Best of Folsom: Best mystery history spot
‘Chinese Diggings’ and cemeteries
This was the warning uttered by an employee of the Larkspur Landing Folsom hotel, the closest physical structure to a site dubbed “Chinese Diggings.” The diggings are listed on the California Points of Historical Interest list, despite not having any signage. Having lived in Folsom for 15 years, the employee said she knew the site was there, but hadn’t yet crossed the black iron gate that leads to it. Nevertheless, she warned of steep cliffs and possible vagrants beyond the gates.
Other than a few wild turkeys, I encountered not a single living soul during a recent expedition to the historical site. But there were plenty of steep trenches—some as deep as 30 feet—on the triangle-shaped parcel of land between Highway 50, Folsom Boulevard and a strip mall across the street from the Folsom Premium Outlets. It’s the kind of place where—if you put on a fedora, leather jacket and hiking shoes—you might feel like Indiana Jones discovering a little-known yet vital piece of history.
The Chinese Diggings, or alternately, “Natoma Station Ground Sluice,” according to the California Historical Resources database, don’t really have any artifacts. But there are a few wrappers, plastic bags and broken cups bearing the logo of a Taco Bell nearby.
The site is one of many in the area linked to the historic Chinese population of Folsom. Unfortunately, the Chung Wah Cemetery (also known as the Sam Yup-Sze Yup Cemetery)—listed on the National Register of Historic Places as being in the “Mormon Street Vicinity”—is currently off-limits to the public, according to the Folsom History Museum. Records show that in 1967, vandals ransacked and destroyed several graves, pawned jewelry and artifacts, and even displaced the bones of Oak Chan, who was considered an honorary mayor of Folsom’s Chinese community.
But you can still visit the nearby Young Wo Cemetery on Forrest Street, which is one of the California Points of Historical Interest. A third Chinese cemetery just north of the Young Wo Cemetery “vanished during gold-dredging activities,” according to a plaque at the Young Wo Cemetery.
Sounds like a case for Indiana Jones. The Chinese Diggings are located behind 121 Iron Point Road in Folsom; Young Wo Cemetery is located near Forrest Street and Young Wo Circle.