Saturday, February 28, 2015

Asians and Pacific Islanders and the Civil War

Asians and Pacific Islanders and the Civil War is available at Eastern Nationals’s eParks website and and Western National Parks Association’s website. The 259-page book was produced by the National Park Service. Carol A. Shively is the editor. The contributors are Dr. Gary Y. Okihiro, Ruthanne Lum McCunn, Ted Alexander, Dr. Justin Vance, Anita Manning, Terry Foenander, Gordon Kwok, Irving Moy, Jessica Garcia, Mike Weinstein, Laura A. Miller, Marla R. Miller, Richard Hoover, Steve Phan, Barry Crompton, Tom Brooks, Ed Milligan, and Alex Jay.

The following people of Chinese descent are profiled or mentioned in the book. The names are linked to my blog posts.




































Further Reading
Asians and Pacific Islanders in the Civil War
March 2015
PDF of Asians and Pacific Islanders with information about each one

Friday, February 27, 2015

Chinese Union Soldier, 1863 POW

The Daily Dispatch
(Richmond, Virginia)
June 17, 1863
From Fredericksburg.
There was nothing from Fredericksburg by last evening’s train except twelve Yankee prisoners captured at Falmouth. They were a motley set, including Irish, Dutch, and a Chinaman. A gentleman who walked over the course on the Stafford aide says there is not a Yankee about the old camping ground. A few worthiest tents are left standing, some bayonets dropped about in the old camps, cartridge boxes, “played out” uniforms, which would be valuable to a paper mill, tin cups, canteens with holes in them, a broken cannon wheel, &c., show that the large family which has been occupying the premises have carefully cleaned up everything valuable before leaving.




















The Chinese Union soldier POW was John Tomney.

Tomney is in the National Park Service book, Asians and Pacific Islanders and the Civil War.

(Next post: Asians and Pacific Islanders and the Civil War)

Monday, December 1, 2014

Chon Ah Pon

Chon Ah Pon aka Charles Ponn / Poun aka Charley Marry
born late 1820s, China; died July 1, 1888, New York, New York
reportedly served three years with a New York volunteer infantry regiment
not found in the United States Federal Census records from 1840 to 1860

The Brooklyn City Directory 1868
Ponn Charles, candy, h 78 Water





















1870 United States Federal Census
January Enumeration
New York Ward 14, District 6, New York, New York
“Charles Ponn”, age 42, born in China; candy dealer; wife, Mary; “169 Mulbery” was written next to his name; nine lines down was “John Affo”, 50, a Chinese-born candy dealer

June Enumeration
New York Ward 14, District 7, New York, New York
“Charles Pawn”, age 44, born in China; candy dealer; wife, Mary

New York Herald
September 14, 1870
“A Murderer at Large.”
The Notorious Chinaman, Quimbo Appo, Arraigned in the Tombs for a Villainous Assault.

Charles Poun appeared in the Tombs Police Court yesterday, before Justice Dowling, with a very bad black eye, cause by a blow of a hammer in the hands of the notorious Quimbo Appo, who about eleven years ago was tried and convicted of the murder of a woman and sentenced to be hung, but whose sentence was afterwards commuted to imprisonment for life. Appo has now had his liberty for about eighteen months, most of which time he has spent on the Island, Justice Dowling ridding the community of this dangerous character every time he was brought before him. Poun and Appo are both Chinamen, but the former is quite a respectable and industrious man, with whom Appo has been recently boarding. Appo has not only been living free of expense at Poun’s house, but he has compelled that individual to supply him with considerable quantities of candy, by the manufacture and sale of which Poun ekes out a living, and it was on account of Poun’s refusal to continue this generous treatment of the convict that the latter brought brute force to bear in an attempt to compel him. Poun, in making his complaint yesterday, replied to the questions Mr. Finlay, Justice Dowling’s clerk, that he was a Christian Chinaman, who was able to read and write in his own language and in English, having by perseverance taught himself without the aid of an instructor. Justice Dowling committed Appo for trial.


