Chinese merchant, missionary’s stories enacted at Fort Walla Walla Museum

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WALLA WALLA — The lives of an area Chinese merchant and a Christian missionary will be presented during two Living History re-enactments at Fort Walla Walla Museum this weekend. Both portrayals will be at 2 p.m. in the Pioneer Village.

On Saturday, Chinese merchant and interpreter Charles Tung will be the subject of a different saga of emigration to the region. He rose above prejudice to become a community leader and provided a legacy from which succeeding generations can learn.

A leader of the local Chinese community, Tung was born in San Francisco and moved to Walla Walla in 1880. Fluent in both English and Chinese, Tung often acted as a translator for local Chinese people. His stories of life in Walla Walla as a merchant in the Chinese community are fascinating.

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

He owned the Kwong Chung Sing Company importing Chinese silk, porcelain, and tea to Walla Walla.

Tung acted as Secretary-Treasurer of the Chinese-operated Pacific Enterprise Corporation that built a two-story structure at Fifth and Rose Streets in 1911.

In 1930, he 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, Tung operated a bank in Canton province.

Tung will be portrayed by fifth-generation Walla Wallan Galen Tom, an instructor at Walla Walla Community College. Tom’s grandfather, who also served as a translator, was the last president of the Tong, a local Chinese society; his father is the last Chinese farmer in the area, growing authentic Chinese vegetables.

On Sunday, the Rev. Cushing Eells, founder of Whitman Seminary, will be portrayed.

Pioneer missionaries Cushing and Myra Eells arrived in the Valley in 1838.

Mrs. Eells was one of the first four Euro-American women to cross the continent. The Eells later settled among the Spokane Indians until the tragedy at the Whitman Mission in 1847, when they moved to the Willamette Valley. They returned to the Walla Walla Valley at the close of the Indian wars in 1859 to reclaim the mission grounds at Waiilatpu, site of Whitman Mission. There, Cushing decided to found an educational institution, the Whitman Seminary, to honor Christian missionaries Marcus and Narcissa Whitman, who were killed there. He received a charter from the Territorial Legislature the same year. Eells also helped establish Walla Walla’s First Congregational Church.

In 1883, Whitman Seminary became Whitman College as a result of the Eells’ efforts.

Eells will be portrayed by Whitman College Professor Rogers Miles.

Visitors may question the Living History re-enactors about their lives and times.

The Museum is open daily, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Admission is free to Fort Walla Walla Museum members, eligible service personnel and their families through the Blue Star Museums program, Tamástslikt Cultural Institute’s Inwai Circle cardholders, enrolled members of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation and all children under 6; children 6-12 are $3; seniors 62 and above and students are $6 and adult admission is $7.

Admission fees may be applied to a membership, priced beginning at $27.

For information, call 509-525-7703 or email: info@fortwallawallamuseum.org.

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