Carolyn Jew Kuhn
Great-granddaughter of Chin Lin Sou
Interviewee: Carolyn Kuhn, Great-granddaughter
Interviewed by: Connie Young Yu and Shelley Fisher Fishkin
Interview Date: September 11, 2013
Location: San Francisco, California
Length of Interview: 37 minutes, 55 seconds
00:02 Hello! I’m Carolyn Jew Kuhn. I was formerly Carolyn Gwen Jew. My Chinese name is Jiao Sun Kin**, I was born in Denver, Colorado. I am very proud to say that I am the great granddaughter of Chin Lin Sou, one of the pioneers of Colorado. I am the fourth generation in this Chin family.
00:38 Interviewer: Could you talk about your parents that- the third generation?
00:47 Kuhn: My father was also born in the United States in San Francisco. My mother was born in Denver, Colorado. She was of the third generation. Her father, William Chin, was the mayor of Chinatown in Denver, Colorado.
01:18 The father of the mayor of Chinatown [William Chin] was Chin Lin Sou.
01:23 Mother had an older sister, Francis. She married Herbert. Her name became Francis Wong. There was my mother, Wawa See Jew. Then there was my uncle, William Chin. Followed by my auntie who is here today, Hazel Hong. And there was also my other uncle, Edward Chin. And then there was a set of twins. That was Helen and Henry. Henry passed away in his teen years. Auntie Helen is still here and lives in San Francisco along with Aunt Hazel Hong. I have a half-sister, Jean. She lives in Pinole, CA and I have my sister, Linda Susan Jew, who was born in Denver. We both now live in Parker, Colorado. Down the road, I did get married, to Richard Lawrence Kuhn. We adopted a little girl from the Anhwei (Anhui) Province in a little town called Hefei. Her name is Jenna Linh Kuhn. Her Chinese name is Fung Yu Chin. This is a quick summary of my family.
Carolyn Jew Kuhn introduces herself and talks about her family history. She is a descendant of Chin Lin Sou, and her grandfather, William Chin, served as the mayor of Denver Chinatown.
Carolyn Jew Kuhn/Carolyn Gwen Jew/Jiao Sun Kin; Chin Lin Sou(great-grandfather); Denver, Colorado; Edward Chin (uncle); Francis Wong (maternal aunt); Hazel Hong (aunt); Hefe, Onwei Province; Helen (aunt); Henry (uncle); Herbert Wong(maternal uncle); Jean (half-sister); Jenna Linh Kuhn/Fung Yu Chin (adopted daughter); Linda Susan Jew (sister); Parker, Colorado; Richard Lawrence Kuhn (husband); San Francisco; Wawa See Jew (mother); William Chin (maternal grandfather); William Chin (maternal uncle)
Chinatown Family history
03:27 Interviewer: Work that parents did in Denver?
03:35 Kuhn: My mother passed away 3 years ago. She worked very hard in her young years as a waitress. She was an educated woman. The family never showed any bias toward male or female. Oldest Auntie Francis went to Colorado Women’s College and my mother also did go to Colorado Women’s College but thereafter they ran out of money and boys could not go to college.
04:27 William and Edward were recruited into and fought WWII. William was part of Flying Tigers. Edward was in the army. He was a part of ground troops, landed in Normandy and did some of the terrible fightings in Italy.
04:51 My mother was at home with my grandmother Daisy. She worked as a waitress because at that time there was not too much welcoming of the Chinese people. So jobs hard to find. My mother did all the silver service and worked very hard. She eventually worked in munitions factory with Hazel Hong. They examined bullets and rolled the bullets in their hands for defective bullets that were used in WWII. She continued to work as a waitress.
05:45 One of the very appreciative patrons – Winter was his last name – owned Winter Weiss Corporation. He needed somebody to help him at his company, learned that my mother was an educated woman, and gave her a job as a secretary. She worked as a secretary and did very well there. She became friends with the Winter Weiss family and they have been wonderful to us up until she passed away.