New-York Daily Tribune
September 15, 1870
(first column, third paragraph from bottom)
Quimbo Appo, who was tried and sentenced to death in 1859 for the murder of Mrs. Fletcher, but whose sentence was commuted to confinement in State Prison for ten years, was arraigned at the Court of Special Sessions yesterday, charged with having assaulted a fellow Chinaman named Charles Poun. The prisoner struck Poun with a hammer, inflicting a severe wound. Judge Dowling, in sentencing Appo, reviewed his past record, and remarked that he regarded him as one of the most dangerous characters in the city, and sentenced him to pay a fine of $50 and to serve six months in the Penitentiary.

1880 United States Federal Census
New York, New York, Supervisor’s District Number 1, Enumeration District 42: 100 Park Street
“Chales Penn”, age 54, born in China; idle; widower

The Evening Telegram
(New York, New York)
July 3, 1888
“Chon Ah Pon at Rest.”
He Was a Veteran of the War and the Matrimonial Field.
Two Wives Precede Him, While a Third Is Left Behind to Spend His Dollars.

Chon Ah Pon, whose name, rendered into English, is Charley Marry, a Chinaman by birth and education, an American by adoption, a veteran of the war of the Rebellion, and who had been the husband of three Irish wives, died on Sunday, and was buried to-day from his home, No. 383 Water street. [Charley Hee-Sing operated a boarding house for Chinese sailors at this address.]

Who says that the Chinese are not progressive?
He Starts in Business.
Chon Ah Pon came to America from his home in the Flowery Kingdom when he was six years old and before the war. He started a small confectionery store on Main street, Brooklyn.

Like all of his countrymen, Chon had a winning way which captured the smiles of the candy loving maids and the dollars at the same time, and so Chon prospered in the land of his adoption and grew rich.

But Chon was lonely in his little confectionery store and longed for some one to help him and keep him company.

His First Matrimonial Venture.
Of the many who came to purchase of the Chinaman’s sweets none pleased him more than a fair and buxom young Irish maid, and, after the usual consideration which all Chinamen give to any subject Chon proposed, was accepted and married.

It may have been on account of the many confections in his little store, or may be it was his dollars; but at all events Chon and his wife had a happy time and the coin continued to accumulate rapidly.

Wife No. 2.
Chon was perfectly happy until one day his young wife died suddenly, and Chon for a time was disconsolate, but soon became enamored of another of his customers, also an Irish girl and asked her to marry him.

She agreed provided he would join the Catholic Church and change his name to Charley Marry. This he agreed to do, and the marriage took place.

He Joined the Army.
Soon after the happy event the Civil War broke out, and Charley, like any good American Christian, shouldered his gun, joined a New York regiment and started for the front. He did good service through the war, and at its close returned to Brooklyn and again opened his business.

A Widower Once More.
But alas, for poor Mr. Marry! One day his second wife went the way of all flesh and he was again disconsolate. But, as on the first occasion, it only lasted a short time, for Charley gave up his business where be had made a fortune and came to New York to live.

The Third Mrs. Marry.
He was a member of all the Chinese societies in town and a good fellow generally. His charms succeeded in winning for him a third wife, also a daughter of the Emerald Isle, and his cup of happiness was again full.

But it did not last long. The husband of three wives, the Americanized Chinee, had to go.

Death Overtakes Him.
A short time since he made a trip to San Francisco, and when he returned he was in ill health, Mrs. Marry did all she could for him, but last Sunday, at the age of sixty-one, Charley Marry, or Chon Ah Pon, went to join his fathers, leaving a Mrs. Marry behind to mourn his loss and console herself with the thought that she was the possessor of a big pile of dollars, and there were no children to claim a cent from her.

The New York Times
July 4, 1888
A Chinese Veteran’s Death.
According to the Times Chon died poor and was buried at Evergreens Cemetery.

New York Herald
July 4, 1888
“Prominent Chinaman Dead.”
Chon Ah Pon, one of the oldest Celestials in New York, died on Sunday night and was buried yesterday according to the rites of the Roman Catholic church. The dead Chinaman was 61 years old and had lived in this country 25 years. He fought in several battles during the war of the rebellion. He was married three times, each time to an Irish girl, and leaves the last a considerable fortune. He was a member of all the secret Chinese societies in the city.

The Springfield Republican
(Massachusetts)
July 4, 1888
“His Third Wife Buried Him.”
The Funeral of an Americanized Chinaman Who Served in the War.

