Although the Chinatowns of New York, San Francisco and Chicago are more well-known, these ethnic enclaves weren't exclusive to America's urban centers. There were many Chinatowns in Western boomtowns, including one right here on Deadwood's Lower Main Street.
The California Gold Rush of 1849 combined with political upheaval in China sent Chinese fortune seekers streaming 7,300 miles across the Pacific to seek their fortunes. They were among the first to arrive in Deadwood Gulch during the 1876 Black Hills Gold Rush. By 1880, the Chinese population in Dakota Territory was 230. Nearly all of them lived in Deadwood, where the Chinese population was 221 — 202 men and 19 women. Throngs of settlers fought for a spot to prospect gold, but many Chinese set up shop to accommodate the needs of the growing mining camp. While miners were bringing home $4 to $7 per day, many Chinese chose to "mine the miners." A laundromat could bring in $10 per day.
From the late 1870s through the 1910s, this portion of Deadwood Main Street was lined with grocers, boarding houses, bakeries, opium dens, gambling halls and stables, primarily operated by and for Chinese immigrants. However, the area wasn't exclusive to one ethnic group: many white settlers did business here, and even Calamity Jane once lived in a shack in Chinatown. The
cultural character of the neighborhood, however, was decidedly Eastern. On the Chinese New Year, a giant dragon paraded through the streets. For funeral processions, fireworks exploded to expel evil spirits while the Deadwood City Brass Band would wail on with the mourners.
Global political and economic changes gradually pulled Deadwood's Chinese residents away; some returned to their homeland, while others moved to Chinatowns in larger American cities. The last representative of Deadwood's Chinese population — a janitor named Ching Ong and called Teeter by the locals — moved away in 1931. There are few visible remnants of Deadwood's Chinatown. Its approximate boundaries extended from the Wild Bill Hickok statue south on Main Street for about 600 feet (183 meters).