Tag Archives: Henry A. Monroe

Wing Ung CHIN 陳榮棟 AKA Donald Ung CHIN (1913 – 2005) by Kevin Lee

Wing Ung CHIN 陳榮棟 AKA Donald Ung CHIN (1913 – 2005) by Kevin Lee

[Thank you Kevin Lee for sharing your family story.]

Note the English spelling variations of the same Chinese family name 陳 of Chin, Chinn, Chan, Chen.

It was eerily quiet in the reference room of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) facility in Seattle, as the bound manila folder of # 7031/325 was handed to me by staff on 7 November 2019. There, in front of my eyes, laid 100 years of history, which was of my great uncle (kauh gung) – the younger brother of my maternal grandmother CHIN Hai Soon / CHAN Mei Chen 陳美珍 (who featured in this website on 17 May 2021).

Donald CHIN was the minor son of a merchant (where “M/S/Mcht” was marked on the front of his file) when he arrived in Seattle, from Hong Kong, on 5 April 1926.

Donald was also the grandson of a laundryman Gin Heung CHAN, also known as (aka) Yen Hing CHIN, who arrived in 1880 at the port of San Francisco, and who then lived in Seattle until 1894, however, no NARA file could be found for this gentleman because paperwork generally kept by the U.S. Immigration Service prior to 1895 was sparse.

Donald was named CHAN Wing Dung at birth, and was born on 28 October 1913, in the village of Mi Kong (also spelt Mai Gong), in the town of Hong Gong Lee (also spelt Hin Gong Lee), in the county of Hoiping 开平市 (also spelt Hoy Ping, now Kaiping, one part of Sze Yup – one of the 4 Districts), in the province of Kwangtung (now spelt Guangdong), in the Republic of China – 2 years after the overthrow of the Qing / Manchu Dynasty.

He was the 3rd child of Love SEETO 司徒愛 also known as SEE TOW shee 司徒氏,who lived in China throughout her entire life, and (Chear) Cheo CHIN 陳超 aka Don Foon CHIN (NARA file # 39184/2-12, previously 682, 15844 and 30206) – “a well-known domiciled merchant of the city (of Seattle)” as described by Henry A. Monroe on 26 April 1926, a Seattle immigration lawyer and notary public.

Donald was only 5-years-old and living in China when his older brother, CHIN Wing Quong 陳榮光 (who featured in this website on 31 July 2021), died in Seattle at the tender age of 18, in late 1918, from an accidental drug poisoning at the Wing Sang & Company premises co-owned by their father, Cheo CHIN 陳超.

Cheo CHIN 陳超 most likely brought the cremated ashes of Wing Quong CHIN 陳榮光 back to China for reburial, during his lengthy trip abroad from May 1919 – September 1921. This was the first time that young Donald had ever met his father.

Donald’s mother, Love SEETO 司徒愛/ SEE TOW shee 司徒氏, was distraught at the loss of the number 1 son, Wing Quong 榮光, and never fully recovered. She was a broken woman and “divorced” Cheo CHIN 陳超.

Cheo CHIN 陳超 wrote to her in 1925 requesting that their 12-year-old son, Donald, join him in Seattle. She relented, knowing that she would never see her son again.

As the Chinese New Year celebrations lasted for 1 week from Saturday 13 February 1926, Donald would have travelled in mid-February 1926 from Mi Kong village to the terminal at Sanbu 三埠 (meaning “ the 3rd district”) for a 4-hour river ferry to British Hong Kong with his cousin CHIN Yin Duk. He was both excited and nervous at what the future lay ahead…

Signed & sealed page 1 declaration of a non-immigrant alien, that also serves as visa no. 130, granted on 16 March 1926 by the U.S. Consulate in Hong Kong, in readiness for his departure to the United States the following day and to reside at the Wing Sang Company, Seattle that his father co-owned, held in the National Archives-Seattle file of Wing Ung CHIN 陳榮棟, #7031/325
Signed & sealed page 2 declaration of a non-immigrant alien & visa no. 130 granted on 16 March 1926 by the U.S. Consulate in Hong Kong, with a photograph of 12-year-old Donald Wing Ung CHIN, held in the National Archives-Seattle file of Wing Ung CHIN 陳榮棟, #7031/325

He obtained U.S. immigration visa no. 130 from the U.S. Consulate in Hong Kong on 16 March 1926. The next day, he boarded the U.S. steamship “S.S. President Grant” and arrived in Seattle, Washington, 19 days later on 5 April 1926. He then spent 15 days locked-up in quarantine because he had hookworm disease, in a room he shared with 20 other people, and also underwent questioning by Immigration officials – with the assistance of a translator – to verify his status as the son of a merchant. Belatedly, after an arduous trip and then being put in detention, he was finally released into the waiting arms of his relieved father Cheo CHIN 陳超, whom he hadn’t seen for 4½ years, on 20 April 1926.

