Updated Friday, Aug. 17 3:55 p.m.
For a series we’re calling “Letter To My California Dreamer,” we’re asking Californians from all walks of life to write a short letter to one of the first people in their family who came to the Golden State. The letter should explain:
What was their California Dream?
What happened to it?
Is that California Dream still alive for you?
Here's a letter from Tiffany Eng to her great great great grandparents:
To my great great great grandparents,
I wish I knew when you came to California. And how you two managed to make it all the way from China to North San Juan in the Sierra foothills sometime in the mid-1800s. Did you come for work? Business? Gold?
Only bits of your story have been passed down to us. We know you both lived in Gold Country during a period of growing resentment and hatred toward the Chinese. Family lore says you both died in a fire, your lives and California Dream tragically cut short. Were you murdered?
Your young daughter Jennie Noy, born in North San Juan in 1867, survived. Did you know?
We’re told she was found orphaned and crying by the ashes of the fire after having lost you, her only family. Thankfully, she was raised by another couple in town.
They bound her feet and married her off to an older merchant from China at the age of 16 in 1883. It was the first Chinese wedding in Marysville and quite the elaborate celebration, according to the local newspaper.
Jennie’s family eventually settled in Oakland Chinatown after surviving the quake and fires in San Francisco Chinatown in 1906. Since then, six generations have grown up and grown old here, primarily in and around Oakland. Each generation has built on the hardships, opportunities and successes of the previous generation. Along the way, we’ve done our best to give back to this country and the communities where our roots have grown deep.
We may never know your names, but I see your reflection in our large extended family. For starters, it may come as no surprise to know we’re still keeping up our reputation for hosting big celebrations! And I imagine our pursuit of adventure and our penchant for breaking down barriers may have in part, come from you.
You’d probably be amazed to know that my two young daughters attend a public Chinese immersion school in Oakland. Someday soon, my husband and I will take them to visit China, to show them the the land where your journey began over 150 years ago. I can’t wait!
Thank you for coming to Gum Saan, or Gold Mountain, to seek out a better life and establish our family here in the Golden State. We will always remember your sacrifices and honor your memories as we fulfill your California dreams by following ours.
Your great great great granddaughter,
We’d love to see your letter to your family’s California Dreamer. Maybe it was a parent, a great-great grandparent or maybe even you were the first in your family to come to California with a dream. Fill out the form here and share your story with us!