There was a notable gathering of Chinamen yesterday at No. 383 Water street to attend the funeral of Chon Ah Pon, who served in the War of the Rebellion. Chon came to the City of Churches when a boy of six.

When a young man he saved money enough to open a confectionery store in Main street, Brooklyn. Among his customers was an irish maiden, to whom he proposed marriage was accepted. They lived happily together for a couple of years, when she died. Knowing the bliss of matrimony he revolved to tempt fortune again. He boldly popped the question to another Irish girl and she said, “Yes, provided you become a Catholic and take a Christian name.”

He became converted, married the fair girl and called himself Charley Marry, The war, meanwhile, had broken out, and Marry shouldered his musket and fought during the “unpleasantness” like a good American Christian. At its conclusion he reopened his candy store in Brooklyn and perfect happiness seemed to be his. One day his second wife died and he was again broken hearted.

He left Brooklyn, and in  this city married another daughter of the Emerald Isle. She survives him, and owns a considerable fortune, which he bequeathed her. On account of his being a member of all Chinese societies and generally respected his funeral was largely attended.

The Daily Graphic
(New York, New York)
July 5, 1888
“Death of an Old Chinaman.”
He Fought for His Adopted Country and Left a Big Fortune to His Third Wife.

Chon Ah Pon, one of the oldest Celestials in this city, died on Sunday night at his residence, 383 Water street, and was buried from there to-day according to the rites of the Catholic Church, of which he was a member. He was sixty-one years old.

He came to this country from China when he was thirty-six years old, and started in the confectionery business on Main street, Brooklyn. He made money and married an Irish girl. They lived happily until she died. He did not long remain a widower, but took another Irish girl for his bride. She induced him to join a Catholic church in Brooklyn. He was baptized and adopted the name of Charles Maney [sic]. His second wife died about eleven years ago.

When the war broke out Chon went to the front, and fought bravely until the close of the war for his adopted country. After the war he started in business in Brooklyn again, and made a fortune, upon which he retired about seven years ago. He made a trip to San Francisco, after which he returned to this city, where be lived until he died. About six months ago he married for the third time. A comely daughter of the Emerald Isle was his bride, as usual. He leaves her quite a large fortune. He was a member of all the secret Chinese societies in New York. He had no children by any of his wives.

The Troy Daily Times
(New York)
July 9, 1888
Chon Ah Pon, a Chinaman who served in the war of the rebellion, and had married three wives in due succession, all Irish girls, died and was given a stylish funeral in Brooklyn the other day. He kept a candy store, and his American name was Charles Marry.

The Daily Picayune
(New Orleans, Louisiana)
July 11, 1888
In Water street the funeral of an Americanized Chinaman, named originally Chou Ah Pou [sic], has just been held with all the observances bestowed by the race on those held in highest esteem. Chou was brought from the Flowery Land to Brooklyn when he was 6 years old and by the time he had reached his majority was proprietor of a confectionery store. Among his customers was a pretty Irish girl who in Chou’s eyes needed no candy to make her sweet. She became Mrs. Ah Pou in due time, but only survived her wedding day two years. Chou mourned her sincerely, but sighed also in his loneliness for another companion. he proposed to another Irish girl. Become a Catholic and take a Christian name and O will marry you forthwith, said she. Chou was converted and took the quaint name of Charley Marry with his second wife, who took care of his store while he went to the war in which he fought from beginning to end. Some years after the war Mrs. Marry died and Charley was so disconsolate that he left Brooklyn and came to New York. Here he married another daughter of Erin, who survives him and inherits quite a little fortune thriftily saved by him. He belonged to all the Chinese societies.

The Evening Repository
(Canton, Ohio)
July 18, 1888
Chon Ah Pon, a Chinaman who served in the war of the rebellion, and had married three wives in due succession, all Irish girls, died and was given a stylish funeral in Brooklyn the other day. He kept a candy store, and his American name was Charles Marry.


Chon Ah Pon is in the National Park Service book, Asians and Pacific Islanders and the Civil War.

