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Jow Kee (aka Jim King), my great, great grandfather was a contractor who spoke Chinese and English. This intel from Uncle Duane Tom by way of Gene Chan in this article http://www.uprr.com/newsinfo/community_ties/2015/june/chinese-150.shtml

“It wasn’t until Chan was in his 70s that he discovered his great grandfather, Jow Kee, played an integral part in constructing the Transcontinental Railroad…

…Chan discovered his great grandfather’s name listed on a Central Pacific Railroad payroll log. It was the joining of the Central Pacific and Union Pacific railroads that formed the Transcontinental Railroad.

“I learned that my great grandfather, Jow Kee, was born in Sun Chung Village, Heung Shan District, China, during a period of foreign invasions, economic recession and overpopulation,” Chan said. “In 1855 he arrived in California. He found work with some gold miners as a helper, and it was through that work that he learned English. He was only 15 or 16. It is assumed that the miners gave him the American name Jim King.”

Ten years after Kee’s arrival, gold mining slowed. At the same time, the Central Pacific Railroad faced a severe labor shortage. Like Kee, tens of thousands of young Chinese immigrants had traveled to California chasing the promise of gold. Central Pacific President Charles Crocker suggested the railroad hire these available workers. Central Pacific Superintendent James Harvey Strobridge resisted Crocker’s suggestion. He didn’t believe the Chinese men could handle the grueling labor. Despite his prejudice, 50 men were hired for one month to do the life-threatening work of blasting rock and laying ties over the treacherous terrain of the High Sierras.

By 1866 the laborers proved Strobridge wrong, and Central Pacific was looking to hire as many Chinese men as possible. At this time Chan’s great grandfather Jow Kee, now in his late 20s, formed the Jim King Company, a labor contracting business for Central Pacific Railroad. He became an important asset to Central Pacific because he was a contractor who could speak English and Chinese. “They needed him, he could communicate with the new Chinese workers,” Chan said…

Continuing Jow Kee’s Legacy

Gene O. Chan was born in 1932 in Locke, California, a city built in 1915 to be a fresh start for several Chinese families after a fire destroyed the Chinese section of nearby Walnut Grove, California. Locke catered to residents of the California delta region. Chan’s father and uncles managed a grocery store, where he worked throughout his childhood.

“I went to City College for two years before I volunteered to join the Air Force. I served during the Korean War, and when the war ended I was given an option to go to the Air Force Academy or I could sign out and go to college. I signed out and went to California Polytechnic State University with the G.I. Bill. So that’s how my life began.”

Chan believes a lot of his success in life has to do with the legacy of hard work Kee established for his family. “I feel elated that his genes must have been passed on to me,” Chan said. Chan earned a B.S. in Aeronautical Engineering from California Polytechnic State University, which led to a 34-year career in Aerojet’s solid rocket propulsion division. He and his wife, Louise, have four children, three girls and one boy…”

One Response to “Jow Kee (aka Jim King) Built CA Railroads”

  1. Mike King says:

    Actually, I believe the gold rush ended by 1855 – just as Jow Yook Kee (my great grandfather arrived at the age of 15 – bad timing). The only mines that the Chinese were allowed to work were abandoned ones…and if any gold happened to have been found, they were chased off by the Caucasian miners (Chinese were not allowed to testify in court, thx to a California Supreme Court ruling in 1854, so no recourse). And Chinese found gold, there was the 1850 Foreign Miners Tax of $20 per month. The bright side (?) was that almost 1/4 of the State California’s funds came from taxes on Chinese miners, and that was the counter-argument to those proposing a Chinese exclusion law (Who will fund our State if we exclude the Chinese?). But in 1882, the Chinese Exclusion Act was passed anyway, and was only repealed in 1943 due to Japanese propaganda using the law to ridicule the idea that the US considered the Chinese their friends.

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