[Chin Joe with Chin Gip, age 7; Chin Tall, age 4; and Chin Hoy, age 2 years. They were born in Portland.]
After attending the “Chinese Genealogy Seminar” in March 2016 at Oregon Historical Society Research Library in Portland, Darby Li Po Price of Berkeley, CA was inspired to search for his family’s exclusion files at the National Archives-Seattle. With the help of the staff he found six files including one with a beautiful 1903 photo of his great-great grandfather Joe Chin and three of his children which was part of an application to return to China to find a second wife after his first wife died. Joe’s file includes extensive interviews with descriptions of family life and residences in both China and Portland, as well as his original 1872 entry in San Francisco with his first wife (whose file Darby will search for at the National Archives-San Francisco-San Bruno).
Pictured in 1903 are Joe Chin and the three youngest of nine children from his wife Mon Du Shee whom had recently died. This is part of Joe’s application to go to China to find a wife to attend his children so he could manage his store. Upon returning the next month from China after marrying his second wife, his re-entry was denied. His store was suspected to be “the headquarters for gamblers and lottery dealers” and his identity suspect because his given name was “Chew” on his certificate of residence, “Joe” on other papers, and as “Jew” by a court interpreter (Joe said the differences were misspellings into English by officials). Moreover, he did not have documents for his initial entry in 1872 (not required prior to the Chinese Exclusion Act which went into effect in 1882). Two years later Joe was re-admitted after several white men testified on his behalf.
Chin Joe was formerly a member of the firm of Lun Chong & Company, 130-1/2 Second Street, Portland, Oregon. The name of the firm was changed to Bow, On & Company in 1902. They dealt with dry good and clothing. Currently he was a manager at Gum Wah & Company.
D. C. Lounsberry, a White witness for Chin Joe stated that he had known Chin Joe for about twenty years. Lounsberry was formerly the deputy sheriff for the city of Portland in charge taking a census in 1885 of all Chinese persons residing in the city for the purpose of collecting poll tax. He held this position for eleven or twelve years and got to know all the Chinese merchants. In 1903 Lounsberry was a watchman at the Burnside Street Bridge.
James B. Sinnott, age 35 and born in Portland, swore in an affidavit that he had known Chin Joe for about fifteen years. Sinnott worked in the Sheriff’s office from 1891 to 1896 and assisted in collecting the Chinese Poll taxes.
Robert Holman, an undertaker in Portland for the Edward Holman Undertaking Company, submitted a copy of the invoice for $116.00 for the burial of Doo She, Chin Joe’s deceased wife.
This is the cover and back page of a 16-page booklet, “A Story of Silk,” included in Mark Ten Suie’s file. Besides the sericulture of the silkworm it contains a list of the stockholders of the American-Chinese Silk Manufacturing Company. Other subscribers are capitalists, physicians, merchants, salesmen, attorneys, teachers, a detective, bankers and a variety of other people. The head office was located at 316, 317, and 318 Boston Block in Seattle. Mark Ten Suie was being sent to China to secure a site for a silk factory and promote his silk business. Twenty acres on the Honan River within the city limits of Canton were pledged for the factory. Plans were drawn up for an office, a store room and a building to accommodate one hundred looms. Officers, trustees, and a detailed business plan are listed.
Also in the file are business cards for Mark Ten Suie Co. and Mak Chin Sui, an undated article from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer with a photo of Mark Ten Suie, and another unidentified article with the headlines, “Chinese Mission Arrives in City, Silk Merchants on Way to International Exposition at New York, Local Business Sought, Delegation from Canton Expresses Hope for Friendly American Dealing.”
The City of Seattle birth return for Chin Tom Kee shows that he was born at 219 Washington Street on 13 July . His mother was 24 on 26 October and his father, Chin Kee, a merchant, born in China was 44 years old. Chin Tom Kee was delivered by Mrs. Jakshitz [a midwife]. [The return is a post card attached to notarized statement in the file.]
In September 1918 Chin Tom Kee was about to make a trip to Hongkong and was filling out the necessary paper work so he could be readmitted upon his return. He received visa no. 988, Certificate for a Person of the Chinese Race Claiming American Citizenship. Although this sounds very official, the last sentence of the document is: “The question of his admissibility to the United States will be determined upon his arrival at an American port.” It is signed by J. S. [illegible] Callen, Vice Consul, Hongkong.
