The researchers could tell where the Chinese workers in Terrace lived based on artifacts such as Chinese coins, gaming pieces, Chinese porcelain bowl fragments and stoneware that would have been used to hold soy sauce and vinegar. From China, these goods would have crossed the Pacific by ship to San Francisco, where workers loaded them onto a train for a journey to this “podunk” little town, Merritt said. The archaeologists and volunteers at the dig even found melon seeds, peanut shells and Chinese dates preserved at the site.
The 1870 Census records 56 Chinese workers living in Terrace at the town’s peak, Merritt said, but Census records often undercount minority and immigrant groups. It’s possible that as many as 100 Chinese workers called the town a temporary home at its peak. There was no legal requirement for segregation between these workers and the town’s white residents, he said, but discrimination and racism kept the two communities apart.
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The researchers did, however, discover evidence of at least one Chinese business right on the main street. The type of business wasn’t clear, but archaeologists found Chinese liquor jars, stoneware and porcelain in a building foundation. It may have been a grocery store, a laundry or even a restaurant, Merritt said.
“We don’t know that answer yet, but at least now we have one fixed point that there was a Chinese presence on this main street in Terrace,” Merritt said.
The researchers now plan to analyze more thoroughly the artifacts discovered at the site, hoping to reveal more stories of the workers who made the transcontinental railroad possible. Utah policymakers also hope to protect Terrace. State Rep. Karen Kwan, the president of the Chinese Railroad Workers Descendants Association, told KSL.com that she plans to introduce a resolution in the upcoming legislative sessions highlighting the importance of ghost towns like Terrace. New fencing and signage have also been erected to alert visitors to the identity of the site and to discourage looting.
Originally published on Live Science.