Tuesday, May 3, 2016

George W. Locke & His Family Legacy

Young photo of George W. Locke
George Washington Locke, Sr., was born in New Hampshire on June 13, 1830. Raised and educated in his home state, by the age of fifteen George moved to Boston, Massachusetts, in order to secure his future as a businessman in the mercantile industry. After moving to Boston, he started working at a wall-paper manufacturer, staying there for six years and absorbing all he could about the business.

When George decided to try his luck in California, he then moved to Sacramento in 1852.  Three years later, he formed a lucrative and lasting partnership with Samuel Lavenson, creating the firm 'Locke & Lavenson' which was located on J street between Third and Fourth.  By 1856, George Locke married Louisa Harmon, daughter of Captain Daniel Harmon of Boston. This union would bear three children; Ella, George Granville and Carrie Locke.

Over time 'Locke & Lavenson' became one of the top mercantile businesses in all of Sacramento, offering only the best in products: fine carpets, draperies, window shades, awnings, oil-cloths, etc. In 1900, nearly 45 years after the start of their business, Samuel Lavenson passed away, leaving the business now solely in the hands of the last surviving partner, George Locke, Sr.  Now was the time for George to begin slowing down and allowing his son, George Jr., to run the show.

George W. Locke, Sr., was not just a mercantile pioneer and one of the oldest merchants in Sacramento, he was also a very wealthy landowner. He had ranches all over Sacramento County and beyond. Some land was used for cattle, horses and sheep, while others were used as a dairy ranches or for agricultural purposes such as orchards and farming, known as George W. Locke & Son. Their pears and asparagus were grown, packed and shipped from their property (where Locke is today) and sent out at the wharf on the riverboat, "The Pride of the River."

George Sr.'s namesake, George Granville Locke was the one who took over his father’s properties when his father decided to retire in his later years. George and Louisa never lived in the town of Locke, their residence was at 1601 L Street in Sacramento, where they remained until their deaths.
On August 21, 1909, at the age of 79, George W. Locke, Sr., passed away at his home. He had been battling illness for some time. He was buried at the Masonic Cemetery in Sacramento, that is adjacent to the historic Sacramento City Cemetery.

In his later years, George G. Locke moved to Southern California, leaving his son, George R. Locke (3rd) to run his father's business mercantile store G.W. Locke & Son, in Sacramento. George R. may have allowed his brothers Clay & Lloyd to take over the area near the Delta, and run the agricultural aspects of the family business, but he would remain a co-owner of the land and very much involved with all the goings on in Locke as you can read in my other posts regarding the "houses of ill repute" in Locke.

Although neither George W. Locke or his son, George G. Locke lived in Locke, both grandchildren, Lloyd and Clay chose to reside on the family ranch nearby. George R. Locke remained in Sacramento.  Eventually Lloyd would leave Locke, and it would be Clay and his wife Alice that remained.
Clay's home is still standing just northeast of where Locke's historic downtown is today. It isn't easy to spot, as the road that takes you there is private property up River Road a bit. 
Clay was born on December 20, 1890 in Sacramento, California. The son of George Granville Locke and Alice Smith, and grandson to George Washington Locke.
Clay was one of four siblings: George Robert, Alice, and Lloyd Harmon Locke. When Clay was only three years old, his older sister Alice died from diphtheria. According to newspaper reports, she was only seven years old at the time of her death. She is buried at the Masonic Cemetery in Sacramento.

Clay lived at 1701 K Street in Sacramento, until around 1915-1916, when he permanently moved to Locke, around the same time that many Chinese from Walnut Grove came to set up residence on the Locke property.  
Clay would remain there until his death on July 31, 1963, at the age of 72. Clay ran the family business and farmed his land his entire life though sadly he has been all but forgotten as well.

(2015- J'aime Rubio, www.jaimerubiowriter.com)

The Locke Family Genealogy

George W. Locke was born on June 13, 1830, in New Hampshire. Raised and educated in his home state, by the age of fifteen George moved to Boston, Massachusetts, in order to secure his future as a businessman in the mercantile industry. After moving to Boston, he started working at a wall-paper manufacturer, staying there for six years and absorbing all he could about the business.

When George decided to try his luck in California, he then moved to Sacramento. This was around 1852. There he eventually formed a lucrative and lasting partnership with Samuel Lavenson in 1855, creating the firm 'Locke & Lavenson' which was located on J Street between Third and Fourth in Downtown Sacramento.

In 1856, Locke married Olive Louise "Louisa" Harmon. Olive Louise "Louisa" Harmon was born on February 7, 1833, in Maine, the child of Captain Daniel Harmon and his wife Mary. 

George W. Locke and Olive "Louisa” had three children during their marriage; Ella, Carrie and George G. Locke. 

