Tag Archives: Elks Building

Fong See – lonely and crying in detention

Fong See arrived at the Port of Seattle on the S.S. Iroquois on 22 May 1911. She was applying to be admitted to the United States as the lawful wife of Lee Yew, a merchant at On Lee Company in Portland, Oregon.  Ellis DeBruler, Immigration Commissioner, wanted to expedite her landing. She was forty-six years old with bound feet; the only Chinese woman in the detention house. She was suffering from extreme loneliness and cried a great deal.

Fong See & Lee Yew 1910 Affidavit photos
“Fong See & Lee Yew Affidavit Photos” 1910, Chinese Exclusion Act case files, RG 85, National Archives-Seattle, Fong See case file, Portland Box 13,file 2409.

On 10 September 1910 Lee Yew made an affidavit to establish his status as a Chinese merchant and that of his wife, Fong See, as the wife of a merchant so she could join him and his son in Portland.

E. Hussey, Acting Chinese Inspector in Seattle reported to J. H. Barbour, Inspector in Charge in Portland, that after inspecting the premises of the On Lee Company, reviewing its partnership list and interviewing two Caucasian witnesses, Thomas G. Farrell and John B. Coffey, he was satisfied with Lee Yew’s status as a merchant

Thomas G. Farrell, age 43, testified in 1911 that he had been living in Portland for almost 43 years. He was a merchant in wholesale groceries on Front Street. He knew many Chinese and was acquainted with Lee Yew for five or six years. Lee Yew bought his poultry and eggs from Farrell so he was at Farrell’s business at least once a week.

John B. Coffey was in the tailoring business in the Elks Building and had been living in Portland for twenty-five years. He knew many Chinese socially and through his work. He and Lee Yew were acquainted in Salem, Oregon before Lee Yew came to Portland. Coffey was a witness for Lee Yew when his son came to the U.S.

After Inspector Hussey was satisfied that Lee Yew’s mercantile status was established, he interrogated Lee Sun Hing, the son of Fong See and Lee Yew.

Lee Sun Hing was born in China and arrived in the U.S. at Sumas, Washington in 1908 and was admitted as the minor son of a merchant. He was a student and after his Lee Yew’s death he inherited his father’s interest in the On Lee Company.

Lew Yew was too sick to testify about his status as a merchant and his marriage to Fong See when she arrived in Seattle in 1911. He died within a few months after Fong See’s arrival.

Fong See was admitted as the lawful wife of Lee Yew and went to live above the On Lee Company store in Portland with her son.