Tag Archives: Denver Colorado

Chin Wah – Hoping to return to Salt Lake City from Paris, France in 1925

[The National Archives is still closed because of COVID-19. This file was copied before March 2020. thn]

In early October 1925, Julian M. Thomas, Counsellor at Law in Paris, France, wrote to the U.S. commissioner of Immigration in Seattle, Washington, requesting the necessary papers to allow Chin Wah to return to the United States. Chin Wah claimed that he was well-known in Seattle, Washington in 1904 by both the Wa Chong Company and the Quong Tuck Company and many other residents of the city including A.W. Ryan, a policeman; Charles Phillips, a detective; Fred Lyson, a lawyer; and Lee Hoey, a Chinese person.

In June 1904, L. Dan swore in an affidavit that he had lived in the U.S. for more than twenty years and that he knew Chin Wah’s parents when their son, Chin Wah, was born. Dan testified that after Chin Wah’s parents died, Chin lived with him. L. Dan’s wife, Wong Sine, was a sister of Chin Wah’s mother. A. W. Ryan and Charles Phillips, both white citizens of the U.S., and residence of Seattle for more than fifteen years also swore that Chin Wah was born in Seattle. These affidavits were drawn up to prove that Chin Wah was a native-born citizen of Chinese parentage.

“L. Dan, affidavit,” 1904, Chinese Exclusion Act case files, RG 85, National Archives-Seattle, Chin Wah case file, Seattle RS Box 222, file RS 30543.

In 1913 in his pre-investigation interview to make a trip to China, Chin Wah testified that he was living in Salt Lake City, Utah, and working at the Grand Restaurant at 47 West 2nd South Street as a cook and sometimes a waiter. He said he was born at North 512 [414 in 1925] Washington Street, Seattle, Washington on 15 January 1890, the son of Chin Chung (Ching/Gin/Gen} [the spelling varies throughout the documents] and Wong Shee. His father died in Sitka, Alaska in 1899. He and his mother moved to Portland, Oregon about 1901. She died a year later. After her death, he went back to Seattle and lived over the store of Quong Gwa Lung Company with his uncle, Ng Yee Loots (L. Dan) and his aunt, his mother’s sister. He attended the Methodist Mission school on Spring Street for about two years. Other places he lived in Washington state were Cle Elum, Ellensburg, Yakima, and Pasco before going to Salt Lake City, Utah about 1910. While in Salt Lake City he worked for U.S. District Judge John A. Marshal, Mr. William H. Childs as a cook, and Captain Burt at Fort Douglas.

“Chin Wah, Form 430 photo,” 1913, CEA, NARA-Seattle, file RS 30543

D. A. Plumly, the examining inspector at Salt Lake City, sent Chin Wah’s application and the original affidavits of the witnesses to Louis Adams, Inspector in Charge at Denver, Colorado. Adams sent everything on to Immigration in Seattle and requested that they re-examine the witnesses since they were residents of Seattle. Adams noted that Inspector Plumly did not expect a favorable report. [There is no explanation of why the documents were sent to Denver.]

J. V. Stewart, the Seattle Chinese Inspector, interviewed all the 1904 witnesses again in 1913. He thought the witnesses only knew someone they thought was Chin Wah as a small child but since they had not seen Chin Wah for many years they could not be sure of his identity. Stewart thought Lee Hoey was a “manufactured witness” and the other witnesses’ information was so vague they could have been talking about several different children. Stewart noted that Chin Wah’s parents did not appear in the 1895 Seattle census of Chinese and rumors said that Ah Dan was known as a gambler and connected with other fraudulent cases. Based on this information Stewart did not approve Chin Wah’s application.

L. Dan was also known as Ah Dan or his married name Ng Yee Yin. He was fifty years old and was born in China. He did not have a certificate of residence. He was living in Port Townsend, Washington and was a merchant with the Yee Sing Wah Kee Company when he was required to register in 1894. [According to the Geary Act of 1892, Chinese who were not registered for a certificate of residence could be arrested and sent to China even if they were born in the United States.] L. Dan lived in Tacoma, Washington, for a year before moving to Seattle where he got to know Chin Gin and his son Chin Wah.