  • Ella Locke was born about 1855, in Maine. Her death date is unknown.
  •  Carrie Locke was born in January of 1864, in California. She married her first husband, Charles Byron Nichols, on July 18, 1888, in Sacramento County, California. On January 10, 1896, she married her second husband, Conrad Young, in Sacramento County, California. She died in 1902 at the age of 38.
  •  George Granville Locke was born in January 1857 in California. He married Alice A Smith in 1883. George Granville Locke died on December 14, 1937, in Santa Barbara, California, at the age of 80.
       George W. Locke died on August 21, 1909, having lived a long life of 79 years. Olive “Louisa” Locke     died on January 1, 1912, in California, at the age of 78 years.  

 (Wife of George Granville Locke)…

Alice A Smith was born in May 1862 in Illinois, the child of Robert and Harriett. She married George Granville Locke in 1883. She had four children by the time she was 29. She died on July 25, 1932, in Santa Barbara, California, at the age of 70.

George Granville Locke & Alice Smith’s children were: George R. Locke, Alice Locke, Lloyd Locke and Clay Locke. 

1.    George Robert Locke was born on January 21, 1884, in Sacramento, California, his father, George, was 27 and his mother, Alice, and was 21. He married Nellie Mott on April 20, 1903, in his hometown. They had one child during their marriage*. George R. Locke died on December 19, 1963, in Sacramento, California, at the age of 79. 

2.    Alice Locke was born on April 2, 1887. She died as a child on September 29, 1894, from Diphtheria.

3.   Clay B. Locke was born on December 20, 1890, in Sacramento, California, the child of George G. Locke.  He lived in Sacramento, California, at 1701 K Street and moved to Locke, Sacramento, California, by 1916. On October 13, 1916, Clay Locke was appointed the Post Master for the Town of Locke by the U.S. Appointments of Post Masters. (USPS).  He remained in Locke until his death on July 31, 1963, in California, at the age of 72.

Clay was married to Alice E Mott, who was born on April 21, 1888, in California. She was the sister of George R. Locke’s wife, Nellie Mott.

Alice died on October 9, 1969, in Sacramento, California, at the age of 81.

4.      When Lloyd Harmon Locke was born on April 29, 1892, in California, his father, George, was 35 and his mother, Alice, and was 29. He had two brothers and one sister. He died on April 4, 1963, in Sacramento, California, at the age of 70.

*(child of George Robert Locke & Nellie Mott)

1.      Elinore Mae Locke was born on May 14, 1903, the child of George Robert and Nellie Mott. Elinore Mae died as a child on March 4, 1908, in Sacramento, California.

(Copyright 2016- J'aime Rubio, www.jaimerubiowriter.com)

Early Voting Registries Tell A Different Story

I have been researching the history of the town of Locke for quite some time now. Over the course of my research, I have found that the presented history that you find in books and online in regards to Locke, only tell a one-sided part of Locke's past, and that isn't fair.

Historians cannot simply on one hand omit pieces of  history and then on the other hand claim that they stand for preserving the origins of the town.  The plain and simple fact is documented, Locke had many residents, some Chinese, some Caucasian, some Japanese and some Portuguese. As time went on the population also had East Indians, Italians, Spanish, Russian, etc. These are the facts.

I have found no concrete evidence that shows that the Chinese "founded" the town, although it is evident they made up a large portion of it. The person who owned the land, George G. Locke (and his heirs) were the ones who allowed commercial buildings to be erected and later residences to form the town of Lockeport/Locke. The town is named after the Locke family who owned the land the town was built on.

It is evident that a large population of Chinese came to Locke in early 1916 after the Walnut Grove fire that occurred on October 7, 1915. There is also evidence claiming that the Japanese approached Mr. Locke first in regards to building a "new living quarter," in Locke before the Chinese had the idea. Apparently, things didn't work out as expected for the Japanese, although several families did move to Locke anyway.  It is also fact that there were some people already living in Locke (Lockeport) before the Walnut Grove fire, although most of the buildings were originally for commercial use.

Searching For Clues...

While researching primary sources, I fell upon the voting registries of the area. I could not find a voting registry prior to 1916 that had the name Lockeport or Locke in it, but  I did find several dating from 1916 and up. Below is a list of "registered voters" listed as living in Locke or Lockeport.  I have printed two of the voting registries for 1916-1918, 1920 & 1926, and I am still not finished yet.  From that documentation alone, I find evidence that Locke was multi-cultural, not just one set group of people.

In the 1916-1918 Sacramento County, California Voting Registry I found an anomaly. There were two lists, although the page headings were almost identical, but the names were different. I checked the registry, and both had the same dates, and were from the same microfilm.  The first one listed on page 538, and the second one on page 1135. Both state "Precinct 54" of "Assembly District 15."

First List of Registered Voters in Lockport [SIC]:

1.       Chew Lum Chan, Merchant
2.       Kai Chan, Merchant
3.       Lam Choy, Farmer
4.       Yut Kin Chun, Merchant
5.       Chan Lin Dung, Merchant
6.       Mar Fook, Merchant
7.       Jee Gee, Farmer
8.       Lum Ho, Farmer
9.       Low Jung, Farmer
10.   Low Kim, Merchant
11.   Ow Young Kow, Merchant
12.   Mar Leong, Merchant
13.   See Too Quong, Merchant
14.   Joseph Parry Rowland, Carpenter
15.   Sear Choy Son, Farmer
16.   Bing Choy Soon, Farmer
17.   Toy Soon, Farmer
18.    Lee Wing, Farmer
19.   Sim Yuen Wong, Merchant
20.   To Young, Farmer
21.   Chan Yuen, Merchant
(all residents listed as "Republicans" except for Joseph Parry Rowland, whose party was left blank.)