(Next post: Chinese Union Soldier, 1863 POW)

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Stephen Decatur Bunker

1850 United State Federal Census
Mount Airy, Surry County, North Carolina
Name / Age
Chang Bunker 39
Eng Bunker 39
Sarah A Bunker 27
Adalade Bunker 22
Catharine Bunker 6
Josephine Bunker 6
Julia A Bunker 5
Christopher Bunker 5
Decator [sic] 4
Nancy Bunker 3
James Bunker 2
Mary A Bunker 3 months
Patrick H Bunker 1 month

The North-Carolina Standard
(Raleigh, North Carolina)
October 2, 1850
The Siamese Twins at Home.
...and at the time our informant visited them—Chang and Eng were residing there, while Sarah, Eng’s wife, and her children were at the Trap-Hill establishment. As in point of time, the first call was upon her—she, at first, is here entitled to notice.

He found her with three children—two girls and a boy; the latter of whom is called Decatur. Their flat, swarthy features, black coarse hair, and low, retreating forehead, indicated clearly their Siamese paternity....

1860 United State Federal Census
Mount Airy, Surry County, North Carolina
Name / Age
Eng Bunker 49
Sarah Bunker 40
Kate Bunker 17
Julia Bunker 16
Stephen D Bunker 14
Jas Bunker 13
Patrick Bunker 12
Wm O Bunker 6
Fred Bunker 5
Razila Bunker 1
L G Baily 42

Confederate Soldier Service
S. D. Bunker; 18 years old; enlisted 1864; served in the 37th Battalion, Virginia Calvary; Private (see Chinese in the Civil War, bottom, for details)

Winston-Salem Journal
(North Carolina)
August 1, 1926
...When they [Chang and Eng] came South and settled at Mt. Airy they transferred their allegiance to the South. The Civil War found them casting their fortunes and the lives of their children on the side of the South. They were fifty years old, too old for the military service even if they had been capable of it, but they had sons, and each sent a son. Chang’s son, Christopher W. Bunker, now a veteran eighty years old, resides in Haystack in Surry County. Stephen D. Bunker, son of Eng, distinguished himself as a soldier and was wounded....

1870 United States Federal Census
S.D. Bunker was not in his father’s household and has not yet been found in the census.
Mount Airy, Surry County, North Carolina
Name / Age
Eng Bunker 59
Sarah Bunker 40
Catherine Bunker 25
Montgomery Bunker 21
Patric H Bunker 20
William C Bunker 15
Fredrick M Bunker 13
Ranziler V Bunker 11
Robert Bunker 11
Peter Razy 18
Grace Gates 55


New York Herald
March 23, 1874
Chang and Eng.






































1880 United State Federal Census
Mount Airy, Surry County, North Carolina
Name / Age
Sallie A Bunker 56
Stephen D Bunker 33
Rozella V Bunker 21
Robert L Bunker 13

North Carolina Marriage Index
Stephen D Bunker and Susan A Nicols
January 13, 1887, Surry County, North Carolina

(North Carolina)
July 2, 1896
Roll of Old Veterans.
The following Confederate veterans, members of Surry County Camp, No. 707, attended the Reunion at Richmond this week: ...C. W. Bunker....The following Veterans are members of the Camp, but did not attend the Reunion: ...S. D. Bunker....
(The Confederate Reunion of 1896 began June 28.)

1900 United State Federal Census
Mount Airy, Surry County, North Carolina
Name / Age
Decater [sic] Bunker 52
Susan A Bunker 38
Stephen D Bunker 9
Nettie M Bunker 5

1910 United State Federal Census
Mount Airy, Surry County, North Carolina
Name / Age
Decatur Bunker 63
Susan Bunker 48
Nettie Bunker 17
Dock Bunker 14
Wu Bunker 7

1920 United State Federal Census
Mount Airy, Surry County, North Carolina
Name / Age
S D Bunker 72
Susie Bunker 58
Dock Bunker 24
Eng Bunker 17

North Carolina Death Index
Stephen D Bunker, 73
birth 1847
death March 25, 1920

Find a Grave
birth 1846


Further Reading

Association to commemorate the Chinese serving in the American Civil War
Chinese serving in the Confederate army force

Ruthanne Lum McCunn

North Carolina Civil War Sesquicentennial

North Carolina Digital Collection
Pension application by his wife

Our State: North Carolina
The Civil War

Surry County
Carolyn Boyles, Wilma Hiatt
Arcadia Publishing, 2000
Page 63 photograph of a Confederate reunion in Mount Airy probably included the Bunker brothers, Christopher and Stephen.

