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.
Ng Toy Sun, 伍彩新 age 11, arrived, unaccompanied, at the Port of Seattle on 2 January 1941 and was classified as the son of a citizen. He was born on 10 Feb 1930 in Ai Ong Village, Pang Sa Hon Section, Hoy San District, China. His father, Ng Ah Pang, was born in San Francisco, California on 28 May 1882.
His brother Ng Way Sin (Seattle file 7030/219) applied for admission to the U.S. on 16 July 1930 but was excluded. He appealed his case but died at Columbus Hospital [at 10th & Madison in Seattle], just before the Bureau received a telegram approving his admission. His other brothers, Ng Goon Sin 伍源新 and Ng Jin Sin were admitted in 1935.
Ng Toy Sun was interviewed in Seattle and his father, Ng Ah Pang, 伍亞彭 and brother, Ng Goon Sin were interviewed in Cincinnati, Ohio. They each made sketches of their village; the maps were compared and were alike.
Some of the questions asked during the interviews were: Does your mother have scars or marks on her face? How many persons keep water buffalos? Does anyone keep pigs? Does your village have gates? Who looks after the fish in the fish pond? Where are the toilets located? What is the name of your ancestral hall? What clans live in the nearby village of Gew Toon? Where does your family obtain water? Does your mother have a vegetable garden? Is there a clock in your house? Describe your village. Is there a hill near your village? Does the house in front of your house touch your house? Describe your house.
Only small discrepancies between the interviews were found. One difference was if there was a clock in their home. The interviewers decided the differences were not big enough to be important. Ng Toy Sun was admitted twenty-eight days after his arrival. The file does not tell us how the eleven-year old boy traveled to Cincinnati to be with his family.
Two weeks after Ng Toy Sun was admitted, E. Alexander, a guard at the Immigration Center in Seattle, found a pair of shoes belonging to Ng Toy Sun in the baggage room on the 3rd floor. He asked that they be sent to Ng’s father in Cincinnati. Alexander said they were “good shoes” and he wanted the boy to have them.
Quan You Hing’s father, Quan Foo 關富(marriage name Soong Woo 崇護) was born in San Francisco on 3 August 1889. By 1939 he had made four trips to China—in 1911, 1923, 1928, and 1932, and was living in Chicago, working at Hugh Sam Laundry. His wife, Moy Shee, was living in China with their four sons and one daughter. Their youngest son, Quan You Hing, was born in Lum Hing village, Hoy Ping, China on 13 October 1924. [His date of birth is also listed as 15 September 1924.] The family moved to Joong Wah Li, Hoy San district in 1930.
There were eight dwelling houses and a school house in the village of Jung Wah Li; four rows with two houses in each row with the school house at the head of the village. This is how Quan Foo described his house:
“It is a regular five-room Chinese house, built of grey house bricks, tile gable roof; tile floors in all the rooms; the open court is paved with stone; two outside doors; large door faces east; two outside windows in each bedroom; one L-shaped loft in each bedroom, along the outside and rear wall and also a cross loft along the rear wall of the sitting-room. One double built-in stove in the small-door side kitchen and also a portable earthen stove in the small-door side kitchen. A rice pounder is located in the sitting room near the west wall and also a rice mill located in the large-door side kitchen. One double skylight in each bedroom covered with glass; no skylight in the kitchen.”
Quan Foo was bringing his son to the United States in 1939 because the Japanese were invading south China near their village and his son wanted to get away from the war. Ironically only four years later, Quan You Hing joined the U.S. Navy and died serving his adopted country.
There is a note in front of his file, “Killed in action, December 1944, U.S. Navy, Hugh [Quan] You Hing.” There no mention in the file of why or when Quan You Hing joined the U. S. Navy.
According to the muster roll of the U.S.S. Leutze You Hing Quan enlisted on 14 October 1943 and was received on board on 4 March 1944.1 His death is listed under Illinois in the U.S. Navy Casualties Books2: Quan You Hing, Electrician’s mate 3C, USNR. Father, Mr. Foo Quan, 2252 South Wentworth Ave., Chicago.