As a teenager in a new land and to fulfill the huge ambitions/investment by his father, he gradually adjusted to the different language, culture and way-of-life. He began attending English classes at Broadway High School on the corner of Broadway and East Pine Street in Capitol Hill with distant cousin Anne Wing (née Chinn). Anne later became President of the female auxiliary branch of Gee How Oak Tin – the oldest and largest family association in north-west America. Donald also continued his Chinese (Cantonese) studies whilst growing-up in Seattle, as he never forgot his roots.

He resided with his father firstly at 412 (and later across the street at 415) 7th Avenue South, Seattle, in an upstairs apartment of the Wing Sang Company (Wing Sang Tong). He occasionally helped behind the counter, or in the storage basement to unpack boxes of items for sale, in-between his studies.

Nearing adulthood and desiring to get married, as well as desperately missing his mother, sister and (adopted) brother after 5½ years in America, Donald and his father Cheo CHIN 陳超 sought legal advice for a trip back to China. They again approached immigration lawyer Henry A. Monroe, who wrote to the Commissioner of Immigration on their behalf on 5 October 1931. They faced interviews with U.S. Immigration Service inspectors on 13 October 1931 to determine their status. Two days later, the U.S. Immigration Service favourably granted Donald a re-entry permit, enabling him to depart for China but to come back within 365 days.

Sworn affidavit on 9 October 1931, made on his behalf by his father Cheo CHIN 陳超 seeking an indorsement from the Immigration and Naturalization Service so that the nearly 18-year-old Donald Wing Ung CHIN could obtain a U.S. return visa if he was allowed to visit his mother, brother and sister in China and also to get married, held in the National Archives-Seattle file of Wing Ung CHIN 陳榮棟, #7031/325

On 17 October 1931 he sailed out of Seattle on the steam ship “President Taft” to head towards Hong Kong, and onto then a smaller ferry to Sanbu 三埠 in Hoiping / Kaiping city 开平市.

Aged 18-years-old, he married someone whom he had only just met – 17-year-old Suey Tong YEE – at his father’s Mi Kong village house. Donald knew that he had to spend as much time with his new wife as possible, hence they conceived a child quickly. With Chinese Exclusion Act (CEA) restrictions in place, he didn’t know when he could return to China, or if/when the law could be amended to allow him to sponsor his wife to America.

He arrived back in Seattle on 12 October 1932 – just days before his return visa expired – after being on-board 2 steamships (the Empress of Canada and the Princess Alice) over the past 19 days. It was a long, exhausting, cramp journey and he felt reluctant to ever go through this again.

Two months after arriving back, he received the joyous news that his one-and-only child – a son – Ying Keong CHIN aka Kent Ying Keung CHAN was born in Mi Kong village on 19 December 1932.

During that moment in time, with a severe economic downturn worldwide – the Great Depression – leading to high unemployment, he had to put his head down and work very hard in America, to save and send money back to his wife and child in China. He worked as a houseboy for a white family in Seattle, at a fish cannery/processing plant in Bellingham, in Chinese laundries, grocery stores, chicken farms, and as a waiter in restaurants.

Meanwhile, at his father Cheo Chin’s 陳超 Wing Sang & Company, business was very tough, and the partnership unravelled/dissolved. However, Cheo Chin 陳超 was a silent partner in another mercantile business called “Sang Loon Co.”, also known as Sang Yuen Company, since 1923. Cheo Chin 陳超 then became an active partner on 2 June 1930, which operated from 660 King Street, where they both lived in an apartment above the store.

Donald, sometime later, moved into his own apartment within Chinatown.

Other than his father, who lived nearby him in Seattle until dying of bowel cancer on 6 March 1939, Donald wasn’t able to see any other family member for an extremely long time. The following events, one-after-the-other, made it impossible for Donald to visit his family in China:-

  • the 1882 – 1943 Chinese Exclusion Act / strict U.S. immigration laws,
  • the 1929 – 1933 Great Depression,
  • the 1937 – 1945 Sino-Japanese War which meant that China and Hong Kong were occupied, and thus travel was very dangerous,
  • the 1966 – 1976 Chinese Communist Party’s Cultural Revolution which tightened border controls.

