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Street, Wyoming is made possible by
Kennecott Energy Company, proud to be part
of Wyoming’s future in the coal and
uranium industries, which includes exploration,
mining, and production, and the Wyoming Council
for the Humanities, enriching lives
of Wyoming people through the study of Wyoming
history, values, and ideas. – [Deborah] In 1870, the
Union Pacific Railroad announced its decision
to employ Chinese workers along its rail sections. What followed was bigotry,
massacre, and finally, the elimination of
this group of workers from the southwest
corner of our state. We’re here on
location in Evanston, to see where historians
and archeologists are piecing together the lives of these Chinese immigrants
during their years here. Join us on Main Street, Wyoming, to see history recreated, the Chinese in
southwestern Wyoming. (upbeat electronic music) – [Woman] He’s just an
absolutely beautiful bird. – The rainy season
mist, yellow blossoms never touched by yellow. (announcer calls) (people cheer) (playful flute and drums) Our story about the Chinese
in southwestern Wyoming begins at an archeological
excavation site at Ft. Bridger. The first documentation of Chinese in the
state occurred here. Historical archeologist
Dudley Gardner teaches at Western
Wyoming College, and has directed numerous
archeological digs in this corner of the state,
including the Ft. Bridger site. – This is oldest
continually occupied site in southwest Wyoming,
and technically, right here, at this
place, the entire history of southwest Wyoming
was contained. There are some manifestations of the history that aren’t here. Some of the economics,
like ranching, are here, the railroading, military, everything is right
here at this locality. So, almost inveritably, anybody
that passed through Wyoming in the first 20 years of
our territory history, before we became a territory,
passed through Ft. Bridger. Very significant people like
Horse Greeley, Mark Twain, they all stopped at this site, and what’s really
intriguing about it, there are people
such as Jim Bridger, who had wives who
were Native Americans, and it was a multinational
gathering place of Shoshone, and
Utes, and Bannocks. And, over time, eventually you
have people such as Chinese, and even later on,
Japanese people who passed through Ft. Bridger
and made a contribution to this site and the
building of this site. – [Deborah] In 1853, Jim
Bridger’s partner Vasquez sold the fort to the Mormons. They built additions, including
a substantial stone wall. By 1857, however, the
fort was taken over by the US military. – When the military
come in, in 1857, and take over this
fort from the Mormons, the Mormons burned down
their old structure so the military
can’t have use of it. When the military
come in in 1857, and they bring with
them correspondence from the New York Times and
the New York newspapers, and one of those correspondents
writes about the fact that there were yellow
men with trappers. And, specifically what they
say in the newspaper is, there are a bunch of
trappers in this area, and among the people
accompanying them
was a Chinese man. That’s the first
reference that we have to the Chinese in Wyoming. – [Deborah] The only
physical evidence of Chinese at the Fort Bridger
site are coins, probably belonging to a
Chinese worker in the laundry. – It was a very
harsh environment for anyone coming
here in the 1860s. It was very difficult
to live in Wyoming. It was always the
boom-and-bust economy that you’ve seen even today. So, they would move in,
they would take a job, they’d establish a community,
then they’d have to go on. Now, a lot of them
liked that idea, because they could go
to greener pastures, but some of them had
just began to make money, and suddenly the construction
jobs were shut down, so they were forced to
find work as a washer, or as a restaurateur,
or something else to try to make ends meet. The harshness of the environment was compounded by the
fact that, a lot of times, they weren’t allowed to live in what was called the
‘white part of town’, or even here at Ft. Bridger,
they weren’t allowed to live in the better,
substantial buildings, they were put at the periphery,
like at the town of Merrill, which was a service town
for this particular fort. The launderers were behind
where we’re standing right here, and probably, they were
allowed in the laundry area, but even there, there
was some segregation. So, it was a harsh environment, not just because of the climate, but because of the prejudice that was extended
towards Chinese by the first inhabitants of
the territory of Wyoming. (playful accordion) – [Deborah] Although
individual Chinese ventured into Wyoming
during those years, it was the building of the
transcontinental railroad that brought them in
by far larger numbers. – We’re standing on top of the
Union Pacific Railroad grade that was constructed in 1868. In 1868, when the Union
Pacific came through, they decided that what
they were gonna do was get this through
as fast as possible, because they received
federal loans and money for the amount of
tracks that they laid, so they rushed through
southwestern Wyoming as quick as possible. It’s kinda funny,
everybody wants to get out of southwestern
Wyoming too quickly. Unfortunately, when they
built the grade through here, they found that they hadn’t
constructed it properly, so they had to come
