Chinese pioneers met America’s demand for wood in the Sierra Nevada mountains in the late 1800’s. Gold mining, railroads, and a growing white population increased the demand for lumber that was used for mine shaft supports, railroad ties, and homes. In addition, the growing white population required fuelwood to heat their homes and cook their food. Because whites discriminated against Chinese from gold mining and higher-paying mill work, the Chinese settled for lower-paying and more physically demanding jobs, like cutting and moving wood. Commonly segregated from the whites, the Chinese built numerous temporary logging cabins and camps, usually located near haul roads, skid trails, log chutes, skid-ways, and flumes, as a part of their work. The Allan Taylor Cabin is one such example of the Chinese presence in the logging industry in Nevada.
The cabin spans 41 feet long and 29 feet wide, with “corner notched logs resting in log cradles.” When this cabin stood with its walls three logs high, there were three rooms with hearths in the interior and exterior. In one of the rooms, there was a stack of split wood that has survived through the centuries and the other room had a granite hearth that has toppled over. Scattered around the room lay rusted pipe pieces, which may have served as wok stands. Archeologists speculate that the Chinese constructed these cabins. They were generally smaller than the cabins of white laborers. These were perhaps built according to the laws of Feng Shui, with the structure facing the south and water running in the front. The many high cut stumps located near these once established cabin sites show the extent of the cordwood cutting operation.
Chinese Family Associations, like the Sam Yup, Sze Yup, Yeong Wo and Ning Yung, arranged Chinese labor for American cordwood companies such as Sisson, Wallace & Company, which hired more than 350 Chinese laborers to manufacture cordwood and charcoal. The payrolls of Carson & Tahoe Lumber and Fluming Company confirm the use of Chinese labor. Although the Chinese managed a lifestyle around their logging jobs, they were not able to escape anti-Chinese sentiment in their newfound industries. By 1886, when economic turmoil hit and the number of whites becoming unemployed increased, many whites demanded the boycotts of all businesses that employed the Chinese, otherwise known as the “Truckee Method”. Sisson, Wallace & Co. was among the wood contractors under fire for their Chinese workers. A “safety committee,” consisting of six elites, was primarily responsible for spreading anti-Chinese sentiment through newspapers, and pressuring companies to end all Chinese contracts or risk losing business and deals. Eventually, Sisson reported to have finally retracted the contracts of Chinese laborers. With these boycotts, hundreds of Chinese in cities like Truckee were driven out and forced to relocate, although it is not certain if all Chinese inhabitants left.
Submitted by: Sylvia Guan, USFS
Archaeological site, Cabins, Logging, Lumber