Fort Walla Walla Museum provides look at Walla Walla's Chinese heritage

The Living History performances are held at Fort Walla Walla Museum.


Today, Fort Walla Walla Museum presents a Living History performance that helps tell another side of the story of days from the past that influence modern times. The region's Chinese heritage is explored at 2 p.m. in the museum's pioneer settlement.

Galen Tom, as Charles Tung, presents a different saga of emigration to the region. Tung's is a story of rising above prejudice to become a community leader, providing a legacy from which succeeding generations can learn.

Tung, a leader of the local Chinese community, was born in San Francisco and moved to Walla Walla in 1880. Fluent in English and Chinese, Tung often acted as a translator.

Walla Walla was like many communities in the United States of the late 1800s, placing harsh restrictions on its Chinese population. Tung's accounts are filled with a perspective from those difficult days.

Tung owned the Kwong Chung Sing Company, importing Chinese silk, porcelain, and tea to Walla Walla. He acted as secretary-treasurer of the Chinese-operated Pacific Enterprise Corporation that built a two-story structure at Fifth Avenue and Rose Street in 1911.

In 1930, Tung departed the United States for China to enroll his daughter in Chinese schools and did not return until 1939 because of the war there. While in China, he operated a bank in Canton province.

Tung is portrayed by fifth-generation Walla Wallan Galen Tom, professor of computer science at Walla Walla Community College. Tom's grandfather, who also served as a translator, was president of the Pacific Express Company and at one time owned the building. His father is the last Chinese farmer in the area, growing authentic Chinese vegetables.

In Fort Walla Walla Museum's Entry Hall, a hat exhibit features a Chinese laborer's hat that dates to about 1900 from Walla Walla's Chinatown.

More regional Chinese heritage can be explored at Kam Wah Chung & Co. Museum, originally built as a trading post in the mid-1800s on The Dalles Military Road in John Day, Ore.; Pendleton Underground Tours; and Mountain View Cemetery in Walla Walla.

Today also features "Tales o' the Trail," a new program in which volunteers read to kids ages 4-9 from age-appropriate books of regional historical interest.

Children gather in the Grand Hall of the Entry building at 1 p.m. A craft is offered to help keep young hands busy, but plenty of time is left for families to gather for the Living History program.


Fort Walla Walla Museum is on Myra Road in Fort Walla Walla Park. Museum hours are 10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily, April through October. Admission is free to members and children under 6, $3 for children ages 6-12, $6 for seniors 62 and older and students, and $7 general admission. Membership includes free admission to more than 40 Living History performances and other benefits, beginning at $25. For more information, contact Fort Walla Walla Museum at 509-525-7703 or e-mail Online see


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment

Click here to sign in