and 2,000 Chinese at times.

In addition to serving as a shopping center for those Chinese coming from the mines and other outlying labor camps, it provided varied entertainment and a place for worship, the Bok Kai Temple. Marysville's Chinatown also included the Suey Sing and Hop Sing Lodges, which are still in existence; a Masonic Lodge, Gee Kong Tong (a Chinese school), and two opera houses.

The Gee Kong Tong Opera House was in the Masonic building at the corner of Elm and First Streets and the Low Yee Opera House was located on the east side of C Street between First and Front Streets. Both regularly scheduled top entertainers form San Francisco and China.

When the railroad construction and mining activities diminished, many of the Chinese moved out Marysville and the surrounding areas, working at various occupations. They worked as gardeners, toiled in clearing some of the present-day irrigation canals, labored on hop and other farms, cooked and laundered clothes.

Gardening was one of the big industries for the Chinese here at the turn of the century and up through the 1950s. The Richland Housing Center area near the Sutter County Airport in Yuba City and the area which is now East Marysville were two of the large produce areas here that supplied Chinese restaurants and markets throughout the West for about half a century.

Bok Kai Temple
When the Chinese came to Marysville during the Gold Rush days, they brought their myths, idols, customs and religion with them. By 1854, about five years after the first contingent of Chinese arrived in California from the Orient to work the mines, they erected here a Temple, the Bok Kai Mui, where they could house their Gods and go to worship.

There are several Gods placed in the Temple. This is the reason one of the Temple's standards bears in Chinese writing: “Palace of Several Saints.”
Bok I (or Eye) is the central Deity in this place of worship. Of the five Gods in the main altar, Bok Eye is situated in the center, flanked by the others.
Bok Eye is believed to possess powers controlling floods, waters of irrigation and the rains. He is also call Hsuan-Tien Shang-Ti, Lord of the Black (Pavilions of) Heaven Chen We, and Peichi Yusheng Chen-chun. Bok Eye, according to the Chinese, means Northern or Dark North (Bok) and God (I or Eye).

The first Bok Kai Temple was built nearly two blocks upstream on the Yuba River from the present structure. It was appropriately named the Bok Kai Mui, which means Temple (Mui) of the North (Bok) side of the stream (Kai). (This particular site is now part of the area where the Marysville Levee Commission building and the Yuba River Sand Company are located, near the corner of First and B Streets). When the original Temple was destroyed, the present one was built on a property which was once site of a bathhouse near the river. It was dedicated in March 1880.

The present structure, a charming edifice filled with treasured items, has been the focal point of a restoration project initiated in 1947 by the entire Marysville community. The Temple's restoration project since then has involved thousands of dollars and yet there is more work to be done to complete the task. Dr. Edwin Chew and Dr. Albert Attwell are currently heading the restoration program. Both work closely with the Chinese Community."

Here is a picture of the Bok Kai temple circa 1880 . Perhaps Jue Joe worshipped there.

Here is an interior view .

Unfortunately the 1870's were a period of severe anti Chinese agitation in the Marysville area.
Just as Jue Joe arrived in Marysville the area was undergoing an economic downturn with many Caucasians out of work . The Chinese were natural scapegoats . In Chico just north of Marysville. , the Supreme Order of Caucasians was formed and began harassing the Chinese and employers who continued to hire Chinese .
Just 3 years after Jue Joe's arrival in Marysville , the infamous Lemm Ranch Murders occured in Chico . On the night of March 14, 1877 six Chinese farm workers were in their bunk house. Six caucasian men burst in , drew their revolvers shot the farm workers point blank, drenched the farm workers clothes in oil and then set fire to the oil drenched clothes torching the cabin and fled . Four of the Chinese men died and only two survived the night . The two that survived did so by playing dead.
The Marysville Daily Appeal declared : "It is a war of the races here . "

see Driven Out, The Forgotten War Against Chinese Americans, Jean Pfaelzer, University of California Press ,2008

With all the agitation going on , I wonder how long Jue Joe stayed there before moving on to St . Helena?

Marysville's Chinatown unlike St . Helena prospered during the Exclusion era and had a vibrant Chinatown in the 1920's and 1930's , although it is much smaller now .
Here is a fascinating series of You tube videos in which Marysville Chinatown old timers discuss their history .


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