Mai Wah Society

Tommie Haw | Dr. Huie Pock | Rose Hum Lee | Hum Fay | Chinn Family
Butte's Far Eastern Influences | How Keno Was Born in Butte, Montana | Tong Wars

In 1870, when a census taker visited German Gulch (near Anaconda, Montana) he carefully inscribed the names of each of the residents of the gold mining camp. He also noted that two Chinamen lived there. No names, just two Chinamen.

An archeological study indicates that there were probably hundreds of Chinese living in German Gulch at that time. When the census taker arrived, they probably headed to hide in the hills surrounding the gulch, thinking that he was there to collect a special tax.

Chinese at the time were seriously undercounted because they had learned to hide at the slightest hint of anyone with the appearance of a government agent.

In California, special taxes were collected from Chinese miners and if they did not pay on the spot they would be arrested or beaten with impunity.

If the claims of Chinese miners were paying out better than expected, the previous owners would take them back, or thieves sometimes pretended to be tax collectors to rob the Chinese.

If you look through census records, mortuary records, or police blotters from the past for any length of time, you'll sense a general frustration by the EuroAmerican record keepers trying to keep track of Chinese. In some cases you can find a name spelled forward and backward and finally crossed out with the word "Chinaman" written in over the scratched lines.

Their names were impossible to pronounce or understand. Many were recorded with the first name "Ah" which means "so-called" along with their family name such as Ng, Wong, Lee, or Chin. Some, after the federal exclusion laws went into effect in 1882, came into the country under assumed names by masquerading as the relatives of Chinese already here. These were known as "paper sons" and they actually had two names, one they used for reporting purposes, and the other, their real name, among their friends and families.


Butte Pioneer, Hum Wah Long and his family in 1920. From left to right, Mary (4th child), Tommy (6th child), Mrs. Hum (Chiu Ling Fong), James (3rd child), Ralph (7th child), Rose (2nd child), Hum Wah Long, Amy (1st child), and Annie (5th child). Photo courtesy of Mr. Kingsley Wu (son of Amy Hum Wu)

Every one of these "nameless" and "faceless" Chinamen had a name, a face,
a family, a life.

The following are links to details about a few of Southwest Montana's Asian pioneers and prominent citizens and their extraordinary lives.

Tommie Haw

Dr. Huie Pock

Rose Hum Lee

Hum Fay

Chinn Family

Butte's Far Eastern Influences

How Keno Was Born in Butte, Montana

Tong Wars