Bunker is in the National Park Service book, Asians and Pacific Islanders and the Civil War.

(Next post: Chon Ah Pon)

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Christopher Wren Bunker

1850 United State Federal Census
Mount Airy, Surry County, North Carolina
Name / Age
Chang Bunker 39
Eng Bunker 39
Sarah A Bunker 27
Adalade Bunker 22
Catharine Bunker 6
Josephine Bunker 6
Julia A Bunker 5
Christopher Bunker 5
Decator [sic] 4
Nancy Bunker 3
James Bunker 2
Mary A Bunker 3 months
Patrick H Bunker 1 month

1860 United State Federal Census
Mount Airy, Surry County, North Carolina
Name / Age
Chang Bunker 49
Adalade Bunker 37
Josephine Bunker 17
Christopher Bunker 15
Nancy Bunker 13
Mary Bunker 11
Victoria Bunker 9
Louisa Bunker 6
Albert Bunker 3

Confederate Soldier Service
Christopher / C.W. Bunker; 20 years old; enlisted 1863; served in the 37th Battalion, Virginia Calvary, (Dunn’s Battalion, Partisan Rangers), Company I; Private (see Chinese in the Civil War, bottom, for details)

1870 United State Federal Census
Mount Airy, Surry County, North Carolina
Name / Age
Chang Bunker 59
Adalade Bunker 43
Christopher Bunker 25
Nancy Bunker 23
Mary Bunker 20
Victoria Bunker 17
Louisa Bunker 14
Albert Bunker 12
Isse Bunker 10
Lizzie Bunker 8
Hettie Bunker 1
Jacob Bunker 20
Jack Bunker 19
James Bunker 14

New York Herald
March 23, 1874
Chang and Eng.






































1880 United State Federal Census
Mount Airy, Surry County, North Carolina
Name / Age
Adalade Bunker 57
Christopher Bunker 35
Albert L Bunker 23
Jesse L Bunker 19
M Elizabeth Bunker 16
Hattie I Bunker 11

United States Postmaster
(Ancestry.com)
Haystack, Surry County, North Carolina
1883, 1885, 1887, 1889, 1891, 1897, 1899, 1905, 1910

(North Carolina)
July 2, 1896
Roll of Old Veterans.
The following Confederate veterans, members of Surry County Camp, No. 707, attended the Reunion at Richmond this week: ...C. W. Bunker....The following Veterans are members of the Camp, but did not attend the Reunion: ...S. D. Bunker....
(The Confederate Reunion of 1896 began June 28.)

1900 United State Federal Census
Dobson, Surry County, North Carolina
Name / Age
Christopher Bunker 55
Mary E Bunker 39
Christopher L Bunker 17

(Wilmington, North Carolina)
October 21, 1904
Winston Sentinel: Mr. and Mrs. C.W. Bunker, of Haystack, Surry county, passed through the city last evening on their way to the St. Louis exposition. Mr. Bunker is a son of one of the Siamese towns [sic]. He has a silver dollar that has a record. Thirty years ago Mr. Bunker got it from J.M. Jones, of Boonville, and has kept it since as a pocket piece. It is worn very little and every mark on it shows plainly. It was coined in the year 1798. Mr. Bunker says he could get five dollars for it but will not sell.

Bunker v. Bunker
November 5, 1905

1910 United State Federal Census
Dobson, Surry County, North Carolina
Name / Age
Christopher Bunker 65
Mary E Bunker 49
Christopher L Bunker 27

1920 United State Federal Census
Dobson, Surry County, North Carolina
Name / Age
Christopher Bunker 74
Mary E Bunker 55
Christopher L Bunker 37

Winston-Salem Journal
(North Carolina)
August 1, 1926
...When they [Chang and Eng] came South and settled at Mt. Airy they transferred their allegiance to the South. The Civil War found them casting their fortunes and the lives of their children on the side of the South. They were fifty years old, too old for the military service even if they had been capable of it, but they had sons, and each sent a son. Chang’s son, Christopher W. Bunker, now a veteran eighty years old, resides in Haystack in Surry County. Stephen D. Bunker, son of Eng, distinguished himself as a soldier and was wounded....