Kuhn’s mother and her aunt Francis attended college. Her uncles William and Edward served in the U.S. military during WWII. Her mother worked as a waitress and a laborer in a munitions factory before landing a job as a secretary in the Winter Weiss corporation.
Colorado Women’s College; Educated women; Edward Chin (uncle); Flying Tigers; Francis Wong (maternal aunt); Hazel Hong (aunt); Mother; Munitions factories; Normandy; Waitresses; Waitressing; William Chin(uncle); Winter; Winter Weiss corporation; World War II
Chinese American veterans Flying Tigers (American Volunteer Group, Chinese Air Force) inc. Immigrant labor Immigrant women–United States Immigrant youth–Education–United States World War II, 1939-1945
06:34 Interviewer: Well you mentioned your grandmother Daisy, so she would be, uh, she’s your mother’s mother, so is she the daughter of Chin –
06:42 Kuhn: No, she married the son of Chin Lin Sou. She was married to William Chin. William Chin was the son of Chin Lin Sou. My grandmother came through Angel Island. They were not allowed to come directly into the United States because of the Chinese Exclusion Act. So she was interned at Angel Island for several years until finally she was allowed to join Willie Chin who by then was in Denver, Colorado.
07:44 My grandmother was a wonderful person. When my father passed away, I was five, Linda was six. My uncle Ed, Edward Chin, took us into his home, because of he never married, and he and my grandmother Daisy Chin all lived together in an [inter-]generational home. We were so lucky because we got to know our grandmother. She spoke Cantonese to us and she learned English, a little along the way. She watched all the old black-and-white TV movies. She was the best grandmother. We called her by her nickname ‘Goodie.’ Every summer Uncle Ed and Grandmother welcomed the family from San Francisco and we got close to Auntie Helen and Hazel and Francis and all of the children. It was and it continues to be a very close family. My grandmother Daisy Yun Chin, the name is adapted to my daughter’s Chinese name Fung Yun Chin. I still have a dog that she autographed for me. She learned to write her name in English and I still have that to this day. She was a wonderful person.
09:44 Interviewer: Did she talk about her father-in-law? Do you know some of the history of Chin Lin Sou?
09:50 Kuhn: No, she did not. She spent a lot of time protecting us from getting spanked. My sister and I were a little bit rowdy and my mother always used to think we need discipline. My grandmother spent a lot of time telling my mother that we were good girls and that we should not be spanked. She did not share a lot of information about Chin Lin Sou. It was only in the later years when we learned about the historical importance of Chin Lin Sou that it became apparent we needed to know a lot more about our great grandfather.
Kuhn’s grandmother was interned at Angel Island for several years due to the Chinese Exclusion Act before she could go to Denver. Kuhn was close to her grandmother and lived with Daisy and her uncle Edward after her mother died. Daisy did not share much about Chin Lin Sou.
Angel Island; Cantonese; Chin Lin Sou (great-grandfather); Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882; Daisy Yun Chin (grandmother); Denver, Colorado; Edward Chin (uncle); English; Francis Wong (aunt); Fung Yun Chin (daughter); Hazel Hong (aunt); Helen (aunt); Parenting; San Francisco; William Chin (grandfather)
Angel Island Immigration Station (Calif.) Family history
10:40 Interviewer: So how did you find out more about him and can you tell us what you know about him?
10:46 Kuhn: I have been on this quest for a very long time. Of course, the family is always the best and the most informed. So my Uncle Ed and Bill, Auntie Hazel, Helen, and sometimes Auntie Francis, were able to share some pieces of history about him.
11:15 But the most information that I gathered was from going to the Denver Public Library since 2008. It becomes very important as you get older. History is important, and I would like for my daughter to know and understand what and how the pioneers made their lives and my life a lot easier and a lot better because of their hard work. Since that time, I have been going to the Denver Public Library and I got to be friends with the historian in the history library down in Denver. I used to look at the microfiches at all of those, print them off, what happened, I read them, a lot of the information was erroneous. It was very disturbing to see that my Grandfather, William Chin, was not acknowledged as the mayor of Chinatown. And even worse, the information on Chin Lin Sou was very sparing and sometimes inaccurate.
