WEEKEND: Port Townsend's early Chinese community topic of First Friday talk
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The Chinese man and child have been identified as Gloria Lung Wakayama's great-grandfather Eng Hock Gem, right, and her great-uncle Bing Cheung, known as Willie. The photo, taken in the Mount Baker Block on Water Street in Port Townsend circa 1905.

Peninsula Daily News

NOTE: “Today” and “tonight” refer to Friday, March 7.



PORT TOWNSEND — Gloria Lung Wakayama will speak about the sizable Chinese community of Port Townsend in the late 1800s at 7 tonight.

The program, one in a series of Jefferson County Historical Society First Friday Lectures, will be at Port Townsend's historic City Hall in the council chambers at 540 Water St.

Admission is by donation. Proceeds support historical society programs.

In the mid-1800s, driven by regional poverty and political unrest, tens of thousands of Chinese immigrants came to America to establish businesses or work as laborers to support their families in China.

Those who came to the Northwest came through Port Townsend, where a large Chinese community formed along the waterfront.

By 1890, 6 percent of Port Townsend's population was Chinese, said Bill Tennent, director of the historical society.

Chinese elites established successful businesses, providing a considerable and solid tax base, Tennent said.

In 1890, the Zee Tai Co. was the largest-grossing business in Port Townsend.

“An economic interdependency developed between the Chinese and white residents, along with mutual trust, respect and friendship,” Tennent said.

Great-granddaughter

Wakayama is the great-granddaughter of Eng Hock Gem, an early Chinese merchant in Port Townsend.

Her ancestors moved in 1907 to Seattle, where they built East and West Kong Yick, the first buildings to be owned by non-whites in that city.

She is a partner in the law firm Harris, Mericle & Wakayama PLLC, where she specializes in taxation, business and estate planning, and probate matters.

She has degrees from Seattle University and the University of Santa Clara School of Law. She serves on the Wing Luke Asian Museum board.

Other upcoming First Friday Lectures will be Jessica Plumb, producer and chief editor of “Return of the River,” on April 4 and author and poet Bill Ransom on May 2.

Last modified: March 06. 2014 4:36PM
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