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Weaverville Chinese family
Five Views: An Ethnic Historic Site Survey for California



Early Contacts

Historic Sites
Selected References


A History of Chinese Americans in California:

Chinese Temples
Cambria, San Luis Obispo County

After the last Chinese Americans left Cambria about 1916, members of the Warren family purchased their property. The older and less stable buildings were torn down. Others were moved to new locations. The Buddhist and Taoist temples, built of redwood, were moved a short distance to Center Street. The old B. H. Franklin building was then attached to these two buildings to form a home that was occupied by various members of the Warren family until 1970. At one time, the building housed the Cambria Telephone Company, which was owned and operated by Will Warren. The former Buddhist temple forms the living room of the house, and still retains the altar shelf for the Buddha, flanked by the paraphernalia closets. The former Taoist temple, joined to the Buddhist temple, forms the kitchen.

No one knows when the first Chinese came to San Luis Obispo County's north coast. They were living along the ocean cliffs before the founding of Cambria. Chinese were established as fishermen in Monterey as early as 1854, and some of them may have drifted down the coast to San Luis Obispo County.

During the 1870s, Chinese Americans worked as miners and laborers in various quicksilver mines of the area. The earliest Chinese Americans in the county's north coast area settled in isolated spots along the shore to farm seaweed as the principal source of income, supplemented in the beginning by dried abalone, which was shipped to San Francisco by schooner for shipment to China.

Eventually, a Chinese American community developed in Cambria. It was located on Bridge Street to the south of Center Street, extending along the north bank of Santa Rosa Creek. It consisted of a Buddhist temple, a Taoist temple, a bunk house, and a few small buildings used as dwellings in which various Chinese Americans lived from time to time. The Chinese American community has gradually disappeared as the elders died and the younger generation moved away.

Chinese Temple
Chinese Temple, Cambria, San Luis Obispo County

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