1930 United State Federal Census
Dobson, Surry County, North Carolina
Name / Age
Christopher Bunker 84
Mary E Bunker 69
Christopher L Bunker 47

North Carolina Death Certificate
Christopher Bunker, 86
birth April 8, 1845, Surry, North Carolina
death April 2, 1932, Dobson, Surry
Mary Haynes Bunker, spouse
Eng Bunker, father
Adalade Bunker, mother

Further Reading

Association to commemorate the Chinese serving in the American Civil War
Chinese serving in the Confederate army force
Christopher Wren Bunker and Stephen Decatur Bunker

Christopher Wren Bunker Letters, 1863–1864

Chinese in the Civil War
Ruthanne Lum McCunn

North Carolina Civil War Sesquicentennial
From Foreign Field: Service by Foreign-born Residents in North Carolina’s Confederate Ranks

North Carolina Digital Collection
Jackson, George Washington (Surry County)
C.W. Bunker mentioned on fifth page

Our State: North Carolina
The Civil War
Chang and Eng

Surry County
Carolyn Boyles, Wilma Hiatt
Arcadia Publishing, 2000
Page 63 photograph of Confederate reunion in Mount Airy probably included the Bunker brothers, Christopher and Stephen.

United States Department of the Interior
National Park Service
National Register of Historic Places Inventory—Nomination Form
The owners of C.W. Bunker’s Haystack farm filed an application in 1981.

Bunker is in the National Park Service book, Asians and Pacific Islanders and the Civil War.

(Next post: Stephen Decatur Bunker)

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

John Akomb

1870 United States Federal Census
New York, New York
Ward 6, Election District 5
Boarding House
John Acom, 32, Cigar Maker, born in China
Kate Acom, 35, Keeping House, born in England







1880 United States Federal Census
New York, New York
62 Cherry Street
John Anderson, 50, Cigar Maker, born in China
Kate Anderson, 50, Seamstress, born in England























Three of following newspaper articles said John Akomb was also known as John Anderson. In the censuses, there was a John Acom in 1870 and John Anderson in 1880; both born in China. The articles said he had an English wife named Kitty and lived at 62 Cherry Street. Both censuses list an English woman named Kate whose nickname could have been Kitty. The 1880 census had the 62 Cherry Street address. Two of the articles said he was 46 so his birth would have been around 1832. The ages in the censuses would have put his birth in 1830 and 1838. Acom and Anderson, in the censuses, appear to be the same person and the subject of the articles. Evidence of his service in the Union navy has not been found.

The New York Times
August 11, 1878
Pining for Their Poison

The Sun
(New York, New York)
August 11, 1878
Ten Cents Worth of Opium.
Reviving Chinamen who were Arrested for Selling Unstamped Cigars.

Four Chinamen sat in the United States Marshal’s room yesterday, the pictures of wretchedness and despair. Their names were John Akomb, alias John Anderson, Ah Foo, Ah Soon and Ah Sin. They were arrested by Special Agent E. S. Stinson for selling unstamped cigars, and spent the night in a station house. All of them were thin-bodied and sunken-cheeked, with black, unkempt hair, and dull black eyes, nearly closed. Three of the four were suffering for the want of their accustomed opium, of which their imprisonment had deprived them. As they crouched in a corner of the office their dejection, attracted the pity of many who happened in and not a few expressed wonder that the Government could find no greater frauds to occupy the attention of its officers than these poor wretches who had been guilty of selling a handful of their miserable penny cigars without the requisite revenue stamps.

John Akomb was the spokesman of the party, for the others spoke little English. He said that he was 46 years of age, and had been away from China thirty years. He had been in England, Germany and France, and at one time served on the United States gunboat Massachusetts, Capt. Hudson, and was also on the Red River expedition in the capacity of cook. He said that he had a wife named Kitty, an English woman, at 62 Cherry street, and had three children that died.

He referred so piteously to his sufferings and that of his companions for their habitual opium that a sympathetic bystander volunteered to get him some of his favorite drug. Akomb with a piteous wail.

“We got no monee.”

“How much will it cost?”

“Ten centee.”

“Ten cents for three?”

“No; ten cent for one.”

“Where do you get it?”

“At 14 Baxter street—of Ah Que.”

“How shall we get it from him?”

“Show him this.”

