Tag Archives: San Diego

Chon Chow Ling – Born on the High Seas Enroute to China

Chon Chow Ling Seattle Times article headline

On board the S.S. President Madison, between San Francisco and Victoria, British Columbia, near the Port of Seattle, a baby girl was born to a Chinese couple. Immigrant officers came on board to interview the father. A statement was taken from Jung Fat, also known as Carlos Chon, on 14 October 1932, His wife, Maria Adelelma Ley was present during the interrogation.

Jung Fat was born about 1901 in Gow Gong City, Nam Hay District, China. In 1914 he sailed from Hong Kong to Mazatlán, Mexico where he was lawfully admitted and eventually became a merchant. He married Maria Adelelma Ley on 28 December 1929 at Comolote, State of Sinaloa, Mexico. Both were “full-blooded Chinese.” Maria was born at Acoponetto, State of Durango, Mexico. Her parents died when she was young, and she was adopted by a Spanish woman. She grew up speaking Spanish and a little Chinese. Jung Fat had never been back to China and Maria had always lived in Mexico. They were not deported from Mexico, but the Mexican government appropriated their grocery and merchandise business. They used all their money to cross the border from Mexico to the United States near Nogales, Arizona. Their daughter, Jung Hong Lin or Auchalina Chon, about age two, was with them. The family was taken into custody by immigration officers, taken to San Diego, and put on a ship to San Francisco. From there, they boarded the S.S. Emma Alexander. Maria gave birth to a baby girl at 10 p.m. on 5 October at Latitude 44° 24’ North, Longitude 124°, 51’ West, on the high seas enroute from San Francisco to Victoria, B.C., Canada.

A few days later after interviewing the family, T. W. Lynch from the Seattle Immigration office sent a letter to the office in San Francisco giving them information on the birth and the El Paso file numbers of the parents and their older daughter, Jung Hong Lin.

[Because of the birth at sea near Seattle, I thought there might be a newspaper article on it. This is what I found:]

On Friday, 7 October 1932, page 14, the Seattle Daily Times published a dramatic account of the birth:
Father Neptune to Guide Destinies of Little China Emma.”
      “There is an old legend which says that Father Neptune and the guardian spirits of the sea          watch over the destinies of those mortals who are born on shipboard, protecting them               through storm and tempest and guiding their voyages safely to port…”

Daniel McLellan, M.D., a passenger from Vancouver, B.C. delivered the baby. Mrs. Alice Hooker and Mrs. Grace L. Steward arranged to have Mrs. Chon moved from her third-class cabin on the after deck to a roomy stateroom. It was suggested that the baby be named Emma Alexander Wong [sic] but the document certifying her birth gives her name as Chon Chow Ling.

Back to the file:Chon Chow Ling Birth at High Seas

“Chon Chow Ling, Certification of birth” 1932, Chinese Exclusion Act case files, RG 85, National Archives-Seattle, [name not listed on case file], Seattle Box 853, file 7031/450.
[It is very unusual to have a file without a name listed.]

On October 15, the family left for China on the S.S. President Madison. Jung Fat left China as a child and Maria had never been there. They were penniless with a toddler and a new-born infant. China was just recovering for the Han–Liu Civil War. They planned to reside with relatives in Gow Gong City.

[NARA volunteer Hao-Jan Chang brought this file to my attention. THN]

Tom Chon How – at detention center for almost a year and a half

Tom Chon How aff photo1939Tom Chon How aff Tom Bing Koon 1939

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Tom Chon How and Tom Bing Koon affidavit photos,” 1939, Chinese Exclusion Act case files, RG 85, National Archives-Seattle, Tom Chon How case file, Seattle Box 799, file 7030/13041.

Tom Chon How arrived at the Port of Seattle on 20 November 1939. She was admitted almost a year and a half later on 10 May 1941. Her file was over 70 pages long. After her father, Tom Ngon Sing, died in China she decided to come to the U.S. to live with her brother, Tom Bing Koon, in San Diego, California. Since she was the daughter of a U.S. native-born citizen she would or should have been considered a citizen. She was born on 20 December 1907 in Seung Sing, Tin Hong, Toy San, China. Her step-mother paid for her passage over. Tom Chon How was a school teacher.

