San Luis Obispo, CA--In 1872, a one block area of San Luis Obispo was known
Wong On (later nicknamed Ah Louis) established a store
on that block in SLO in 1874. In 1875, he ran newspaper advertisements
for his store and labor contracting business which was located at the corner
of Chorro and Palm Streets.
Ah Louis saw the need for a labor force to assist in the
construction of public works projects and acted as sponsor to immigrants
who repaid him through a labor arrangement. Many such pioneers were involved
in building Californiaa's infrastructure. Ah Louis' store is still
in operation and is now run by his son.
Here in 1874 was established Ah Louis' Store. The first
Chinese store in the county, it sold general merchandise and herbs and
served as a bank, counting house, and post office for the numerous Chinese
coolies who dug the eight tunnels through the mountains of Cuesta for the
Southern Pacific Railroad, 1884 to 1894. California Registered Historical Landmark No. 802
|SAN LUIS OBISPO'S CHINESE: They Came for a Better
In 1850, the discovery of gold drew people from all over
the world to California. A Taiping Rebellion of 1850 to 1864 created
hardships in China and provided impetus for migration to the United States.
The seafaring people of China's Guang Dong Province were experienced travelers
who eagerly sought opportunities to ply their trades in the new land. Businessmen,
doctors, engineers and laborers all settled in California.
By 1852, Chinese made up one third of all the immigrants
to California and in 1868, the Burlingame Treaty officially opened
immigration between China and the US. Not all was well as unrest
and discrimination grew with the rise of inflation and recession in 1870.
At the same time other ethnic groups floundered, the Chinese excelled.
California's largest export during this time was dried seafood bound for
Hong Kong. "Foreign Miners License Law" which limited the number
of Chinese miners and the Workingman's Party with its slogan, "The
Chinese must go," only fueled a fire of anguish and fear. An innocent Chinese
man was taken from his SLO home and murdered and riot raged between Chinese
and Caucasians in San Francisco's Chinatown for two days.
Additional actions and policies against Chinese included:
Lost are many stories and written histories of the Chinese
who helped build California and turn it into a world leader in the import
- export trade. The population of Chinese Americans was once 10% and is
now under 5%.
- A policy to remove Chinese laundries from the San Luis Obispo
city limits in 1880.
- Passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act (United State's first
immigration law) which denied the Chinese the right to US citizenship.
It remained in effect until 1943.
- The Scott Act of 1888, which prevented any Chinese who returned
to China from coming back to the US.
- The Geary Act of 1892, an outgrowth of the Chinese Exclusion
Act, required all Chinese people who were legally in the US to obtain Certificates