Then Akomb produced from the folds of his worn vest a begrimed thimble, the metal of which could not be distinguished from the black coating that enveloped it.

“Show him that—he knows that,” and the confiding Akomb surrendered his “pony” to the custody of his sympathizing questioner.

Prevailing upon Marshal Strahan to detain the prisoners until his return, the opium missionary wended his way to Baxter street. The front building is a huge tenement house, and in the rear is a court surrounded by a pile of thickly inhabited tenements in which varied nationalities were represented. The premises of the opium vender were found without difficulty. They consisted of three rooms, or rather one room made into three. The larger room is about ten feet square and contains a little dilapidated furniture, dirty and forbidding. A table covered with matting stood against the wall, with a shelf attached to tho wall. This is the couch of the opium smokers, and in the centre of the table is a tray of utensils for opium smoking. A sleek cat lay drowsily curled up as if under the influence of the drug. The other two rooms are about the size of a small stateroom each, and in each were two bunks covered with matting, and with side-wall shelves to servo as pillows. These bunks will accommodate from two to four persons each. The only ventilation is through a small window about 18 inches square.

The occupants of the room yesterday were a cadaverous old Mongolian who looked as if a puff of air would blow him away, and two emaciated opium smokers—one in each room. Then there was a stout and almost comely Irish woman of about 25, not ill dressed, who evidently was on good terms with them all.

One of the smokers proved to be Ah Que, the opium proprietor. He was reclining on one of the bunks smoking one of his curious opium pipes. Taking a pot of the murky paste he dipped a long rod in it and rolled up a ball of the opium on the end of the rod. This he plunged in a burning taper and then rubbed it in the bowl of the pipe, a singular reed structure. Then he took a few vigorous whiffs, reclining on his side and enjoying the exhilaration of the drug as its fumes spread through the room and went out of the little window.

The other Chinaman in the bunk was evidently in a dull stupor from the effects of the opium, and looked dreamily and languidly at the new comers. Even the woman was apparently stupefied and dazed as though she, too, had partaken of the narcotic, and answered the questions put to her as though she was in a walking sleep. At first all were suspicious, and declared that they knew nothing of the men who had been arrested. They shook their heads and chattered their pigeon English, and nothing else could be got out of them. But the production of John Akomb’s thimble opened their mouths. Ah Que recognized it immediately, and it did not take him long to comprehend that it was to be filled. His price agreed with that of Akomb also, ten cents for the thimbleful.

He procured the drug from a chest in the corner, and covered the thimble neatly with a piece of foil. Then he got a curious little box and filled that with the paste for the other two Chinamen, took his thirty cents, and relapsed into a stolid enjoyment of his cigar.

Ah Que is evidently the capitalist of the Chinese colony in the opium trade, and his dingy apartments the favorite resort of the opium smokers. The old Chinaman of the flimsy anatomy remained suspicious all the time, but he finally nodded assent when the woman said:

“You know Johnny Akomb’s, Kitty?”

“Yes; she live Cherry street.”

“You tell her Johnny Akomb is in prison.”

“Yes; me send word.”

Then the opium missionaries found their way to the Marshal’s office again, and their appearance was the signal for a beam of joy to lighten the faces of the poor wretches who in their absence had been dozing in their chairs. Even the one who does not use opium looked happy as he saw the smiling faces of his fellow prisoners when they seized their precious prize. Johnny Akomb clutched his thimble eagerly, tore off the tinfoil covering, and licked with avidity the piece of foil before he threw it away. Then he tore off the whole cover and ravenously thrust the top of his tongue into the opium, rolling the sweet morsel in his mouth with an air almost ravenous. Ah Soon was only too eager to help him, and brought him a glass of water. Ah Sin likewise partook of his share unceremoniously, dipping a little stick into it and smacking his lips. They paid no attention to the little knot of curious spectators who watched them, but seemed only eager to have their gnawing hunger for the drug appeased.

