Chinese immigrants helped build Sierra mining camps |

Chinese immigrants helped build Sierra mining camps

by Guy Clifton
Travel Nevada
J. Holman Buck's photo of hauling wood on burros in 1908 Bodie.
Nevada Historical Society.

Chinese immigrants were abundant in the mining camps of the Sierra Nevada in the latter half of the 19th century.

In the 1860s, the first Chinese immigrants found their way to Aurora and by the 1870s, they had settled along King Street in Bodie, creating a sizeable Chinatown. By the 1880s, they cornered the woodcutting market, providing cordwood and charcoal to neighboring residents, businesses, and ranches.

Chinese woodcutters lived in Genoa in the former Mormon Fort in the early days of the town, according to Mormon Station State Historic Park Ranger Chris Johnson.

The immigrants left behind few written records of their own, but they are recorded in the historical documents of others, as well as in the artifacts and sites they left behind. Some of the artifacts and photos of the sites made up the heart of the exhibition, “Fueling the Boom: Chinese Woodcutters in the Great Basin,” at the Nevada State Museum in Carson.

On Thursday, June 27, one of the exhibit’s co-curators, Dr. Emily Dale, will present “Fueling the Boom: Chinese Woodcutters in the Great Basin 1870-1920, Perspectives from a Historical Archaeologist.”

Dale’s presentation is this month’s Frances Humphrey Lecture Series event, and is scheduled for 6:30-8 p.m. inside the museum’s South Gallery. The cost is $8 for adults; free for museum members and children 17 and younger. Seating is limited; reserve your seat by going to

In this talk, Dale will discuss how historical records, archaeological data, descendant communities and public archaeology painted a portrait of the lives and choices of the Chinese featured in this exhibit.

Dale is a lecturer at Northern Arizona University, specializing in the historical archaeology of the 19th and 20th century American West. Her research focuses on immigration, culture contact, and ethnic and racial discrimination. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Nevada, Reno in 2016. She is currently working on several publications related to her work on the Chinese of Aurora and their associated woodcutting camps.

The Nevada State Museum is located at 600 N. Carson St., Carson City.