1. U. S. World War II Navy Muster Rolls, 1938-1949, Ancestry.com, p. 7, Image 24, National Archives at College Park; College Park, Maryland; Record Group: 24, Records of the Bureau of Naval Personnel, 1798 – 2007; Series ARC ID: 594996; Series MLR Number: A1 135.
2. Ancestry.com. U.S., Navy Casualties Books, 1776-1941 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2012.
“Mei Lai Gay (Agnes), Form 430 photo and birth registration” 1927, Chinese Exclusion Act case files, RG 85, National Archives-Seattle, Mei Lai Gay (Agnes) case file, Seattle Box 817,file 7030/13284.
The father of Mei Lai Gay (Agnes), Mei (Moy) Kong Kay (marriage name: Mei (Moy) Kung Sun) first came to the United States in 1908 and was admitted as a merchant at the Port of San Francisco. He was born in 1882 in Sai Yuen village, On Fun section, Hoy San district, China. He and his wife, Ng Shee, had six children; two sons living in China and four in D.C. where they had been living since 1923. Mei Kung Sun was a merchant at Hong High Company, 343 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, D.C.
Agnes’ 1927 birth was registered by Dr. Mary Parsons. Dr. Parsons had been practicing medicine in D.C. for fifty-three years and had worked with the Chinese population for 31 years. It was thought that she officiated at the birth of the first Chinese baby born in the city.
The return certificates as American citizen applications for the parents, Agnes, her two brothers and sister were approved and they left Washington, D.C. for China in 1927.
In October 1940 Mei Lai Gay Agnes and her sister Mei Bow Ngook Ruby returned to the U.S. through the Port of Seattle. They were going to live with their brother, Mei (Moy) Bow Duen Earnest, in Washington, D.C. The interrogators questioned Ruby, age 16, then Agnes, age 13. Their father, Mei (Moy) Kung Sun, died in the U.S. in 1938. Their mother moved from her husband’s home village to Hong Kong after her husband’s death. The examining inspector had no questions about the identity of Ruby and noted after careful examination of the photograph of Lai Gay Agnes that “the left ear of this applicant shows outer and inner rim close together and a ridge in the center of the right ear.” [Evidently this scrutiny of her left ear agreed with her baby photo.] Their applications were approved and they were admitted into the U.S.
The Reference Sheet in Mei Lai Gay (Agnes Mei)’s file includes the name, relationship and file number for Agnes’ parents, four brothers and her sister.
Edwin Mah Lee, (李孟賢) the mayor of San Francisco, died unexpectedly on 12 December 2017. He was born on 5 May 1952 in Seattle, Washington, the son of Gok Suey Lee and Pansy Chin Lee (Chan Ngar Ching).
[See the many tributes to Edwin Mah Lee on the Internet and in newspapers. The following is a brief summary of some of documents in Chinese Exclusion Act case files for his father, grandfather and great grandfather.]
Lee Gok Suey (Edwin Mah Lee’s father) In August 1937 Lee Ling Hung swore in an affidavit that he was a citizen of the United States and the holder of Certificate of Identity No. 34552 issued when he entered the Port of Seattle on 9 February 1921. He was applying to bring his son, Lee Gok Suey, into the United States.
Lee Gok Suey arrived in Seattle, Washington on 20 December 1937 on the Princess Marguerite and was admitted four months later after a difficult but successful appeal. He was 17 years old, a student and the son of Lee Ling Hung, a United States citizen and Luey Shee. He was born on 9 May 1921 in Taw Long village, Suey Low Section, Hoy San District, China. Originally Lee Gok Suey was denied admission by a board of special inquiry because he was not able to prove to their satisfaction his relationship to his father.
Seattle’s Inspector-in Charge, Joseph H. Gee, re-opened Lee’s case so additional evidence could be obtained. Affidavits from his father, uncle and grandfather were submitted to the board for their review. The applicant’s attorney filed a letter and an affidavit of the applicant’s alleged grandfather, Lee Share Young, and included a photograph with a satisfactory resemblance to Lee Gok Suey. Because of several discrepancies in the witnesses’ testimony the board voted unanimously that Lee not be admitted. His attorney argued that it had been fifteen years since the grandfather had been to China so it was not unusual that his testimony might not completely agree with his two sons who had been to China recently. After more than four months, Lee Gok Suey’s arrival was approved.
