In the late 1800s and early 1900s, the Chinese and Japanese starting settling into Isleton, first the Chinese coming from the gold rush and building of the levees and railroad. The Japanese came to Isleton later seeking opportunities for jobs and prosperity. In 1915, a fire consumed the original Asian settlement. The Asians were moved to their current location which is named the Asian American Historic District which was placed on the National Registry for Historic Places in 1993.
In 1926, another fire swept through the community. It was quickly rebuilt and many of the original buildings are standing now, some as contributors to the historic district and some not. The two block area is divided into China town and Japan town.
The two communities coexisted together till World War II when the Japanese were removed and interned in relocation camps. After War II, many of the inhabitants of the Japanese community did not return due to many of their buildings being occupied by other people. Today we have many photos about the life in the Asian American community of Isleton. Some of these photos are exhibited in the Isleton Historical Society Museum. Even though schools were segregated at that time in Isleton, the Chinese, Japanese, Portuguese, Filipino, Indians, etc., all worked, played and lived together peacefully. But history tells us a different story. Many of these communities came to where they are through struggles and challenges.
The Asian community had more laws passed against them than any other culture in the United State. The laws were passed for various reasons but mostly for anti-Asian sentiments based on economic competition, prejudice of the Asian community achieving personal and financial success through hard work and sacrifice. Laws such as the Chinese Exclusion Act were passed to restrict the number of Chinese coming in from China. The Alien Land and Law Act was passed to prevent the increase in land ownership for the Asians. There were many more discriminatory laws passed but the most unjust and a violation of the constitution was the internment of the Japanese Americans during WWII because of war hysteria, racial prejudice and politics. The majority of the Japanese interned were US citizens. They lost property, their friends, ripped from their families, and loss of economic stability and most importantly, loss of freedom. The Asian American Heritage Park comes as a reminder of our history, not to repeat history but to honor those who sacrificed and died for us in order to make a stronger and better place for the next generation.