ONLINE ONLY: Chinese Experience in America: Kam Wah Chung

Wednesday, March 24, 2021
3:00 PM to 4:00 PM
All Branches
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Hear how the story of two Chinese gentlemen in early John Day reveals a more realistic version of Chinese Experience from the mid-1800s-1960s with Don Merritt, Museum Curator and Archaeologist at Kam Wah Chung State Heritage Site.

Chinese-American influence in the United States was relatively just a foot note in the larger picture of American history until recent years. With more researchers digging into the history and archaeology of the historic Chinese community, a broader and more complex story is being unveiled that challenges the assumptions even 30 years ago. As a case in point, Kam Wah Chung is just one of many sites that is slowly revealing the true story of Chinese in America from the mid-1800s through the 1960s. Kam Wah Chung is the story of two Chinese gentlemen, a businessman Lung On and herbal doctor Ing "Doc" Hay. Having one of the most complete historical records in the world including business and personal letters, financial records, and medical records, Kam Wah Chung does not completely fit the stereotype of what the general public is told about Chinese Americans living in the country for over 100 years. What was found in the historic Kam Wah Chung building dates back to the 1860s through the 1960s. Within that information, a more realistic history of the Chinese Experience in America come to light by way of personal and social interactions between two Chinese gentlemen and the community of Oregon.

Don Merritt is the Museum Curator for the Kam Wah Chung State Heritage Site in John Day, Oregon. "As an archaeologist and museum curator, I have worked on some very interesting projects and surveys during the last 14 years. Living in six states in 14 years after leaving Michigan in 1998, I just tell people "I am from the west" when people ask me where I am from, though I am calling Oregon home these days. I graduated from the University of Montana in 2010 with a Master's Degree in Archaeology. After graduation, I worked for cultural resource management firms, state, and federal agencies throughout the west. I then took a job working for Utah State Parks as the museum curator and Utah State Park's archaeologist at Fremont Indian State Park in 2014. Beginning January 3, 2017, I started my current position as museum curator for Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, Kam Wah Chung State Heritage Site. During my tenure as archaeologist, I surveyed and documented for listing a segment of the California-Mormon-Pony Express Trail in Utah, one of the most complete and intact segments in the state which included two camping sites previously unknown. I also helped survey and record portions of the Rosebud Battlefield near the Battle of the Little Bighorn in Montana. My thesis was the archaeology and history of Fort Owen in southwest Montana, which I am currently writing a book about. But most importantly, I helped my brother Chris Merritt on his PhD dissertation on The Chinese of Montana, for which I gained the most knowledge on Chinese artifacts. Now I am the steward for the most unique historic Chinese collection in North America at Kam Wah Chung.

Event Type(s):
Adult Program
Adult Program
Age Group(s):
Don Merritt
Laurel Westendorf | | 541-312-1029