Lee Ling Hung (Lee Gok Suey’s father; Edwin Mah Lee’s grandfather)
Lee Ling Hung first arrived in the United States at Seattle on 21 January 1921 and was admitted as a citizen son of a native. He visited China in 1926 and returned in 1928. During his pre-investigation examination before leaving in 1926 he stated he had one son, Lee Gok Sui, born in 1921. On his return he claimed a second son born while on that trip, Lee Gok Foo. In an application for another trip to China in 1930 he claimed that his second son’s name was Lee Gok Gong and his third son was Lee Gok Foo. Because Lee Ling Hung’s father, Lee Share Young (sometimes spelled Lee Shere Yung)’s citizenship had been granted in 1888 through U. S. District Court discharge papers, Immigrant Inspector Roy M. Porter recommended that Lee Ling Hung’s application for pre-investigation of status be approved. [The confusion over the names of the second and third sons and their dates of birth caused the inspectors to distrust Lee Ling Hung’s testimony and combined with other discrepancies made Lee Gok Suey’s arrival approval so complicated in 1937.]
Before moving to Seattle Lee Ling Hung lived in Portland, Oregon for about six years and he was a baker for Coffman’s Candy Shop at 152 Broadway.
Lee Share Young (Lee Gok Suey’s grandfather; Edwin Mah Lee’s great grandfather)
In March 1938 Lee Share Young (You Yuey, marriage name) testified that he was a bookkeeper at the Quong Tuck Company in Seattle. He was the father of Lee Gim Jeow and Lee Ling Hung and the grandfather of Lee Gok Suey. He was re-examined regarding some of the questions where there was some confusion—were there twelve rows of houses in his village or thirteen? Lee Share Young said, “There are thirteen rows but the first row at the head is not a regular row because there is only a small house and some toilets there.” [It is easy to see how this trivial fact could be confusing.] Lee Share Young’s son sent him a photo of Gok Suey Lee in 1932. The interrogator asked how he could identify his grandson since he had not seen him since he was two years old. He replied, “I have to trust my son who sent me the picture.” There were other discrepancies about the extended family and deceased ancestors, the location of neighbors’ houses in their home village, and the applicant’s school experience. Eventually the board of special inquiry decided that there was enough information where the all the witnesses agreed and they admitted Lee Gok Suey. There were over fifty pages of interrogation. The witnesses were asked about the village, the location of roads, paths, hedges, ponds, shrines, the school, cemetery, stores, and many other minor details. They gave detailed descriptions of the houses, buildings and the people who lived in them. [There were over one hundred houses in their village so this could not have been easy.]
In 1920 Lee Share Young swore in an affidavit that he wanted to bring his son Lee Ling Hung over to the United States. At that time he was a merchant for the Quong Sang Wo Kee Company in Portland, Oregon. He produced his 1888 discharge papers for the interrogators inspection.
When Lee Shere [Share] Yung left for a visit to China in 1900 he obtained an affidavit with his photo attached to assure his reentry into the United States. He swore that he was a member of the Wau Yune Lung Kee Company, dealers in Chinese merchandise and provisions doing business at 739 Commercial Street in San Francisco. He had four witnesses: Chas. E. Harris, O. R. Beal, Frank B. Hoyt and Edgar A. Greenblatt. Lee returned on 2 May 1902.
Lee Share Young, Lee Gok Suey’s grandfather, was born in San Francisco, California on 7 December 1871 to Lee Yeu May and Hong Shee. His marriage name was Lee Yeow You and he was sometimes known as Lee Yung. He married Toy Shee and they had two sons, Lee Gim, born 14 February 1889 and Lee Ling Hung, born 28 November 1901. Lee Share Yung’s paternal grandparents were Lee Sing Tem and Lew Shee. He had an older brother, Lee Seah Fook, living in California. The parents of his wife, Toy Shee, were Toy Lem Tick and Low Shee.