12:43 So for years, my mother, Wawa Chin Jew and I went to the operas up at Central City. We saw and sat in the house, the opera house, where Chin Lin Sou had a chair dedicated along with several other pioneers. His chair is right next to [that of] Bill Cody, William Cody, and that chair was dedicated by the McFarland family, a preeminent family in Denver.
13:17 So that even made me more interested, continue to look at this history. Then, Colorado, it was a centennial for Colorado, in 1976. And so in honor of the pioneers, they created stained glass windows of the Coloradoans who made an impact. Chin Lin Sou was one of them.
13:53 Linda Jew and I were honored to make a presentation about Chin Lin Sou’s stained glass window. So we went to the state capital on the third floor and in 1977, we spoke about our family and, uh, we knew that that stained glass was of large importance.
14:19 When they built the convention center in Denver, Colorado, the mosaic surrounding the convention center all had photographs of the pioneers of which one was Chin Lin Sou.
14:37 We have been looking and exploring and asking. We have had interviews with the wonderful William Wei, who is married to Susan Wei, Drs. William and Susan Wei of the University of Colorado. They are history teachers.
15:06 Wiliam Wei has acknowledged and remembered that the Chinese people were an important part of building Colorado. It was disturbing to him to know that the Chinese people were not at all recognized. He spoke to my mother and my uncle and my sister and had several articles published in the Denver Post and the Rocky Mountain News about the absence of acknowledgment for the Chinese people who build Colorado.
15:45 Then, about almost less than a year ago, Jeff Han from the World Journal, he’s a renowned journalist, a reporter who wrote an email and said Dr. Wiliam Wei has introduced me to your family and I would like to interview you about Chin Lin Sou and your family because the people of China would like to know what it is that the Chinese people did here and why it is that they are important in Colorado.
16:31 Thereupon the article over several weeks was put together and compiled. The World Journal article was then published in China, read by the Premier in China, published in New York and all the major Chinatowns in Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, none in Denver.
16:58 So my cousin Terry Hong sent articles in and my husband’s cousin sent the newspaper World Journal in from New York. We had the journal but it was not translated, and so we wondered what it said, whereupon we invited Dr. Wei to dinner at my house and he and Susan then put a rough translation together of everything. William Wei was wonderful in providing the translation.
17:43 However, I supplied the pictures of the family, because I thought it was important, not only just the picture of Chin Lin Sou and the next generation Willie Chin, the next generation, their children, the third generation, but [also] the fourth generation. So we didn’t have translations of the captions and so my husband and I often go to Chinese restaurants up in Conifer, Colorado and in Conifer, Colorado, an Italian young man who studies and speaks Mandarin translated the captions for me and therein lies the entire translation which was sent and shared over the Internet with my family and people from Stanford.
Kuhn learned about Chin Lin Sou from family stories and research in the Denver Public Library. Chin Lin Sou was recognized as an important pioneer in the opera house, the town hall, and the convention center. However, the Chinese contributions to building Colorado were under-recognized. Articles about Chin Lin Sou and the contributions of Chinese in Colorado were published in local papers and the World Journal.
Centennial for Colorado in 1976; Central City; Chin Lin Sou (great-grandfather); Denver convention center; Denver Post; Denver Public Library; Dr. William Wei, Dr. Susan Wei; Family stories; Jeff Han; Mayor of Chinatown; Rocky Mountain News; Town hall stained glass windows; University of Colorado; Wawa Chin Jew (mother); William Chin (grandfather); William Cody; World Journal
Chinese American journalists Colorado–Centennial celebrations, etc. Denver Public Library Family history Family Research
18:43 Interviewer: I just wanted to ask about Chin Lin Sou and the building of the Transcontinental Railroad. Do you have information or have you done research on his role?