Second List of Registered Voters in Locke:

1.  George Carlton , Proprietor
2. Gan Moon Chew , Merchant
3.  John Henning, Clerk
4. James Hunter, Wharfinger
5.  Chun Kam, Salesman
6.  Chin King, Merchant
7.  Alice Locke, Housewife
8. Clay Locke, Farmer 
9. Lloyd Locke, Farmer 
10.  Martin  Malley, Laborer
11. Grace Melbourne, Housewife
12.  Mat Reese, Laborer  
13. John Rhine, Laborer
14. Francis Riley, Drayman
15. William Turner, Bridge Tender
16. Wong Fin Yuen, Bookkeeper

( 11 listed as "Republican", 4 listed as "Democrat" and one declined to state).

Why Two Lists?

Are these two registries for two different years, being that the registry covers from 1916-1918? That is quite possible. 

Another question that popped in my head was "could it be possible that Lockeport and Locke were at one time two different communities in the same place?"  This is just a thought I have pondered, but at the present time I have no conclusive evidence showing this. Either way, it does not take away from the fact that on that land, in that town there were residents of all walks of life, not exclusively one race or ethnic group. 

It also shows there was a lot of registered voters living in Locke or Lockeport, and the Chinese listed in both registries could NOT be listed as registered voters without paperwork showing they were Citizens. If they were "paper sons" and they had documentation saying they were born here, whether the papers were fraudulent or not, it would have given them the right to vote, to own businesses and also own land.  That is a very important point to make here being that one of the biggest arguments you will find in books and online was that the Chinese immigrants were denied rights to own property or have basic rights back then. 

Although that is true, that the Alien Land Law of 1913 forbid the owning of property by Japanese, Chinese, Korean and East Indian immigrants, the law only prevented immigrants, not citizens.  These directories are a crucial piece of evidence that show that not only were many Chinese listed as registered voters, but legally they could not have been listed had they not proven citizenship (legal or not).

In upcoming blog posts I will go further in depth into more of these voting registries.

(Copyright 2016- J'aime Rubio, www.jaimerubiowriter.com)

Raid At Fred Bard's Gambling Den

According to the Sac Union newspaper dated September 19, 1920, officers raided the Gambling Den of Fred Bard located in Lockeport (aka Locke). Bard, his wife, and two Chinese employees Ah Wong and Ah Jim were arrested, but were released on $150 bail pending their hearing with Justice of the Peace O'Brien. 

Fred Bard, an Caucasian-American, was born in Pennsylvania in 1882. He is listed as a Republican in both the 1920 & 1926 California Voting Registries, as a resident of Locke. Both directories state he was a "Clerk" or "Merchant." The 1930 Census notes that Bard was a "Proprietor" for his "Refreshment Parlor" in Locke.

Fred Bard was also was a dog breeder and according to The American Kennel Gazette and Stud Book, Volume 34, published in 1922, his prize pooch Lady Bird VII was listed in the publication, (his address also shows as Locke, California).

(Copyright 2016- J'aime Rubio, www.jaimerubiowriter.com)

Monday, April 25, 2016

History Revived In Locke

Locke. California
This past Sunday, the Native Sons of the Golden West dedicated a bronze plaque in Locke, in order to honor what they claim to be the history of the town. If you read the wording on the plaque, their information is vague at best, and the last part of it doesn't have anything to do with Locke's early history at all. I contacted the NSGW twice in the past several months and received no response. It wasn't until a Facebook post on the California History group when I was able to speak to another member of the NSGW, and explain to him that the wording they chose was too exclusionary.

In a private message he admitted to me that he agreed Locke was not an exclusively Chinese town, although he didn't explain why his group allowed a plaque with such exclusionary and erroneous information to be erected. Obviously he wasn't the one who researched the history of Locke, so I couldn't really be upset with him personally, but someone out there somewhere who was responsible for making sure of its accuracy really dropped the ball to allow so much misinformation to continue to be perpetuated.

Most people look at those historic landmark plaques and assume that it wouldn't be in a plaque, a permanent fixture meant to last a lifetime if it wasn't true. It appears that most of the people in charge of historical research today, aren't really researching as well as they claim to be, otherwise Locke's complete history would have been made known long ago.  Thankfully there are people such as myself who continue to search for the back stories, the deeper research, and seek out primary sources to find out the whole history of Locke, from its beginnings to the present.

On Saturday, April 23, 2016, a day before the NSGW dedicated their bronze plaque, store owner Martha Esch posted her own plaque or sign you could call it, summarizing a more well rounded history of the town of Lockeport (aka Locke) from its earliest beginnings up to the present day. She asked me to verify certain sources, which I already had in my possession, so I was happy to help her in this effort to revive Locke's true history.

