Chew Kee Store, Fiddletown


This picturesque and sleepy town in Amador County, situated about six miles east of Highway 49 up Fiddletown Road from Plymouth, probably was founded around 1849. During the Gold Rush, Fiddletown, a sprawling collection of shacks and miners' tents, boasted the largest Chinese settlement in California outside of San Francisco. The name comes from a group of Missouri folks who arrived here in 1849; an elder in the group described the younger men as "always fiddling." Between 1872 and 1932 the town was known as "Oleta."

The Chew Kee Store, originally a Chinese herb shop, is a building of rammed earth and dates from 1850. The old adobe, with 12-inch-thick walls, was the home of Fiddletown's last Chinese resident, Jimmy Chow. He died in 1965, but many original furnishings remain. Docents have lovingly restored the little store so that it appears much as it did during Gold Rush days. Open Saturdays noon to 4 p.m. April through October.

The Fiddletown General Store, on Main Street, operated continuously from 1853 until recently. At this writing it is now closed. Also on Main Street is the two-story Schallhorn Building. Constructed in 1870, it once served as a stage shop.

The Fiddletown area is a popular with retirees and others who seek beauty and solitude. East of Fiddletown on Shake Ridge Road one will find beautiful homes throughout the pine and cedar forests. Horse and cattle ranches also abound. Fiddletown is only a few miles from the foothills' premier wine-growing region, Shenandoah Valley.

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