This is an example of an early case file admittance form. Early files did not require a formal interrogation but the form included the basic information—Tom You arrived in Seattle on the S.S. Olympia. He was a partner of the Wang Hong Low Company at 11 West Street, Butte, Montana. He was 30 years old, 5 feet 6 inches, and had no distinguishing marks. He did not speak English. On 2 December 1899 Tom You received a favorable report from the Chinese Inspector Hathaway. The report was signed by H. B. Spede.
Tom You’s case is more complicated than it appeared from his final admittance form. Other paperwork in his file shows that he arrived in Seattle on 3 October 1899 and was rejected. The case was appealed and the papers were sent to the Collector of Customs in Great Falls, Montana for investigation. More testimony was obtained to verify that Tom You was a merchant and not a laborer. Affidavits in his favor were filed in Silver Bow County, Montana by John E. McCormick, Charles W. Fisher, T. M. Hodgens, Jesse R. Wharton, and C. H. Harper. These reputable white males swore that Tom You sometimes known as Hum Yu was living as a merchant and did not in any way partake in manual labor on any kind.
Lee Shee, wife of Gum On of 937 Race Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, arrived in Seattle on 20 July 1924 with their two sons, Yue Dok, age 16; and Yue Bun, age 10 years. The sons were admitted to the United States as sons of a U.S. citizen but Lee Shee was detained at the Immigration Quarters in Seattle for six months. In December she was nine months pregnant and Immigration allowed her to land temporarily. A bond for $1,000 was taken out to assure that she left at the required deadline. Eventually the bond was extended until July 1929. Lee Shee, her husband, and children returned to China in April 1929.
During the interrogation the immigration inspectors asked Gum On if he could provide any evidence to show that he was married. Gum On gave them his Red Marriage Paper. It stated that he was married to Lee Shee and listed four generations of his family–his parents, grandparents, great grandparents, and great, great grandparents. A translation of the document is not included in the file and the inspectors did not comment on it.
[Hao-Jan Chang, a volunteer who works with the Chinese Exclusion Act case files at NARA-Seattle, reads and writes Chinese. He translated the Red Marriage Paper and verified that it contained the marriage information for Gum On and Lee Shee.]
[The USCIS History Office had a webinar on Chinese Exclusion and Certificates of Discharge on June 30, 2016. They will repeat it at a future date. https://www.uscis.gov/HGWebinars. There are many McGettrick files at the Seattle facility of the National Archives.]
The Chinese Exclusion Act went into effect in 1882 and severely restricted the legal immigration of Chinese migrants, specifically laborers. There was an exemption for students, merchants, government officials, and travelers with proper documentation. U.S.-born Chinese laborers could reenter the U.S. after a trip abroad if they could prove their U.S. citizenship.
In the late 1890s and early 1900s many returning Chinese would arrive at a port on the west coast of Canada, travel by train to the east coast and enter the U.S. through the New England area. They tried to slip into the U.S. unnoticed but if they were caught and arrested they would demand a hearing to prove their citizenship so that they could obtain a “Certificate of Discharge” to be use as proof of citizenship. Word got around about which judges were sympathetic to their plight. Arrested Chinese tried to go before Commissioner Felix W. McGettrick at St. Albans, Vermont. McGettrick tried and discharged over 1,100 cases between late 1894 and 1897. Because of his high volume of discharges the Bureau of Immigration started keeping track of his certificates. McGettrick denied any misconduct and was never charged with a crime; he may have just been a poor records keeper. McGettrick stated that over 300 records from discharge cases were stolen from him but this was hard to assess because he didn’t keep a docket of his cases. So many Chinese files included McGettrick’s discharge certificates that by 1905 the Bureau of Immigration decided to keep track of the certificates with his signature. This would make it easier for the Bureau to investigate suspicious files with his signature.
Bow Tank was arrested on 4 April 1896 at Richford, Vermont. His hearing was held 24 October 1896 before Commissioner Felix W. McGettrick. He was issued a Certificate of Discharge. Witnesses: Moy Loy; E. S. Harris; Back Fook, Back Lee, New York.
The total cost for the hearing was $26.70. That included drawing the complaint, issuing the warrant of arrest, subpoena for two witnesses, etc.
Because Bow Tank had a McGettrick Discharge Certificate from 1896 the immigration authorities were suspicious of his credentials when he left the U.S. in 1916 and when he returned in 1919. Eventually his paperwork was approved. In 1919 he was a salesman for Quong Hing Lung Chong Kee and Company at 114 Park Avenue, Baltimore, Maryland.
[More about McGettrick Certificates in the next post.]