back and reconstruct it. In fact, in the first year, there were major
disasters that took place. Muddy Creek overflew, it wiped out large
sections of railroad grade, and here at Hampton, they
had to redo large sections of the original railroad
that they put in place. Who was going to do that? A lot of the workers had
already gone back home. They were paid high wages
for putting in the railroad, and the Union Pacific
was strapped for cash. So, what they hit
upon was the idea of bringing in large amounts, or large numbers
of Chinese laborers to work on the Union
Pacific mainline. And, here at Hampton, they
had a small Chinese village. It was segregated from
the main part of town. In the main part of town, you had the foreman
and his wife, and a couple of
other Anglo families. Actually, they were
either Irish, English, or sometimes Swedish,
but there were also a few American families that
were up and down the mainline. To the north side of
town was the Chinatown, and in the Chinatown, people lived in
subterranean structures. They literally dug
into the ground, and lived inside
that part of town. It’s interesting
because very few people wanted to live here. There was a lot of employment
throughout the nation. You could work in
factories in the east, you could work in gold mines. There were a lot of
opportunities, you could ranch, you could do a lot
of different things. There were a
shortage of laborers, maybe not so much a
shortage of laborers, but a shortage of people who
would work for very little. And here, at this
almost inhospitable
place called Hampton, Chinese workers came
in large numbers. – [Deborah] The Chinese
population numbers in Hampton varied between 10 and 100. Today, the remnants of
this 19th century community are strewn across the prairie, disturbed only by
wind and wildlife. – There’s all handwork up
and down this mainline here, and so, they would use shovels,
and they would use picks, and they’d use the fresno. It was drawn by
horses and mules, and everything was
labor intensive. At this particular place, they left a pretty
large crew here, the Union Pacific left a pretty
large crew at this point, and they’d move
them up and down. But, every six miles,
there was a section camp. So, six miles to
the east of here, six miles to the west of here, there would be a section camp. All those Chinese were tied
to the community of Evanston, or as you go further to
the east, to Rock Springs, as you go further to the east, the Chinese community of Carbon. And, they probably stayed here, probably the longest
that anyone stayed here was maybe 15 to 20
years, one individual. – [Deborah] Although this
site has not been excavated, there is still a
great deal we know about the daily lives of
the Chinese living here. – So, you would have, probably, four people living in a dugout. They lived tighter than we do. They lived in less
space than we do. They were used to that in China, they needed less space. In fact, they felt a
little bit uncomfortable with the wide-open spaces. So, they lived
clustered, in community. The one thing that the Chinese
did was have community. There’s been a lot
of discussion about what makes Wyoming
special today, and that’s a sense of community. And, some people say that if you don’t have community,
you’re impoverished. The Chinese quickly
understood that, to succeed in the states, they
needed to develop community. So, they would order
themselves that way. One person would stay back
here, and cook for the other men that went out and worked
on the Muddy Creek cut, or worked replacing rails, or worked in repairing
the railroad grade. Another person might stay
here and be a barber, or do the service
industry like laundering. But, they divided themselves along divisions of
labor like that. The very young people, between
13 and 15 years of age, would be the one’s that
would be home cooking, or the very old, the people who were having
difficulty working. And, I don’t know how
this would affect them over the long haul, but
sometimes people that were sick or had become injured,
not working on the rails, are able to stay
back and be the cooks and be the people that
were taken care of. And, community takes
care of its own. In wintertime,
when worked slowed, you might have the whole
crew go to Evanston, and then the next year,
they would come back. But, that was a place that food and commercial goods
were distributed from, and where banking
occurred, was in Evanston. Here, you did your
work, made your money, and in Evanston, you went and
played, even for the Chinese. (playful flute and drums) – [Deborah] We
traveled with Dudley to another unique Wyoming
location, Evanston’s Chinatown. Evanston is the first
Wyoming municipality to protect and designate an archeological site
within its city limits. – This Chinatown, an issue
was thought to start in 1873, but we now know that it
probably began in 1869. The Chinese were always confined to the west side of the tracks, and Chinatown is in a
very constricted area, it runs from the modern
overpass to the Bear River, and from the railroad
tracks to the Bear River, and it was all on
Union Pacific property. Union Pacific never sold the
property here in Evanston, in Evanston Chinatown. – [Deborah] By the 1880 census, there were 300 Chinese
living in Uinta County. That included the small
section towns like Hampton, the service community prospering
in Evanston’s Chinatown, and the Chinese workers
at the coal mines in Almy. Anxious for work, the