The family of Edwin Mah Lee found in the Chinese Exclusion Act case files: Parents:
Gok Suey Lee and Pansy Chin Lee (Chan Ngar Ching) Grandparents:
Lee Ling Hung and Luey Shee Great Grandparents:
Lee Share Young and Toy Shee G G Grandparents: (Lee Share Young’s parents)
Lee Yeu May and Hong Shee G G Grandparents: (Toy Shee’s parents)
Toy Lem Tick and Low Shee G G G Grandparents: (Lee Share Young’s grandparents)
Lee Sing Tem and Lew Shee
The Reference Sheets in the files also contains Seattle file numbers for Lee Gok Suey’s cousin, Lee Gwok Ying (7030/13310); uncle, Lee Gim Jeow (7030/4521); Lee Gwock Ying, Lee Gim Jeow’s son, (7030/13310).
Woo Bak Sue – Released after paying detention costs $25.05 in 1899
Woo Bak Sue was born on 10 August 1884 in Seattle, Washington Territory, just two years after the Chinese Exclusion Act was passed and five years before Washington Territory became a state. His parents, Woo Tai Gap and Chew See, took Bak Sue to China when he was about five years old. Bak Sue came back to the United States through Port Townsend in the summer of 1899 when he was fifteen years old. When he arrived he was arrested, put in detention and given a hearing. A writ of habeas corpus was issued stating that he had been detained without authority of law and that he was entitled to be released on the grounds that he was a native born citizen. The order of discharge was made by Judge C. H. Hanford of the U.S. District Court, Northern Division, District of Washington. Woo Bak Sue was released after paying for the costs of his detention amounting to $25.05. He asked that his photograph be attached to his discharge papers and that the papers be certified and sent to him.
He made three trips to China after 1899—1904 to 1905, 1910 to 1911, and 1915 to May 1938. When Woo Bak Sue applied to leave for China in 1903 his Caucasian witnesses were J. F. McGee and D. G. Rinehart. They both swore that they were residents and citizens of Seattle for the last twenty years and were well acquainted with Bak Sue and his parents. Woo Gen of the Wa Chong Co. sent a letter on company stationery to Thomas M. Fisher, Chinese Inspector, Office of the Collector of Customs in Port Townsend saying he would be a witness for Bak Sue if requested.
When Bak Sue was returning in 1911, the immigration inspector asked him if he knew any of the Chinese at the detention house. He said he knew Woo Bing Gee. There were no followup questions asked.
Woo Bak Sue’s son, Woo Sze Hong, arrived in Seattle in September 1938. His Seattle file number is 7030/11336. In October 1938 Woo Bak Sue was applying to return to China because he wasn’t feeling well. His application was approved. Bak Sue’s marriage name was Woo Gun Lum. He had a wife and six sons and two daughters in Nom On Village, Hoy San District. The village had 26 houses in three rows, facing south. He and his family lived in the 6th house, 6th lot, 2nd row. He had a grocery business there called Ow San Market.
[The file contains photos of Woo Bak Sue from 1903, 1910, 1912, 1915 and 1938.]
Louie Chuck Lum, son of Louie Lang Jin, arrived in Seattle on the SS President Taft on 16 January 1928. He was 22 years old, single, a rice farmer, on his way to visit his cousin Louie Jew in Portland, Oregon. He was seeking admission to the United States as the son of a native. He was born in Hang Mee village, Hoy San district, China on 15 April 1905.
His village had about 300 houses in nine rows–his was the 5th house, 4th row from the head. [The interview contains copious details about the size of the houses, the direction of the rows in relation to the village, the amount of space between the houses and an exhaustive description of his house.
Louie Chuck Lum’s father, returned to China in 1914 and eventually died there. On his 1928 trip to Seattle, Louie Chuck Lum brought some of his father’s clothing with him. He wore his father’s suit on the ten-day trip from China even though it was a little big for him and he wore his father’s vest at his interview. He showed the interviewers the undated street car transfer in the pocket of his father’s suit. The ticket became part of the file.
He was asked why he and his older brother were not married and he said it was because they did not have enough money to get married.
Four Chinese witnesses made affidavits testifying that Louie Chuck Lum was the son of Louie Lang Jin, a U.S. citizen. On 9 March 1928 Louie Chuck Lum was admitted to the United States.