History

chinese sluiceFew people are aware that Folsom once had a Chinese community numbering about 2,500 persons, making it the second largest Chinese community in California in the 1880s. This community once extended between Leidesdorff Street and the river. Three major cemeteries, Benevolent Associations, and Joss Houses were located on the river bluff. Today the Chung Wah Cemetery is a national and state registered landmark and the Young Wo Cemetery is a state historical point of interest. Its first mayor was Oak Chan, who arrived in Folsom during the 1850s. He first worked in the gold fields and later became chief translator, labor agent, banker, scribe, and all around liaison between the Chinese and other cultures. For many years, he operated the Wing Sing Wo Store at River Way and Reading Street.  His family subsequently inhabited the site that will become the Chinese Heritage Museum. Folsom’s Chinese community prospered for nearly a half century. Some of Oak Chan’s descendants still live in Folsom, now 3rd and 4th generation Folsom residents. In 1989, the Folsom Cordova Board of Education named a new elementary school in honor of Oak Chan.