In 1938 her brother, Tom Bing Koon, of San Diego, California, swore in an affidavit that his father, Tom Ngon Sing, was a native born citizen. His citizenship was proved by record #9544 on file at the U.S. District Court of Northern California. Tom Bing Koon was 42 years old in 1939 and came to the United States at age thirteen. He swore that his sister, Tom Chon How, the daughter of Tom Ngon Sing, was coming to the United States to live with him.

During Tom Chon How’s arrival testimony she was asked about her extended family in the U.S. and in China, in particular her nephew Hom (Tom) Tung Hing. She claimed that he died in 1931 on his way back to China. The examiner said that the alleged Hom (Tom) Tung Hing was admitted at Seattle in December 1939.

A warrant of arrest was issued for Tom Tung Hing. He was found in Tucson, Arizona and he gave a statement. He claimed he was the true Tom Tung Hing and Tom Chon How was lying; that the information she gave the investigators was false. Immigration officials began an investigation in Minneapolis (the nephew’s father was living in Minneapolis at some point) and San Diego.

There were huge and small discrepancies in Tom Chon How’s and her brother’s testimony in the description of their native village. The examiner noted that Tom Bing Koon had not been in China for more than twenty-three year. He had never met his nephew so he could not identify him.

Tom Chon How was interviewed again in March 1940. Most of the questioning centered on her home village—how many rows of houses, how many houses in each row, who lived where, and details about the neighbors.

This is a section of a translated letter that Tom Chon How (also known as Tom Jung How or Jung Ho) wrote to the immigration officers after being at the detention center for many months:Tom Chon How letter Apr 1940
“Tom Chon How letter,” 1940, Chinese Exclusion Act case files, RG 85, National Archives-Seattle, Tom Chon How case file, Seattle Box 799, file 7030/13041.

After reading the transcription of the deportation proceedings for Hom Tung Hing, Immigration authorities decided to question Tom Chon How again. By July 1940, a decision had not been reached as to admit or deport her. Her case hinged on Hom Tung Hing’s case. A month later the F.B.I. was comparing the handwriting samples of the Hom Ting Hing who left the U.S. in 1931 with the Hom Ting Hing who was admitted to the U.S. in 1939. Which one was a forgery?

The hearings were resumed on 7 March 1941. Tom Chon How was asked to show the layout of her village. Her diagrams were compared to the maps she constructed in March 1940. She was asked about the differences. She said she couldn’t remember exactly how many houses there were in her village because she hardly ever walked in some parts of the village. [After being in detention since November 1939, she sounded weary.]

The next day she was transferred to Seattle Marine Hospital for examination and treatment. She was suffering from severe nausea.

Immigration decided to interview Yip Shee, the wife of Tom Bing Koon, Tom Chon How’s brother. Yip Shee and Tom Bing Koon married in 1916 and came to the U. S. in 1919. In 1941 Immigration officials interviewed her about her husband’s home village; over twenty years after they left the country. There were significant discrepancies about the village in Yip Shee’s testimony but she gave some helpful information. She remembered that Tom Chon How seriously cut the index finger of her right hand when she was about ten years old. Yip Shee bandaged it for her. The inspectors checked Tom Chon How’s hand. She had a scar that matched Yip Shee’s description. They now believed Tom Chon How was the person she claimed to be.

Inspector J. P. Sanderson, chairman of the inquiry, wrote in his three-page summary of the case that Tom Tung Hing’s arrest warrant was canceled. Although Sanderson did not agree with the determination of Tom Tung Hing’s admittance in 1939, Tom Tung Hing was not deported.

Tom Chon How’s case was delayed considerably because she consistently maintained that Tom Tung Hing died in 1931. The immigration inspectors agreed that if the information on Tom Tung Hing was ignored, the applicant should be admitted. Tom Chon How was admitted at the Port of Seattle on 10 May 1941.