Large numbers of Chinese citizens immigrated to the United States in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. They met an expanding need for workers on railroads which were beginning to tie our country together like ties on shoppers packages. Others worked as domestics, farm workers, and ranch hands.
Among these immigrants was Gin Chow, born in 1857 and immigrated to the U.S. at age 16. He left an intriguing footprint on North Santa Barbara County. He arrived in San Francisco, where he found employment in restaurants, clubs, and private homes. He learned English at a level that enabled him to survive in this new land.
Gin Chow moved to Santa Barbara, where he worked for various homes and ranches, including that of the iconic Colonel, W. W. Hollister. He saved his earnings for several years until he could buy a small farm in the Lompoc Valley. His timing proved fortunate because a few months after the purchase, the U. S. Government passed the Chinese Exclusion Act, which would have barred Gin from land ownership.He raised melons and strawberries, which he took to Santa Barbara and sold door-to-door or on the street.
Gin Chow frequently told his neighbors of weather predictions he had made several days or weeks in advance. Soon the neighbors realized that many of these predictions were coming true and asked Gin about it. Reluctantly, he said that he possessed a mystic key, received from his grandfather, that permitted him to see things in the future. His grandfather used the key to predict events, some of which displeased the emperor and resulted in his grandfather’s arrest. Gin’s father tried unsuccessfully to get a release for the old man who died in prison. Relating this experience made Gin uneasy. He said that he wanted to share this knowledge with Americans, and he wanted them to understand the ancient Chinese culture and the time cycles on which occurrences are based.
News of Gin’s successes as a weather forecaster spread fast. A local radio station regularly reported those of his predictions that came true. Thomas Stork, the Santa Barbara News press publisher, ran a regular feature telling of Gin’s predictions. The Lompoc Register and Los Angeles Times also published this information.
The Los Angeles Times published a baseball-type hit-miss chart of Gin’s predictions. The successes often were better than those of the U. S. Weather Department.
While Gin’s predictions were widespread, they were not limited to weather events. It was reported he predicted the Japanese earthquake of 1923 in which 150,000 persons died. Another time he posted a notice in the S.B Post Office warning of an earthquake on June 29, 1925. History records this as the Most devastating quake ever to hit the county. Long before the actual event, he predicted the U.S. would be at war with Japan, ending in 1946. His predicted end date missed by just one year. He forecasted a major earthquake sometime from 1944 to 1952, which might have been the magnitude 7.2 Kern County 1952 temblor.
These predictions could be startling or perhaps just interesting reading. Many can be challenged; some challenges are easy; others are not. For example, the claim of a notice of the 1825 earthquake on the Post Office wall does not appear to have any supporters who had seen or photographed the notice and is thus easily challenged. Some of Gin’s predicted events occurred after his death making it unlikely or impossible that anyone could have created the event. The 1952 Kern County quake is an example.
Regardless of the validity of his predictions, Gin became a popular hero. He published books and pamphlets and had substantial followings. At one time, dressed in traditional Chinese robes, he signed 2400 copies of his books at the J W Robinson Company in Los Angeles. His popularity also led to his performing the first act in the premiere of King Kong at the Grumman Theater in Hollywood.
Still living a simple life, he was leading his cow to the neighboring farm to be bred when a bull gored him. The doctors said that the injuries were so critical that recovery was all but impossible. Hearing this, Gin opened his eyes and said, “No, My time is a year away.” He died a year later from being run over by a truck. This prediction was beyond challenge.
Gin’s predictions are for us to wonder about, to question, or to doubt. There will always be the question of whether this simple immigrant knew something scientists still have to learn.