18:55 Kuhn: Chin Lin Sou was a significant player in the building of the Transcontinental Railroad because he was tall in stature, over six feet tall, spoke perfect English, he was an educated man and not of the coolie genre. He was perfect to recruit and to lead the people in California to work in Colorado on the Transcontinental Railroad. He was the foreman. There was some doubt about the ability of the Chinese to do a good job on the Transcontinental Railroad, but we see that the Chinese got the hardest job in building the railroad over the mountain passes and over the hilly areas.
19:57 We see pictures of the Chinese people having to be lowered in baskets, to blast away the rocks and to lay the rails in which the railroad would pass.
20:12 Chin Lin Sou made sure that this was completed and I think at um Promontory Point at which the railroad met from the West and the East, the job had been completed. The ironic thing is, the Chinese people were not acknowledged even at that time. They were not invited to the final celebration of the finishing of the Transcontinental Railroad. And based on that, it was a little bit disturbing to know and understand that while this man had done a wonderful job, the Chinese people were summarily dismissed. They were considered *shakes head* not very useful anymore. The other people stayed around Colorado. There was a Chinatown, but Chinatown was not in the best area. It now is a very in-place to be. Chinatown is where Coors Field Baseball Field is.
21:27 At the time they grew up there, it was near the railroad.
21:35 But the discrimination was tough, and the jobs hard to find. But the building of the Transcontinental Railroad, even to this day, is still not acknowledged. And there are articles from Dr. William Wei who brought that up, wrote books and articles.
22:01 I have made it somewhat of a mission on my own to go to the History Colorado Museum. History Colorado Museum is about Colorado and pioneers. What I saw was that there was a lot of information about the Japanese Internment, Camp Amache, and the Japanese people. There was minimal info about the Chinese people and the building of the railroad.
22:37 So I joined up at History Colorado and I got a comment card. The comment card was a long-winded – what my daughter calls a “dissertation” – asking, where is the display? Why are the Chinese not represented? I want to share some information and I would like Colorado to acknowledge the work and the Chinese people who made Colorado and this nation great.
23:14 That was all partially the work of Chin Lin Sou, my great grandfather and the work of the Chinese people in Colorado.
Chin Lin Sou served as a foreman and leader among Chinese railroad workers in Colorado. After the railroad was complete, Chinese contribution was not recognized. Some stayed in the Denver Chinatown in Colorado and faced discrimination. The History Colorado Museum had minimal mentions of the experience of Chinese railroad workers.
Camp Amache; Chin Lin Sou (great-grandfather); Colorado; Completion ceremony of the Transcontinental Railroad; Denver Chinatown; Discrimination; Foreman; History Colorado Museum; Japanese internment; Promontory Point; Transcontinental Railroad
Chinatowns–United States Chinese Americans–Colorado–Biography Foremen Promontory Point (Utah : Cape) Railroad workers Transcontinental Railway
23:27 Interviewer: Um, does your family oral history or tradition ever talk about the famous ten miles a day – ten miles in one day – of track that were laid? Was Chin Lin Sou the foreman for that project?
23:41 Kuhn: It wasn’t discussed a lot. The literature does say, however, that the rules were: they needed to lay ten miles a day. The Polish and Irish people used to laugh at the Chinese people because they looked different. They wore queues, they were clothing, they were small in stature. But, once the hiring Caucasians saw how hard Chinese worked, it was very apparent that the Chinese people were going to make the building of the railroad ten miles a day, twenty miles a day, work and a success.
24:25 Interviewer: And I heard that your grandfather William Chin was sent back to China at one point to learn more about China? Can you talk about that a little bit?
24:36 Kuhn: My Aunties probably know a little bit more. But we know that tradition in our family is very important. And it was important for Chin Lin Sou to make sure that his sons, William Chin, my grandfather, know about Chinese tradition – go back, learn, write – so he did. He went back and he learned and he was a smart and educated man. And when he came back to Colorado, he was bilingual and also like Chin Lin Sou, very much a leader. And he was, in fact, the mayor of the Chinatown, a handsome man, and a good man.
25:24 Interviewer: Did you know him?
25:25 Kuhn: Never got to meet him. He was kicked in the back by a mule. And it damaged his kidneys. Well, we were not lucky to ever meet him – face to face. But we have heard everything good about him.