Witness Charles Phillips testified that he was 48 years old and had live in Seattle twenty-six years. He was a city detective. He knew Chin Wah when he was a young child and after being cross examined, he said that he could not state unequivocally if Chin Wah was the son of Chin Ching/Gin.

Witness Lee Hoey, also known as Lee Tan Guhl, stated that he was 66 years old and born in China. He showed the interrogator his certificate of residence. He had lived in Seattle fifteen or twenty years and remember the big fire in June 1889.  He identified a photo of Chin Wah although he had not seen him in over ten years. The interrogator asked Lee Hoey how much he was being paid to testify in this case.  Hoey denied the charge.

A.W. Ryan, another witness, testified in 1913 that he was 56 years old and a sergeant for the Seattle police force for about twenty years. Although he swore that he knew Chin Wah in 1904, he could not be sure that this was the same person in 1913.  Ryan said that at the time of Chin Wah’s birth in 1890 there were only four or five Chinese women in Seattle and maybe twenty-five children. It was his impression that the person he testified in behalf of in 1913 was Chin Wah was the same boy he knew in 1904 but he could not swear to it. Therefore the immigration commissioner, Ellis deBruler, did not approval Chin Wah’s return certification because he did not believe that Chin Wah was born in the U.S.

In October 1925, based on the information and witness statements in Chin Wah’s file, the documents were not approved so were no papers to forward to Paris so Chin Wah could be allowed to return to the U.S.

[This file does not tell us when Chin Wah left the U.S. or why he left when his application for departure was not approved. Without the approval, he would have known that it would be extremely difficult to re-enter the U.S. There are no clues about what he was doing between 1913 and 1925 or why was he investigated in Denver, Colorado, or what was he doing in Paris, France, in 1925. If he had been allowed to arrive at a port in the U.S. and then interrogated, some of these questions may have been answered. Unfortunately, we may never know the rest of Chin Wah’s story.]

Yick May Gum (Katherine Lillie Shan) – Chinese and a wee bit of Irish

Yick May Gum Katherine Shan photo
“Yick May Gum (alias Katherine Lillie Shan) Form 430 photo” 1930, Chinese Exclusion Act case files, RG 85, National Archives-Seattle, Yick May Gum (Katherine Shan) case file, Portland Box 92, 5017/552.
[There are only a few Chinese Exclusion Act files where one of the parents is Irish. Here is one of them in anticipation of St. Patrick’s Day.]
Katherine Lillie Shan applied for her Native’s Return Certificate on 19 June 1930 in Portland, Oregon. She was working for the Orpheum Theatre circuit and they were performing in Canada. She gave the interviewer her Chinese name as Yick May Gum and said she was the daughter of Yick Bing Shan and Gertrude [maiden name not listed]. Katherine was born at 108 third Avenue, New York City on 11 June 1912. Her mother was a white woman of Irish descent who was born in Denver, Colorado. Katherine attended P.S. No. 60 grade school in New York City and then went on to Norfield Seminary [possibly Northfield Mount Herman School]. Her father was a witness for her. Her mother was working in their restaurant on the day of the interview. Katherine had two older brothers back in China whom she had never met.
R. P Bonham, Immigration District Director in Portland sent a telegram to Immigration Service in New York City on June 19 requesting Yick May Gum’s Native Return Certificate but they could not find her file. He interrogated her the next day.
Katherine’s Application of Alleged American Citizen of the Chinese Race for Pre-investigation of Status, Form 430, is included in the file with a note saying “Application withdrawn and birth certificate returned to applicant on June 24, 1930.” Signed: R. J. Norene

[There is no more information in the file. Some files do not tell us very much. This one leaves us with more questions than answers. A cross reference sheet was not included in the file so there is no reference to her father’s file and he wasn’t found in the Seattle index.]