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Exploring Newcastle’s past: Chinatown

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1852-1853 are the earliest dates we have of our Township of Newcastle "A Stage Stop." A traveler named James Mason Hutchings referred to it as "a little gathering of old shanties; with its poor eatables, and flea-y bed too short to stretch full length and too narrow to curl up on.”

Wells Fargo had a principal office here in 1855 before the railroad put this place on the map. But I wanted to include a small community within Newcastle that made the town a little more delightful, "Chinatown." Just ask anyone who grew up here, they would tell you all about it. Bob Wood, Colleen Nicholas, and the kids who lived across the valley and up the hill on Chantry Hill would walk to school on the narrow road very near Chinatown. They were never really scared but they kept their distance. (I think they made it a little mystery.)

The Chinese were present during the Gold Rush and their population dropped off after the gold slowed down, Many of them lived in the foothill areas, and continued to work on the railroad and do labor jobs.

It was a busy place during 1887.

I know many of you reading this article, are not aware of this thriving piece of history. As you are traveling north toward Auburn, if you look left toward the tin fruit buildings, Chinatown was just below and against them on the east side of Newcastle, at the underpass. Picture this area, no freeway, small community to the left and orchards on the right covering the ground all the way up the hill to Chantry Hill (see tall palm trees top of hill on right).

Among the residents, in Chinatown were some Japanese families; Roy Yoshida had a popular grocery store, were the local boys would get their soda pop. Roy and his family lived upstairs above the store. His daughter, Mary, was fawnly remembered. Larry Weber remembers the older men of the community, sitting on their porches, smoking their pipes, with their long ponytails hanging down their backs. They were always friendly and waved at the kids.

Large cottonwood trees lined both sides of the road making a natural umbrella, walking up the narrow road toward the left you would pass the Chinese Pharmacy, and they had some interesting items in there, most had never seen before.

Three-gallon jars of roots, snakes, miscellaneous leaves, and other things unknown. As you climbed the road toward at the top of the hill, there was the gambling parole. (Next to railroad tracks.) I understand more than one fight broke out there.At times, Chinese friends would travel from Sacramento to gamble with the others.

The Japanese also had a social hall near the same area that was a destroyed by fire.

Even through the community is gone, the memories are not.


Susie Brown is a Newcastle resident.