25:48 He was, I think, buried in the old cemetery at Riverside, a cemetery in Colorado. While it was not a very beautiful spot, it was still a place of honor. And he is buried there with his wife, Daisy Chin. So the mayor of Chinatown also had a great impact. And my aunties can probably tell you more about this man.
Chin Lin Sou’s involvement with the Ten Mile Day was not discussed much in the family. Grandfather William Chin was sent back to China to learn about Chinese traditions. He was buried at Riverside Cemetary in Colorado and was impactful to the development of Colorado.
Bilingual; Chin Lin Sou (great-grandfather); China; Chinese appearances; Chinese traditions; Daisy Yun Chin (grandmother); Education; Foreman; Irish; Polish; Queus; Riverside Cemetary; Ten Mile Day; William Chin (grandfather)
Foremen Immigration and the transnational experience Mayor of Chinatown Railroad workers
26:20 Interviewer: And do you know when Chin Lin Sou’s bones were sent back to China? I gather he was buried in Denver, but then his bones were later returned to China?
26:30 Kuhn: I don’t have the date. But, uh, he was buried in Riverside and then tradition would say he needs to go back to the homeland. So they had a friend who helped to unearth his remains and took him back to China. And I don’t have the date, but uh, maybe my sister has that.
26:55 Interviewer: Do you know the village? Do you know the village that your great grandfather came from?
26:59 Kuhn: You know, uh, I again, just know that our family is from Canton. My mother always used to say that we were Guangdong people, at Humaychun** Haumaychun*** at the end of the river. So they had, apparently, a nice place to live there. And that’s how my great grandfather Chin Lin Sou was more of an educated man than the average Chinese.
27:33 Interviewer: Do you know if he was from the Toishan district?
27:37 Kuhn: And I don’t know that.
27:42 Interviewer: Have you ever heard someone mention a town called Doongoon**?
27:46 Kuhn: Dongoon?
27:47 Interviewer: Is that -one of the articles mention that? Is that where he is from?
27:54 Kuhn: Auntie Hazel would know much about Dongoon. It is something that we know is part of Canton. I wish I was more educated.
28:14 Interviewer: Any members of the family go back to the village or go to the village?
28:20 Kuhn: We have not. We are up to generation number six and we have become very Americanized. We have not well we have gone back to China to walk the Great Wall and have gone to Shanghai and Canton. Looking up anybody related or in the family has not been something that we have done.
Chin Lin Sou’s bones were sent to China. The family is from Canton at Hamaychun, but not sure about the exact district or town. The family has not returned to the ancestral village or looked for relatives in China.
Ancestral villages; Bones; Burial customs; Canton; Chin Lin Sou (great-grandfather); China; Denver; Dongoon town; Great Wall of China; Guangdong people; Haumaychun; Riverside Cemetary; Shanghai
Burial customs–History Canton
28:44 Interviewer: You mentioned that the Chinatown is in, does it still exist, Chinatown?
28:54 Kuhn: There was much discrimination. Chinese people as I mentioned were not welcomed. And jobs were not forthcoming. So the Chinese people always look after the family and important thing in Chinese family is education. As in our family, college was always what the Chinese parents worked to get their children through so the children went to college. Even the third generation people, who were the granddaughters of Chin Lin Sou moved away to California, and there were more Chinese people there. So today, very few of the Chinese people live in Colorado. And Chinatown disappeared. It’s a shame. Japantown is still there, but Chinatown is not. And *shakes head* it would have been a very interesting place to have.
30:10 Interviewer: Did you here about the anti-Chinese riot in Denver?
30:14 Kuhn: We have heard of it through the newspaper and my mother has always warned us to be careful. We have a place in Colorado called Castle Rock. Unfortunately, Castle Rock is a high spot in Colorado and it is a place in which the people who did not care for the Chinese – people that wear the white hoods [Interviewer: KKK clan] – would pick on people of the Chinese race and several were hung in Castle Rock. So *shakes head* it’s a hard thing to talk about. People were not welcomed, they were not liked.