When I first came to Locke several years ago, I had heard the stories that the town had been built by and for the Chinese. I really didn't have any reason to doubt it at first, so I didn't think much of it at the time. I mean, why wouldn't you believe it if everywhere you look that is what is being told, right? It wasn't really until I started researching the town of Ryde, just on the other side of the river to the south, that I started really uncovering more information about the Georgiana Township, that these Delta towns belong and learned of the Locke family. I recognized the last name in story tied to the Ryde Hotel, and decided to check and see if that person, Clay Locke was in any way affiliated with the town of Locke just across the river.

I started doing some research at the library, and after reading some books on the subject, I noticed most of them did not cite their sources, and when they did, the sources were for the most part just books by other authors who cited other books by other authors, instead of using primary sources. So I decided to go back farther, to all the primary and secondary sources I could find. Census records, directories, voting registries, etc., I read all I could find on Locke, spending hundreds of hours of personal research with no intention of publishing it, just for my own curiosity. From the architecture of the town, the people who owned businesses and lived there, legal troubles and scandals in the news, and the history of the Locke family themselves, I searched it all and continued to be amazed at what I found.

As I started digging further and further into the past, I noticed that there were not just Chinese living in Locke from the beginning, there were all sorts of people in the town, and living all over the Locke family property, which was also considered part of Locke. I noticed names of people coming from all walks of life; Americans, European immigrants, Japanese, etc.  It started to bother me as time went on, because it appeared that not only had the Locke family been basically erased from the history of Locke all together, or merely mentioned for a sentence or two in most books, but the other residents of Locke from its early beginnings had been forgotten as well. I realized there was so much more history that went on in that little town of Locke, and for the most part, none of it had been written about before. The question I had was, WHY?

One day, while I was on one of my photography trips to Locke a few years back, I ran into a lady by the name of Martha Esch. She's a very talented painter who owns The Shack, an art gallery on the corner of Levee and Main Streets in Locke. When I first saw her, I noticed she had a painting in her hand, a portrait of a man from the 1800s. When I approached her about her painting, she told me that it was a man named George Locke. I was so happy to hear that someone other than myself knew who George Locke was, and she immediately smiled with joy that I knew who he was, too. We talked for about an hour or so, while she showed me census records and newspaper clippings in her art gallery that I too had copies of at my own home. She was amazed at the research I had done, and we started sharing information.

She told me that she first heard of George Locke when she first moved there several years back. According to Esch, when she asked one of the residents there, Clarence Chu, who George Locke was, he told her that he was Chinese merchant. She did some research on her own and learned quickly that was not true. She then when to search census records and found the same things I did, residents from other ethnic backgrounds living in Locke!  Eventually she approached the board in Locke* and asked them about the fact that a lot of the towns history had been untold, or better yet, told inaccurately, and that was when they began to give her trouble. I guess the people in charge there like the history they have set in stone, and don't want anyone questioning it, even if they have verifiable research to show the accepted history isn't actually completely accurate history.

Esch also claims today that by her questioning the accepted history of the town several years ago, that was one of the major factors in why the L.M.A. chose to give her legal troubles later on. As she states she believes it was primarily because of the board members personal dislike for her that they chose to fight her over the purchase of her building, but that they used their bylaws as the legal excuse to sue her.

(*Note: Martha claims that she questioned the board about the town's history years before she purchased her art gallery in 2011.) 

Back To The History...

Over the years I have supplied Martha with a lot of primary source documents, and she has been more than capable of digging them up on her own as well. Our combined efforts have paved the way for others to become interested in learning the whole history of Locke, California- not the picked apart, exclusive history. I think that preserving an accurate account of our history is one of the most important things we can do for future generations. That is why my blog on Locke is so important to me.

Because of my busy schedule, I am not always posting on this particular blog.  I am regularly working on other projects at the moment with writing for the newspaper, providing historical content to various websites and finishing my latest historical non-fiction book, "Stories of the Forgotten." So, working on my personal blogs continues to end up at the back burner, but I'll try to post as much as I can, when I can.

I hope that whomever reads this blog can see my sincerity to stick to primary source material as much as possible, but I also enjoy mentioning oral histories and various sources
when the time calls for it. I think by using both together we can get a better view of the amazing history of this town.

Let me add this: There is no doubt that the Chinese played an integral part of the history here, but so did all the other residents who lived in Locke. Remember, the Locke you know today is much smaller than what once was long ago. The Locke family owned 490 acres of land and Locke sat at one spot of that land. The boundaries of the town, or "city limits" contained many businesses, structures and residences located in and around the area considered to be "Locke," and census records, voting registries and other primary sources prove this.  This blog is to honor the history of Lockeport (aka Locke).... All of it, which includes all of the people who lived and worked there from its beginnings to the present day, including but not limited to Chinese.

So far I have only focused on the early days, as it will take me a very long time to work my way up to the present. I will enjoy every moment sharing these stories with you all.  --

For now, please enjoy this summary of Lockeport's History (Locke) that was recently posted inside and outside of the Lockeport Grill and Fountain in Locke, California. I was happy to have provided the necessary primary and secondary source documents for this project that was written and posted by Martha Esch.

