Lung On & Ing Hay ~ Kam Wah Chung

Lung On
1863 - 1940

Ing Hay
1862 - 1952

Welcome to Kam Wah Chung
In 1890, you would be standing in the middle of a bustling Chinatown. Businesses all around you, the temple in front and Kam Wah Chung -- the core of the community -- would be to your left. Why is it the only building remaining? Why did Lung On and Doc Hay stay when the rest of the Chinese community left?

Kam Wah Chung & Co - front and back

Pulses, Plants & Persistence
Around the turn of the 20th century, the gold played out and the once bustling Chinese community melted away. But by now Doc Hay and Lung On - Leon as he was known to the townspeople - were valued members of the community, sto they staye on, and Kam Wah Chung and Co prevailed.

The Enterprising Adventurer
Unlike most Chinese who came to the U.S., Lung On could have stayed home, but adventure beckoned. A shrewd businessman, he stocked Chinese goods desired by locals and sold 'Japanese' goods when anti-Chinese sentiments ran high. At his death in 1940, he owned mines, an auto dealership and rental property along MainStreet.

Plants and Pulses
Feeling your pulse to find out what ailed you? Giving you concoctions of strange herbs to cure you? Doc Hay was probably a last resort for the first non-Chinese to see him, but word quickly spread that he cured ills with his herbs and concoctions, bringing patients from hundreds of miles away.

The Golden Flower of Prosperity
Imagine journeying to a distant, strange land where you are a minority; you don't speak the language and hostility is common. That was a reality for Chinese immigrants to Central Oregon in the 1800's. For those who reached John Day, Kam Wah Chung -- the Golden Flower of Prosperity -- was a lifeline, linking them to loved ones and to the lives they once lived.

The Golden Mountain Beckons

Would You Leave Home
No food, no work and little hope in war-torn China. Across the Pacific, the Golden Mountain (California) beckons. The catch? Perhaps never seeing your wife, children and home again.

The Way to John Day
In the late 1800's massive hydraulic mining operations based in nearby Canyon City needed cheap labor. Word spread and the Chinese came by the thousands. By 1885, almost everyone in Canyon City employed a Chinese laborer. When their homes and businesses burned later that year, many Chinese moved to the thriving Chinatown centered at Kam Wah Chung.

Buried in the peaceful Rest Lawn Cemetery in John Day, Oregon are the Chinese gentlemen that settled in and became part of the community. Lung On and Ing 'Doc' Hay were from the Canton region of China. They came to the U. S. for opportunity and eventually met in John Day, Oregon with the influx of Chinese drawn to the gold mines -- Ing Hay as a healer and Lung On as an entrepreneur -- and formed a partnership which was to last throughout their lives.

During the Great Depression, Lung On, Doc Hay and a wealthy local rancher were determined not to allow the banks to close and financially kept them open, kept credit alive and allowed the people in the community to survive the depression. Lung On also opened the first auto dealership in Eastern Oregon in 1921. For periods of time, Doc Hay was the only doctor for miles - more than several days of travel time.

Our day trip to drive to the eastern part of the state to visit the museum was a wonderful day. We enjoyed the museum immensely - they have restored the house and kept as much in tact as possible. It is like stepping back into the turn of the 20th Century. Unfortunately, the museum is not open all of the time and you need to plan for your visit. (Times at the bottom of the piece) We got lucky, as we did not know how limited access was, and were able to get on a tour.

Historically, this was a time of virulent anti-Chinese sentiment, yet these two men became a much loved and respected part of the community. They were buried in the local cemetery among the non-Chinese as a sign of the place they had been given in the community.

Kam Wah Chung & Co Museum
The Kam Wah Chung and Co. Museum and Interpretive Center is open May 1 - Oct. 31, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
Call (541) 575-2800 or (800) 551-6949 for more information.

The house sits on a lovely city park and would be a perfect place for a picnic.
Prior to entry, you must enter the Visitor's Center to get your complimentary passes, as they only allow a limited number in the building each hour. It is not a place for young children - all standing and listening. If you get to the Visitor's Center early enough, you can watch some great videos about the Museum and the men. Ask and they will direct you to the cemetery where you can pay your respects to Lung On and Ing Hay.

Oregon Public Broadcasting
You can watch the special they did online at http://www.opb.org/programs/oregonexperience/programs/20-Kam-Wah-Chung

National Park Service
The best Internet piece I have found http://www.nps.gov/history/nr/feature/asia/2005/kam.htm

This was a remarkable day - we wish we had over-nighted and spent more time in the valley. I would have loved to have transcribed the cemetery.