31:21 The discrimination was so bad, even though they are the third generation, my Uncle Ed who fought in World War II tried to come back from the War, buy a home in East Denver, and was not allowed to do that. The realtor, an Italian man, said: “Ed, I will buy the land for you and then you can buy it back from me.” So Park Hill was an area which was exclusively white, and my uncle bought back that piece of land, and build the house, and well, a lot of the Asians were not welcomed. There were a lot of people who made Colorado their home. And regardless of whether people tried to say that the Chinese people were taking jobs or running the other people out of the benefits of their family, our family has survived and endured. I am proud to say that my sister Linda and I, and another cousin, William Edward Chin still live in Colorado. So there is still evidence of racism.
32:51 Because of Chin Lin Sou and um the mayor of Chinatown, William Chin, and because of the children of William Chin, our lives were easier and better. And true to word, my sister and I and most all of the fourth generation cousins went to college and did well. So we survived. And we needed to go on and make sure that the rest of the people knew the story of the Chinese and needed to make sure that the following generations, even though we are Americans, need to know and understand the importance of the Chinese pioneers who built Colorado.
Denver Chinatown disappeared because of a few reasons. Because education was highly valued, many children attended colleges and moved to California. The presence of racism, anti-Chinese riots, lynchings in Castle Rock, and gentrification also contributed to the disappearance of Chinatown. However, Kuhn and a few family members still live in Chinatown, and she credits her pioneering family members for giving the fourth-generation children an easier life.
California; Castle Rock; Chinese lynchings; Chinese parenting; Chinese pioneers; Denver anti-Chinese riots; Denver Chinatown; Higher education; Klu Klux Klan (KKK); Park Hill; Racism
Chinatowns–United States Chinese Americans–Education Gentrification–United States Immigrant children–Education–China Lynchings–United States Race riots–United StatesÑHistory
33:45 Interviewer: William Chin who is your grandfather, was in the Flying Tigers?
33:54 Kuhn: William Chin was the son of the mayor of Chinatown. So, William senior was the mayor of Chinatown. William Chin, the next one, was in the Flying Tigers. And then the third William Chin, William Edward Chin, the son of the Flying Tiger, lives in Colorado right now. So, we have the fourth generation still in Colorado.
34:24 Interviewer: We just want to know about the occupations. The mayor of Chinatown, what was his occupation? How did he make a living?
34:31 Kuhn: I think the mayor of Chinatown had a business selling and buying and there was also card games and there was gambling and the Chinese had restaurants. So whatever it took to make money, to educate the children, to make life better – that’s what they did.
35:04 Interviewer: Are any of the restaurants still there?
35:07 Kuhn: The New China, owned by Francis Chin Wong, and Herbert Wong, no longer there. The Lotus Room, which was from a different part of the family, also part of the VFW, the Veterans of Foreign War, is still in operation, but not by the family that originally opened it. So no *smiles*.
35:38 Interviewer: A member of your family opened it originally?
35:39 Kuhn: A cousin. A cousin. But New China was opened by my Aunt and Uncle. Francis and Herbert Wong.
35:54 Interviewer: Wonderful background. Wonderful story. All that you have done.
35:58 Kuhn: Thank you for the opportunity. We have more work to do.
There were three generations of William Chins: the mayor of Chinatown, the one who served in the Flying Tigers, and his son. William Chin (mayor of Chinatown) earned money through businesses, gambling and restaurants to make money and pay for children’s education. The family’s restaurants are no longer open or run by the family.
Family businesses; Flying Tigers; Francis Chin Wong (aunt); Herbert Wong (uncle); Lotus Room; Mayor of Chinatown; Restaurants; The New China; Veterans of Foreign War; William Chin (grandfather); William Chin (uncle); William Edward Chin (cousin)
Chinese American business enterprises Chinese restaurants Flying Tigers (American Volunteer Group, Chinese Air Force) inc. Mayor of Chinatown Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States
All materials on these pages © Chinese Railroad Workers in North America Project at Stanford.