The Chinese Heritage Tour had a bit of a bus ride Saturday from Idaho to the gold-mining area of Virginia City, Nevada – but this is the morning view participants can see from this mountainous area approximately 6,000 to 7,000 feet above the sea.

At one point in the 19th century, Virginia City had so much gold that, as the visitors center said, the precious metal was in “every hill.” Those two words drew prospectors from around the world – including China.

The group today will go on a walking tour of this town with Ron James from the Nevada State Historic Preservation Office. He will talk about the Chinese Americans who arrived centuries ago.

Apparently, the hills in and around Virignia City had so much gold in them that miners earned millions of dollars, pumping it into cities, such as San Francisco, and the Civil War.

Some questions: If that was the case, were Chinese miners fortunate enough to pull in similar amounts of money – either for themselves or for their contract companies? If so, how and where did they spend this money?

Or did the Chinese who arrived pursue other types of work?

We’ll try and post answers after we hear them. 

Also today, historian Sue Fawn Chung will give a performance of a Chinese American pioneer woman who is between two worlds. The venue: Piper’s Opera House.

She and Fred Frampton, a USDA Forest Service archaeologist have been traveling with the group and pointing out what Chinese American pioneers did in different Nevada towns during the gold rush, as well as other bits from regional history.

On Saturday, the big blue bus “America” had a mechanical problem, prompting a repair call and making for an estimated 16-hour travel day. That included rest stops.

But the bus arrived safely late Saturday evening in Virginia City. People went straight to their hotel rooms. 

After a mechanic repaired the bus, near Potato Road and Winnemucca Boulevard, members rolled along the highway around 8 p.m. - just as the sun was turning a pinkish glow outside Winnemucca, Nevada.

Many tour members pointed their cameras toward the West to record the moment. In fact, that sunset was so nice, we thought we’d post it twice.

Note: I thought our driver did a great job in getting the tour bus repaired. No one ever said that traveling was going to go like clockwork — Brad Wong.

Update: I chatted with Ron James about those questions. It turns out that the Chinese didn’t do much rock mining in the area. As I understand, the miner unions were powerful and put pressure to block the Chinese from working in the mines – the reason, as James said, was that the Chinese might undercut other miners.

The main economic role that the Chinese played here was in commerce and laundry. He said it is hard to know where the money they earned went – though there’s a strong chance some or much of it was sent to China to help relatives.

James added that it might not be true that gold from Virginia City went to finance the Civil War.