Here's to reviving history in Locke once again!!

Plaque in front of Lockeport Grill & Fountain

(wording on plaque at Lockeport Grill & Fountain, Locke, CA)

Lockeport, California

For hundreds of years when the Sacramento Delta was a swamp, nearly the size of Rhode Island, Native Americans inhabited this area. Documented archaeological burial mounds believed to be the remains of the Junizumne Plains Miwok are located in the immediate vicinity. [1]

In 1852, George W. Locke at age 22 was lured by the Gold Rush to California from New Hampshire, becoming a successful Sacramento pioneer merchant and self-described “Capitalist.” He purchased numerous properties including three large Delta swampland parcels with his business partner, Samuel Lavenson. [2]

Much of his Locke Ranch 490 acre parcel became developed. The eastern third was left mostly wild (now Delta Meadows State Park), the northern third was planted with a large pear orchard. The balance included a railroad workers’ permanent encampment and rail switchyard (South Locke today); a Russian settlement of 30 cabins along Locke Slough also were part of the early development and were removed by the California State Parks around the turn of the millennium.[3]Remnants of those foundations still exist today under the ivy.

There were also two huge canneries with dormitories, a fruit packing shed-railyard-shipping wharf (now the Locke Boathouse). A 10 acre global village of 38 two-story shops; gambling houses, lodges, boarding houses, saloons, restaurants, markets, brothels, theaters and opium dens, located on River Road, Main Street and Levee Road. Along Key Street there were about 20 mostly one-story residences, a flour mill, a church, a slaughterhouse and a four acre community garden. [4]

The original settlement of “Lockeport” in the early 1900’s housed the railroad, cannery and shipping wharf workers. An early photo showing a dozen ramshackle houses on stilts built along Sacramento River[5] may have existed before the levee roads along the river were raised an additional 10’ around WWI.

The Locke Boarding House was said to have been constructed as early as 1910 [6], while the Levee Road buildings were built in 1912 and 1913[7]. In 1915, The Sacramento Union newspaper referenced the George W. Locke Packing House, stating that there were employees living in dormitories[8] of the Locke Ranch, three months before the Walnut Grove fire on October 7, 1915. Members of the Locke family also lived on the property including Clay B. Locke and his wife, Alice.

Most of the buildings and houses you see today on Main and Key Streets were built between 1916 and 1926.[9] The National Register for Historic Places reports that Caucasian carpenters built the structures in town. The architectural style of the different buildings found in Locke has been described as “riverfront woodcutter’s gothic commercial” and “false front commercial,” a rural vernacular found in most Gold Rush towns. [10]  A half dozen structures have individually burned down or collapsed under their own weight. 

The town’s name was shortened to “Locke” between 1916 and 1920.  From 1916 to 1963 Locke had its own Post Office. Clay B. Locke was the official Post Master in 1916. [11] George Carlton was the town’s Constable.[12]  The California Voting Registries, Newspapers and Census records mention Locke and Lockeport simultaneously over the years with a diverse population of residents; including Americans, Europeans, Portuguese, Chinese and Japanese immigrants. [13]

By the 1920s there were even more residents which included Italians and East Indian families.[14] The 1930 U.S. Census lists approximately 550 Locke residents: 37% Chinese residents, while the other 63% were non-Chinese, with over 23 different countries of origin.[15] The 550 residents that were listed included workers living in the two separate settlements along the Locke Slough, the railyard (Locke south), dormitory cannery housing, and the George Locke Ranch.      

One of Locke’s two canneries, the Libby, McNeill & Libby facility was located (0.7) miles north of Main Street. Numerous publications as early as 1916, note their address being located in “Locke, California.”[16] Besides the canneries, the shipping wharf, railyard and George Locke & Son packing house employed and housed immigrants from all over the world.

Locke remained a gem among the Delta, with a wide array of ethnicities living together: Americans, Russians, Spaniards, Chinese, Japanese, Portuguese, Mexican, Italian, French, Irish, Scottish, Armenian, Turkish and more.  All of Locke’s residents of diverse backgrounds provided patronage and a lively atmosphere to Locke’s restaurants, gambling houses, opium dens, brothels and saloons. 

There were many illicit businesses that were located in Locke according to legal affidavits and newspaper headlines of the time. The brothels were run by Caucasians[17], and the gambling halls and opium dens were run mainly by Chinese. [18] The Sacramento Bee stated that Locke was once considered the Monte Carlo of the Delta.[19] It was the only place where Caucasians could come and gamble freely without worry of the law. No other area in the Delta had that sort of freedom for gambling. [20]

Today’s population of Locke numbers about 160 including: 60 in town, 70 in Locke South, 10 in the Locke Boathouse Marina, 5 on the Locke Ranch, and 15 in camps along the Railroad Cut, Locke Slough and Snodgrass Slough.

