Secret Tunnels of Chinatown, cont.

image of Cameron House

Secret tunnels in Chinatown included the one emanating from the present-day Cameron House at 920 Sacramento Street (left photo). In the 19th and early 20th centuries, neither Chinese American leaders nor white officials in San Francisco made any real effort to curb the tide of a growing slave trade. With few legal resources, a Protestant missionary by the name of Donaldina Cameron (upper right photo) extricated upwards of three thousand girls from serfdom. They were known as mui tsai and sold into prostitution or domestic work by the tongs who ran the brothels. The rescue work was dangerous as Miss Cameron received ongoing death threats from the gangs. Bold beyond description, she would chase down leads to free the women. On one occasion, the missionary shared a slave girl’s cell in order to save her. (more…)

Secret Tunnels of Chinatown

images of secret tunnels of Chinatown

The 1906 earthquake and fire unearthed the vast system of secret tunnels beneath Chinatown in San Francisco. Many believe the catacombs stretched throughout the sixteen-block enclave and into North Beach. The leaders of the tongs guarded the whereabouts of entrances to these passageways with their lives. The underpasses hid thriving opium dens (upper left photo), torture and execution chambers as well as escape routes that confounded authorities for decades. Mayor Eugene Schmitz (mayor 1902-1907) and attorney Abe Ruef would use their influence to scare Chinese out of their downtown enclave.

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