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Chinese funeral is held for Chun Wa in Seattle on July 21, 1873. Essay 1617 : Printer-Friendly Format

On July 21, 1873, in Seattle, a funeral is held for Chun Wa (1841?-1873). The deceased was a partner with Chun Ching Hock (1844-1927) in the Wa Chong Company, a general-merchandise store. The store is located on Mill Street (later renamed Yesler Way).

Chun Wa was born in Canton, and was "a great favorite with his countrymen" in Seattle. He was buried (in what was intended to be a temporary internment) in the Seattle Cemetery. The town's first official municipal graveyard, Seattle Cemetery was located on the site of what is now Denny Park, between lower Queen Anne and the south end of Lake Union.

Chun Ching Hock, who arrived in Seattle in 1860 and is generally believed to be the city's first Chinese immigrant, opened the Wa Chong Company in 1868. Chun Wa was his first partner in the business, which sold sold Chinese goods, rice, sugar, tea, flour, and opium (which was legal until 1902), and was a major importer and distributor of fireworks.  

The Weekly Intelligencer gave the following description of Chun Wa's elaborate funeral:

"For several hours previous to the funeral the remains of the deceased, enclosed in a very costly coffin, lay on a stand in front of Wa Chong's store, surrounded by a large crowd of spectators to witness the ceremonies. Many mourners were also present. Immediately behind the coffin stood a table, on which was placed a roasted pig, chicken, peanuts, oranges and other edibles. As the hour drew nigh for the funeral to take place, the refreshments were gathered up, placed in a wagon behind the hearse, and in a short time began to move in the direction of the old Cemetery [Seattle Cemetery], followed by several other wagons full of Chinamen and women. There the remains were temporarily interred, it being intended of course to ship them to their native land at some future period."

Following Chun Wa's death, Chin Gee Hee (1844-1929), a cousin of Chun Ching Hock who had arrived in Seattle in 1873, became Chun's new partner in the Wa Chong company. Unlike Chun Wa, both Chin Gee Hee and Chun Ching Hock lived long lives, becoming wealthy as merchants and labor contractors in Seattle before returning to spend their last years in China.

The Weekly Intelligencer (Seattle), July 26, 1873, p. 3; Online Encyclopedia of Washington State History, "Chun Ching Hock opens the Wa Chong Company in Seattle on December 15, 1868." (by Margaret Riddle), (accessed September 23, 2014).
Note: This essay was corrected and expanded on September 23, 2014.

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Related Topics: Biographies | Asian & Pacific Islander Americans |

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