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Wakamatsu Tea and Silk Colony Farm

In 2010, the American River Conservancy purchased the 272-acre Gold Hill Ranch, located just a few miles from where gold was discovered in Coloma, California. Working with the Japanese American Citizens' League (JACL), the Fukushima Kenjin Kai, the Bureau of Land Management and California Rice Commission, the partnership acquired the parcel from the Veerkamp family.

The site has a rich cultural history, dating back to its first inhabitants - the Nisenan tribe. As the rush to find gold spread, miners pushed out the indigenous peoples and also made the region home. After Charles Graner operated a vineyard on the site throughout the 1850s and 1860s, a group of Japanese immigrants - fleeing Japan after their losses in the Boshin War - settled on the property in 1869 and began operating a tea and silk farm plantation. It is believed to be the first permanent Japanese settlement in North America.

Unfortunately for the Japanese, their stay on the ranch would be short-lived. After two years, the tea and silk colony farm faded away. Shortly thereafter, the local Veerkamp family worked the land and established a family farm and dairy that remained until ARC bought the culturally-rich site in 2010.

ARC hopes to continue the legacy of farming on the site by preserving and interpreting the cultural resources that still remain - Charles Graner's original 1854 farmhouse, Okei San's gravesite, and turn-of-the-century Veerkamp barn and dairy. The National Park Service has placed the Wakamatsu Tea and Silk Colony Farm on the National Register of Historic Places at a level of "National Significance".

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