Historic research indicated that Howland Flat contained the largest Chinese settlement in Sierra County. Although, there is little written information on the Chinese community, and no known photographs of the Howland Flat Chinatown. Through three Passport in Time excavations, in 2010-2013, the Plumas National Forest was able to identify the Chinese section of Town.
The archaeological remains of Howland Flat are complex, spanning an estimated 73 acres. At its height in the 1860’s, the town held a population of around two thousand individuals, fifteen hundred in the town proper, and several hundred more within a half mile radius. At the height of this occupation, both Euro-Americans and Chinese lived in the town.
Census data showed that 71 Chinese settlers resided in Howland Flat in 1880. Listed occupations included: store keeper, shoe maker, cooks, clerks, laundrymen, opium dealers, and miners (majority of occupations held). Local historians have provided accounts of a Chinese store located on the main street. This, together with census data, indicates that the store operated from the 1870’s into the early 1900s.
Anti-Chinese sentiment became prominent between 1869 and the 1880’s. A 1873 newspaper article reported that Chinese men were being hung in Howland Flat because the Euro-American population were tired of being robbed. In 1883, Becker’s Hotel and Saloon ran an advertisement stating that they employed no Chinese. It was not until 1886 that the first anti-Chinese meeting was held in Howland Flat. Fifty-one men agreed not to employ Chinese people. A few mining companies refused to replace their Chinese workers, and were publicly chastised in the local papers.