Ah Soon’s Chinese Exclusion Act case file starts in 1899. His affidavit, sworn on 12 April 1899 to the Honorable Collector of Customs in Port Townsend, Washington, states that he was a laborer applying for a certificate of departure. Ah Soon was a cook living in Helena, Montana when he applied.
He returned to the U.S. on 14 March 1900 with the status of laborer and was admitted.
By 1907 Ah Soon’s life had changed. He was now living in Seattle, Washington, and a merchant at the Ah King Company. In April 1907 he started the process of obtaining the necessary documents to make a trip to China. He swore in an affidavit that he was a bona fide merchant for the Ah King Company and that he had been a member of the firm for one year and did no labor except that was necessary in the conducting of business. He was visiting China to bring his wife, Louis She, and his seven- year-old daughter, Ah Keo, back with him. He would retain his interest in Ah King Company. His photo was attached to the affidavit.
On 26 April 1907, G. W. Upper testified concerning the application of Ah Soon for a certificate of departure and return. Upper lived at 213 18th Avenue, Seattle. His business was in the Colman Building at West and Wheeler. He had been living in Seattle for seventeen years. The Ah King Company was formerly called Wah Yuen Company and Ah King had always been the head of it. Ah Soon managed the company while Ah King was in San Francisco on business. Soon did not do manual labor. Upper was formerly a teller at the National Bank of Commerce where Ah King Company did business and Ah Soon had the authority to sign checks on the company account. Upper did not know the amount of capital stock of the company but Ah King owned the building and paid more than $30,000 for it. They had a wholesale business and supplied Chinese camps throughout the West and Northwest.
The next day, witness Charles I. Lynch was interrogated. He had been living in Seattle for twenty-two years and was employed at the Post Office for the last eight years. He recognized a photo of Ah Soon and identified him as a member of the Ah King Company. He had known him about nine months. Some of the members of the firm were Ah King, Charley Sing, Ah Foon, and Ah Soon. Besides selling Chinese merchandise, they took contracts for cannery help for five canneries. They also sold produce from a 30-acre farm south of Seattle at Duwamish Junction.
Ah Soon was re-interviewed on 2 May 1907. He said he was 44 years old; born at Har Pong Village, San Ning, Canton, China. His other name was Hock Fong. He first came to the U.S. in KS 8 (1882), arriving in California. He was married and had one daughter. He was a laborer working for his brother, Ah King in Seattle for about two years. He was in Helena, Montana before that for over ten years working as a cook at French Charlie’s. He had a $1,000 interest at the Ah King Co. which sold Chinese groceries and general merchandise. He named ten of the members of the firm who each owned a $1,000 interest in the company.
Ah Soon said there were two other people in Seattle who were from his village, Har Pang. They were Hock Hung, in Wah Yuan’s store and Ah King. He said they were cousins. [In other interviews Ah Soon said that Ah King was his brother.] Ah Chung, a farmer, was another cousin from Har Pong living in Waitsburg, Washington.
G. W. Upper was recalled to testify on 6 May 1907. He swore that he had known Ah Soon at least four years and that he still believed that Ah Soon had been a member of Ah King Co. for more than a year. Although he had known who Ah Soon was for four years, he knew him more intimately on a business level for the last two years.
A few days later, Ah Soon was recalled to testify. He was asked how long he knew Charles I. Lynch (about two years) and G. W. Upper (about five years). The Inspector pointed out that in his previous statement, Ah Soon said that he had only known Upper for two years. Ah Soon agreed that two years was incorrect; it was about five years.
Charles I. Lynch was also recalled on 9 May. Lynch was asked about his earlier statement that he knew Ah Soon for about nine months. Lynch said that was incorrect. He knew Ah Soon for more than a year. [To qualify as a reliable witness, the witness was required to know the affiant for one year or more.] He was sure Ah Soon still had an interest in the Ah King Co.
On 10 May 1907 Ah Soon’s Application for Preinvestigation of mercantile status for his trip to China was approved. Two days later Ah Soon left on a train for Vancouver. BC to start his trip.
Ah King, manager of Ah King Company, testified on 16 June 1908 that Ah Soon was still a member of his company. Ah Soon’s re-admittance application was approved.
Ah Soon’s 1909 Application for Admission as a Merchant included the following information: Ah Soon, Hok Fong (marriage name), age 46, height 5 feet 3-3/4 inches, scar on back of left hand, wife and two children born in Har Ping, Sun Ning, China; residence at Ken Chung Lung Company, Seattle, member of company for one and one-half years, $1,000 interest in company, twelve partners, position in firm: “traveling man;”
Mar Hing, a merchant for the Ah King Company, testified that Ah Soon was a member of the company with $1,000 interest whose name appeared on the partnership books. Ah Soon was a temporary salesman, assistant to Ah King, and sometimes a traveling salesman for the store.
Ah Soon returned to the U.S. on 13 March 1909 and was admitted at Seattle as a returning domiciled Chinese merchant.
[Ah Soon’s file from 1912 to 1915 will continue in the next blog entry.]