Samurai Swords, Silk Worms, and the South Fork

Posted August 16, 2011 by Malina

Everyone knows that during the CA Gold Rush “the world rushed in,” right?   Meaning it wasn’t just Bostonian tailors, Southern farmers, and small-town preachers who up and left their homes to try and strike it rich in California in 1849.  People from literally all over the world jumped on steamers and made their way to the banks of the American River. 

Why is Chili Bar called Chili Bar?  No, not because the 49ers  made tasty beans, but because there were so many Chilean miners in the region.  Anyone who has been to the Gold Discovery State Park knows there were Chinese merchants here from the very beginning.  There were also Europeans, Mexicans, and other folks as well.

What fewer people know is that there was a Japanese colony here too!  In 1869 the very first Japanse colony in the U.S was established in Gold Hill, just a few miles from the AO River Center.  My grade school used to always take a tour to the grave site of the first Japanse person to be buried in the US–it was literally right next door to our classrooms.

The American River Conservancy recently purchased the property where the original colony–Wakamatsu–tried to grow tea, silk, and rice in  the 1800s.  The site is also home to the  historical Veercamp dairy (yes, we used to get our milk there before it closed) and ranch land.  ARC is currently raising funds for the restoration and recent purchase of the property.  They are already giving guided tours so you can see their progress and learn more about this bit of California history so close to the American River

On August 20th they’re offering a Wakamatsu tour in the morning–you can check it out the day after your Friday rafting trip or even squeeze it in before a South Fork Gorge trip!

To learn more, visit the ARC website.

(left: one of the historic dairy barns on the Wakamatsu site Right: Okei-San’s grave)


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