Locke’s rustic leaning buildings, narrow Main Street, beautiful river setting and colorful history attract artists, painters, photographers, writers and musicians to visit and live here.
(Plaque written by Martha Esch, Copyright June 2016, document citation verification by J’aime Rubio~)

[1] Federal Register/Volume 80, No. 25, (Locke mound #1 and 2 CA-SAC-47; CA-SAC-76); Bennyhoff, James A. 1977. Ethnogeography of the Plains Miwok. Center for Archaeological Research at Davis Publication Number 5. University of California at Davis.
[2] History of the State of California and Biographical Record of the Sacramento Valley, California – by Professor J.M. Guinn, A.M., Page 668
[3] Sacramento River Delta Historic Society newsletter Vol. 31 #1 pg 3,.June 2011 by Kathleen Graham Hutchinson; J. Mello witness
[4] Sacramento County Planning Dept. 1968 aerial photo, J. Polenske
[5] Glass negative of town of Locke along levee of Sacramento River, ca. 1880's?sCalifornia photos from the Ted Wurm collection, BANC PIC 1994.005--PIC, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.  
[6] NCCSAH, April 2009
[7] Sacramento County Assessor
[8] Sacramento Union, July 27, 1915.
[9] Sacramento County Assessor
[10] NRHP, Form 10-900, OMB No. 1024-0018, page 4
[11] U.S. Appointment of U.S. Postmasters, October 13, 1916, Clay B. Locke for Locke, Sacramento County.
[12] Sac Bee 1919; California Voting Registry (1920-1922).
[13] California Voting Registries, 1916-1918, 1920-1922, 1926; 1920 Federal Census.
[14] 1920 Federal Census
[15] 1930 Federal Census
[16]Western Canner & Packer, Volume 8, 1916.
[17] Sac Union Newspaper, September 12, 1919, April 5, 1919
[18] Sac Union Newspaper, March 8, 1920; November 5, 1922
[19] Sacramento Bee, October 1, 1919
[20] Sacramento Bee, 1919 & 1920 (various)


(Copyright 2016; J'aime Rubio, www.jaimerubiowriter.com) 

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Libby, McNeill & Libby Cannery, Locke

Circa 1926, Libby Factory
At one time Locke was just a fragment of a 490 acre parcel owned by George W. Locke. This estate contained the Locke family orchard, the Locke family house, a barn, their G.W. Locke & Son packing house, and as newspapers note: dormitories for their workers at the packing house. A large span of land behind Locke and north of the property near the slough was also part of the Locke estate.

The town of Lockeport, as it was originally named (a.k.a. Locke) has been around for a very long time. There are records that show the G.W. Locke & Son company shipping their pears and asparagus from the wharf at the river, dated in the early 1900's.

By 1906, the Southern Pacific Railroad constructed a wharf and warehouse for their railroad, which brought working men to this beautiful Delta area. Around 1910, it appears that the building known today as the Locke Boarding House was constructed, more than likely to board railroad workers who needed rest before going back to work on the rail lines, or perhaps it was used as the "dormitories" mentioned in the Sacramento Union (July 27, 1915) that housed some of the workers for G.W. Locke & Son.

By 1912, George Locke allowed three Chinese merchants to establish businesses near the wharf to cater to the railroad workers, and by the end of 1915, when the Walnut Grove fire destroyed the section that housed Japanese and Chinese, the Locke family agreed to allow Lockeport to be built up even more.

By 1916, not only was the new cannery opened, but because it created hundreds of new jobs, it brought people into the Delta from all over the country (and immigrants from all over the world). voting registries and directories from 1916-1918, list various residents of Locke including:

George Carlton, Proprietor; Gan Moon Chew, Merchant; John A Henning, Clerk; James Hunter, Wharfinger; Chun Kam, Salesman; Chin King, Merchant; Alice & Clay Locke, Farmer; Lloyd Locke, Farmer; Martin Malley, Laborer; Grace Melbourne, Housewife; Mat Reese, Laborer; John Rhine, Laborer;  Francis Riley, Drayman; William Turner, Bridge Tender; Wong Fin Yuen, Bookkeeper.

The Start Of The Cannery

The Libby, McNeill, Libby Cannery first opened on April 2, 1916. This was around the same time that the further construction to Locke was underway. Remember, the fire in Walnut Grove happened only about 6 months earlier, in October of 1915. This cannery, which records indicate their address was in "Locke", was approximately a mile north of where the "historic district" stands today. Sadly, the cannery no longer exists.

One thing people today do not understand is that early on Locke was considered larger than what it is considered to be today.  In fact, back behind the historic district near the slough, there was once a village of about 29 dwellings where Russian families lived. Some of those families worked at the Libby factory, while others made their living as fishermen or working for the railroad. That area was still considered a part of Locke, and those residents are accounted in Census records as being residents of Locke.

When the Locke estate was sold in the 1970s, it was sold in its entirety of 490 acres because that is what it consisted of.  Sometime in the last 20 years or so, the area now known as the Delta Meadows State Park was sold to the Department of Parks & Recreation agency and those Russian families dwellings were demolished. In 2004, more of the original Locke estate was broken up and 10 acres of the town was sold to the Sacramento Housing & Redevelopment Agency, where they proceeded to sell individual to individual homeowners and businesses.