Chinese were employed at rock-bottom
wages, and were met with resentment by
the other workers. Tensions soon increased. In nearby Rock Springs,
coal miners were paid by the amount of coal
they mined each day, one nickel per bushel. But, the railroad
decided to reduce payment to four cents per bushel. The workers walked out. The company promptly fired them, and replaced them with Chinese. When the strikers
tried to return to work at the four-cents-a-bushel rate, the company refused
to hire them. In 1885, white men in
Rock Springs, Wyoming killed 28 Chinese, wounded
15 others, and chased the remaining several hundred
Chinese residents out of town. – What happened is,
they fled Rock Springs, and the railroad conductor
was ordered to slow down and pick them up and
put them on the trains. They brought them on
the trains to Evanston. The US military
detachment from Ft. Steele was assigned here to Evanston,
so they came all the way from east of Rawlins,
Wyoming to Evanston to protect the Chinese here. The reason is, that there was
so much anti-Chinese sentiment in Evanston, that there was fear that there would be a
riot here in Evanston. A gatling gun and
a cannon were set, now where the state
hospital sits. There was a camp erected to the south side of
the tracks over there, and this community
was protected, but the town grew fairly
rapidly here, at the time, and of course, the
Chinese were then taken back to Rock Springs,
under military guard, and protected inside
Rock Springs city limits, but they came here
during the massacre. (playful flute and drums) – [Deborah] Not only
has Evanston protected the archeological
site of its Chinatown, but it’s rebuilt
one of Chinatown’s most remarkable
structures, the Joss House. – In 1990, Wyoming celebrated
their 100th birthday, and as part of that
centennial celebration, each community in
the state of Wyoming chose a committee to
honor our statehood, and Evanston formed
a local committee who looked for a
project and decided upon to rebuild a replica Joss House that existed in our
community for many years, and so, they began the long
process of fundraising, and putting the idea together, and getting an architect to
design the building, research, do all those things necessary,
and where I got involved, or the agency I work with, they came to us
early on and said, “We would like to put the
Joss House in Depot Square.” And, that’s how
it all came about. – [Deborah] The story of the
Chinese in southwestern Wyoming was a disturbing chapter
in our state’s history. We asked Jim how the
community of Evanston decided to deal with this. – That sentiment was
there, that we felt bad at what happened, and of
course, in Rock Springs, they had the Chinese
massacre, and in Evanston, when that happened,
they removed the Chinese from Rock Springs and
brought them to Evanston, and it was really a hard
time in our early history. It was timing, maybe, to heal some of the
wounds, so to speak, all of those people
are long gone, there’s not any direct
descendants from
that time period, but, as the process
started working, and they began doing
the research that I
mentioned earlier, and putting this whole
project together. Everybody really got
excited about going back and honoring our Chinese
heritage and telling the story. – [Deborah] Historian
Barbara Ellen Bogart served as consultant for
the Joss House project, which was funded, in part, by the Wyoming Council
for the Humanities. Dr. Bogart told us more
about the personal lives of the Chinese in Uinta County. Well, now, these
people were either working for the railroad,
or working the mines, were there families that
were here, or just men? – It was overwhelmingly
Chinese men who immigrated to the United
States, and that’s true, not just in this
part of Wyoming, but in the United States
and the west as a whole. The reason for that has to
do with immigration laws both in China and in
the United States, and in the early
1880s, pressure, in
California especially, built to exclude
Chinese immigration,
and what Congress did, then, in the early 1880s,
was to put a moratorium on Chinese immigration
for 10 years. Chinese who were already here were allowed to return to China, but unless they could prove they had property in
the United States, they were not allowed
to re-immigrate. It was mostly Chinese
men who immigrated, and then the United States prevented Chinese
women from immigrating. Or, I should say, Chinese women could immigrate to
the United States if they could prove they
were not prostitutes. Now, how are you
going to do that? – The wages in the mines were about four cents a
bushel for these individuals, but we see that they have
such elaborate things that they bought or they had. How did they get money? – Well, not all of the Chinese
who were here were laborers. They were merchants, as well, and they are listed
on the census. And, there were several
merchants that ran
their own stores, who did import business, so, there was several
relatively wealthy Chinese individuals
in the community. But, regardless of that,
where they got their wealth, the Chinese wanted to
have these things here. There was very little that
they brought with them. Dudley Gardner says that
they may have brought their rice bowl with them,
their clothes, of course, and a few other personal items. But, all of the really beautiful
things that are found here, and we have some on display in the Joss House
here, were imported. So, that some of the
