[Riverfront Park is now located where Front Avenue/Street in Spokanes’s Chinatown was in the early 1900s]
In 1905 Yee Gim, age 46, was a merchant, a partner at Yee Yuen Hong Kee Company, at 516 Front Street, Spokane, Washington. He had been in the United States for twenty-seven years—19 years in Port Townsend at King Tai Company and eight years in Spokane. He was returning via Port Townsend from his third trip to China. His wife, three sons and three daughters were in China.
There were seven partners in his Spokane firm. They sold Chinese goods, nut oil, rice, sugar, and tobacco. Hock Geng was the manager; Yee Gim was the bookkeeper and in charge of buying and selling goods.
The interviewer asked to see Yee Gim’s “chak chi” [Certificate of Residence or Identity]. Yee Gim did not have his papers because he was in China at the time of registering.
A witness for Yee Gim was W. D. Vincent, cashier at the Old National Bank, who had known him for over eight years. He swore that Yee Gim never worked anywhere else except as a merchant and did personal and business with the bank.
Mose Oppenheiser, in the insurance business, swore that he had known Yee Gim for about four years, that he paid bills for the firm and he had never seen him behind the counter. [If he had been working behind the counter it would have been thought that he was a laborer.]
James McGougan signed an affidavit swearing that Yee Gim was “neither a huckster, peddler, laundryman or laborer…”
In spite of the fact that Yee Gim did not have his Certificate of Residence, the testimony of his witnesses was strong enough to allow him to be admitted by A. F. Richardson, Chinese Inspector at Port Townsend.
This is an excerpt of the Chinese Exclusion Act included in Yee Gim’s file pertaining to “creditable witnesses” and “not performing any manual labor.”
Fong Gum was born in San Francisco, California about 1876 and moved to Spokane around 1898. According to a 1902 statement in the file Fong Gum and Sam Chong/Chung were married in Spokane County in September 1901. Sam Chung was a member of S. Chung and W. Ting firm at 127 Washington Street, Spokane, Washington.
There is nothing in the file that tells what happened to Sam Chong/Chung but Wong Cue, a merchant tailor, and Fong Gum were married in Coeur D’Alene, Idaho about 1907 or ’08. Their witnesses were Mrs. McDonald and her husband who was a street car conductor.
In 1923 Mrs. Wong Cue was the proprietress of Ladies’ Popular Garment Store, 317 South Main St., Butte, Montana. Her status with the U.S. Department of Labor Immigration Service was as a merchant independent of her husband. [This is very unusual and the only file I have seen where a woman is listed as a merchant.] Her business was in a building own by Mr. B. Marcello. He charged $30 rent per month. She paid all of her own expenses and netted about $35 to $40 each month. The store was about 30 by 80 feet and she lived in the back. For the last two years she and her husband had lived separately.
(According to Mrs. Wong Cue, her husband was living with another woman and they had two children together.)
Mrs. Wong Cue was planning a trip to China in 1923 and taking her adopted daughter, Po Lin and nephew, Lee Hoy, with her.
Mrs. Wong Cue told the immigration interviewer that she bought her merchandise stock from Hennessey’s, Symons, and sometimes O’Connell’s. She sold ladies garments. Sometimes she made her own garments and sometimes she bought them.
Her white witnesses were Mrs. Gordon Schermerhorn, Mrs. Jane Lammie and Mr. B. Marcello. Mrs. Lammie testified that she came from Scotland almost three years ago to join her husband, a baker at Rex Bakery, who had been in Butte since 1906. Mrs. Lammie said “Mrs. Wong [Cue] is an excellent little woman.” Mr. Marcello also testified that Mrs. Wong Cue paid her rent to him and that she made her own living. Mrs. Gordon Schermerhorn testified that she was 45 year old in 1924 and born in England. She had been living in Butte for about ten years. Mrs. Schermerhorn and Mrs. Lammie were neighbors and good friends of Mrs. Wong Cue. All three witnesses testified that they were confident that Mrs. Wong Cue lived separately from her husband.
Wong Cue said that he visited his wife three or four times a week and he slept with her “the night before last.” The examining inspector asked if he had any trouble with Mrs. Cue. Wong Cue said “sometimes she gets a little cranky.” [Wong Cue was being investigated for bringing a woman into the country for immoral purposes—the woman he was living with.]
Mrs. Wong Cue application was approved and she and her daughter and nephew left for China in September 1923.
Additional information per Jill Morelli’s questions: The file ends with Mrs. Cue’s departure. There is no further information in the file. It was important that she made her own money because she did not want to depend on her husband to get back into the country. Since he was under investigation, his status could endanger her ability to return to the U.S. She needed to show that she made her own money and lived away from her husband so she could prove she was a merchant. Merchants were exempt from the Exclusion Act. If she had merchant status she could get back into the U.S. no matter what he did.
On 2 July 1904 A.F. Learned, postmaster; William P. Wyckoff, Customs House official; and H. L. Tibbals, of Port Townsend, Jefferson County, Washington, swore in an affidavit they had been residents of Port Townsend for more than twenty years and were U.S. citizens. They proclaimed that Goon Fon was a bona fide merchant for more than twelve years, a member of the Wing Sing Company, the son of Goon Sam, and was now 22 years old.
Goon Fon was born at Hom Quon village, Sun Woi district, China on 14 January 1883. He came to the United States with his father and landed in San Francisco about 1894. His father returned to China in 1902 and died there. After his father left Goon Fon went to New York City and worked in the restaurant business. He came back to Seattle and worked in a cannery in Alaska for Goon Dip, then moved to Spokane, Washington.
In 1924 Goon Fon applied for a return certificate as a laborer. His only proof of his status was the 1904 affidavit. He obtained the required proof that debt was owed him—a $1,000 bond. His application was approved.
In 1937 Goon Fon was living at Noodles Café, 512 Main Street, Spokane. According to his application for his Return Certificate for Lawfully Domiciled Chinese Laborers, he had a $1,000 loan due from Hui Cheung, 126 ½ North Wall Street, Spokane. His application was approved.