“It is feared the temple, described as a one–of–a–kind example of Chinese sacred architecture, will not survive another rainy season.”
— Reuters, June 25, 2001
OLD 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: Chong Song Tong, Chong Wing, Fong Chong & Co., Hong Ko & Co., Hung Tuck & Co., Lit Kee, Ping Hong, Poo Kee, Poo Sang Hong, Quong Chong, Quong Hing Lung, Quon On, Quon Sing & Co., Quong Tuey, Quong Ty & Co., Quong Wo Song, Tong Chong Sing, Toy Wah, Tuck Chong & Co., Tuck Wo & Co., Wah Ying Tong, Wo Hing, Wy Lung & Co. and Yet Sing Tong.
By 1882, according to the Wells Fargo directory, Chinese businesses had nearly doubled in number: Ben Hing, Ca Lee, Ching Kee, Chung Wing Hi Gee, Fong Lee, Hong Chung, Hong Lee, Hong Woo & Co., Hop Wau, Hy Sing, Kim Wing, Lit Kee, Lung Sing, Ok Hop, On Chong, Po Kee, Po Sang Tong, Pow Wo Hong, Quong Hing Jan, Quong Hing Lung, Quong Hong Kee, Quong Lung, Quong On, Woo San & Co., Sam Sing, Sing Lee, Sun Chong & Co., Toy Wah, Tuck Chong & Co., Tuck Woo & Co., Tue Lay, Ty Sing, Wa Ceng, Wing Lee, Wy Lung & Co., Yee Chung, Ying Kee & Co. and Yuet Wah & Co.
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.
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original artwork by Naiying Wang Davis