As you can see, the boundaries of Locke  (originally Lockeport) were much larger in its beginnings than the tiny section that is outlined on the maps today. Census records and directories of earlier times show that the residents living within those larger boundaries of George Locke's property and around it, were in fact all "residents of Locke."

(Copyright 2016- J'aime Rubio www.jaimerubiowriter.com)

Western Canner & Packer, Vol. 8
Various periodicals, 1916-1920
Voting Registries, 1916-1918
Sacramento Directory, 1916

1930 Census Shows Diversity

1930 Census, Locke, CA
The 1930 Census records shows there were 550 residents living in Locke at the time. Out of those 550 people, there consisted 136 separate "households".  Most of the residents at the time were Spanish, Portuguese, Russian, Chinese, American, Italian, along with Swedish, German, Japanese, Filipino, Mexican, Turkish, Armenian and various others.

Here are the surnames of those households: Carlton, Gay, Chan, Chung, Lom, Lewis,Chun, Ah,Mar, Chan, Tai, Ching, Jang, Low, Lemma,Chan Lin, Chans,Lee, Leong, Chan, Baker, Way, Benedix, Locke, Bard, Owyang, Sing, Chan, Yuen, Chan, Cheung, Lee, Chan,Chan, Kim, Chan, Witt, Chan, Chan, Chan, Law, Chong, Owyang, Lend, Foringer, Modick, Fadan, Muller, Reistetter, Kuramoto, Ross, Corpuz, Delacruz, Castillian, Yurasaki, Jacob, Dauegtost, Lederma, Perry, Rodriguez, Marino, Garcia, Stickel, Hehr, Lowrence, Brum, Herzig, Ledesma, Gonsalves, Bautista, Goureia, White, Jenkins, Nolte, Hollenstein, Caster, Gonsalves, Bentz, Chin, Schiling, Myer, Coleman, Stickel, Lindauer, Lenhart, Fuhsman, O'Donnell, Castellanos, Nelson, Radke, Aman, Espigaras,Gil,Guigni, Richina, Ruiz, Zbitnoff, Lyada, Fueranten, Ortega, Espiche, Luengo, Arigliano, Cafiero, Miller, Price, Kennedy, Kennedy, Cucciare, Casado, Petarine, Leslie, Arana, Chiccheng, Martin, Hanlan, Emodan, Gil, Novarro, Lopez, Lopez, Pegus, Romero, Rubiales, Silva, Navarro, Simonich, Lawrence, Miller, Fries, Moreno, Wardwell, Paredes, Salido and Garcia. (U.S. Census Records, 1930, Town of Locke)  

( ** note: the underlined names are Non-Chinese residents in Locke)

Also, according to the 1930 Census—

There were:  10 Chinese businesses, 3 Caucasian businesses, 1 Portuguese business, and 2 Japanese businesses running in Locke as of 1930:

Chinese: (3) General Stores (1) Cigar Stand (1) Pool Room (1) Dentist (1) Butcher Shop (1) Barber Shop (1) Restaurant (1) Rooming House

Caucasian: (1) Rooming House (1) Saloon (refreshment parlor) (1)Mechanic Shop

Portuguese: (1) Restaurant

Japanese: (1) Rooming House (1) Restaurant

I am still working on a spreadsheet for 1930's census, but I estimate that about 37% of Locke’s residents in 1930 were of Chinese ancestry (Chinese immigrants and Chinese-American born citizens). The other 63 % consisted of non-Chinese immigrants, children of non-Chinese immigrants born in the U.S. and Americans (Caucasian).  Even in 1930, Locke was a multi-cultural town, full of a wide variety of people from virtually every ethnic background. 

(Copyright 2016, J'aime Rubio www.jaimerubiowriter.com)

U.S. Census Records, 1930, Town of Locke

Monday, March 28, 2016

A Town Founded By Chinese, or Not?

A Town Founded by Chinese or Not? 

So when exactly did the Chinese come to Locke? Well, interestingly enough, the story changes over the years depending on who you talk to. In James Motlow's book "Bitter Melon," Ping Lee, son of Lee Bing, claimed that the Chinese built Locke in 1914, after the great fire in Walnut Grove that destroyed all of its Chinatown (pages 32-34).

In articles all over the Internet, websites and even some books, the fire allegedly took place in 1914, 1915 or even 1916.

In August of 2015,  I was contacted by Mr. Motlow after I had been quoted in the Central Valley Business Times, backing up Martha Esch's claims that Locke was not exclusively a Chinese town, and that many other people of various backgrounds called the town home over the years. After asking Mr. Motlow about the rampant discrepancies online in dates of the Walnut Grove fire time frame, he graciously emailed me a few copies of the old newspapers of the time that finally puts this question to rest!  Sure enough, the date of the Walnut Grove fire occurred on October 7, 1915 as stated in the Sacramento Bee and Sacramento Union archives.