These aforementioned events greatly impacted his life:-

  • He couldn’t obtain U.S. citizenship based on race and had the threat of deportation hanging over his head, and he couldn’t buy a property or a place to call home but constantly rented.  He was a law-abiding resident of the U.S. for a very long 27 years, until he was finally naturalised at the Western District Court of Washington in Seattle on 30 September 1953;
  • He hadn’t seen his 83-year-old mother Love SEETO 司徒愛/ SEE TOW shee 司徒氏 for 26 years, when she died in Mi Kong village on July 1958;
  • He had been “separated from my bride for 32 years” (in a speech to family and friends at his 80th birthday party on 12 July 1992), and thus robbed of the prime of their lives together, consequently only producing 1 child. As a U.S. citizen, he still had to wait many years before he could sponsor his wife, Suey Tong YEE, who was 50-years-old when they reunited in 1964.
  • He hadn’t met his then 33-year-old son before, nor his daughter in-law, and 5 small grandchildren aged between 1-9 years, until the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1 December 1965 (the Hart-Celler Act) became effective, and they all arrived in Seattle, from Hong Kong, via plane – not ship like he previously did – on 8 January 1966;
  • In late 1981, he made his 1st trip back to China in 49 years – almost half a century – to visit his cancer-stricken and beloved 77-year-old elder sister, CHIN Hai Soon / CHAN Mei Chen 陳美珍. Donald loved his sister immensely, as they were both linked by blood, but separated by time apart, the vastness of the Pacific Ocean, and the tight border controls in both the United States and China. She died exactly 40 years ago, on 29 March 1982.
74-year-old Donald Wing Ung CHIN 陳榮棟 visited his late sister CHIN Hai Soon / CHAN Mei Chen’s 陳美珍 matrimonial house in Num Bin Toon/Chuen (the Yee village), October 1987 on what would have been her 83rd birthday.
Standing from left to right are: Hon Ming YU (grandnephew), Donald (himself), Hon Hung YU (grandnephew), So Chung SEETO (niece-in-law), Mrs Suey Tong YEE CHIN (wife), Anne Yim Man YU (grandniece, now in Columbus, Ohio), and Kwong King YU (nephew) [photo courtesy of Kevin Lee]

Conclusion:
Donald managed/owned the Riceland Café for many years, located firstly at 606 12th Avenue, South Seattle, and then moving it to 4144 University Way, Seattle. Early morning trips to the fresh food markets, preparation of ingredients, managing his staff, and cleaning-up after the last diners left late at night, became his regular routine.

He was a pillar of the Chinese community in Seattle, and an active member of the Gee How Oak Tin and Suey Sing Chinese Benevolent Family Associations for almost 80 years.

Donald Wing Ung Chin 陳榮棟 passed away peacefully on 5 September 2005 at the Swedish Medical Center, Providence Campus, 500 – 17th Avenue, Seattle, only 1 block away from where his father died 66½ years earlier at the Providence Hospital. He was just a few weeks short of his 92nd birthday, living 79 of those years in the United States, having not gone back to China for 49 years, and despite many hardships and sacrifices, he was determined to prove himself as an inspirational immigrant success story and a proud family man.

Chin Hing Yee – File photos from 1901 to 1923

Chin Hing Yee Collage 1901 1923“Chin Hing Yee file photos, 1901-1923, and Partnership lists,” Chinese Exclusion Act case files, RG 85, National Archives-Seattle, Chin Hing Yee case file, Seattle Box 162, file 2355/21-16. 2006

The first document in Chin Hing Yee’s file is his July 1900 Application for Readmission of Chinese Merchant form. It includes an affidavit by John Thompson and Edward Maus. They swore that they were citizens of the United States and residents of the State of Washington; that they had been residing in King County more than ten years; that they personally knew Chin Hing Yee 陳天宇, whose photograph was attached to the affidavit; that Chin was thirty years old; that he resided in Seattle for more than six years in the past; that he was not a laborer; that he was a merchant at Coaster Tea Company; that he had a $500 interest in the company; that prior to his departure for China he was engaged in the business of buying and selling merchandise for the firm; and he did not perform manual labor in the twelve months before his departure.

When Chin Hing Yee returned the U.S. In November 1901 John Thompson and Edward Maus again swore in an affidavit to the same information they had sworn to when Chin left for China in 1900.

Thomas M. Fisher, Chinese Inspector for the Customs District of Puget Sound, Washington, reported to Col. F. D. Huestis, the customs collector in Port Townsend, Washington, that he had examined the witnesses for Chin Hing Yee and believed the applicant was entitled to admission. Chin Hing Yee was readmitted in November 1901 at Port Townsend.

In 1909 Chin Hing Yee, sometimes known as Chin Hing, applied to go to China again. He swore in an affidavit that he was born about 1870 in Chin Bing village, Sun Ning District, China. He had been a resident of Seattle for many years and that he was a merchant doing business at Bow On Drug Company at 216 Washington Street. He was formerly a member of the Coaster Tea Company at 1305 Second Avenue. Fred R. Harvey and Edward Mauss [sic] swore in an affidavit that they were white citizens residing in Seattle for several years; they knew Chin was a merchant at a fixed place of business; he was not a laborer; and for the last twelve months he had not perform any manual labor. Edward Mauss was in the fire insurance business and had lived in Seattle since about 1888. He had known Chin Hing Yee fifteen years. Fred Harvey, a resident of Seattle for ten years, was a contractor at the Collins block and knew Chin for about five years.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chin Lai, a manager of Bow On Drug Company, was asked to draw up a partnership list for the company. He swore that Chin Hing Yee invested $500 in the company and became a partner. Other partners were Louie Hay, Chin Sang, Hong Sing and Toy Sam. Sales were about $600 or $700 a month and rent on the store building was $120 a month. They rented out part of the building for a restaurant and receive $60 a month in rent.

