Chinese Tombstones in Mokelumne Hill

Feb 16, 2014 by

Chinese Tombstones in Mokelumne Hill

Chinese in Calaveras County

Like other gold seekers, the Chinese came to the Mother Lode seeking luck and riches. They worked in groups with their countrymen, settled together in towns, and sent money back home to their families – just like other early immigrants to California. In 1860, the population reached its height with Chinese comprising 22% of all of the residents in Calaveras County. While most of these were miners, towns such as Mokelumne Hill, San Andreas, Angels Camp, and Murphys developed “Chinatowns” providing services to those so far from home. Miners could find familiar food, dry goods, clothing, temples for worship, gambling, medicines, and camaraderie. When the gold ran out, and racial prejudice resulted in laws restricting Chinese immigration, the Chinatowns disappeared. By 1910, only 45 Chinese were recorded in Calaveras County.

Chinese in Mokelumne Hill

Mokelumne Hill’s Chinatown stretched along East Center Street, from present-day Shutter Tree Park east to the edge of the Catholic Cemetery, and south up what is now called China Gulch. It was said to be one of the largest in the County and featured two temples: the Taoist Temple in the now-empty lot next to the park, and the Buddhist Temple farther to the east. Surviving earlier fires and floods, the community was nearly wiped out by a fire in 1898, started by a bombing of the Taoist Temple by the rival Buddhists. The last standing buildings were in Shutter Tree Park, named for an iron shutter from a Chinese building that became embedded within an adjacent Chinese Tree of Heaven.

Chinese Cemeteries

Although many Chinese lived and worked overseas, they all wanted their bones returned to their homeland after death. The Chinese belonged to fraternal organizations which, among other services, guaranteed to return their remains to their home towns. Temporarily interred in one of two cemeteries – one near the Protestant Cemetery and one near the Catholic Cemetery – it is likely that most of the graves are now empty. These tombstones are among the few that have survived.


tombstones1Died February 12, 1874
Stone donated by Charley and Wynema Lavezzo, found on their property

As daughters did not stay in the family, but left to join their husbands family, their names were not included in family genealogies, or if they were, were only referred to by birth order “Daughter Number One,” “Daughter Number Two”, and so on. They had no inheritance rights to the property of their birth family. Their first names were also not included in genealogies of their husbands’ families, only their family names were of importance.






Liu Lian Jiutombstones2
(date of death unknown)
Stone donated Jean Peek Solensky Zumwalt; returned in 2008 by Jeannie Gilkey; repaired by Phil McCartney.

Liu Lian Jiu was from the village of Lok Lo Ha, in Xin An County. Once a small village, it is now incorporated into the metropolis of modern-day Hong Kong.





tombstones3(date of death unknown)

Stone found by Winnie Peek on her Peek Circle property; she gave it to Doris Thomas who donated it to the History Society.

Chen Guan-xiang came from the village of Shui Ba, in the western part Xin An County.
Chinese names give the family name first (Chen, Wong, Liu, and), and the personal name second.


Related Posts

Share This