2018 Winter travel blog

Hoptown

Wyatt's Saloon

Gunfight Site

Candy .44 shooting

Big Nose Kate Saloon


Some more history of Tombstone's Chinese residents, although mostly forgotten, is fascinating as well. Most books written during the period depicted Chinese Americans as drug traffickers and people who loved gambling. Around 1870, hundreds of Chinese were employed in the construction of the Southern Pacific railroad through Arizona. The early Chinese migrant workers came to America through an employment contractor for whom they were to work for a stated term - typically a few years. The business of hiring and managing the employees' affairs was controlled by Chinese Tai Pan and businessmen. The Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association, more commonly known as the Chinese Six Companies (because it represented different regions of Guangdong province), dealt with U.S. immigration matters at the city and state government levels. The Six Companies, which is still in existence, was the most powerful organization acting on behalf of the Chinese outside of China.

Earlier U.S. sources misunderstood the function of Tongs (offices) such as the Six Companies and thought they were involved in gang warfare and selling slaves, as portrayed in Jackie Chan's action-filled movie Shanghai Noon. Tongs actually offered the most advanced employment contracts of the time. The associations paid the workers' passages, found employers, and took care of the employees when they became ill. They were also responsible for sending money home, and they acted as bankers and mail service providers. These services were essential, as the immigrants did not trust the U.S. banking system or Wells Fargo, given the frequent shootouts and robberies. The contractor deducted money for dormitory, food, boat fare, medicine, and also a percentage for its services. The function of Tong acted as a middle man go between for workers and employers. It attempts to guarantee a certain amount of laborers, while proving a safety net for employees.

The workers accepted the premise that they come to America to work hard for a few years so they could pay off their debt to the company. If they earned enough money in Gum Shan (i.e., Golden Mountain), they could return to China and raise a family. In the unfortunate event they died on foreign soil, their remains and soul would be packed and sent home. They were first buried in the Chinese section of a U.S. cemetery. After a year or so, caretakers dug the bodies up, cleaned and soaked the bones in brandy wine (which acted as a preservative), wrapped them in fine silk cloth, and sealed them in an urn. The remains were never wrapped in paper, as was claimed by some early American writers.

When the railroad construction was completed, all the Chinese laborers were let go immediately. The competition of less intensive jobs filled by the whites resulted in the Chinese exclusion Act of 1882. Born survivors, the Chinese managed to settle in nearby towns, finding work in the mines or being redeployed into the service industry. They accepted whatever positions they could get. They worked as woodcutters, miners, cooks, or servants; worked at charcoal manufacturers; or grew vegetables. Most had been farmers in China, and they quickly adapted to the local farming environment. Opportunities arose in work that other men found to be time consuming and undignified, such as doing laundry by hand. Several hundred Chinese settled in Tombstone during the Arizona silver boom of the 1880s.

White saloon owners, storekeepers, and gamblers bitterly rejected acceptance of the Chinese. The Chinese were included in the Western U.S. census, but in Arizona they were excluded from the state census and not included in the marriage licenses (although they have criminal records). The Whites depended, however, on the work of the Chinese coolies (ku li, meaning hard laborer), who had good work habits and who were willing to do anything for less pay. Despite the harsh wide social gulf that separated them from other people, the Chinese demonstrated a compassion and a recognition of their own value.

Like most cities, Tombstone had its Chinatown. Whites called it "Hoptown." It hopped from Third Street to First Street and from Fremont Street to Toughnut Street. To avoid trouble with residents most cities, like Tombstone had its Chinatown. Whites called it "Hoptown." It hopped from Third Street to First Street and from Fremont Street to Toughnut Street. To avoid trouble with residents in other parts of the town, the Chinese hopped in and out of connecting private tunnels. In a town of more than 5000, perhaps 300 to 500 were Chinese who lived in their own quarters.

During Chinese new-year celebrations, the Chinese held a huge feast. Ben Traywick's description of forty courses, "consisting partly of Chinese brandy, rat pot pie, bird's nest soup, roasted puppy dogs with caterpillar sauce, shark tails stewed in India ink, monkey hands fried in marrow, kittens fried in batter plus many other delicacies to make a delightful repast," illustrates the elaborate meals that were served at festivals, even in isolated towns like Tombstone.

The Chinese sometimes called each other Ah, followed by their name. Census takers accepted nicknames, which could be the person's first or last name. Women who dealt with Whites would have a nickname like Mary, while the Chinese men in Arizona were usually called John.

Perhaps the most famous Chinese person in Tombstone was China Mary (nee Sing, aka Ah Chum), a plump woman from Zhongshan county. She usually wore brocaded silks and large amounts of Asian jade jewelry. She was influential among Whites and people of other nationalities, and in Hoptown her word was as good as that of a judge or banker. The Whites, who preferred Chinese domestic labor, soon learned that Mary was resourceful in finding workers. She guaranteed the workers' honesty and workmanship. Her warranty was "Them steal, me pay!" All work was done to the employer's satisfaction or it would be redone for free. Payments, however, were made to China Mary - not to the employee.

China Mary managed a well-stocked general store where she dealt in both American and Chinese goods. White men and Asians were both allowed to play in the gambling hall behind her store. They had to abide her rules. China Mary seems to have been an astute investor; she was involved in a number of businesses, including several hand laundries and a restaurant owned by Sam Sing. Mary was also a money lender, and she used her own judgment to determine borrower's credibility. China Mary is also remembered as a generous lady who helped those in need of money or medical care. No sick, injured, or hungry person was ever turned away from her door. She once took a cowboy with a broken leg to Mary Tack's boarding house and paid the medical bill herself. Mary was portrayed by Anna May Wong in a 1960 episode of the Wyatt Earp TV series.

When Mary died of heart failure in 1906, the town folks had a large turnout for her service. A death certificate showed that "Ah Lum" died on December 16, 1906, at the age of 65. Although local official John E. Bacon typed the wrong name (AH-overstrike C(hina) Lum), the date matched the cemetery marker for China Mary, and the certificate was clearly meant for her. China Mary was buried in Boothill Cemetery beside her friend Quong Gu Kee, who died of natural causes on April 23, 1893. Also nearby were Foo Kee, candy store owner, accidentally stabbed in a fight; Hup Lung, for whom no details are available, and two Chinese who died of leprosy. Boothill Cemetery was so named because so many nameless people were buried quickly, with their boots still on.

We did take in the Wyatt’s Hotel & Coffee House (Saloon) for a gunfight. History does say that most gunfights took place inside the saloons instead of out in the street. There would be arguments over card games and next thing someone was dead. It is just like the Gunfight at the OK Corral, not true. The gunfight took place in a vacant lot next to the OK Corral. The film makers couldn’t have a movie “Gunfight at the Vacant Lot” so they moved it to the OK Corral. The lot is now the Tombstone City Park.

We also took in some shooting today. On Main Street there is a shooting gallery so Candy got her chance to shoot a .44 caliber hand gun. She enjoyed it and is a pretty good shot, I will not be buying her a gun.

One other thing, it is 78 degrees today and the sun rays are falling out of the clear blue sky,



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