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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:

Clear Lake, Lake County

Way-Aft-Whyle is a small island in Clear Lake, a short distance north of Rocky Point and barely above the water level. It is conspicuous because of a thicket of willows near its center. There are no structures on the island. It lies about 10 yards offshore from the rural northern outskirts of the town of Lakeport.

Around the 1880s, a Chinese American gardener raised vegetables on this isolated island. He probably lived in a simple hut on the island, but no one now alive remembers it. Although the natural setting is beautiful, the difficulties of raising vegetables here cannot be overestimated. All supplies had to be obtained from stores in Lakeport, many miles away, and transported by boat to the island. The vegetables raised had to be taken to shore, and carried all the way to Lakeport to be sold. Since the island is barely above lake level, it could easily be inundated in storms.

Although one might choose to vacation here, it is not a place a person would be likely to choose for farming or raising vegetables. However, in the nineteenth century and early twentieth century, Chinese American farmers had no choice. Local laws and ordinances prevented them from owning land in this state, so they had only two alternatives: work for someone else as a laborer or tenant farmer or raise crops on land no one else wanted. The island itself is symbolic of the harsh, lonely lives many early Chinese Americans were forced to lead because of racial prejudice.

Way-Aft-Whyle, Clear Lake, Lake County

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