How  Did The Fire Start? 

Walnut Grove-  Fire which started, according to the best information, through the introduction of a lighted cigarette into a cleaning establishment, wiped out Walnut Grove's Chinatown today with a loss of $100,000 and only the shifting of the wind late in the afternoon saved the remainder of the town from destruction. At 5 o'clock the flames were under control, but were still burning in places.

When the fire first started water was thrown on the gasoline and the flames immediately spread all over the shop. Twelve hundred dollars were stolen from one of the big establishments in Chinatown, and practically the whole available force from the Sheriff's office has been called to Walnut Grove. The deputies besides endeavoring to catch the thieves, will prevent any possible disorder.

The fire broke out in the Oriental quarter just before noon, and although every effort was made to save the Chinese homes and stores, the wind swept everything before it. Although Alex Brown's two fire boats were called into commission and worked heroically to stem the blaze, the north wind forced back the fire fighters. Chinatown fell before the assault, and the saloon of Bob Rhodes followed.

Then the fire boats received unexpected aid from an unexpected quarter. The wind shifted, and turned the blaze back on itself. As a result the streams of water from the fire boats were sufficient to down the flames. The loss was practically confined to the Oriental section of Walnut Grove. The hotel, store, bridge and the residences of the Americans are standing unhurt.

Dye brothers own most of the property on which Chinatown stood. It is not known how much Insurance they carried or whether they or the Chinese intend to rebuild."---  October 8, 1915


Destruction of Chinatown resulted in $100,000 loss- Dye Estate and Alexander Brown heaviest losers- Modern Buildings will replace 85 structures consumed in flames-

Walnut Grove (Sacramento County) October 8- The destruction of Walnut Grove's Chinatown by fire yesterday afternoon resulted in a loss of approximately $100,000. It was stated today little insurance was carried.  The biggest losses were sustained by the Dye estate and Alexander Brown, the former's being about $24,000 and the latter's about $10,000. Eighty-five houses and stores were consumed by the flames, in addition to several barns and smaller structures. Rebuilding will start at once, it has been announced and the new buildings will be fully modern.

Started From Oil Stove- The blaze started in a Japanese woman's house near the river. She was cooking fish on an oil stove. she left the room for a few moments, and when she returned the room was a mass of flames. The fire spread rapidly, and was carried almost to the heart of the business section..... It was reported that ashes fell in Woodbridge, seventeen  miles away.  The town was saved by streams of water from fire boats, after a bad wind had veered."--- Sacramento Bee, 10/8/1915


When the argument comes up about who started Locke, and who it "belonged to," you will always find that books and articles state the town belonged to the Chinese but that because they couldn't officially "own" property that is why they didn't own their homes in Locke. Yes, there were laws in effect back then excluding mainly Japanese, and Chinese from owning land, this was no different than how things were in Walnut Grove, where many of the Chinese and Japanese had been living prior to moving to Locke.

Still the fact remains that there is no conclusive evidence to show that had the property been available, that the Locke family would have ever sold it to anyone, Chinese or non-Chinese. In fact, in an oral interview transcribed and readily available to the public, Connie King admitted that she had approached the Locke family, long after the laws preventing the Chinese from owning property were overturned, wanting to buy her home, and that they refused to sell. The fact was that Locke belonged to the Locke family and the family intended to keep the property, the estate, together. They never had any intention to sell.

Another issue I have with this whole "exclusively Chinese" story is that there is documented evidence that shows there were other people (non-Chinese) living in Locke around the same time that it was claimed to be "founded by and exclusively for the Chinese."  There are also records showing many Chinese immigrants were claiming to have been born in the U.S. (by way of fake papers) which allowed many of them the ability to own land and businesses regardless of their national status. One of those being Lee Bing.

In the book "Bitter Melon" by Jeff Gillenkirk and James Motlow, the authors interviewed Ping Lee, the son of Lee Bing** (early resident of Locke),  who claimed that his father had four or five ranches* and that he "bought a lot of land" because, as it reads, "That law [ about Chinese not owning land] was pretty flexible."-- pg 34.  

So, did the Chinese exclusively start the town of Locke (Lockeport)? According to the documents and records I have found, I would have to say "no."  I believe the Chinese played a big part in helping the town grow, but to say that they solely founded the town, I would have to disagree. I believe that over the years, as time went on the town's population might have became primarily Chinese, but that from 1915 up until the 1930's there were lots of non-Chinese residents living in the boundaries of Locke. So that means there were all sorts of people living in Locke in its early years.


*old parcel maps of the Delta also show  Lee Bing's name as owning a section of land on the other side of the river in Walnut Grove near Ryde. In fact, he is listed in several directories as also living in Walnut Grove and is listed as a registered voter, too.

**The 1900 Census shows Lee Bing working as a "servant" for Alex Brown (of Walnut Grove). His records on the Census and following Census records have him listed as being born in California with Chinese born parents although that is not accurate, as he immigrated to the U.S. in 1893 -according to Ping Lee's interview.

(Copyright 2015- J'aime Rubio, www.jaimerubiowriter.com)