The Borden Chinese Project 1991-92
The Borden Chinese project was conducted in the 1991-92 school year by 6th-grade students in James Monroe School (Madera, California).
Chinese immigrants came to Madera County during the California gold rush. Many stayed on to work on local ranches and on the Southern Pacific Railroad. Later they built their own communities and businesses. By the turn of the century, the Chinese community in Madera County had a 50-year history in this area.
In the early 1920s, a disastrous fire wiped out Madera’s Chinatown, and its inhabitants decided not to rebuild; most moved to larger cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles. By the 1930s few traces of the Chinese in Madera County remained. Their cemetery, however, was one notable exception.
The Borden Chinese Cemetery, four miles south of Madera, had been a burial ground since the 1870s. For decades the Chinese laid their countrymen to rest in the one-acre parcel, but when they left the area, the field fell into disuse, became weed-choked, and was generally forgotten.
In January 1992, the sixth-grade classes of James Monroe School, upon learning that the story of the Chinese in Madera County had never been told, decided to fill this vacuum by investigating the Borden Chinese Cemetery.
The students conducted their own title search, poured over census reports, death records, and old newspapers, and compiled the first serious study of the Chinese of their county. They unveiled their work in a special ceremony on Ching Ming Day, 1992.
“The Forgotten Field, The Forgotten People” remains the most definitive study of the Chinese experience in Madera County.