Chinese merchants in town, as they were in Rock Springs, and other communities
in the west, were importers,
and they imported, primarily through import
houses in San Francisco, but also did some direct
import business, as well. – [Deborah] Barbara described
the situation in Evanston, after the Rock Springs Massacre. – The people in Evanston
were in an uproar, as everyone in Wyoming was, about the massacre in Rock
Springs and the unrest there. And, there were enough
demands to remove the Chinese from the mines at
Almy at that point, that when the mines
in Almy reopened a month or so after the
massacre in Rock Springs, Chinese were banned
from the mines. So, a lot of the Chinese, at
that point, left Uinta County, and we don’t have the
census figures for 1890, unfortunately, but by 1900, there were about 60 Chinese
left in Uinta County. – [Deborah] By 1922, almost all of the Chinese
had left Evanston. Chinatown, located on land owned by the Union
Pacific Railroad, was burned to the ground. Today, a few of
Evanston’s older citizens still fondly remember some of the community’s
Chinese residents. – One of them was
Mormon Charlie. He died in his late 70s
or early 80s, in 1939, and he was one of the
vegetable peddlers in Evanston. The Chinese spent time
raising vegetables, using agricultural methods that
they had developed in China, and managed to raise
wonderful vegetables in an elevation at 6,800 feet,
where everyone else gave up. Anyway, they would
peddle them around town, in these huge, woven baskets. And, a lot of people remember
Mormon Charlie very fondly. A tiny, little man that could
balance these two huge baskets on a bamboo pole like a
yoke across his shoulders, and several people
have told us that when Mormon Charlie was
through with his rounds and his baskets were empty, that he would give little,
tiny children rides. – [Deborah] Are there
other individuals that we have that kind
of a rich story about, that they know lived in
Evanston’s Chinatown? – The other person is a woman,
and her name was Ah Yuen, Y-U-E-N, but she was
called China Mary. And, we don’t know when
she came to Evanston. She came to the United
States in the early 1860s, when she was a very young girl, 13 or 14 years old,
but she doesn’t show up on the Evanston
census until 1910, and no one really knows
where she lived before that, but there are a lot of
fabulous stories about her, being a prostitute
in San Francisco, and she was in the mining
town of Park City, Utah, and those kinds of things. We don’t really know anything
about that, but again, older residents remember
her walking around town in her very traditional,
black satin clothes, and she would allow tourists
to take photographs of her, but she charged them a
dime for the privilege. And then, she kept a big tin
can of dimes at her door, and then she would ask children
to run errands for her, to run down to the barn to
fill up her liquor bottle, or to run down to the store
and buy something for her, and she would give them dimes for running these
errands for her, so she is also very
fondly remembered. She and Mormon Charlie died within months of
each other in 1939. (playful flute and drums) – [Deborah] What
exactly is a Joss House? And, what role did it play in the lives of the
people who lived here? – Well, it played the same role that it did for
Chinese communities all over the western
United States, wherever Chinese settled
in the United States. It’s a temple, it’s
a place of worship, and the term Joss House,
although we use it fairly freely now, is
actually a derogatory term. And, no one really
understands or knows what the etymology
of the term is, no one knows where
the term comes from. There are several
different explanations. But, it is a term
that whites applied to Chinese places of
worship, or temples. The Chinese word for
it is miuw, M-I-U-W. So, the Joss House in
Evanston was actually one of two of the largest
buildings in Chinatown that served social
and cultural purposes. If you look at the photographs, you’ll see that the Joss House, which was a little bit narrower than the replica building
that was constructed, was probably used for
a number of purposes. There would have
been an altar in it, something like this one, where individual worshipers
would have come to make visits, to make prayers,
to make offerings, to consult the oracle,
and that kind of thing. It was a not a place of worship in the sense of large group
gathering for rituals, that was not its purpose at all. But, the building itself, then, might also have
served as a hostelry for travelers coming through, Chinese travelers coming
through on the train and wanting a place to stay. They might have
bunked down here. In fact, we found a reference in a diary of a Chinese diplomat who took the train from San
Francisco to Philadelphia for the International Exposition
of Philadephia in 1876, and he came through Evanston. And, apparently,
he stopped here, and he made reference to
several of the buildings, and he made reference
to one building that was a kind of
a lodge or an inn, and the reason that
we can identify it as perhaps the same
building as the Joss House, is he described an
inscription over the door. And, that inscription is
in the Joss House now, it’s a huge wooden block with four large Chinese
characters on it. And, the inscription indicates that this is a
place for travelers. The Chinese New Year, with its
fireworks and festive dragon continues to capture