In 1911 Chin Hing Yee was working as a bookkeeper and was admitted as a returning merchant.

Chin Hing Yee was asked to prepare a partnership list also.

Chin Hing Yee signed his name in English and Chinese on all of his documents.
When Chin went back to China in early 1915, he was a laundryman and was owed $1,000 by Chin Lai. When he returned to Seattle in October 1915, he claimed he had two sons and one daughter, and his wife was “in the family way.”

In 1919 Chin Hing Yee testified that he was originally admitted in the United States in 1885 at the Port of San Francisco as the minor son of a merchant. He was 14 or 15 at that time. Henry A. Monroe, the examining inspector in Seattle, thought Chin must be mistaken “because that was before the court had decided that minor sons of exempts could be admitted without being in possession of the certificate required by Section 6 of the Act of 1884.” Monroe thought Chin was first admitted in 1901 as a member of the Coaster Tea Company. Monroe suspected that Chin was still a laborer but since Chin had previously been admitted as the son of a merchant, a laborer, and as a merchant; Monroe could only recommend that his application be approved.

When Chin Hing Yee applied to leave in 1919 he had been issued Certificate of Identity No. 4416. He was applying for a return certificate as a laborer. He had $1,000 on deposit in the University State Bank of Seattle and showed his bank book as proof. Chin was reminded that he would be entitled to readmission only if the money was still on deposit upon his return.

Before making another trip to China in 1923, Chin Hing Yee testified that he was fifty-three years old, his wife’s name was Lim Shee and they had five children, four sons and a daughter. Their ages ranged from four to twenty-four. Two sons were living in Canada. He was unable to return within the allotted year because his wife was seriously ill so he obtained a Chinese Overtime Certificate that allowed him to stay up to one more year. Chan Yee and Chan Go gave corroborating statements and Maurice Walk, American Vice Consul at Hongkong approved Chin’s overtime certificate. Chin Hing Yee returned to Seattle in September 1924, just two months over his original one-year deadline. He was admitted. There is no mention of the health status of his wife.

 

Chin Yick Thlew – Bellingham, Washington

 

Chin Yick Thlew Affidavit 1940
Affidavit photos of Chin Yick Thlew and Chin Yock Can,“ 1940, Chinese Exclusion Act case files, RG 85, National Archives-Seattle, Chin Yick Thlew case file, Seattle Box 823, file 7030/13465.

Chin Yick Thlew, 陳溢秀, age 15, took the long journey from China alone on the Princess Marguerite, arriving at the Port of Seattle on 11 January 1941. She would be living with her parents, Chin Yock Can 陳煜芹 and Dong Shee, at 1211 Cornwell Avenue, Bellingham, Washington. Her father was the son of Chin Tong, an American born citizen. Their older son was living in Lung Hing Village, Look Toon Section, Hoy San District, China, with his grandparents. Their son, Chin Yick Goon, and daughter, Fee Lon, and two younger children were living with them in Bellingham.

Yick Thlew’s file contains a long letter she wrote to her parents. The original letter is in Chinese and a translation is included. She wanted her parents to know that she missed them; that her education was extremely important to her; she told them several time she was not ready to get married; and she wanted to join them in the United States. She signed her letter, “I am, your little daughter.” (The translation was made by the Young China Morning Newspaper in San Francisco.)

Chin Yick Thlew was admitted in spite of the District Director of Seattle Immigration, R. P. Bonham’s claim that there was some unsatisfactory testimony. Several of the family members changed their interview answers so that everyone’s story agreed. Their attorney, Henry A. Monroe, explained that the parents were afraid that if their testimony did not agree completely with their daughter’s, she would be sent back to China. Chin Yick Thlew was held in detention for almost five weeks. She mis-identified a family member in one of the photographs presented during the interrogation. Everyone involved was questioned over and over. The parents were distraught and decided that whatever their daughter said they would agree with it in their testimony. Finally, Monroe who had been working with Chinese immigrants for thirty-five years, stepped in. He got everyone to tell the truth and straightened out all the misunderstandings. There were over thirty pages of interrogations from Chin Yick Thlew, her father, mother, and her brother, Chin Yick Guoon/Goon. Files for her father, mother, grandfather, two great uncles, three uncles, a brother and a sister were reviewed.

Chin Yick Thlew was admitted on 19 February 1940.

Photos  included  in  the  file.