When the Marshal called them soon after to go to Ludlow street jail, to which Commissioner Shields had committed them, they shuffled off submissively yet with an air of contentment, in strong contrast with their previous appearance.







































New York Herald
August 13, 1878
Untaxed Cigars.
...John Acomb, one of four Chinese who were arrested a few days since, because unfamiliar with the law which requires all cigars sold to be sold from a box bearing an internal revenue stamp, was yesterday discharged by United States Commissioner Shields on his own recognizance. John gave a promise that he would never, in his ignorance, again offend, and that his first effort would be to purchase the Statutes at Large, and, although sixty years of age and blind, make himself familiar with their provisions. The cases of Acomb’s associates Ah Foo, Ah Soon and Ah Sin were reserved for a future hearing.





















The World
(New York, New York)
August 13, 1878
“Four Melancholy Celestials.”
Arrested for Peddling Untaxed Cigars and Suffering for Opium.

Ah Sin, Ah Foe, Ah Soon and John Akomb, Chinamen, were arrested by Special Revenue Officer Stinsen on Friday on a charge of selling cigars upon which revenue tax had not bean paid. Saturday, after having spent a night in a police station, they were taken before Commissioner Shields and committed to Ludlow Street Jail, each in default of $250 bail, to await examination. Akomb, who says his Christian name is John Anderson, Sin and Foo were suffering for the want of opium. Ah Soon does not indulge in that narcotic. Akomb, otherwise John Anderson, has resided in this country and Europe for thirty years, serving as a cook and steward. He was steward on the United States gun-boat Massachusetts during the civil war. He was twice wounded, being severely injured. For some years he has been married to an Englishwoman, with whom he lives in Cherry street. He is afflicted with blindness, and can merely distinguish between daylight and darkness. He was very much affected when he appeared before the Commissioner, and said that he was well known to a large number of good citizens who would assist him if they were notified of the trouble that had overtaken him.

“I would like to get some opium,” he said, in pigeon English, “I feel so bad. Ah Soon can’t take it, but all the rest of us do.”

His face wore an expression of pain and he turned upon all present a look of supplication. Tears stood in his eyes and he leaned wearily upon the back of a chair. Commissioner Shields was sympathetic in his manner towards the miserable Mongolian.

“I will send for some opium,” said Akomb, and then a sickly smile passed over the faces of his companions. “I will send for it if some one will go,” he added.

“I’ll go,” said a gentleman who had been watching the proceedings.

“Thank you,” returned Akomb. “I’m much obliged to you. Yon take this thimble and go up to Baxter street. Go to 14 Baxter street, inquire for Ah Que and he’ll let you have the opium. Just show him this thimble and he won’t refuse you.”

The volunteer messenger took the thimble and started for Ah Que’s place of business. This he found with some difficulty. Ah Que was discovered in a small, dingy apartment, which was filled with offensive odors and into which the sunshine could scarcely creep. The opium dealer was reposing upon a Chinese bunk, his covering being grass matting. He was smoking a pipe of fantastic design, and as the stranger entered the room he partly raised himself from the couch and, withdrawing the pipe from his lips, ejaculated, “What you want?” The stranger told his story and exhibited the thimble. Ah Que leaned his chocolate-colored, hollow-eyed face towards the stranger and seemed to be suspicious.

“I am willing to pay for the opium,” said the visitor.

At that moment a door opened and a large, coarse-featured, white woman entered the room. “How do, do,” she said with a bow, and than then whispered to Ah Que.

“I knew Akomb,” said Ah Que. “Let me have the thimble.”

He rose from the bunk and unlocking a small, iron-bound chest, with a wooden spoon took some bleak, gummy fluid from a jar and put it in the thimble.

“That is for Akomb,” he said, “and this,” filling a little box with the opium, “is for the other two.”

He then wrapped the thimble and box in tin foil, and while he was doing so the stranger entered into a conversation with the woman.

“What does Ah Que do for a living?” he asked.

“Nothing,” she replied, rather tartly.

“Don’t he sell opium for a living?” he asked.

“Yes he does; there’s use denying it. That’s the way we make our living.”

The writer paid 30 cents for the opium and left the place. The joy of the three suffering prisoners was great at the return of their messenger, who received their repeated thanks for the interest he had manifested in their comfort.







































John Kuo Wei Tchen, in his book New York Before Chinatown, wrote about 62 Cherry Street, which was mentioned in the Times and Sun articles.

At Ancestry.com, there is a 1879 New York City directory with a listing for Ah Come. Akomb may have been another spelling of Ah Come.









Further Reading

Ruthanne Lum McCunn