By Nancy Covert
After more than a century Tacoma city officials, Chinese guests, and other interested supporters, were scheduled to gather along Ruston Way on Sept. 22 to formally dedicate a Ting. The Ting is located near the site of what was called “New Canton” where, in the late 1800s, the Chinese residents were forced to leave the area.
The Ting is part of a larger memorial site created and dedicated to redress wrongs done to Chinese residents of Tacoma. Chinese laborers had come to the U.S. about 1849, not only to work in the gold fields, but also to help build the NP railroad line from Kalama to Tacoma.
Bill Baarsma, former Tacoma mayor, spoke on Sept. 20 at the Lakewood Historical Society’s monthly meeting about this dark chapter from the city’s history. Baarsma said, that as a young man, he had wondered why there was no Chinatown in Tacoma, as there were in other port cities including Seattle, Portland, and Vancouver. Then he learned the history about the expulsion.
His presentation at the Historical Society’s evening session covered key points of that incident and efforts since then to make restitution.
The forced removal of Chinese residents was set in motion, Baarsma explained, by a “gang” of city officials, who, led by then-Tacoma mayor Jacob Wiesbach, worked to remove all Chinese from the community. It’s ironic, Baarsma commented, that today a Chinese Councilmember has been among those working for this long overdue restitution.
Four years ago, as part of the Chinese Reconciliation Project delegation that traveled to Fuzhou, Baarsma says he was awed by the moment when he made the formal apology about the 19th century incident to Chinese representatives from Fuzhou, Tacoma’s Sister City. Baarsma added that there’s lots still to be done at the site along Commencement Bay.
Next month’s LHS presentation will cover early Lakewood area churches.