Monterey County Pioneers

 


Chinese fishermen and village in the background. Circa 1875, at China Point (Now the Timothy Hopkins and is part of Stanford University's Biology Department.)

Chinese woman with son, circa 1895.


The Chinese fishing village covered a large area of what is now Cannery Row and Timothy Hopkins Marine Station. Circa 1895.

Chinese Fishing Village at Pescadero, Pebble Beach. Abalone Shells and Chinese boats on beach, circa 1895.

THE
CHINESE
FISHING
VILLAGE

It
was in April 1853 that Cantonese Chinese fishermen established a fishing village on shores of Point Alones in Monterey. The oriental pioneers were from San Francisco and the coastal mines of the west coast.These fishermen set up camps on Carbillo Point (now the site of the John Hopkins Marine Station) and on Pascadero Point in Carmel Bay.

At first the fishermen harvested just Abalone but soon started fishing for many types of fish , mussels, oysters, Abolone shells, seaweed as well as shark oil and shark fin.. Most of the catch was dried for markets in San Francisco and China. Dried squid was used as a fertilizer in china. After the completion of a railroad into Monterey the Chinese were able export roughly two hundred to eight hundred pounds of fresh fish to San Francisco every day or one hundred tons per year. With the use of gill nets and very efficient fishing techniques many species of fish were soon depleted such as the halibut. The Chinese fishermen were the first to commercialize the fishing industry in Monterey bay.

Curiously Abalone was not much thought of in those days. The Chinese dried and cooked the Abalone for a long time before it could be tender enough to eat. It was not until someone thought of tenderizing the Abalone meat by pounding it with a mallet that the Americans discovered, and tasted what they have been missing. Abalone was then on its way to being overfished.

The village was built directly on the rocks of on the seashore. The living conditions were not ideal, the smell of drying fish permeated the fishing village. The Chinese style boats used for fishing were built in San Francisco. Large Chinese junks from china would anchor off what was to be cannery row, exchanging goods and loading their cargo holds with dried squid for the return trip to China.

Chinese New Year was always a generous time for the fishing village. The Chinese typically invited all the locals to the celebrations and even offered free food and gifts for all.

Although a fully self contained community the Chinese suffered great prejudice and perhaps jealousy of their success. There are many incidents of the Chinese being harmed.

It was political pressure from some of the citizens that forced the land owners of the village land not to renew the village land lease. A few years later In May 16, 1906 a mysterious fire started in a Chinatown barn. Many of the Pacific Grove residents tried to help in putting out the fire but they were not successful and the village burned down. After the fire was out the Chinese villagers were told that they could not rebuild their village and homes. The fire tragedy ended the dreams of these brave pioneers. Having lost their profession and lively hood as fishermen and village many of the village residents scatered to different parts of the county. Some Chinese stayed and lived in the north end of Cannery Row and were the early hired workers in the Monterey Cannery industry.

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