the imagination of the entire
Evanston community, just as it did
over 100 years ago. The Chinese New Year
begins in our calendar, some time around
the end of January, anywhere through the end
of February, so, it varies, just like Easter, in our
calendar, varies every year, according to the moon, so
does the Chinese New Year. And, the celebration in
Evanston was a big one, and it involved everyone
in the community. And actually, the only time that the life of the
Chinese in Evanston appears in the white newspaper, is when the New Year’s
celebration was going on. And, the editor of the newspaper would make condescending, and use condescending remarks about what was going
on in Chinatown, but it involved housecleaning,
it involved hospitality, inviting guests into
your home for feast, it involved a parade, of course, and what we discovered in
the course of this research is that the dragon, the
silk dragon that was used in Evanston’s New Year’s
parade was probably a dragon that was loaned by
the Chinese community of Marysville in California. They had a dragon. You can imagine, these
things are expensive. They were built in Hong
Kong, and imported, and so, Marysville had
this gorgeous dragon, and they would rent it out to Chinese communities
all around the west. They’d ship it on the train, which meant that
different communities then had to schedule their
New Year’s celebration when the dragon was available. But, we looked at photographs
of the Marysville dragon and photographs of the
dragon used in Evanston, and it was probably
the same one. One of the big events,
besides the parade, was that, every year, the New
Years offered an opportunity to choose a new manager
for the Joss House. There had to be someone
in charge of the temple, someone who was in charge of keeping the religious
objects stocked, the Joss sticks, the candles, the paper money, all
of that kind of thing. So, that person was in
charge of ordering it, taking the offerings from the
worshipers who would come in, just keeping the place clean. Well, New Years was the time
when that person was chosen, and the way they did it was
unique, really, to Evanston. The fireworks were, of course, a big part of the
Chinese celebration, and what they did was, they
had a large, wooden ball. We don’t know how big it was, maybe the size of a
basketball, let’s imagine. And, they set it
on top of a rocket, and they lit it, and they
shot this thing into the air. Inside the wooden
ball, attached to it, were the keys to the Joss House. So, when the thing
descended then, there was a mad scramble for it, and whoever managed
to recover the keys was the keeper of the keys, or the manager of the Joss
House for the coming year. – [Deborah] Barbara shared
what she personally learned during her research here. – What I tried to find
out in doing the research and putting the exhibit
together, was to suggest that these were real people,
living real lives. I think that’s where the
archeological excavations can be most valuable, because in excavating
the structures these
people lived in, and finding evidence
of the economic and social activities
they engaged in, we get an even richer
and fuller picture of what their lives were
like as human beings, and not just as ethnic oddities. – [Deborah] The
work of archeology is painstakingly detailed, but
the rewards are immeasurable. Gathering the fragments
of the Chinese in southwestern Wyoming, and reconstructing their
lives, is just beginning. – The Joss House was positioned
so that people could go in, and it would drive out spirits. They would drive them
out the back door, send the spirits
into the Bear River, the Bear River would carry
the spirits down to Bear Lake, and ultimately to Salt Lake. So, the spirits were
taken out of the temple. Everything was ordered here,
everything was tightly knitted, it was a tight-knit community. We’re gonna make an
interpretive side of this. We’re gonna erect plaques. We’re gonna have to it so that when you walk up on this site, there will be plaques that
interpret the buildings. There will be photographs
of the buildings, photographs of the
archeological remains, that you can stand there
and look at the way the archeology dove tails interfaces with the
standing structure. So, you’ll be able to look
down in the jeweler’s store, you’ll be able to see the
jeweler’s store as it stood. You’ll be able to see where
the pigpens were located at. You’ll be able to see where
the Joss House was configured over here, and where
the Masonic Temple was. But, the idea is to make it into an interpretive park
for future generations. – [Deborah] The rich
history of the Chinese along the Union
Pacific rail lines has been brought to life for us by local residents and scholars. By studying the pieces
buried and left behind, we’ve come to know these people, and to more fully understand
the tragedy of their departure. Thanks to my guests
for their insights, and thanks to you for joining
us on Main Street, Wyoming. (playful violin) – [Deborah] For a copy of this,
or any Main Street, Wyoming, send a check or money order
to Wyoming Public Television, or call us at 1-800-495-9788. Please include the subject or
broadcast date of the program. The cost of each
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Mastercard, and Discover. – [Announcer] Main Street,
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Author Since: Mar 11, 2019

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